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Deal Prevents CTA Fare Hike, But Service Cuts Still Loom

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Nov 11, 2009 3:00PM

2009_11_11_CTAsad.jpg Yesterday evening, news broke of a deal between the RTA and Gov. Quinn providing funding so that the CTA could avoid fare hikes through 2011. Details of the deal haven't been announced - Quinn is expected to outline those in an afternoon press conference - but Greg Hinz at Crain's reports:

According to reliable sources, the deal involves the Regional Transportation Authority issuing bonds for capital projects that would be funneled to the CTA. That would allow the CTA to shift some federal capital funds into its cash-short operating budget, thereby avoiding the necessity to hike fares.

As part of the deal, the state reportedly would help the CTA pay debt service on the RTA funds for at least a couple of years. Other monies would go to Pace, which has had trouble financing its para-transit operation.

Quinn told ABC 7, "It is important to anyone who takes public transit, but basically we're going to be able to hold down the fares for the next couple of years to make sure there isn't an increase, and we have to work with the CTA and other transit agencies and also want to make sure that our riders who have disabilities are able to ride without a fare increase." And though we exhale a sigh of relief over dodging $3 El and bus rides, there is still the threat of those looming service cuts. While the Trib and Sun-Times stories are short on any details, once again Hinz has an ominous phrase in his story, that the CTA, "would go ahead with about $90 million in service cuts." From the initial budget outline the CTA presented, those service cuts include:

  • Eliminating express bus routes: X3, X4, X9, X20, X49, X54, X55, X80 and 53 AL
  • Cutting back bus service hours by 13.7 percent (827,000 hours) and cutting back train service hours by 9.8 percent (57,803 hours)

The CTA had also previously announced cutbacks - including job cuts, furlough days, and unpaid holidays for non-union employees - in an attempt to save as much as $122 million. So while avoiding the fare hike will be the deal that Quinn can hang his hat on heading into February's gubernatorial primary, the service cuts will still loom large for a transit agency struggling to find its financial footing.