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CTA Wins Award, May Not Be As Screwed As Previously Thought

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Apr 8, 2009 4:20PM

Some CTA news has come across the wire in the last few days. First, the truly surreal. It seems our fair transit system was honored with "Most Improved Metro" at the 2009 Metro Awards, and international awards ceremony held in London. The category aims to award the "metro who has gone the extra mile in improving their metro network in the past year." So, um, the Grand Red Line station doesn't count? The website goes on to say:

Judges will be paying particular attention to:
  • Dramatic improvements in terms of network coverage, frequency and efficiency of service
  • A drastic increase in ridership levels
  • An increase in customer service levels and increased value for money
  • Constantly looking to improve overall condition and amenities
  • Increased levels of access, safety and security
  • Commitment to delivering greater technological innovation and ambitious yet realistic plans for the future

Not to be Negative Nancies, but thing only thing we can think of is the large jump in ridership (thank you, high gas prices) and the completion of a few Brown Line upgrades because - as we now know - the slow zone elimination hasn't been as successful as the CTA has suggested. The CTA credited upgrades to emergency exits and safety issues as a main reason for winning the award.

In news-that's-not-exactly-good-so-much-as-less-terrible, it seems the CTA is still in a giant budget hole but it's not as bad as first thought. The budget shortfall that was projected to go as high as $155 million seems to be only $53.7 million upon further review. The CTA is crediting an influx of federal and state funding as one of the main reasons for this revision. An added bonus? Service cuts and another fare hike are very unlikely. At least for this year. Per the Tribune:

...the Regional Transportation Authority agreed to cover a $56.1 million public-funding shortage for 2008. In addition, the CTA is receiving $241 million in federal economic stimulus funds that can be used for projects resulting in savings through more efficient operations. Fare increases implemented in January are projected to bring in an additional $39 million. The transit agency also cut 396 jobs this year, resulting in $4.9 million in savings.

CTA President Richard Rodriguez will present a proposal to the RTA next month that is expected to close the remaining budget gap. The CTA will also receive almost $500 million in capital funding, part of a $900 million package for Chicago-area transit passed by lawmakers last week. That money will be spent of more hybrid buses, rehabbing older buses and rail stations, and upgrading the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line. Meanwhile, State Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago), who is the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, wrote an editorial for today's Tribune, calling on Governor Quinn to take action to secure even more funding for the state's transportation systems.