Like Metra, CTA should ask its riders for opinions on solving budget shortfall

While all three area transit agencies are facing budget deficits for 2012, Metra is engaging its riders in helping decide the awful solutions. And I think it’s a tactic that the CTA should try.

On its website, Metra calmly lays out the reasons for the current budget shortfall for 2012, and they apply to the CTA:

  • A faltering economy caused sales tax revenues to plummet.
  • The rising cost of diesel fuel.
  • The inability to continue to neglect an aging infrastructure by transferring money from the capital budget to pay for operating expenses.

The Metra board already has laid out some scenarios to close the budget gap – a combination of service cuts and fare increases. Then it asks riders to take a survey that lists some options. Among them:

  • A 25% fare hike rather than making service reductions.
  • A 20% fare hike and have limited service reductions.
  • Charging a fuel surcharge rather than making service reductions.

I really do like this approach, recommend that the CTA consider it. In fact, here’s a simple poll – with questions similar to the Metra survey – to get things going.

poll by


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  • As Forrest "Kruesi" Claypool proved yesterday, CTA is "too smart" to need any suggestions from us. This is about the same as running a poll for how CUB Quinn can get tougher with the unions. Futile.

  • In reply to jack:

    It's MY ball - and YOU can't play with it!!

  • If they actually used rider suggestions,they couldn't justify handing out consulting contracts to fat cat insiders.

  • In reply to JamesReyes:


    In two related topics, according to the Sun-Times, Emanuel has a web site to collect ideas, one of which was to privatize the CTA. So, if this survey is to accomplish anything, maybe it should be directed there.

    The Tribune had an article about how Emanuel is conducting a nationwide search for a CHA director. Apparently the CTA, being a political backwater, is not worthy of that.

  • In reply to jack:

    I seriously doubt if there's anyone with a national reputation for running an urban mass transit system that would want to come to the disaster that's the CTA.
    Beyond the fact that much of it is falling apart & needs billions to just bring it up to average, who would want the headaches of deal with insane unions that preferred that thousands of their members get laid off, rather than all of them take a small pay cut, our halfwitted city council, which wants to micromanage the CTA, even though none of them use it & the incompetent state legislature, which which demands that the dwindling small towns downstate get $10 for every $5 they give the CTA!

    Just recently, the head of the MTA in NYC left for the job of running Hong Kong's system.
    Way higher pay [$300,000+] & they actually believe in mass transit over there!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    In that there might not be anyone willing to take it does not excuse not doing the search and just giving it to someone who is unqualified.

    Sure Charles Ramsey wouldn't take the police commissioner job for what Emanuel offered, but a search found McCarthy. One probably wouldn't want to put up with the problems at CPS and CHA, either, but, again it was necessary to do a search, and somone took the first job and there appear to be candidates for the second.

    But here, the CTA Board abdicates its statutory responsibility, and now we see the results.

  • I asked a colleague whose been around the transit block a few times about something like this and as he put it, its like asking people “do you want to be punched in the face or the stomach”. Essentially surveys like these don't work because even if you ask them and follow the voters' response (the few who do respond), people will still pushback if you actually follow through, possibly more than expected because those who voted aren't a representative sample of your core customer base and can have different values. Put it this way.... a person with disposable income may want to have fares raised to keep the system exactly the way it is but a person whose on a fixed budget may want a mixture of an increase and cuts to minimize the impact. Or a person whose just a commuter may want to preserve the rush hour service levels and don't care about the rest of the day but the third-shift worker wants to get home from work at 2am without walking a mile. I don't have a degree in stats or surveying but that's what comes to mind.

    Damn, looks like that stats class has been useful.

  • In reply to ibright05:

    Ibright- of course you are right about scientific validity of this kind of web survey. I get that. But I do like that Metra was very forthcoming with their riders and sought their opinion. Not sure if you looked at their survey, but it's way more sophisticated than the dinky one I created here with not so great software.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Notice that manufacturers just raise their prices a little all the time to adjust for their costs.
    But for some reason, transit operators wait until doomsday to do so & then dump a huge increase at once, thus pissing off most of their riders & losing more of them to autos, even if the auto costs them more.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    The reason is the political flack of the type ibright mentions.

    The RTA keeps taking Quinn's bait to freeze CTA and paratransit fares, and then has an emergency when (a) the state doesn't pay, and (b) the bonding authority runs out.

    Thus, a crisis is created, and you can bet that every paratransit rider and many CTA riders will get to the public hearing on service cuts or fare increases, regardless of them saying that they can't otherwise get around. Then they will really cry to Sandoval.

  • In reply to jack:

    Sandoval is the #1 idiot in Springfield when it comes to transit.
    His bullshit posturing last week over Metra's claim it's in money trouble just brought out his inherent douchiness.
    Then the various transit boards have to keep this scumbag happy so they can get money from Springpatch to keep operating.
    If he had his way, the entire RTA would be free all the time & buses would run every minute & trains every 2 minutes.
    And a deficit of $1trillion a year.

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