The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

CTA Woes Continue

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Feb 19, 2009 5:00PM

2009_02_19_CTA.jpg With a new transit doomsday prophecy, the area's transit systems are trying to figure out exactly how they'll manage to find the funding to stay running. At a CTA board meeting yesterday, chief financial officer Dennis Anosike revealed the alarming news that the CTA's budget deficit was at $87 million, much larger than had previously been thought. When added to the ginormous shortfall in tax revenue the RTA already outlined this week, the CTA now finds itself over $240 million in the red. Well, shit. And with everyone out of cash and looking for more, the infighting has begun as the CTA and RTA clashed over where the money would come from and who knew what when.

CTA Chairwoman Carole Brown asked how the RTA could expect the CTA to do anything about controlling costs for last year when it's now almost two months into the following year and the RTA is only now warning about the 2008 shortfall in collecting mass transit's share of sales taxes and real estate transfer taxes.

"We can't lay people off retroactively or not pay suppliers" for inventory already delivered, said Brown, an investment banker.

RTA Chairman Jim Reilly told the transit board that he discussed the worsening budget outlook with then-CTA President Ron Huberman beginning in November.

"The notion that there is anybody on Earth who didn't know in October, November and December of 2008 that the economy was collapsing is preposterous," Reilly told reporters outside the board meeting. "Staffs have been discussing this since early in the fall."

This, though, is at odds with what the RTA said about the budget in December 2008. At the time, RTA Executive Director Steve Schlickman said in a statement [PDF], "We are very pleased with today's budget approval...We are certainly in a better place today than a year ago. Our service boards aren't facing doomsday as we did last year that threatened significant systemwide fare hikes, service cuts and layoffs."

As if all this weren't enough, the CTA is dealing with a minor debacle with its U-Passes. Around 5,000 DePaul University students discovered yesterday that the CTA had accidentally shut off their passes, leaving them scrounging for cash to access trains and buses. The CTA says the affected students should still be able to be granted access to the CTA by showing attendants and drivers their card but that the cards should be reactivated by this weekend. The CTA says this is the first time in 10 years of the U-Pass program that this has happened at that no other school was affected.