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CTA details scary proposed cuts, fare increases

Ctabucks My 14-year-old daughter picked up the paper this morning and started reading the CTA's disaster plan of proposed cuts and/or fare increases they would put into effect if the state legislature doesn't fork with more money.

"Dad, this is scary," she said, as she prepared to take the Red Line to school.

I couldn't have said it better.

No Purple Line Express. $2.50 fares. 50 cent transfers. 65 bus routes eliminated. Sunday schedule for weekdays. Very scary indeed.

The Tribune details the horror here. Story here. CTA's spin here.

E-mail the CTA and tell 'em how you feel about all this.


Too bad the CTA board and president have less than zero credibility. I doubt if these drastic scenarios will resonate much in Springfield. The CTA has simply cried wolf waaaay too many times before, has the least public-relations-savvy/most personally-repellent president of probably any public agency in the nation, and clearly does not know how to manage the money it already has (Brown Line anyone?).

The CTA needs a fresh start. I'm going to e-mail all of my elected officials and let them know that it is time for a new board and new president. (And here's a novel thought--how about a board whose members actually USE the CTA?)

(And don't get me started on the joke that is the CTA Citizens Advisory Board. (In my best Linda Richman voice: "The Citizens Advisory Board is neither composed of citizens nor advisory nor a board. Discuss."))

Wow. Those proposals are all horrendous.

But isn't the budget crunch driven by the problems in Springfield?


I haven't studied the issue enough to know for sure if the majority of the problem lies in Springfield or not, but it's safe to say that the CTA's problems, regardless of source, are exacerbated by horrible management here.

By the way, there's a good article about the Brown Line project by Ben Joravsky in this week's Reader.

It's like they sat around a table and said "How can we screw the most people who use our service." I'm sure it's mostly scare tactic, but if even half of it comes true, it will be really bad.

How can we commuters take this kind of crap seriously when they're trying to fritter away MILLIONS on a monumental disaster of a plan to install cell phones in subways?! Am I the only one who wants to go to a CTA "community meeting" and laugh in their faces?

I think they should just raise the fares. Let the free market do its work. If people pay the fares, then the CTA can operate a (comparatively) better service. Where people choose not to pay the fares, then the CTA can cut unprofitable lines.

It's time to run the CTA like a business.

Take a taxi cab - that's a business.

The CTA is public transportation. Their business strategy is to provide transportation to everyone at an afforable rate. Wrap your head around that socialist ideal.

If you ran the CTA, "CTA_rider," your business would fail miserably simply due to your myopia.

How about a mix of the free market and government, such as a regulated utility? Or perhaps that's how they'd classify themselves now.

the thing is.... the 'fair' market is unfair to those who don't have the means to compete in it. cabs? it's so easy to piss away 20 bucks in a cab ride or two (and with the impending fare hike, maybe even a cab ride and 1/2), and that's a 'yuppie food stamp' that some people just don't have.

i find it typical and coincidental that a lot of the service cuts and entire eliminations i saw listed (people walking 4 miles! to get to a bus or el -- if i had to walk 4 miles, i probably wouldn't need public trans in most cases, and i would hope i wasn't elderly or physically incapacitated in ANY way) were on the south side, which to my very limited knowledge contains a disporportionate amount of the city's working (and not working) poor. this in comparison to the largely affluent north side, with neighborhoods like lincoln park, wrigleyville, lakeview, gold coast, streetervile, downtown/loop and the up and coming andersonville/edgewater.

cabs aren't reasonable for most people, and the public transportation system is meant to be just that: PUBLIC.

In the last three weeks, I've seen a bus driver pull over to the curb to cus out a customer who mouthed off to him, and I myself have had two run ins with completely unhelpful and rude CTA attendants. I write to the CTA with my concerns and they never write back. This week alone, 3 out of 5 mornings I was late to work because of delays. Sometimes I take the bus home, and inevitably I wait 20 - 30 minutes for the 147 to arrive...with 3 other 147's directly behind it.

It seems to me that the governing board of the CTA and Mr. Kruesi are the most inept group of administrators the CTA has ever seen. Their priorities are completely out of whack.

Between their scare tactics to try and get more funding while they fritter away money to make it easier for cell phone users to annoy the rest of us and the service I've been recieving lately -- I'VE HAD IT. The search for a reliable car is already underway.

And here's the kicker -- I truly believe that these tactics are going to backfire on Kruesi, with many of those who can afford to buy cars and escape the CTA and doing so and those who cannot afford cars paying the worst price of all.


They dump MILLIONS on the subway cellphone project and IMMEDIATELY tell us about funding/service cuts. THEN, they tell us the Brown Line is closing (after telling us it WASN'T) for a makeover costing MILLIONS.

So, do they have the money or no? I'm confused. How can they justify redoing Brown Line stations and spending millions on the cell phone project, yet THREATEN and bully on the grounds they have no money?


Why don't they go to the employees and tell them that there won't be any cutbacks or more importantly to the unions, layoffs, if they cut their pay a certain percentage to make up the difference?
Just how stupid, arrogant and hateful are the union bosses who would rather see 1,200 of their workers lose their jobs, rather than all of them take a short term hit.

Yeah, It's scary. But it's our fault really. When I read about CTA making the subway ready for cell phone use I said yes! Finally! I didn't care if they had anyone signed up for it yet. I knew like they did that if they built it, someone would come. There were just too darn many cell users in the subway for someone not to jump at the chance. So all this moaning and groaning about those dollars being wasted is just people swallowing media spin that is probably coming from downstate repbulicans anyway. Why the hell do we persist in believing that garbage? Why don't we just demand more money for CTA?

