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New Year's Resolution For CTA: Hire Competent People!!!

By Chuck Sudo in News on Dec 30, 2005 6:10PM

Try as they might to spin things in a positive manner, it has NOT been a good year public relations-wise for the Chicago Transit Authority. Remember in the spring when they proposed so many "doomsday budget" scenarios that they came across like a spoiled child begging for more allowance money while not doing any more work around the house? Those were good times.

Or when CTA Board Chair Carole Brown started her own weblog to address concerns about the constant budget crisis they largely created? (We think it might also have had something to do with an interview in Crain's Chicago Business where Ms. Brown admitted taking taxis to work. But we're willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.) As a bonus, her blog is better than Debra Pickett's.

Or how about when Daniel X. O'Neil- a CTA customer- beat them to the punch by offering real-time wireless alerts regarding service? Bet they're still wiping egg off their face on that one.

It's all fresh to Chicagoist because Red Eye's Kyra Kyles wrote about some of these things- and the CTA's pyrrhic victories in 2K5- on Tuesday. So when we read this story we had to let it sink in a bit after picking our jaw off the floor. Click the link. We'll wait.

Ready? Cool.

To summarize, CTA turned down an offer by Venezuelan-owned Citgo Petroleum to buy fuel from them at a deeply discounted rate, with the simple caveat (suggested by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez) that CTA pass those savings on to poor customers in the form of discounted fare cards.

We know what CTA did, right? They're raising cash fares in 2006. Now we don't know the extent of CTA's ability to accept this offer independent of approval from the Regional Transportation Agency or the Illinois General Assembly, or if they just don’t want to accept fuel blessed by Chavez, a vocal critic of the Bush Administration. Jessica Pupovac, the author of the report, tries to make a tenuous-at-best contrasting between the Citgo offer- which would only offset CTA operating costs- with the Congressional approval of the Federal Transportation Appropriations Bill, which subsidizes capital expenses like the Brown Line renovation.

We do know from reading the report that a similar arrangement Citgo made with Boston-based Citizens Energy for heating oil saved elderly and poor residents $10 million. Since only 12,000 households in Illinois use heating oil Citgo figured the best way to reach those that need help most was through CTA. We also know that when the price is right any deal can be made in Chicago.

Certainly CTA isn’t waiting for all that Iraqi oil to start pumping. Some of us might be dead by then.