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?
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changes to the already-outdated design of the new Series 5000 rail cars.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.