CTA budget to be cut by $35M

June 25, 2009 4:30:37 AM PDT
The Chicago Transit Authority will be operating under an even tighter budget after the head of the CTA says his agency will see a $35 million funding shortfall.That shortfall is expected to be made official on Thursday when the Regional Transit Authority board meets.

What could it mean for the CTA and its passengers?

"Some of my top priorities are to improve CTA customer reviews to friendly is a reality and not just a slogan," said Richard Rodriguez, CTA president.

Richard Rodriguez has been in command at the CTA for just four months now. On Wednesday, he gave a speech about his desire to bring a stronger customer focus to the transit agency. But his more immediate focus has a harder edge.

The CTA's budget is going to be cut by another $35 million. Last year's hikes in the sales and real estate transfer taxes were supposed to bring stability, but the economy has tanked, and so have they.

"It's not that anybody wants transit to be smaller. But again, if we don't have the money we can't spend it. That's simple fiscal prudence," said Steve Schlickman, RTA executive director.

"It's not that anybody wants transit to be smaller. But again, if we don't have the money, we can't spend it. It's fiscal prudence," said Jim Reilly, RTA chairman.

The RTA administers government funding for area transit, and on Thursday, Metra, Pace and the CTA will all be told they're getting less. Especially at the CTA, that'll mean changes.

"It may be people. It may be reduction in service. I don't know yet. It's not going to be solved by one thing, it's going to be a variety of things to try and soften the impact across the system," said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said on Wednesday he would not, could not lay out what might be cut, but said everything is on the table. This comes after a fare hike in January and the planned elimination of over 600 CTA jobs that began last fall. Few, though were forecasting that the economy would be so severely derailed.

"So 20 percent of our budget slashed within a year. Something has to give," said Rodriguez.

The RTA board will make official the funding cuts on Thursday. The CTA will then begin the business of figuring out what to do with $35 million. If service cuts are in the offing - and some form of cuts would appear to be inevitable - the CTA will have to hold public hearings - perhaps sometime next month.


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