Some ideas to avoid another CTA budget mess

Chicago Current, what might be called the successor publication to the ChiTown Daily News, just published its premiere print edition, featuring a story with different takes on how the CTA can avoid another budget meltdown this year.

CTA President Richard Rodriguez advocates for a higher capital improvement budget, which would reduce operational maintenance costs. “The newer our system, the less I have to spend on operating,” said Rodriguez in the article. “I would
be able to reduce my operating costs if … my bus fleet was newer, my
trains weren’t 40 years old, because of the cost of maintaining them
and keeping them in working order.”

That makes sense. So why is Rodriguez transferring $9 million in capital funds next year to balance the 2010 operating budget?

Rodriguez also noted that due to the ailing economy, the CTA got just $25 million from the higher real estate transfer tax, when it expected $100 million. So that begs the question of whether the transit agency would have enough taxes in the future to sustain itself. The answer is yes for state Rep. Julie Hamos, the chief architect of the funding plan passed by the state in early 2008.

“I don’t think we should be micromanaging the transit system from the state capital,” said Hamos. And CTA board Chairman Terry Peterson agrees: “I’m optimistic that this economy’s going to turn around. We think that
the levels of public funding that we get from the real estate transfer
tax will go up, as well as the sales tax will go up.”

A CTA union chief thinks we should turn to a 2 cent per gallon gas tax to fund mass transit. Says Robert Kelly, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308: “The way that gasoline prices fluctuate every single day in this
country, I don’t think that 2 cents a gallon is going to hurt anybody
to fund transit.”

The CTA board is expected to approve its budget this Thursday, complete with fare increases and service cuts. After that, we’ll see if any of these ideas come to fruition before the Feb. 7 effective date.

I wouldn’t count on that, though.

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  • I wouldn't count on any of this settling down either. CTA continues to roll around in the same problem year after year bc leadership either is not encouraged to plan years ahead or simply doesn't have the experience to plan ahead for a large and older transit system. Not to knock Mr. Rodriguez but after seeing him at meetings and on TV, this is someone who is frustrated and faced with a no-win situation (less $ coming in, have to cut somewhere, etc.). While it shouldn't take a PhD in planning to realize that things will be tight in an economy where the main source of funding is real estate transfer taxes, it apparently grabbed everyone's attention this summer vs a year or more ago when there was enough evidence in the press to say we are heading into a downturn.
    The turmoil in funding, disagreements with union contracts, serve to tie up valuable time and energy and not solve the problems. It is a seemingly self-serving way for politicians to justify their existence in a transit agency vs seasoned transit people. Admittedly one has to be a bit of both given the beast why not conduct a search and bring in someone who has transit experience? It would give pause to cynics like me that think CTA is just an employment agency.
    So here are some ideas: 1) Remove or at the least

  • if they run out of money, then shut it down until the idiots in Springpatch & the even bigger idiot with the huge limo & 36 member police bodyguard detail get the message that the CTA is an absolutely vital service even to those that never use it!
    Call their bluff!

  • Why don't they try some politically palatable ideas first?If another gas tax is proposed,it would pass if it mandated swift pothole repair on all streets buses use.That way motorists would benefit too.

  • Rumor has it that Rodriguez is out by Xmas.

  • In reply to painhertz:

    And which one of the incompetents that Daley is always shifting around from department to department going to get the job?

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Take your pick.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Sure we do make about 50-57K a year....minus how much they take out of our paychecks to begin with. Remember we are paying more for health care. While I am not complaining at all, but when you consider the hourly rate then the deductions...it isn't much of a big salary that everyone thinks.

    Quite frankly at this point...if it's going to take fulrough days and concessions...I'm all for it. Better than having no job at all. The only people complaining are the senior operators whom have outlived their usefulness and wouldn't be laid off. They're only there out of greed.

    Perhaps CTA needs to get them to leave already.

  • In reply to ctadriver99:

    Everybody has deductions. Everyone pays for things. Get off the cross. We need the wood.

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