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Blagojevich dons white hat, promises TV he’ll bail out transit, offers no specifics

Wednesday, Sep 12, 2007

* The governor, under fire for helping tube the CTA/RTA bailout bill in the House, is trying to make himself look like the savior, and the TV news is helping him out

It is only six days until the CTA is expected to enact its doomsday plan with fare hikes of up to $1 and the elimination of 39 bus routes, but that all could change with a plan Gov. Rod Blagojevich says is in the works. […]

Some CTA riders a few days ago were blaming the governor for not coming up with a plan to help prevent the transit authority’s doomsday scenario. But now that it appears he may have done so, commuters are expressing relief.

“Great; that’s fantastic,” one woman said.

“Terrific, terrific,” said CTA rider Jennifer Samuels. “Something had to be done.” […]

A source in the governor’s office says that “something” will be coming in the next few days, and that Blagojevich will “offer financial assistance to stave off the CTA’s so-called doomsday scenario,” which is slated to take effect on Tuesday, Sept. 16.

* More TV

Governor Rod Blagojevich may soon have a plan to avert the CTA’s looming fare hikes and service cuts.

Sources say the governor is expected to announce a short-term bailout for the transit agency possibly today or tomorrow. The move will buy the CTA some time while state lawmakers work out a permanent solution.

The last-minute action is welcome news to riders who have been preparing for the worst.

* And what might that help be?

It is not clear where the governor would get the money to help the CTA or whether he would ante up the full $20 million that CTA President Ron Huberman says that they need to continue operating.

* More TV

CTA President Ron Huberman said that CTA officials plan a Wednesday morning meeting with representatives from Blagojevich’s office to discuss the funding situation.

* The Sun-Times apparently wasn’t leaked anything, so it wisely buried the “rescue” way down…

…there were reports late Tuesday that Gov. Blagojevich may come up with enough cash to stave off cuts and buy lawmakers more time. […]

The governor’s office did not release details of any temporary reprieve Blagojevich might grant. It has also been mum on permanent solutions, though it has made it known he favors ending a series of corporate tax breaks to support mass transit.

* Meanwhile, Eric Zorn was given a list of corporate loopholes the governor favors instead of a tax hike on “people.” Several of these loophole closures have already been defeated in the General Assembly, however, and the total amount raised comes up about $100 million short of the negotiated proposal that’s before the legislature right now. Also, Zorn was not given a breakdown of how much each loophole would actually raise.

* OneMan responds, as does Dan Johnson-Weinberger.

* Adding to the CTA’s woes, the feds came out with a report yesterday that blasted the agency’s safety procedures…

Federal safety investigators blamed last year’s CTA Blue Line derailment on poor track conditions that grew out of faulty inspections, falsified reports and systemic failures in the transit agency’s management of track maintenance and inspection.

Obvious track defects that should have been included in CTA inspection reports weren’t. And other reports were falsified to show that repairs had been made when they hadn’t been, according to a scathing report issued Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

One NTSB member compared the checks and balances in the CTA’s track maintenance and oversight to “swiss cheese”: full of holes.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Jay - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 8:56 am:

    Translation…Rod has no plan, but he’s got his headlines.

  2. - Bluefish - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 9:02 am:

    What about Pace? What about all the former CTA paratransit riders that Pace now serves as part of the deal last year to bail CTA? Has Gov. WhiteHat got the money for them too?

    As for the close corporate loophole mantra that Gov. WhiteHat keeps repeating it is my understanding that the RTA Act only allows RTA to tap into two revenue sources with the regional sales tax being one. How does Gov WhiteHat plan to make this work?

  3. - Cassandra - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 9:02 am:

    Why am I not surprised that the CTA is skimping on maintenance and, apparently, even falsifying reports.

    All the CTA money is likely going to support that huge patronage CTA jobs farm full of dozing lifers. A farm that even the youthful, energetic Ron couldn’t make a dent in. After all, he doesn’t want to end up like David Hoffman who has been
    shut out bureaucratically by da Mare after getting a little too zealous about attacking city patronage.

  4. - Angry Chicagoan - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 9:09 am:

    The problem with this loathsome governor is that moderate voters who don’t pay attention — which is an all-too large segment of the public — buy his dog and pony show.

