Red Eye Chicago
Your attention, Springfield
Fare hikes, service cuts on Sept. 16 closer to becoming reality
Customer service representatives at the CTA had hoped many train riders would switch to buses to avoid lengthy rail delays during the violent storm Thursday night. Yet those expensive electronic signs posted at CTA rail stations—ideal in an emergency for providing lightning-quick advice about the best way to get home—played the usual canned messages thanking commuters for riding the CTA and admonishing them not to smoke on CTA property.
Was there really anyone out there who, while trying not to get blown off the platform, was able to light a cigarette amid the winds whipping up to 75 mph?
If so, Regional Transportation Authority chairman Jim Reilly should find that individual and recruit him or her to light a fire under Gov. Blagojevich and state lawmakers.
There are only 20 days to go before the CTA partially shuts down on Sept. 16 if the state fails to approve additional subsidies to erase a $110 million budget deficit.
The CTA plans to slash 39 bus routes, raise fares by as much as $1 per ride and lay off almost 700 employees. The agency’s doomsday budget plan would trigger worsening traffic gridlock felt not only by mass-transit riders, but also by drivers sharing more congested roads.
House Speaker Michael Madigan (DChicago) has promised to try to resolve the months-long stalemate between the General Assembly and Blagojevich, who vows to veto any new taxes, in time to prevent the impending transit doomsday.
But mounting tensions between lawmakers and Blagojevich—highlighted by the governor’s veto last week of $463 million in projects in the new budget—throw hopes of cooperation into doubt.
An increase in the sales taxes collected in the six-county Chicago region and a higher real estate transfer tax in Chicago make up the centerpiece of transit-reform legislation being pushed by state Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston). Hamos, chairwoman of the House Mass Transit Committee, said Saturday that “it is our intent to vote on the bill Sept. 4” in the House.
That would leave 12 days for Madigan and other leaders to forge a veto-proof super-majority vote in the General Assembly.
The proposed 0.25 percent sales tax increase in the six-county area would generate an estimated $280 million a year in new revenue for mass transit, according to the RTA. The proposed increase in Chicago’s real estate transfer tax is expected to produce $100 million more annually.
Mayor Daley, who critics say has not exerted enough political clout to avert the doomsday transit showdown, and other elected officials are scheduled to participate in a public rally supporting transit funding and reform of the RTA system. The rally is set for 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at the outdoor plaza of the Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St.