Claypool shares ideas on luring new CTA riders, fixing budget problems, BRT

CTA President Forrest Claypool hinted at his own priorities for his first months on the job during an interview with the Tribune published Monday.

Though Claypool was a little coy and careful not to criticize the previous CTA president, he did touch on many of the issues we wrote about yesterday and that you noted in your own comments:

crowded bus.jpg (Feature - Small)

Tribune photo

CTA finances: Claypool said finances were a "ticking time bomb," with the CTA borrowing money to fund operating expenses, as they did with the state bond issue almost two years ago. He also bemoaned the fact that capital funds have been moved to the operating budget  - something his predecessor had to do twice to avoid red ink.

Finding more dollars: Claypool avoided answering a question about whether he would support an eight-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase to provide much needed operating funds. But he did hint at how he might find capital dollars to meet the CTA's $7 billion budget hole on the maintenance and repair:

We need to perhaps find public-private partnerships that will bring new capital into the system.
We are going to look under every rock and every stone to find every
dollar we can because that is what is going to determine whether this
system can be brought back to a state of good repair so that in the long
term we can provide the type of service where people will want to ride
the system and ridership will go up because of the experience.

Luring new passengers: Claypool
said it's important to "create a good experience" to convince residents
to ride the CTA rather than drive. He cited his own experience as a CTA
rider: "When the slow zones got better or worse, that affected my
experience. The same thing with safety and cleanliness."

On bus rapid transit:
He freely admitted that Chicago's bus rapid transit project would be
more like "BRT light." He did note the importance of including prepaid
boarding and bus-only lanes in the pilots tests, which are not there

Transit agency cooperation: Claypool noted that technology
advances should make it easier to issue a common fare card across the
CTA, Metra and Pace  systems. He also suggested expanding the shared use
of existing infrastructure - such as the Metra's Electric Line - until
the Red line extension is funded and built.


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  • I clicked on the original, and was VERY SURPRISED that Hilkevitch asked the hard questions, including the 4 agencies being like oil and water, essentially the Gray Line, BRT not going anywhere (at least Claypool admitted that it was BRT light), and airport express.

    However, except for the BRT light one, Claypool's answers were mostly mush, the same old stuff (i.e. we can't keep borrowing from capital funds; Rahm wants the Red Line 130th extension), and demonstrated that he probably does not comprehend the Gray Line concept.

    Possibly those will say that he hasn't taken over yet, but I am sure that Brizard was not hired by Emanuel to say "we'll talk to Karen Lewis and try to figure something out." While Emanuel mentioned the Red Line on his campaign page, there doesn't seem to be much more to his CTA agenda.

    As I and others noted yesterday, there are internal financial management concerns, needs for immediate repairs, and need for regional cooperation, in the latter case much more than "the old guard is out, and eventually there will be a universal fare card."

    Finally, if he rides the Brown Line every day to work, in one capacity or another, he should have had some opinion about the "experience." Admittedly, Claypool probably doesn't have the experience Scooter mentioned of riding south of 35th, but Rahm was down there many times during his campaign. Was he limoed to 95th and State, or did he ride the rails?

  • I agree with his comments (and multiple comments from yesterday's post) about the slow zones on the trains. In fact, I have completely eliminated the CTA from my work commute specifically because of the slow zones on the red and purple line. I used to take the brown line to the purple every day, but now I have completely switched to Metra. The Metra is cleaner, almost always on time, and much faster. We'll see when the UP-N track work gets into full swing though. I know most people do not have the dual Metra/CTA option (I can think of Ravenswood and Evanston residents as exceptions), but I am at least one example where the CTA lost my $86/month, and now is only getting my money for occasional weekend rides.

  • I live in South Chicago and expressly walk out of my way to take the Metra downtown (monthly pass) and only add $30/month to my Chicago Card. After last year's cuts that included severe layoffs have affected the basic cleanliness of all buses and El cars, I find that most buses and cars are truly disgusting. Despite the fact that the Metra Electric only runs once an hour after 7:20 each evening, I usually wait an extra hour, even if it means arriving home after dark, to avoid the gross buses.

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