    My other concern is that because the CTA cuts fall so disproportionately on express bus routes, the broad general public is not going to notice “doomsday” that much other than the fare increase. Blago could theoretically do nothing and people will think he’s done something. And when the CTA really has to start cutting the bones of the system next year, they’ll be accused of crying wolf.

    Compounding this is that Chicagoans have almost no concept of what good transit actually is. Good transit is St. Louis’s clean, always-on-time system. Good transit is Seattle buses showing up exactly when the schedule says, with comfortable padded seats as opposed to the boards we sit on here. Good transit is New York giving almost nine million rides a day without major breakdowns. Expectations here are so fundamentaly low that all you need is for a politician to get up on their hind legs and grunt, and people think all is OK.

  5. - Wumpus - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 9:20 am:

    Cassandra, you are wonderful. Did a group of patronage government employees kill your dog while walking a precinct after their nap? I agree with many of your sentiments, but you are rough.

    The CTA has shown that they are not functioning properly, they need some type of oversight if there is agoing to be a n infusion.

  6. - Angry Chicagoan - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 9:27 am:

    Actually I think we could stand to merge the transit agencies into a single unit. Notoriously fragmented St. Louis has achieved it (Metro, formerly known as Bi-State); Seattle has the same (Sound Transit); the Twin Cities (Metro Transit) manage most of the metro area except for a few recalcitrant suburbs that opted out, and so on.

    The current system, in particular CTA and Pace, epitomizes “cheap and nasty”. The subsidies aren’t high enough, the capital spending is nowhere near high enough, the fares aren’t high enough, and at least on the CTA the maintenance and care are almost non-existent. And then what little is left gets blown on gross overmanning virtually everywhere except where it actually counts — operating the trains. It’s very frustrating to see several “maintenance” workers standing around on an area of half-rotten track doing nothing, while knowing full well how much driver-only operation on the trains has slowed the schedules.

  7. - Larry Mullholland - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 9:33 am:

    All the talk of a bail out (again) and no talk of reforming the CTA bureaucracy or cutting costs. Nor any attempt by the CTA to operate as if the politicians will not bail them out with multi million dollar gifts.

    I am beginning to think that drastic cuts are a good place to start…then offer a bail out if needed.

    Another question: Is it reasonable that all other commuters who do not use public transportation are being hit with major increases in gas prices the last two years but no major increases for CTA riders? Obviously, CTA costs are going up as a result of fuel prices but no measurable increases (yet) on riders seems unreasonable…any thoughts?

  8. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 9:34 am:

    Larry, there is a major cost-cutting agreement for pensions and health insurance in the package.

  9. - Fan of the Game - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 9:41 am:

    So the governor “may” have some amorphous plan to save CTA. Who wants to bet that it’s a haphazard, last-minute plan like all the rest?

  10. - Transit Supporter - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 9:46 am:

    Larry and Cassandra - not to mention the CTA’s operational budget was in the red when Huberman took over, and they are now ahead of budget because of cost cutting moves. Almost 100 mid a nd upper level employees have been fired. Absenteeism is dramtaically lower. These repetative comments that rely on tired , old sterotypes is the exact type of “dialogue” that makes blogs boring. And I second the fact that the pension and refom plan is a model that has been endorsed by all of the state’s business (an mainly republican) organizations.

  11. - Six Degrees of Separation - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 9:50 am:

    The kicker on St. Louis Metro vs. CTA is that their rail system was basically built from the ground up, with some use of existing RR tracks, within the last 20 years (first leg opened in 1993) and purchased at this era’s right of way and construction prices, while much of the CTA’s infrastructure has been there for a century and should be amortized many times over.

    [side note-repair/reconsruction will be needed for the CTA, and there is no rainy-day fund to pay for it]

    St. Louis Metrolink rail operates with a $2 fare, buses for $1.75, or a monthly pass for $60 that is good on all trains and buses. I am not aware of a funding crisis there like the CTA’s. I found it to be a clean, well run, system with excellent security when I used it last year.

  12. - Carfree Chicago - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 9:54 am:

    Angry — You hit the nail on the head with the “low expectations” of Chicagoans. Our city has *low* self esteem and doesn’t dare to want anything great. We expect little and we get little. I can’t tell you how many times people have responded to great things other cities are doing with comments like, “but this is Chicago.” People, Chicago has huge potential, but we’ll never fulfill that potential unless we expect great things.

