Unclear on the concept: A laughable letter on CTA subsidies

I laughed and then was amazed that a guy actually wrote (and the Trib published) a letter to the editor suggesting that the “entire CTA system could be shut down and the $3,500 annual public
subsidy per commuter could be better spent by giving it directly to
low- and moderate-income residents to help them pay for their own
automobiles or taxi fares.”

Are you serious? People should be encouraged to stop driving, and that’s what these government subsidsies are for.



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  • You have your congestion point, but he has his point that the CTA has (at least for the past about 12 years) been run inefficiently. He also says "replacing the buses with a system of private shuttle buses/taxis with intelligent computer-controlled routing that would better match traveler needs and minimize wait times?" I've been advocating that for much of the Pace system (except South and West) for a couple of years now. Boos-Allen recommended that for the far southwest and northwest sides about 12 years ago, and nothing happened.

    His other comment "Most of the current workforce (employees whose union apparently thinks they are currently underpaid) would then be free to seek more remunerative employment" seems mighty similar to something I posted here in response to jake who made a similar point about pay being correlated to union muscle.

    I've also advocated that since the political hangers on can't run CTA efficiently, why not a private contractor model, like in Las Vegas or Phoenix? If the union is right about the number of exempt persons, a private operator would have the incentive to get rid of them.

    Finally, I don't know if his $3,500 per commuter subsidy number is right, but Pat Quinn seems to think that the commuter shouldn't pay more of the cost, although he apparently doesn't have any problem with the service cuts. Apparently, the commuter doesn't believe that the privilege of riding with Mr. Poop in his diapers (and other passengers frequently chronicled on the Tattler) is worth the cost of an unlinked trip at 97 cents. (In fact, one of the advocacy groups ran a survey that came up with that result.) But Quinn doesn't say who will pay back that "loan."

    The thing that should be made clear is that CTA is not here for the benefit of employees such as the track inspectors who were putting in 3 hour days (see the NTSB report) union thugs (such as the one on chicagobus.org) who say the "permanent answer" is a gas tax, when supposedly there was a "long term solution" 22 months ago, political appointees who are shuffled from one job to the next, or governors who reinforce this by suddenly "finding money." The congestion problem can't be used to hide all the management and political problems inherent in this governance mess called the RTA, CTA, Pace, and to some extent Metra.

  • You can have my CTA subsidy when I can have your road subsidies. Then we can ride mountain bikes to work together over unpaved tracks, just like Reagan dreamed.

  • I notice a lot of people that don't drive a bus or train have a lot to say but the truth is they don't know have a clue how stressful and how responsible they (the operators) have to be in this circus we call the city of Chicago. I must add them operators are expose to every criminal mined fool that is free to walk the streets and sick people and some with killer diseases, driving a 45 foot bus around this city where you have some of the most ignorant drivers in the US or operating up to 8 rail of full cars at a time and have to deal with many people that try to beat (A LOT DO) the system or to sue it. Who's on the front line of all this? The operators THAT'S WHO. My hat goes out them BRAVE individuals cause i don't worry about what they make, even if i don't out of they pay how much is being paid back each payday for health care, pension and union dues and what ever else that may want that kinda cut that pay way down. Lets hope the union stay the course and don't let the fat cats the sit on their rumps all day safely and people that don't have enough brains to have a sound opinion pick on the our front line operators that keep this city moving.

  • Huge high-five to woodroe re: bus drivers. They are underpaid, as far as I'm concerned. Incredibly difficult job.

  • I fully agree with Wooddroe and Daniel that driving a bus is a very difficult job with many challenges. I don't begrudge one penny of what these drivers are paid. But I do wonder if these CTA employees realize that they lose much public sympathy when there are so many complaints--here and elsewhere--about rude and lazy drivers. Just imagine how much public support these drivers would have if there were fewer reports of them driving while on cell phones, passing up stops, snapping at riders or refusing to answer questions, etc. etc. I wish the unions realized they are shooting themselves in the foot by not insisting their members conduct themselves in a dedicated, courteous manner at all times. If the public perception was that CTA drivers are skilled professionals, there would be far more public support for them.

