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Senate cancels Monday session *** Updated x1 ***

Monday, Sep 10, 2007

[Bumped up to Monday’s posts from Saturday’s and edited to add more content]

* Once again, another big Senate vote, which the Senate President and governor were so very sure would succeed, has failed to come to pass. Monday’s session has been canceled

A state Senate bill that could have been a last-minute lifeline to CTA riders faced with drastic service cuts and fare hikes won’t be up for a vote until after the agency’s Sept. 16 “doomsday” deadline. That makes the prospect of the CTA following through on its threats even more likely, since a similar funding proposal has already failed in the Illinois House.

Earlier this week, Senate President Emil Jones called a special session for Monday to discuss and possibly vote on a bill to provide millions for the cash-strapped CTA, RTA, Metra and Pace. Senators were also expected to mull over a capital funding plan that hinged on revenue from three new casinos, including one in Chicago.

But late Friday, a spokeswoman for Jones said the session had been canceled and would likely not be rescheduled until Sept. 17, the day after the service cuts and fare hikes would take effect.

“President Jones and House Minority Leader [Frank] Watson determined that there were still some things they needed to work on,” Jones spokeswoman Cindy Davidsmeyer said, declining to elaborate.

Perhaps Sen. Jones and Gov. Blagojevich should have talked with Watson before they decided to go ahead with a vote on Monday and Tuesday. But, as usual, Jones and Blagojevich simply expected Watson to go along, even though absolutely nothing in the past would buttress that notion.

Every time these two guys try to one-up House Speaker Michael Madigan they make themselves look ineffective and weak. It’s always “Fire, aim, ready… oops!” with these two and it’s getting old.

* Meanwhile

Patty Schuh, spokeswoman for Watson, said the Republican leader has made it clear all year that there must be a thoughtful discussion on any legislation. Democrats cannot expect GOP support if a bill is unveiled at a moment’s notice without a chance for careful review, Schuh said.

“We understand there are deadlines looming here, but the Democrat majorities have spent all of these months in failure, and we cannot rush the process so that there is no time for the public and legislators to be informed about the potential solution,” Schuh said. […]

“Low-income people will be paying more for transit starting [Monday]. Are we going to build a casino by [Monday]?” asked Jacquelyne Grimshaw, vice president for policy, transportation and community development at the Center for Neighborhood Technology.

Grimshaw, a former schoolteacher, said of the governor and the legislative leadership: “This is worse than my worst day teaching with kids being totally unreasonable.”

* And some suburban Republican legislators may get an earful from some of their Metra-riding constituents next week…

Metra riders commuting to downtown Chicago will also lose their speedy CTA express bus service during the morning and evening rush periods if the proposed cuts go through. But alternative service will still be available: from the Ogilvie Transportation Center on a combination of four CTA bus routes and from Chicago Union Station on five CTA bus routes.

* And all this confusion will cost millions

Raising fares costs money, $2 million to reprogram fare boxes and rail system machines.

If lawmakers come up with funding, CTA officials could rescind the doomsday plan, reverse the fares, restore service and call back laid off employees. And they predict that process could cost an additional $2-$3 million.

* From a letter sent out by CTA President Ron Huberman…

CTA has taken many steps to close this funding gap, including making $38 million in administrative cuts and working closely with our labor unions to secure unprecedented agreements on pension and healthcare reforms.

However, the size of the budget deficit makes it impossible to solve this problem through management reforms alone. We need the General Assembly to act.

CTA Chairman Carole Brown and I have met many times with the legislative leadership to develop a legislative proposal that would end this cycle of “Doomsday” scenarios and ensure the fiscal health of CTA for years to come.

However, the General Assembly has not acted on this legislation and the CTA cannot afford to continue to provide our current level of service.

Therefore, starting the morning of September 16th, fares will increase anywhere from $.50 to $1.00 on both bus and rail lines and bus service will be reduced by 8%. This means the suspension of 39 bus routes and the removal of 314 buses from our daily service.

*** UPDATE *** NBC5 had this shot of a new sign going up all over Chicago next to CTA bus stops…

- Posted by Rich Miller        

36 Comments
  1. - tom73 - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 8:26 am:

    Un-freaking-believable.