    Larry — CTA fares were just increased two years ago. Not to mention compared to transit riders, drivers are already getting a steal after all the government subsidies for gas, roads, highways, traffic enforcement, automobile industry, etc. Sorry, no pity for rising gas prices. American drivers are spoiled rotten. We should start charging what it really costs — like the $6/gallon drivers pay in Europe. Then maybe drivers will understand why transit is such a good idea.

  13. - Wumpus - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 10:14 am:

    Carfree Chicago, Chicagoans don’t like change. As a non-native Chicagolander, I simply do not trust them to do it right or anywhere close to legitimate.

  14. - Cassandra - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 10:19 am:

    A hundred mid-level employees out of how many mid-level employees. Fired or early-retired?

    And were these actual employees or were they positions on the organizational chart that got
    “cut” or moved do another department. Public bureaucracies always do take care of their own.

    We taxpayers find it boring to read about
    featherbedding and malfeasance in public bureaucracies like the CTA all the time too. Boring because there sure is a lot of it to wade through in the press. And that’s the malfeasance somebody writes about. We know there is a lot more that the press hasn’t gotten to yet.

    And if the unions are going along with the pension/health “reforms,” they aren’t reforms.

  15. - Nort'sider - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 10:19 am:

    Bluefish has a good point: This is not just a CTA bailout, though lazy reporting certainly leaves that impression.

    Without more funding for the ENTIRE system, Pace will raise fares on Sunday and start slashing service on the 29th, and Metra riders will have until January to enjoy the service they’ve got at the prices they pay. You think things are ugly now? Just wait 48 hours. The RTA on Friday will announce the 2008 budget “marks,” or goals for CTA, Pace and Metra.

    Pace did a good job in the last 20-plus years cobbling together and modernizing a regional suburban bus system from the myriad exhausted local systems it inherited, but Pace has been dipping into capital funds for years just to cover operating costs.

    Larry, SB 572 would not only provide more funding for the RTA system as a whole on a permanent basis rather than the annual bail-out you rightly decry, but give RTA a much more proactive planning and oversight role. It also increases the RTA and Metra boards to broaden suburban representation (removing the CTA’s automatic seat on the RTA board, for example).

    You should know that even CTA officials say they want a permanent, system-wide fix instead of a one-year Band-Aid. So naturally, Gov. 22 Percent blocks the fix everyone else favors and suggests a one-year Band-Aid (sans details, of course). And naturally, TV news gets it wrong again.

  16. - Little Egypt - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 10:21 am:

    The governor has no plan. He only has a press release. Press Release Pete is at it again. It seems to be working for him so why change directions now? Governor John Wayne To The Rescue.

  17. - Larry Mullholland - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 10:28 am:

    To Transit Supporter;

    Spending over $3 million on outreach and lobbyist is hardly a “cost cutting move” as you suggest. I am quite sure that there could be more cuts to the CTA. These “repetitive comments” that you say bore you so much … Perhaps less arrogance and stubbornness about the CTA bureaucracy and more a objective review of the CTA budget you might surprised that they really can cut more and operate more efficiently. However, for you to state on this “boring” blog that there can be no more cuts at CTA is an wholly unreasonable position. Stubborn if you will. Your attitude makes it seems as though you are part of the problem at CTA. Perhaps a bit of reflection is in order?

  18. - Just My Opinion - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 10:31 am:

    What about healthcare for the uninsured Guvna?

  19. - tom73 - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 10:58 am:

    In light of the comments of nort’sider, may I ask those who dislike the current transit package exactly what they would rather see?

    I feel as though mass transit is darned if they do, darned if they don’t.

  20. - Levois - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 11:39 am:

    Trying to play hero but doesn’t know how to play the role.

  21. - Fan of the Game - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 11:57 am:

    == Blagojevich dons white hat, promises TV he’ll bail out transit, offers no specifics ==

    The governor is no Tom Mix or Randolph Scott. I’ve seen that movie, too.

  22. - Leroy - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 12:05 pm:

    My property taxes have gone up over the past five years.