  • Anyone who suggests shutting down the CTA has no idea of the chaos such a move would have. I remember a short-lived strike that paralyzed the Loop and it would have been worse if many downtown offices had not been lenient about absenteeism.

  • In reply to Westerner:

    Mayebe you should tell that to Robert Kelly, head of ATU Local 308, or Darrell Jefferson, head of Local 241, the latter of which threatened strike while standing next to Huberman in January, 2008.

    Just an observation, Observer, but it doesn't seem to me to make much difference who shuts down the system, except that the two aforementioned individuals have the right under the IPLRA to do it. Chicago Transit Authority v. Illinois Labor Relations Bd., 325 Ill. Dec. 443, 898 N.E.2d 176 (1st Dist. 2008)

  • In reply to jack:

    I seriously doubt that Kelly and Jefferson were advocating that the entire CTA system be permanently closed which was supposed to be the subject of this discussion.

  • In reply to Westerner:

    However we can assume that a letter writer was dealing in hyperbole and didn't have the power to pull it off.

    Whatever Kelly and Jefferson were advocating, their rank and file would be able to pull off.

  • In reply to jack:

    Yes, God forbid that workers have any power, what so ever.

  • In reply to Westerner:

    I've always thought the idea of no public cars downtown being really interesting - just a fleet of taxis. Because they would be the only thing and there would be no need for parking, things would ideally move smoothly and hence you'd save time and fare.

  • In reply to aczysz:

    Yeah, that's what the city needs... more cabs.

    Tell me, do you drive in Chicago ever?

  • In reply to jack:

    I would imagine that it matters a great deal who shuts down the system. Unions threaten strikes to exert economic pressure to obtain favorable contractual agreements. They never have the goal of remaining out of operation. Long term strikes (shut downs) are absolutely not desired. Further, they usually only have to threaten a strike to obtain their goals. Often they don't even have to do that; in negotiation their ability to threaten and carry out a strike is understood and need not be said aloud.

    Anyway, my (admittedly obvious) point is that it certainly matters who is shutting down the system.

  • In reply to maple1ledge:

    Apparently that didn't deter the unions in the 70s, when Evanston Bus Co. and Chicago and Calumet District Transit Co. (and undoubtedly others) shut down during a strike. There weren't political agencies to back them up.

    On the other hand, the current unions figure that CTA is not going out of business, so nothing stops them from exerting economic pressure. The problem is, though, that neither the CTA nor the RTA has the unilateral authority to impose the taxes they advocate. If they think that a strike is going to get us to write our legislators and beg them to increase our sales or gas taxes, I beg to differ.

    I also wonder, in the Chrysler and GM cases whether they intended to own (maybe) 40% of those companies, and what they are now going to do now that they do.

  • In reply to jack:

    I find it curious that you except suppliers of labor to act in a way that you would ask of no other input supplier in a free market economy.

  • In reply to maple1ledge:

    I think CTA wages are consent with the high economy how else can you can pay $3.00/gal for gas increase taxes, food, housing, and utilities. Also Transportation (CTA METRA PACE AND CABS) should be the main and the only items tax on the gasoline since they go hand and hand and gasoline will always be there and stop this year after year asking for money to bail out transportation. If CTA hand better management and manage how many people are riding their buses and trains FREE they may never need a bail out. It's like how are going to pay your bills if 85 - 90% of your riders done figure out to ride FREE as thou they are smarter than a President of CTA that make over 200,000.00 a year and all he can come up with is let pick on the operators the ones that keep this city moving so people can get to and keep their jobs, and go shopping to help the economy and the last i check CTA operator are not making $28.45 so just maybe when you post something at lease try to be accurate. AND TO THE POSTER MK how much do you make and what kind of job do you do and let see if it's perfect. And the one poster that mention about some bad operators, they have bad workers from Presidents of the USA, Governors Representative CEO'S Police Officers and Bus Operators but let not give everybody a F cause of a few bad apples as you see they eventually get theirs.

  • I'm an operator. Before taxes I'm on track to make about $26,000 this year. Is that too much? Does it upset you that I'm sitting on such an immense pile of money?