    I can’t imagine any region in the 21st Century gaining strength in the global competition for dollars and clout while reducing mass transit. I just don’t see how that can happen. Are we really this determined to shoot ourselves in the feet?

    I am amazed as well at how many of my friends and coworkers, most of whom take either CTA or Metra or both, remained as of last week ignorant about the funding stalemate and coming cuts. I guess some of them might wake up this week.


  2. - Leroy - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 8:26 am:

    I’d feel better about bailing out the CTA if Daley hadn’t spent the last twenty years giving the job to people who have actual experience running transit operations, rather than giving the job to political buddies.

    Ron Huberman is a great guy…but come on…is he the best candidate to run a metropolitian transit agency? Same for Frank Kruesi. Are there no better candidates?

    Must we keep our incestuous political machine running? How about bringing in a qaulified outsider once in a while?

    Or is that blasphemous “free market” thinking?


  3. - Fan of the Game - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 8:52 am:

    The transit situation sure doesn’t make Chicago look like a “world-class” city or a good bet for the Olympics.


  4. - Anonymous - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 9:48 am:

    I live in the city and take the CTA - sometimes METRA and PACE. We will all suffer due the game being played in S’fld by bit players (Jones and Blago) now on the center stage. This problem can be laid at the gov’s door by his blanket refusal to enertain a reasonable sales or income tax increase.

    Instead we have had to endure a number of false starts with gambling that is going to go nowhere. But, the hopes of everyone gets raised by the prospect of new casinos.

    Thank God that is not happening! The price would not be worth it. Consider these reasons for not having a casino in Chgo:

    Why? For several very good reasons:

    1.) The city will change forever – once a casino is here it will never be gone. Future generations will be tied to the decisions of today;

    2.) The city has not made a case got needing more money for city government. Consider these financial issues:

    a. Chicago has millions of Tax Increment Financing hidden from the public and the Mayor and City Council handle it as if it is a personal purse of money.

    b. Several years ago the Mayor leased the Chicago Skyway Bridge – resulting in three quarters of a billion dollars for unspecified spending in the city. Again the decisions on this spending are made in the Mayor’s office.

    c. Despite the Mayor saying Chicago needs more money for city government, he has not made any cuts in personnel, amenities or services. Chicago still runs with three man garbage crews while private scavengers use one man. Repair crews still have two men digging with five others standing around and a driver reading the paper in the cab of the truck. Mosquito spraying has an extra truck and men driving with the spraying vehicle for now purpose.

    3.) A state and/or City owned casino will erode people’s confidence in government and cause a conflict of interest regarding regulating

    4.) Addictive nature of gambling would entice people who should not gamble to gamble.

    5.) The most recent poll, a Chicago Tribune poll a few years ago showed 64 percent of state did not want more casinos.

    6.) No one has asked city citizens through a referendum if they want a casino. Why would the legislature impose a casino on the state’s largest city? Chicago is the second or third largest city in the nation. Those closest to Chicago, New York and Los Angeles do not have casinos, because they do not want the corruption.

    7.) Chicago is a corrupt place. We have the Mob, corrupt public officials and other influences that scream out – do not tempt us by putting a casino here.

    8.) Illinois has a tenth license (originally in Galena then attempted to be put in Rosemont) that has been unused for ten years. During that time Illinois has lost over one billion dollars in revenue. If the state can’t use what they legally have now, why should the state be granted the 11th, 12th and 13th license?

    We’re just stuck w/a bunch of bit players to be big guys.

    Doug


  5. - Doug Dobmeyer - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 9:50 am:

    the previous piece was from Doug Dobmeyer


  6. - Nort'sider - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 10:01 am:

    So public transit will crash and burn while our “leaders” keep on trying to prove whose got the biggest one in town. Maybe — just maybe — once traffic is worse and economic production is down thanks to legislative inaction, we can collectively kick them, biggest and all.