    The price of gas has risen over the past five years.

    The amount I pay for health care has gone up over the past five years.

    The amount of money I pay in tolls on the tollway has gone up over the last five years.

    Tell me again why the CTA shouldn’t raise fares?

  23. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 12:14 pm:

    Leroy and others, this is getting tiresome. The CTA has raised fares. Try getting your facts right before you rant. Thanks.

  24. - jerry 101 - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 12:38 pm:

    The people who want to see the economy of the city, region, and state won’t be convinced that we need the RTA. They eagerly await the economic collapse that will be brought about without public transit.

    This “doomsday” is only the first of many. Kruesi, that sonofabuck, kept crying out for increased funding, and never got it. So CTA (and Metra) kept spending its capital dollars on operations. So, the tracks and buses and trains degraded. Started falling apart. Now people complain that everythings dirty and broken.

    What do you think happens when you don’t have any money to spend on maintenance?!

    So, everything works in St. Louis? St. Louis’s system is a. Much Smaller, b. Gets more public dollars, and c. is much newer (You don’t have 80 year old overpasses that are crumbling that appear to have never been upgraded, do you? - CTA does).
    Our trains are at minimum 15 years old. Buses are, for the most part, over 10 years old. Many trains are over 20, even 25 years old. Those train cars aren’t designed to run for that long.

    2 million people in the city rely on the CTA every day. Hundreds of thousands of suburban residents depend on Metra and Pace. As the system is forced to contract as its starved by lack of funding, many of those people will either be out of a job, or will have to drive. Think $30 to park downtown is bad? Wait for a year or two, when its over $50. I don’t see a lot of new parking lots going up, after all, but I do see a lot more cars coming into downtown.

    Think a 90+ minute trip on the Kennedy is bad? Wait until its 2+hours.

    No one has said don’t raise fares, they probably should raise fares a bit, but you’re not going to cover the huge operating deficits in the budgets of CTA, METRA, and Pace with a fare increase. The funding mechanism that currently exists is broken.

    Is the CTA and METRA perfect? Of course not, both have many inefficiencies. What huge organization does not? Is there still patronage? Yeah. Somebody’s gotta sweep the floors. Years of neglect due to a lack of funding are the primary reason the CTA is in such bad shape, not political patronage. That, and stupid projects that make the mayor happy like the superstation.

    Oh, and for the record, Blago’s an idiot. His press release plans pretty much amount to a one time only state-funded bailout that does nothing to resolve the long term problems of a transit system grappling with a lack of funding and increasing usage. Both systems need to replace ancient equipment and expand.

    And Cassandra, as usual, you throw a lot of accusations out there, without a lick of evidence. If you have any proof, please, I’d love to see it. Seriously, have you ever even looked at CTA’s budget? It’s the tightest budget you’ll ever see from any major transit system in the country, if not the world.

  25. - Angry Chicagoan - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 3:03 pm:

    Yes, Jerry, indeed St. Louis is new and shiny, but transit success stories are not just confined to newer systems. New York’s system is doing very, very well these days — but it took them tens of billions of dollars to renew those century old tunnels and elevateds, and to put new cars in place of the graffiti-ridden rattletraps they had. It will take billions more to finally deliver the long overdue 2nd Avenue line. But it will be worth it, because it will be faster than ever to get around the city.

    We’re less dense than New York, and yet more congested. Go figure.

    Cassandra, if that’s what you think management is about, I hope you never get hired to a management position. If you think you only achieve gains from union employees by coercion, you obviously think that Bethlehem and all the other bloated American companies with horrible industrial relations that went bust were actually success stories. Employees and union locals will give you a lot if you communicate openly and honestly with them and don’t change your story every five minutes. I prescribe a good stiff dose of Jim Collins business strategy books for you.

    I will echo what Jerry says and repeat what I said earlier. The CTA is cheap and nasty. Cheap fares (although that will definitively end next week as passes return to their historical norm and cash fares break all records), cheap subsidies, cheap on maintenance, cheap on capital. This state’s expectations on transit are somewhere between the ox-cart and the rickshaw.

    Governor Ryan’s capital bill featured $4.1 billion for highways and $4.1 billion for transit. And that doesn’t include the tollways. I-55 from about Braidwood to I-70 is now mostly in great shape because of this effort, just to take one example. The Pink Line was wonderfully rebuilt. Many buses were replaced around the state.

