Rahm finds CTA leaders here; time will tell if they stay - and succeed


(Image from WTTW-Chicago)

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel went to Rochester, N.Y., and Denver to find his new top leaders for Chicago Public Schools. But he didn’t have to go very far to fill the top positions at the Chicago Transit Authority.

They were right under his nose. And in fact, CTA Board Chairman Terry Peterson is already in that job and will remain there, Emanuel announced Tuesday.

Forrest Claypool, a former chief of staff to Mayor Daley, Cook County commissioner and CEO of the Chicago Park District, was a member of Emanuel’s Transportation and Infrastructure Transportation Team and endorsed Rahm for mayor.

So these appointments beg the question: Is this just same old, same old? Maintaining the status quo?

CTA Tattler was interviewed Tuesday for Chicago Tonight’s coverage of Emanuel’s new transportation team. My comments start at 1:10 in the video.

Only time will tell. And I’m willing to give Claypool, in particular, the time to prove Emanuel made a good choice.

I’m not bothered that Claypool is not a transit expert. I think a
government agency like the CTA needs a strong, tough administrator who
can run a lean, tight ship, make the trains and buses run on time,
safely, and balance the budget. And it helps that Claypool knows his way
around both City Hall and the County Building.

So again, let’s give him a chance to solve the many problems facing the CTA, such as:

2012 operating budget. The $166 million that the CTA got from a bond
sale agreement with the state
will be gone in 2012. That money helped
the CTA avert a fare increase in 2010 and 2011, but not service cuts of
18% on bus routes and 9% for rail lines. Without some new Daddy
Warbucks showering the CTA with cash, a fare increase is quite likely.
And more service cuts certainly will have to be considered.

2012 – and beyond – capital budget. The CTA needs almost $7 billion
just to bring all of its properties into a state of good repair. Look no
further than Tuesday’s Brown Line Its capital budget this year is just
over $650 million
– barely 10% of what it needs. And that doesn’t
include cash for the Red Line extension to 130th Street, or the Yellow
Line extension, or Orange Line extension, etc.

The CTA will be competing with hundreds of other transit agencies for a
much smaller pot of federal dollars. That’s the big challenge there.

Trains and buses. Claypool could show some real leadership by ordering
changes to the already-outdated design of the new Series 5000 rail cars.
I have “railed” against the crowded “bucket” seats many times. On
buses, decisions on bus rapid decisions remain, among others.

These are just a handful of issues that should give Claypool and
Peterson ample opportunity to show they are real leaders, ready to
provide Chicago with “the affordable, cutting-edge and multifaceted
transportation options that will keep our city moving forward,” as
Mayor-elect Emanuel said at his press conference Tuesday.


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  • I think Claypool was a good choice, so I agree, people need to give him a chance. I agree with you that we don't necessarily need a transit expert to head the CTA. Claypool is a respected leader who carries some weight and knows his way around our political landscape, which will be key to solving funding issues and coordinating with other agencies. He's also a competent and creative manager with experience running a large agency, which is what's needed to keep the day-to-day operations running smoothly. He's much more of a known quantity than Huberman or Rodriguez were. Calling it status quo would be a myopic view of the picture. Gabe Klein was also appointed CDOT commissioner yesterday, which was a huge break from status quo for our city -- and certainly just looking at the big picture when making transportation appointments is a shift. CTA and CDOT do have to work together.

    But of course we won't know if he'll actually come through for us until we've seen him work. That is always the case. Even if Chicago had found an innovative leader at the head of another large transit agency like New York MTA or DC Metro, they'd be dealing with very different political realities here. And everyone would just be complaining instead that Rahm didn't hire someone locally.

  • In that there was just a Tribune article that said that transit money (i.e. "New Start") for the STAR Line dried up, and the Tollway is expecting transit to kick in on the rebuilding (how insane have things become, and I'm sure that all those complaining that drivers pay nothing will agree), there is nothing to believe that New Start money is available to the CTA either, even though the consultants have been paid for 6 years of work that hasn't resulted in a shovel of dirt being turned.

    As far as updating the cars, unlike Brizard being brought in for certain stated purposes, or Rahm saying what he wanted in a police chief, and Weis was not it, all that was said was that Claypool was a good administrator and a political buddy of Emanuel from way back. How that makes him qualified to run a transit system is beyond me, unless this is more evidence that you can't trust someone who technically met the qualifications, i.e. Kruesi.

    It also appeared that this was the kind of press conference that has become prevalent recently--Rahm talked but the nominee said nothing. As Clout Street indicates, the only reason Claypool was brought in, according to Rahm, is that he could look for efficiencies, sort of like Huberman.

    But as usual, people project their hopes on the new guy without any evidence to back it up, just like the last time when, even though Rodriguez said that was it for the seats, you replied that the ones for the obese were not necessarily precluded.

    I also wonder what fig leaf the puppet CTA Board is going to use to explain the formalities of this. It actually isn't going to exhibit any (as Geoff Peterson says) balls to actually search for a candidate or fire Rodriguez. Keeping Peterson on assures that.

    So, it is the same old same old, plus another Illinois pol being given another government job. Cf. Quinn and Gordon, yesterday. Brizard may have been a break from that, but Claypool is not.

  • I'm not bothered that Claypool has no transit experience. In his position, he needs to know how to run an efficient agency and implement new initiatives.

    I am very bothered that the current chief operations officer, Peter Ousley, the head of all transit operations at the agency, has no transit experience other than being Rodriquez's chief lapdog for 18 months.

    When appointed to that position this year, Ousley stepped into a job that has previously been held by men and women with 35, 26, 32, and 25 years of experience. How does Ousley's experience at the Cook County Administration building and city permit department qualify him for that job - at a higher rate of pay than any of his predecessors who had significantly more years of experience? He's the person who is supposed to make important transit decisions that keep people moving from point a to b.

    I'll hold off on judging Claypool until I see how he handles filling or replacing important positions like this.

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