    And from the “Just Wondering” file: How many column-inches and broadcast minutes has the transit funding crisis gotten compared to Oprah, Britney, Paris and whether Jeri Thompson is a power-hungry manipulator or “merely” a trophy wife?

    Tom73, it’s a matter of people not bothering to pay attention, and a news media that’s largely asleep at the switch. Nothing will change until we demand better.


  7. - tom73 - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 10:14 am:

    Nort’sider: I agree about the media not paying attention to mass transit issues. Except for a few expections–Crain’s has done some decent work, much from Hinz, and Miller of course keeps us informed about the state level–the performance of the big dailies on this issue is another factor that makes me wonder if Chicago is still a strong town for hard-news that relates to basic civic issues.


  8. - VanillaMan - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 10:33 am:

    “Insuffient State Funding”?

    Try, “Insufficient Funding” instead. It would be more honest to admit that the transit system would be operating if the administrators could figure out how to fund it properly.

    Blaming a state government isn’t the whole picture, it was just the last straw on a very weak camel.


  9. - Six Degrees of Separation - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 10:48 am:

    There are so many middlemen in transportation funding, one wonders how anything gets paid for after the dollars work their way through the maze.


  10. - Six Degrees of Separation - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 10:52 am:

    The Tollway system is the one exception to the above, being self-sufficient and based on collection of user fees and administration of maintenance and capital projects with very little outside help. And, like it or not, it is probably the most efficiently funded and operated “public transportation” system in the state. Maybe we could learn some lessons from their successes and the other agences’ failures.


  11. - RBD - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 11:04 am:

    Tax increase vs a new casino.

    I’d bet my taxes on a new casino winning by 80%.


  12. - one of the 35 - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 11:25 am:

    This crisis is just the latest indication that we are suffering from totally disfunctional government. The state is paralyzed with political bickering and the CTA wants to blame everything on the state. As Vanilla Man correctly points out, that is not the entire reason why they are in a bind. The voters of Illinois deserve better service than they are getting from government officials, both elected and appointed.


  13. - South Sider - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 12:12 pm:

    The CTA should change the wording on that poster to read:

    “Due to Gov. Blagojevich’s intransigence, and the collective incompetence of your state legislative representatives, you, the transit rider, are hereby sentenced to suffer the following painful comuting changes for the foreseable future:”


  14. - cermak_rd - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 12:24 pm:

    What if there is no negative fallout? What if people either pony up the extra $$ to use mass transit, find their new routes, change jobs, use cars and there is no apparent change with the whole doomsday plan?

    The real issue here is we need to decide, like Amtrak, what kind of system it is we want. Do we want a profit-oriented self-sustaining transit system or do we want a public service transit system with conveniences like para-transit (expensive) and half full buses on the less popular routes?


  15. - City Girl - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 1:06 pm:

    The war in Iraq proves that when government wants to find the funds for something, it finds them. It is obscene that a world class city like Chicago has a public transit system that takes one twice as long to reach a destination than if one chooses to drive. Our public transit should fast and efficient and it should be free to users and income tax funded. The fact that our DEMOCRATIC state is considering a transit band-aid funded with a regressive sales tax makes me ill. This DEMOCRATIC body has wasted years of opportunity. We could be making sweeping reforms. Instead we have in-fighting and inaction. I’m so disappointed.


  16. - Common_cents - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 1:26 pm:

    With the recent rise in gasoline costs it doesn’t seem right that the users of the transit system should not have to bear some of the increased costs of operating it. A 50 cent to a dollar raise in fares does not seem that unreasonable to me. They are still saving a considerable sum of money vs other forms of getting to where they are going.


  17. - ILCS - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 1:50 pm:

    Vanilla Man, CTA was created by state law. Don’t let state officials off the hook — if they want to make it a city agency or a county agency or a separate elected entity (e.g., MWRD, and thus not such a good idea), they have it within their power.


  18. - Millstadt News Guy - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 2:33 pm:

    Thanks to Chicago for giving us such exalted leaders! Your candidates’ passion for true public service is truly heartwarming! All this, and the Cubs too!! Sweet!!!