    But we need to CONSISTENTLY maintain that level of capital spending.

    And that means consistent revenue.

    We haven’t had that under Blago. No capitol bill. Three of the top ten highway contractors in the state forced out of business by his negligence. And of course, no new taxes.

    You, politicians of Illinois, your stance represents a very big and unpleasant and time-wasting new tax. You are forcing me, by your refusal to fund transit, to choose between reduced hours at work to allow for the commuting, and more money spent on parking ramps. You are forcing me, through your failure to levy enough to replace the 70-year-old concrete on North Lake Shore Drive, to spent money on tires and alignments that I should not need. You are costing me more in day to day expenses and lost earnings that you could ever dream of saving me with tax cuts. So take your no-new-taxes pledges and shove them up the orifice from whence they came.

  26. - archpundit - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 3:38 pm:

    ==Compounding this is that Chicagoans have almost no concept of what good transit actually is. Good transit is St. Louis’s clean, always-on-time system.

    LOL. You’re kidding right? Right?

    Having 1 1/2 lines of a decent light rail line does not make a good system. The bus service is atrocious and it has the same problems that CTA does financing the system. In fact, the cost overruns were pretty amazing.

  27. - archpundit - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 3:41 pm:

    ===Actually I think we could stand to merge the transit agencies into a single unit. Notoriously fragmented St. Louis has achieved it (Metro, formerly known as Bi-State);

    Please, stop. Just stop. St. Louis Metro has a decent guy at the helm right now, but it’s run horribly, buses are a joke and they run 1 1/2 lines for the train system.

    And the funding problems are just the same–every year we have a fight with the County whether it’ll fund the system–except here, the state government doesn’t care.

  28. - archpundit - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 3:43 pm:

    Oh, and there are multiple agencies around here. Metro covers Illinois for the TRAIN only and St. Charles and Jefferson County have refused to join in on even that on the Missouri side. Metro East has some Metro routes, but most are run by a local transit authority other than the Metrolink.

  29. - Michael Livshutz - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 5:23 pm:

    Here is a better analogy than St. Louis. I bet St. Louis Metro employees have fewer than 17 unions.

    London - the Olympic host for 2012:

    “Efficient Public Transportation: If London can do it, why not Chicago?”

    Here’s a quote:
    “The CTA is a 43-year-old monopoly. It maintains the kind of ingrown Old-Boy management and rigid unionized workforce that have driven GM, Ford and Chrysler to the brink of bankruptcy. Its trains today are just like the ones it had 43 years ago. The CTA is afraid to preserve endangered bus routes by switching from expensive big buses to cheaper small buses. It allows its buses to bunch up on the streets, and it has no simple email list with a forecast of schedule changes or station closures.”

  30. - Angry Chicagoan - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 6:05 pm:

    Michael — the issue with avoiding cheaper small buses is one that could be asked of almost any transit authority in the US. Actually the CTA has been putting them in on a couple of routes — the 170-series routes operated with subsidy from the University of Chicago.

    London’s buses are privatized — but it is not the deregulated free-for-all that prevails in the rest of the UK (and has hurt bus service outside the capital). Rather, London buses remain significantly regulated, and under quite tight control from government.

    Furthermore, I wouldn’t necessarily hold London’s private contracts out as a model. The larger of the two (not three, by the way) public-private-partnerships, Metronet, just went bust (it held two of the three contracts, which may explain the confusion), due to gross incompetence that contrasted all too strongly with the other one which is apparently well run, and Transport for London is fighting to have Metronet’s contracts under full public control again. Generally, PPPs have been hugely expensive in the UK and have had some dramatic cost overruns; overall it’s a policy worthy of the Blagojevich administration, an accounting scam to reward politically connected vendors and keep debt off the budget deficit number, but some hospital projects for example have gone several times over budget.

    Bus bunching is another matter. I have a relative who works for an urban midwestern transit agency in operations. He tells me that every time management cracks down on it, the union files a grievance. Basically, it’s a matter of break-time manipulation by the drivers. Challenging it I suspect may well require management to make it a priority at contract negotiation time.