It really doesn't matter whether there has been waste there last year or not. Waste in governemental systems is a fact of life. Sure, replace everyone down to the poor schmuck who washes the floors of the trains, get rid of anyone who has any experience in running a complex and intricate transportation network whatsoever, what will we get besides chaos? More waste! It's built into the system.

Where? Let's start with Federal Government rules. Title VI. The ADA act. Paratransit Requirements. Federal Reporting Requirements. Accounting requirements. Endless paperwork that has to be done. Just to get what Federal Dollars CTA can to pay for things like that Cell System and that Brown Line Renovation that do NOT come out of the farebox or impact operating costs.

Another source of waste? Purchasing. The Chicago Transit Board is required to approve EVERY SINGLE PURCHASE above $10,000.00 and has for at least 20 years, maybe more.

EVERY SINGLE PURCHASE in a budget of maybe A BILLION DOLLARS. DOES THIS MAKE SENSE TO YOU? Over that period of time the value of $10,000 has eroded seriously so that the cost of staff time in preparing documents for board approval for items it should really not have to is enormous. THIS IS WASTEFUL.

Obviously there has to be oversight. But you won't find this level of nitpicking at any public sector firm of comparable budget. Why do they hang on to this practice? Don't know. Fear of being criticized for letting the reigns too loose and not being close enough watchdogs on the public trust? Hands tied by some state legislation? I say, let's find a way to give them permission to raise the limit so that staff can find better things to do than spend time getting orders for office supplies ready for board approval.

On the Brown Line thing. Who knows what went wrong on the cost estimate. If I had to guess, the time delay in purchasing, often months, probably contributed something. It often does. Because of the sheer volume of things that CTA has to purchase, and of them that have to go to the board for approval, and the number of steps involved in getting anything purchased at a government agency, (and everything has to be done just right or the media will have a field day) - and the small number of staff to do it after decades of staff reducton - deley creeps in and time is money.

But also, in reconstructing Rail Lines their are legitimate cost over runs. If the need to acquire property is involved to expand station lengths to accomodate 8 car trains, repeated 7-10% annual increases in property values over the 5+ years or so from the cost estimate of the project to the start of the project can put a serious hole in the budget. Other hidden problems such as soil problems, hidden structural defects, unanticipated weather difficulties (a matter of luck) and problems with contractors defaulting, poorly performing and/or having to be replaced can delay all of the other contractors causing overtime, schedule delays and other problems.

Then of course, in the past projects have been deliberately underbid by contractors with the intention of holding CTA hostage for more dollars later once work was well underway and no other contractor could reasonably take over without being much more expensive. Surely this is not the case here.

Given all these factors, and not having a close inside view of what went on, and knowing that the Brown Line costs are not part of the operating budget which is the budget that pays for service and which determines the cost of fares, I find it hard to just go out and say that the Brown Line situation proves that CTA has bad management. $150 M is nothing. You want a boondoggle, look at King County in Washington State. They wasted something like a Billion Dollars on studies to get a monorail or subway going. Now THAT's waste.

Also, was the $150 M wasted? Or was it just needed to be spent and cost more than we thought. That is a really important distinction. If a carpenter comes in to replace a panel in the interior wall and discovers that ants have eaten out most of your side panels and all of your exterior wall panels have to be replaced before winter, that's a cost over-run, but doing so is necessary, its not waste. I know, very hard to get the info out of CTA on stuff like this.

Back to my main point. We can criticize all we want. The fact is, we get what we demand. Right now it is really clear who we have to demand it from and it is not CTA. Yes, we can send them email and should if we are unhappy, and we should be with the service reduction scenarios. Nearly all the bus routes near me are being cut. Who we have to demand action from is our state legislators. They are the ones with the purse strings.

In the late 80's Regan cut federal operating assistance to transit properties like CTA to the tune of $80 million a year with the assumption that the states would pony up the difference.

Guess what. The east coast states did. California did.

Guess which state with a Republican Governor for the last 20 odd years did not?

If you said Illinois - Bingo! NOW. NOW is our Chance, perhaps our one chance to fix things. To put CTA on a fair and level footing.

None of the 5 scenarios have to happen if CTA gets the adequate funding it deserves. CTA has to fund more of its operational funding out of the farebox than most transit systems in the country. Why? Are our people so special that we should have to pay more?

CTA has actually improved a lot in the last few years under Kruesi. Remember the long lines at ticket agent's booths? Gone. Remember the confusion about what bus or train stop was next? Mostly gone? Remember how hard it was to find a bus or train schedule? On the internet. Yes, there are still rude employees out their. Their are also rude people out their. A bus driver got knifed just the other day. You think things like that don't affect the mood of all the other drivers for awhile?
Get real!

As for "Doomsday" Never forget that it is the job of newspaper guys to sell newspapers. $2.50 is NOT doomsday. Adjusted for inflation it is about the same fare that CTA charged 13 YEARS ago. If they are guilty of any bad management decision it has been not raising the fare a dime a year every year so we would be used to it by now.

So, I think that thier management doesn't suck that bad. That it is our job to complain to our state legislators and tell them that if they don't pay, maybe we won't vote for them.

There's a whole damn lot of us that ride CTA every day. We have family members that vote too. No one has lost an election over transit funding yet. But it could happen. Just ask Mike Bilandic.

This may not be "Doomsday" but if CTA cuts that much service there could be one hell of a "Blizzard" come the next election day.

P.S. Anyone read CTA's document and notice what level "F" higway conditions are... ho ho ho ho ho

PeterFiles: I'm sure the cell phone thing is the "downstate Republicans" fault. Since they ride the Red Line CONSTANTLY.

"This is Mt. Vernon."

"This is a red line train to Champaign-Urbana. Effingham is next......"

Do anyone remember the FIRST paper transfers that we use to have back in the days? and any that came after?

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