    In the past 2 years, I've had zero days of paid time off, and have none on the horizon. I have a decent HMO, but no dental coverage (and I really need to go to a dentist due to work that stills needs to be finished from a root canal many years ago, but can't afford it). Does that make you feel better?

    Every time I see you posting here, it seems to be very much anti-cta bus operator. Why is that? I guess you've had a few negative experiences with CTA, but perhaps it's your own bad attitude that is also causing these problems.

  • In reply to goldminetim:


    Are you a part-time driver? If so, then we'd need to know the number of hours worked in order to make that $26,000 a meaningful figure.

  • In reply to ryanwc:

    Posts on the tattler last year based on the BGA database said that the average operator made $50,000/year. Again, that's separate from pension plans more generous than those in the private sector for comparably paid workers, and a more lenient policy on when you can retire and receive that pension. As well as health care benefits that are good.

    But then there's the issue of part-timers. We'd need a fuller picture of salaries. But you rarely get that, perhaps because the papers don't ask, perhaps because the two sides rarely seem to have an interest in providing a full picture.

    Finally, I'd guess without the protection of operators who don't do a good job, most people wouldn't be very upset at salaries. The difficulty of firing people is the biggest difference between unionized public-sector workplaces and most private workplaces, including many unionized private workplaces.

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    Who hates CTA bus drivers? Bus drivers are the only CTA employees I've had consistently positive interactions with.

  • After giving it some thought, I think that the current pay for bus and train operators is about right (though I don't think that raises are in order at this time). The problem with CTA is that it is very top heavy with management (similar to CPS). It also seems that there is a lack of planning that results in costly fixes (e.g. canopies at Belmont and Fullerton).

  • In reply to eBob:

    Exactly. Don't touch one union job until you've had a top-down total shakeup and restructuring of management, preferably done by an independent panel.

    Not going to happen as long as Daley is mayor though.

  • The CTA is far from perfect, but the truth is I don't want to have to own a car and drive myself everywhere I need to go. It's just too much trouble most of the time.

  • "But $28.45 plus good benefits seems pretty high for driving a vehicle around."

    This is where you lose me every time. It's not just 'driving a vehicle around.' In the case of bus drivers, it's driving around in a large vehicle on crappy roads with lots of traffic and people walking out in front of said vehicle, They also put up with an enormous amount of crap from people they have to let on the bus, including drunks and crazies and also people like you who think they're beneath you because they drive a bus for a living. I don't think they make enough--I'd want more to put up with you.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Bus drivers, for the most part, also don't have the luxury of posting useless comments on blogs all day while they're at work, which is what MK does.

  • Management has survived all these years...'cause they make the rules and they layoff who they want. Now that management has put in their collective 30 years they're all going to retire en masse. They're taking the money and running. No raises mean no reasons to hang around. 'Course even though they've done very little over the years...they still know how things work. Soon they'll be gone and everyone else will be left holding the bag for them. The unions aren't doing themselves any favours at this time. Maybe it's time to break up the old unions and start again.
    People who think privatizing the CTA are clearly delusional. They can look parking @ $40 a day in the loop if that should ever happen. Think of the time wasted looking for that parking place....and you'll rejoice for a 10 minute wait for the train or a bus. Not that any of you schmucks are going to be employed next year...anyway.

  • In reply to painhertz:

    People who talk about privatizing the CTA probably aran't aware the entire system with the exception of the Orange and Blue lines and the 95th/Dan Ryan branch, was built by private companies and operated privately for decades.

  • So since you claim this is not a personal thing between you and bus operators, and claim it's a tax payer issue. What would be an acceptable wage for bus operators? I ask since you apparently are the person who decides whether others are being paid accordingly. I'm guessing anything above minimum wage would be too much since all bus operators do is "drive around."

  • Sad, sad little man. I haven't been to this blog in ages but it's so funny to see MK here still dutifully arguing away. Have you convinced everyone the 22 and 36 should be consolidated yet? Hilarious.

  • "I am anti labor union."

    Thank you for informing me that I should never listen to anything you have to say, ever.

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