    Arch — While I acknowledge bus service in St. Louis is not frequent and the rail network still in relative infancy, I would like you to try Chicago and compare with St. Louis for service standards and maintenance and so on. I think you’ll agree that up here we are in dire shape. It isn’t for nothing that NTSB says the conditions encountered at CTA are the worst they’ve seen at a transit agency. And your assertions about the Illinois side are wrong — Metro operates in St. Clair and Madison counties as well as Edwardsville and Alton. It’s just St. Charles and Jefferson Counties who think that keeping Metro out keeps the dark skinned people out.

  31. - Angry Chicagoan - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 6:07 pm:

    Arch — what agencies overlap with Metro east of the river? Metro’s network is pretty broad there.

  32. - Angry Chicagoan - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 6:14 pm:

    Besides Madison County Transit? (My bad for forgetting about that)

  33. - JakeCP - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 6:16 pm:

    Los Angeles charges 1.25 for full fare. I thought I should just throw that out.

  34. - archpundit - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 7:36 pm:

    Both sides of the River–St Charles has SCAT.

    And no I’m not kidding. Same initials of the Space Coast Area Transit. What…

    St. Clair essentially subsidizes the Metro Routes through it’s transit authority–while Madison runs it’s own system.

  35. - archpundit - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 8:17 pm:

    ===Arch — While I acknowledge bus service in St. Louis is not frequent and the rail network still in relative infancy, I would like you to try Chicago and compare with St. Louis for service standards and maintenance and so on. I think you’ll agree that up here we are in dire shape. It isn’t for nothing that NTSB says the conditions encountered at CTA are the worst they’ve seen at a transit agency.

    I have. I have pretty good experience on both and I’ll take Chicago any day. Metrolink is great, but it’s limited and the bus service is miserable. Filthy buses, unsafe, seldom on time–don’t show up sometimes. It’s nearly impossible to go anywhere that isn’t either only North-South or East-West. The buses don’t stop for you–early morning buses have people smoking and drinking, old man harassing kids and drivers who will tell you it’s not their job to care about any of the above–not all, but many.

    All big city transit operations have some of this, but on a regular basis it got old enough that I started driving. It’s tiresome to have to explain why the bus made you late 4 days in a row. Metro has very little statewide help on the Missouri side and is also likely to go bankrupt if something doesn’t change. There is no real plan to fund the operations of the new line in Missouri for more than a couple years. While that was predicted ever since the late 1980s, the problem is getting worse and we’ve already eliminated all much of the bus service other than to large destinations.

    None of this is to defend CTA, but there is always a bit of walking uphill to school both ways when talking about mass transit problems.

    CTA certainly needs more reform, but the transit in Chicago is far better than in most cities. It’s because people are used to relatively easy access that the problem arises when CTA is having to cut the budget.

    In St. Louis–no one cares anymore other than disabled advocates. There’s hardly a fight over the reductions.

  36. - Larry Mullholland - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 8:45 pm:

    Rich and others, the rates may have increased however, at what rate of increase? If rates have increases at the same pace as inflation and wages one would have no justification for a rate increase but that does not seem to be the case.

  37. - Angry Chicagoan - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 9:06 pm:

    And with that in mind, Arch, I can see Metro is going to be in deep trouble with your boy wonder governor and your flatulent legislature. They aren’t doing any more sound effects to drown out the Democrats in committee hearings, I hope?

    Illinois and Missouri — overall about right for each other, I guess?

  38. - steve schnorf - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 9:27 pm:

    Rich, you really need to stop confusing your bloggers with facts. It takes all of the fun out of it for them, and eliminates a really inexpensive source of entertainment for the rest of us.

  39. - Sorry Steve - Wednesday, Sep 12, 07 @ 10:10 pm:

    More facts: CTA’s fares have increased 130% since the last time the state changed transit funding. Inflation has been closer to 70% for the same period. Metra’s fares have increased 30% and Pace’s between 65 and 70%.

    Regions that are trying to encourage people to use transit and reduce traffic congestion are INCREASING their level of subsidy — Houston subsidizes more than 85% of the operating costs to lure people out of their cars because they can’t sustain the costs of ever-widening roads to deal with traffic. Phoenix, Atlanta, and LA are in the same boat. Obviously, many parts of the Chicago region have more density than than the auto-centric cities I mentioned above, but not most of the collar counties. (Ever been to Peotone?) I’m disappointed that the only real debate is over whether and how to maintain the status quo level of service, rather than try to build a much better system.

