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Come With Us to the CTA Hearing Tonight

By Margaret Lyons in News on Oct 14, 2004 3:18PM

Friends, the day has finally arrived. We've been waiting for it with baited breath, desperately Xing off days on our calendar, making special research trips to the library, scouring enormous .pdfs, and our waiting is nearly over. Today is the first CTA hearing! Yes! And we are most definitely going to be there.

Chicagoist and This is Grand are teaming up to bring you the first in what we hope is a long and joyful list of cosponsored events. Well, sponsored is probably the wrong term. Co-attended is more fitting. Yes, Margaret from Chicagoist and contributor Jake Mohan from This is Grand are going to the CTA hearing tonight, and we want you to come with us. We're a little nervous about attending a hearing—more plainly, Chicagoist didn't want to sit alone and was afraid that, in the case of a rumble, no one would have our back. Thanks to the kind folks at This is Grand for reminding us to breeze it, buzz it, easy does it, especially when it comes to local government. We're going to this one together and are hoping to be able to rally some Internet troops. Watch this space for a recap tomorrow.

All joking aside, we think this is an incredibly important opportunity to come and talk to the CTA, let them know our concerns, hear other people's concerns, and learn a little about bureaucracy. We're excited and energized and nervous and gripey, and think maybe some of you are, too. Consider this your engraved invitation to come to the CTA hearings. We're meeting at the big flashing Roberto Clemente HS sign (1147 North Western) at 6 p.m.

What exactly goes on at a CTA hearing? Jonathan Messinger, TiG's editor, tells us:

Basically, there's a very strict order to these things, where people just come up one at a time to a microphone and say their spiel, usually angrily, and the board nods and takes notes. Sometimes they respond with either arguments or questions, but that usually just riles the crowd. The whole thing is a little weird to watch, because it's frustrating to have such a formal discussion process, but really it would be anarchy without it.

OK, so angry ranting met with anti-anarchy measures? Where have you been all my life, CTA hearings? Read more about Chicagoist's quest to understand the budget after the jump…

We've been trying to brush up on our budget knowledge so we can ask more informed questions, so we stopped at our local branch of the library last night to flip through the 161-page budget handbook. Sweet lord, that was boring. Mostly we just looked at the graphs and thought, "hey, the whole book is written in the CTA font." We also learned that the proposed "gridlock budget" (that's the one that would suck, in case you didn't get a chance to go to the library/download the .pdf) includes budget cutbacks not just this year but each year for the next several. Only about half the CTA's revenue is system-generated; the other half is from public funding.

Our major concern, which you better believe we're going to raise tonight, is that the CTA is not thinking innovatively about creating alternate revenue sources. Part of the not-suck budget plan explains, "In 2005, advertising revenues will remain flat at $24.3 million as the regional economy remains weak." (p. 14) That's actually the figure for advertising, concessions, and charter. It sounds like kind of a lot, but the projected system-generated revenue is $500 million. Even combined with the "all other revenue" category, it's still only adding up to $54.3 million, which is, we think, shitty. Anyway, that's one of our questions.

Another is about the projected effects of a service cutback. How severely will this affect city nightlife? Late-night business operation? In addition to the roads being more congested, is there statistical evidence to suggest that scaled-back public transit options coincide with increased incidence of drunk driving? We're guessing yes, but we'd like to know for sure. OK, we're going to save up our bitching for tonight, but if you can't come to the hearing and want us to ask a question for you, leave us a big bad comment.