CTA riders will have fewer train and bus options and may have to pay more if the Illinois General Assembly does not increase transit funding by July 17, the agency’s board unanimously decided last week.
Under the emergency plan, most CTA daily service would be limited to the current Sunday routes and schedules. The plan would eliminate most express buses connecting Metra stations to points around Chicago.
The board decided not to cut night-owl service entirely and to run a few rush hour trains and buses more often than the Sunday schedule.
Any commuter paying by cash on a bus or purchasing a farecard for a train would pay $2 instead of the current $1.75. The cost of Chicago Cards, transfers and single-day, seven-day and visitor passes would not change.
The plan cuts service by 36 percent and calls for roughly 2,000 layoffs to compensate for an $85 million budget deficit. Many customers will wait twice as long on severely overcrowded platforms for trains or buses that will be crammed, Michael Shiffer, the agency’s vice president of planning and development, told reporters after the meeting.
“This is a scenario that the CTA will face in a crisis mode,” Shiffer said.
The board was expected to approve one of five transit scenarios, each involving drastic cuts in service or sizeable fare increases, at the monthly meeting but instead chose a last-minute “plan six” after board members and the public criticized the previous staff suggestions.
Jacqueline Leavy, executive director of the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, warned board members during the public comment period of their “sinking credibility.”
“Business as usual is no longer acceptable to us,” Leavy said. She said the CTA’s doomsday scenarios were unnecessary scare tactics.
CTA Chairman Carole Brown said the agency is not making empty threats by passing the potential service cuts and fare hikes. “Our problem is real. We wouldn’t be standing up here to see who blinks first,” Brown said.
The CTA has been lobbying in Springfield for more funding than city and collar counties’ sales taxes now provide. It received good news last Wednesday when state Rep. Julie Hamos, an Evanston Democrat who chairs the House Mass Transit Committee, released a report calling for a new formula to increase money for the CTA, Metra train service and Pace suburban bus service.
The board also heard a report on why the CTA is breaking its promise not to close Brown Line stops during a massive rehabilitation of the line during the next five years.
Alison Perona, the agency’s inspector general, said the original bids”$420 million and $541.2 million for the project initially estimated at $330.7 million”were high because of labor costs to keep stations open during daytime construction. Also, the CTA was slow in buying the real estate necessary for the project, which typically means construction delays. The cost of building materials has also dramatically increased, she said.
Reporters asked CTA President Frank Kruesi who was responsible for the Brown
“As the president, I bear responsibility for that,” Kruesi said.
The CTA board moved forward Wednesday on plans to build a downtown hub for express trains to O’Hare International and Midway airports.
It approved a measure to pay 60 percent of the cost to develop the underground transit center at Block 37 bordered by State, Randolph, Dearborn and Washington streets in the Loop. The other 40 percent of the $213.3 million project will be paid for by the city of Chicago and the developer, The Mills Corporation.
Under the current plans, passengers would pay between $10 and $15 to be able to check bags for their flights and board the high-speed trains. The trains would cut the riding times to the airports in half.
CTA staff said last Wednesday that the transit center will be complete in 2008 and that revenue from the express service will be high enough to help subsidize the operating expenses of other CTA routes.