  40. - Larry Mullholland - Thursday, Sep 13, 07 @ 9:26 am:

    Sorry Steve wrote that Regions that are trying to encourage people to use transit and reduce traffic congestion are INCREASING their level of subsidy — Houston subsidizes more than 85% of the operating costs to lure people out of their cars because they can’t sustain the costs of ever-widening roads to deal with traffic. Phoenix, Atlanta, and LA are in the same boat.

    Your comment makes my point for me you mention that CITIES are subsidizing the public transit. The debate here entails a STATE bail out!!


    I agree it is primarily a regional issue.

  41. - jerry 101 - Thursday, Sep 13, 07 @ 10:58 am:

    Larry - The state has to authorize any changes in funding. Chicago can’t authorize a new tax (the Real Estate Transfer tax) without the state’s blessing. RTA has no power to levy a new sales tax without the state’s blessing.

    I don’t know what the situation in Texas or Arizona is, what the state, county, and city contributions are. But the RTA and CTA cannot, themselves, levy the new taxes that are needed. Springfield is the only thing with the power to levy the new funds.

    Once Springfield authorizes the new funds, then the City can pass an ordinance to levy the new R.E. xfer tax. But, not until Springfield O.K.’s it.

    I do think the CTA does a reasonable job with providing transit, but its woefully underfunded and has been for some time. A lot of the current issues with old buses, old trains, and badly dilapidated tracks could be resolved if the CTA had the appropriate level of operating funds. As it stands, the CTA has to continuously raid its capital funds to operate. And no capital money means the system degrades and falls apart.

  42. - Larry Mullholland - Thursday, Sep 13, 07 @ 1:35 pm:


    The thank you for your reasoned explanation.
    I have been advocating is for RTA & CTA to increase fares. Beyond what has been discussed on this board. I recognize that they have increased fares at various times through its history. However, it is clearly not enough. RTA & CTA should receive additional funds from the users of the the transportation system. ALL USERS, including drivers who benefit from less traffic on the road system.

    Perhaps the CTA needs its own taxing authority? THe ability levy taxes. Transportation District (the entire Chicago metro area) and create a regional taxing base that actually supports a regional transportation system. As it stands with GRF bail outs, now you have an old lady in a different region of the state supporting a transportation system that she will never see. The same old lady cannot call a cab or get on a bus or otherwise find public transportation to go the store or the doctor’s office

  43. - Michael Livshutz - Thursday, Sep 13, 07 @ 5:34 pm:

    That’s the problem with many transit agencies - they are so union-dominated that they are stuck in perpetual status quo. Instead of eliminating bus routes or night service, CTA could just send smaller buses with lower-paid drivers. It’s the right thing to do if they care less about their seniority scale and more about the success of the city.

  44. - Michael Livshutz - Thursday, Sep 13, 07 @ 5:36 pm:

    Not to mention CTA has forgotten to pay into the unions’ pension fund for years. Incidentally, the most generous pension fund in Illinois - better than of the City and State employees. See what I mean by union-dominated?

    So CTA promises big pension and medical benefits, then ignores the funding of these plans, then finally wants new money when it completely dropped the ball and its completely broke.

  45. - Michael Livshutz - Thursday, Sep 13, 07 @ 5:38 pm:

    If CTA was Enron, the CTA organization would be dissolved and started up again. As in hire all the new management from the CEO-level to 5 levels below.

  46. - Michael Livshutz - Thursday, Sep 13, 07 @ 6:00 pm:

    I looked up Seattle, and (check this out) the County owns the Transit system! Sounds like their King County is light years ahead of Cook. What would CTA be like if Cook County owned it?

    I found an interesting tidbit about sales tax. 1976 - taxable retail sales are 55% of personal income
    2001 - 42%.
    Means the sales tax is losing its bite. That echoes what I heard before that US economy is moving from goods into services. Services are not subject to sales tax and neither goods sold on the Web by the smaller merchants w/o many warehouses.

    Comments are welcome!

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