CTA budget wrap-up: End closer for free rides; groups turns up heat on CTA

The end of free rides for senior citizens moved closer in Springfield, as details emerged of negotiations among House and Senate leaders from parties, according to a Tribune report.

Free rides for seniors would end March 1, according to the proposal. Then, only seniors 65 and older who qualify for the state’s Circuit Breaker programs would ride free. That means they could earn a maximum of $22,218 per year.

If passed, this plan would mean $25 million more for the CTA. More from the Tribune story:

CTA President Richard Rodriguez said the new plan is “right for our
public and for our customers.” But when asked if the plan would
eliminate the need for fare increases, Rodriguez said only “there’s a
possibility that it would.”

Interesting how a $177 million budget gap could be filled by $25 million. Methinks it’s going to take more than that.

Citizens Taking Action rallies the troops. The transit riders advocacy groups is turning up the heat on the CTA and its proposed budget, promising a protest rally before the CTA board meeting Nov. 12. I’m certainly OK with this group protesting the proposed fare hikes and service cuts. It’s just some of their arguments that don’t add up to me. Such as this excerpt from a press release:

The CTA, PACE and METRA are all claiming
budget short falls for 2010. During the worst economic crisis in
generations, they are planning to raise fares, cut services, layoff
workers and more. All while trillions of tax-payer dollars are spent on
unpopular corporate handouts and bonuses and wars that benefit a tiny
few.

When government agencies say that the only way we can
maintain essential services like public transit is for us to pay more
or for workers to get paid less or lose their jobs, they are lying.
They’re also acting in a deliberate and arrogant manner to attack
social services and make working people bear the majority of the
suffering during the economic crisis–all while we directly fund Wall
Street’s luxurious lifestyles.”

I’m not sure how the CTA can be equated to corporations that got federal handouts.  I mean, here’s a business that’s actually trying to balance its budget.

The Citizens Taking Action press release goes on:

The CTA and other transit agencies could
easily find the money to cover the $300 million so-called “budget gap.”
The Chicago economy produces massive sums of wealth. The 2008 GDP in
Illinois was $637 billion, which would make Illinois the 18th richest
country in the world!”

If it was so easy to find $300 million, don’t you think the CTA would have found it already?

Again, I’m very supportive of a riders advocacy group protesting the fare hikes. But please, can ‘t you come up with some more cogent arguments?

UPDATE/Clarification: In subsequent correspondence from Citizens Taking Action, its leader says they were simply forwarding the above press release, which he says was actually issued by Answer Chicago. I regret the error. Citizens Taking Action site is here; Answer Chicago here.

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  • The First Amendment doesn't have a prerequisite that one have any knowledge of economics. Apparently neither does posting comments on a blog or running for public office.

  • STOP SAYING "METHINKS." Thank you.

  • I don't see anything wrong with the arguments, except the implication that the CTA has the power to raise the money. But they're right - at the Illinois level taxes on the well-off can and should be raised and so should the gas tax. At the national level we spend as much on the military as the rest of the entire world combined. Our society also spends 2-3 times as much per capita for healthcare outcomes worse than those of other rich countries. If we rationalized the health system by adopting any one of those models, we would have huge amounts of money available for more other social priorities. The problem is not a shortage of funds, it's a lack of political will.

  • In reply to razetheladder:

    Except those are all still red herrings. If the state or federal government should be funding the CTA instead of those things (or if our economy should have a better structured health care to eliminate waste), then tell that to the people who have a say in such things.

    The CTA can only work with the money allocated to their for their budget by the RTA, state, things like concessions, and programs that mostly go to capital projects. Accuse them of corruption and expensive bloat if you want. But what are they (they being the CTA, not "the Man", "the System", the "Neocons", or whatever people use for an us-versus-them mentality) going to do about their lack of funds to operate?

  • What about the other free rides? Don't they give free rides to military and at least 1 other group in Chicago?

    I have to agree with Jack about changing our tax system to move away from the flat tax in Illinois. And raising the gas tax by even a penny or two could reap some big rewards as well. If they linked the CTA funding to the new gas tax, we would never have had this budget shortfall as bad as we have now.

  • I think I read the past 1/2 senior citizen over age 65 fare was a federal mandate. If this is true, a total elimination of free fares is not possible. Any comments? Joe Lake, Bucktown

  • The individual (K O'N) who posted a rebuttal to our "Press Release" apparently didn't receive it, and is confusing our organization with another one termed Answer Chicago, which sent out an email.

    The Press Release we put out, after doing considerable research, is as follows:

    Press Release
    Citizens Taking Action for transit dependent riders
    www.CTAriders.org

    For Information:
    Charles Paidock, Secretary (312) 353-0830, (312) 714-7790 cell cpaidock@hotmail.com
    Harry Brooks (on survey) (773) 731-0608 hrry_brooks@yahoo.com

    Study Shows CTA Has Eliminated 50+ Bus Routes, Closed 100+ El Stations, and Increased Fares 19 Times Since It Was Started
    http://transit.homestead.com/State.html

    Citizens Taking Action, a public transit advocacy group, conducted a study of services in Chicago since CTA was established on October 1, 1947. The results indicated that 57 bus routes were eliminated, and 133 elevated stations have been closed. Eight el lines or branches were abandoned altogether. And all of this took place, it was found, at the same time there were 19 separate fare increases, with one taking place about every 2-3 years.

    To its credit, CTA since inception has started 28 new bus routes, and opened 28 el stations, however, in some instances this was simply restoring service which had been discontinued, or to replace discontinued rail service.

    Charles Paidock, Secretary, said that: "The study clearly shows that over time we are paying more for less and less service. I think that CTA maps in the future will be very simple. Cut any more and we

  • In reply to CharlesPaidock:

    Funny, since until 1958 the CTA mostly ran off cable cars, not bus service, so with increased flexibility I think they'd have to prove an actual reduction in service. Also most of the branches (never entire lines, except the reestablished niles center line) were replaced by bus service.

    It seems like they're basic arguments are that they don't want any pay increase and they think its backwards to streamline service. It's like they are "looking for a convenient excuse, and doesn

  • In reply to CharlesPaidock:

    While I agree that it stinks that they got rid of so many lines back 60 years ago, it is kind of silly to bring that up as a basis for your argument since those decisions are not really relevant any longer.

    I think everyone on this board is for smart CTA expansion, however I don't see how giving free rides to any segment of society is beneficial. Besides, if you don't like the idea of them getting rid of the free rides, talk to your legislator, not the CTA. CTA doesn't get to vote in Springfield.

    Your point of paying more for less service is valid, but you are not proposing any solutions. Giving free rides to seniors won't fix the issues you are raising.

  • In reply to CharlesPaidock:

    What has happened with the $1 billion that Quinn approved for transit, but then refused to release? Does anyone know where this stands any more?

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