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.