  19. - Captain America - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 2:49 pm:

    The postponed Senate vote is additional evidence of pervasive incompetence and inepititude on the part of the Governor and the Senate President.

    They had several weeks to develop and negotiate some kind of plausible plan, but nothing got done.
    Oops!

    Blago’s poll numbers will really tank if a mass transit reform and funding proposal doesn’t pass fairly soon. It’s the service cuts and the gubernatorial instransigence that are going to be the real killer issues, particularly since the Governor has no viable alternative to the Hamos plan.

    A fare increase should be part of the package. I heard a radio report that Carol Brown is talking about a funding shortfall again next year, assuming this year’s problem is eventually resolved favorably.


  20. - HoosierDaddy - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 3:26 pm:

    The only thing they left off is a 200 Point Bold Header at the top saying “Governor Rod Blagojevich’s Insufficient State Funding.”


  21. - michael k - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 3:27 pm:

    cermak_rd, paratransit isn’t a convenience, it’s mandated by federal law.


  22. - JakeCP - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 4:17 pm:

    I truly am thinking about boycoting the CTA. It’s also funny how full fare in Los Angeles is $1.25 and they are also going through a number of renovations including one that costs $898 million dollars.I made a poll which is going to end tonight at Ten PM which asks about whether or not you would boycott the CTA. So far 75% says yes and 25% says no. To vote go to http://www.jcpolitics.com/7.html


  23. - Huh? - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 4:57 pm:

    I no longer live in an area with public transportation. However, I did commute using the Blue line and the lake street el while I lived in the near suburbs. I always believed that no matter the fare price, it was a good deal. $2-$3 each way is a good deal when you consider gasoline, insurance, maintenance and parking costs for driving into the city. Now, when I have to go into the city, I drive into Oak Park or Forest Park and take the train. I still believe that the fare is one of the best deals in the Chicagoland area.

    As an aside, I would like to complement who ever came up with the idea for the IPass. I finally bought one for those few occasions when I have to go to O’Hare airport. Who ever came up with the idea improved safety and increased the tollway capacity. Mega Kudos!


  24. - Loop Lady - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 6:36 pm:

    Vanilla Man is getting on my last nerve…come up here (I’m almost sure you’re a downstater) and see for yourself how integral the system is to the State economy…even better,I dare you to come up…


  25. - Six Degrees of Separation - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 7:31 pm:

    LL,

    I understand your frustration with some downstater’s attitudes while the CTA burns (not sure if VM is one, tho). But transit funding is not so simple as something like road funding, where everyone pays and everyone gets a little something back. There are 102 counties in IL, and most of them have little or no public transit and never will. Most downstate Illinoisans realize a certain part of their tax money needs to go to Chicago to provide government services(it’s only fair, Chicagoans pay taxes, too).

    But the CTA is seen by many as a patronage-laden, high cost, dirty and crime ridden system that never seems to improve, no matter how much money is thrown at it. Come to think of it, how many Chicagoans feel the same way? For the CTA to get a bailout without any perceived improvement in management or performance, and especially while downstate capital needs are being ignored, might be getting on some of their last nerves, too.

    Just another perspective. BTW, I want to see transit improve in the region.


  26. - Rich Miller - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 8:27 pm:

    That’s all well and good, Six (and others), but people have to get to work every day. It’s a simple fact of life that is too often ignored here, and elsewhere.


  27. - NoGiftsPlease - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 8:37 pm:

    If we’re going to compare downstate to upstate, I think an analysis would show that the percent of motor fuel tax that is collected in northeastern illinois is 60% of the state total, while we get back less than 1/2… so I think the downstaters can stop crying about public transportation funding, they’re coming out ahead in any case. We’re likely the only public transportation system that is mandated to cover 50% of operating costs through fares, and our regional sales tax is supposed to cover the rest. We’re looking for a local tax increase to increase our regional transit funding. We should raise the sales tax for northeastern illinois transit, and the motor fuel tax for the capital program. I don’t think a casino is a long term solution to this problem.


  28. - Anon - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 8:52 pm:

    If there was a devastating economic decline, or a natural disaster, or an attack, people would put up with a shrunken and more expensive CTA without a word.

