News pickup: Phone thefts, capital bill, storm recovery

Here's a wrap-up of major CTA issues making news:

Phone thefts are way up. Thefts of iPhones, iPads and other electronic devices have increased more than 20 percent over last year, the Tribune reports. That's no surprise. What's surprising to me is that we passengers remain mostly oblivious to the threat of theft, with are eyes glued to our devices instead of our surroundings. Two basic tips (and more):

  • Don't stand or sit near a door with an electronic device unless you are super vigilant of what's happening around you.
  • Be mindful of anyone walking through the end doors of rail cars, especially in groups. I've said it before-and caught some flak for it- but only trouble goes through those doors.

As a side note, I love how the cops coined the new term "Apple picking." Quite a colorful and apt description.

Supreme Court upholds state capital expense bill. The CTA, Gov. Quinn and many others breathed a sigh of relief over the unanimous State Supreme Court decision Monday that the bill authorizing video gambling and other revenue sources to fund state capital budget needs was not unconstitutional. I won't get into the minutiae of the ruling and bill (find that here). All I l know is the CTA is counting on about $1.3 billion total out of the $31 billion total. Read my earlier coverage about how the CTA was planning to spend more $253 million this year, including security cameras and slow zone work.

Nice storm recovery? Most CTA rail lines experienced serious delays Monday morning during the serious flash thunderstorm. Service on the Red, Yellow and Purple lines was disrupted for a bit, with shuttle buses filling in. But all-in-all, I think the CTA did a good job. But I wasn't using CTA rail lines at the time. What do you think? How did CTA personnel do in communicating with passengers?

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  • If anyone wants the opinion on the Capital Bill case, it is here.

    I mentioned when the appellate court opinion came out that the one part I had trouble with was raising the weight limits on bridges, but the Ill. Supreme Court said that that was related to doubling the fines, so revenue. Sounds like bad public policy to me, but a court can't get into that.

    What should be considered is that due to the sloppy way the legislature usually does its work, the 2010 capital program might start in 2012, and there still hasn't been any word whether the last half of the 2009 one has even been disbursed. But you can go to a truck stop in southern Illinois and play video poker, maybe in a couple of years.

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    I was on the 192 and the wind was so strong it blew open an access panel on the back of the passenger side of the bus.

  • Back to the Capital Bill, giving it a closer read indicates that while "CTA is counting on about $1.3 billion," it doesn't have it yet, despite the court's decision.

    There was an attack on the appropriation bill on the basis that it contained other legislation, but the court commented that "the 2009 fiscal year is over, and the appropriation authority created by Public Act 96–35 has lapsed."

    Hence, when those bonds are ever sold, the General Assembly will have to reappropriate the money. I'm sure they will, but that's another fly in the ointment. For that matter, the second half of PA 96-4 (the 2009 Capital Plan) will have to be reappropriated. I don't know if that was the basis for the angst over the "capital budget," which the Senate was called back to pass in late June 2011.

  • The power was out at my Brown Line L stop Monday morning, so the attendant was holding the handicapped entrance open, waving people through it and counting heads. Considering the Purple and Red Lines were not running at the time I was headed downtown, I found it odd there weren't any CTA personnel on the Belmont or Fullerton platforms telling people they needed to get on a Brown Line train to get anywhere.

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