    But to make them go through this because of the overblown egos and personal agendas of a few Springfield types?

    Keep going boys, keep playing with fire. It’s increasingly obvious that several of you have absolutely no respect whatsoever for the middle class schmucks that have to get up and go to work in the morning, pay taxes and raise families. All that matters is your personal power, your personal agenda, and pleasing your “base.”

    I for one hope that the voters teach some of you a nasty lesson for this disgusting betrayal of the people. They may not do so - it is Illinois after all, and that lowing you hear is not just from cattle, but one can live in hope.


  29. - 'nuffsAnuff - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 9:22 pm:

    It is named the Chicago Transit Authority not Illinois transit Authority. so how is it G-Rods fault that CTA is out of money. funny coincidence that the Block 37 “super station” is over budget by a bit more than CTA is trying to lay at Springfields feet. Or how about the Brown line rehab over run? How many 100’s of millions is that? Does the mayor that actually runs this fifedom have no responsibility. The Blago haters are close to blaming G-Rod for the weather, the Cubs (when they fold) and the price of corn (if it goes down) you all ought to get real.


  30. - Six Degrees of Separation - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 9:35 pm:

    Rich,

    Agreed, people need to get to work. All the more reason for fundamental, structural reform that actually improves the area’s transportation product instead of another band-aid til the next crisis.


  31. - Angry Chicagoan - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 9:52 pm:

    I have a solution. Split the state.

    Yup, the six-county metro area, and maybe we’ll have DeKalb and Kendall while we’re at it, can form its own state. Downstate can learn what it’s like to live within means.

    The Chicago end of the equation is stickier however, because for the new state of Chicagoland, we still have a lot of dead wood to remove. To that end, I suggest realigning the federal district court lines with the new state and giving the new Chicago state two federal attorneys rather than the one we must current share with Rockford. We’ll need it because of the hundreds of politicians that need to be slung in jail, fined, disqualified from office, put on probation, sent into exile, or otherwise punished for their misdeeds.


  32. - Angry Chicagoan - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 9:53 pm:

    That’s “currently share with Rockford”, not “current”


  33. - Six Degrees of Separation - Monday, Sep 10, 07 @ 10:30 pm:

    Angry,

    I doubt if you’d have any takers in the collars to join with Cook to form a new state. And I’d bet my deed that Kendall and DeKalb would not want to join that party. A county-state of Cook would be the only remote possibility, and I don’t see it happening. It *would* solve a lot of these territorial disputes, however :-)


  34. - pc - Tuesday, Sep 11, 07 @ 2:56 am:

    CTA’s fares have been going up — in fact, since the 1984 RTA Act, much faster than either the rate of inflation or the cost of driving! That’s because Chicago sales tax revenue have trailed inflation (much less expense growth) since 1984, and the budget’s got to balance somehow. Oh yeah, and operating costs have declined over 10% in real dollars since 1984.

    Just because the cost of gas is going up does not magically mean that the cost of transit service should increase at the same rate. Indeed, what you pay to drive is not at all indicative of the real cost of driving. Cars, collectively, are the #1 source of air pollution in our region — but even though asthma hospitalization rates along the Dan Ryan are four times higher than the national average, gas taxes don’t pay for the (also bankrupt) Cook County Hospital. Nor do your gas taxes pay to keep our troops guarding their oil, rebuilding taller levees to protect New Orleans against rising seas, or for funeral costs when children get killed in hit-and-runs. Nope, even we non-drivers pay those costs of your driving.


  35. - pc - Tuesday, Sep 11, 07 @ 3:20 am:

    In fact, some calculations: according to AAA’s annual cost-per-mile estimates, the real cost of driving has dropped 9.9% since 1998 (adjusted for inflation). Meanwhile, as of next week, cash CTA fares will have increased 59.6%. We riders are already paying far more than our share.


  36. Pingback Cost of driving « west north - Tuesday, Sep 11, 07 @ 3:27 am:

    […] 11 September 2007 Cost of driving Posted by paytonc under car culture , transit  posted at Capitol FaxBlog […]


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