Funding to be slashed for CTA, Metra, Pace

June 26, 2009 4:20:20 AM PDT
More than $60 million in cuts could derail the Chicagoland area's transit system.The Regional Transportation Authority met on Thursday to discuss how the cutbacks would affect Metra, CTA and Pace. The RTA says the recession has led to less revenue, which makes the cuts necessary.

The head of the CTA says his agency may be forced to change some services and bus routes.

This latest drop in funding comes a year and a half after the Illinois General Assembly approved a small sales tax increase meant to help counter the mass transit's budget shortfall. But with the economy tanking, that didn't happen.

Newly threatened service cuts have left some riders railing about yet another do or die need for more money for public transit.

"If they are going to raise CTA prices, then raise the prices and stop threatening us," said Yemisi Pierre-Louis, CTA rider.

"My pocketbook, they are going deeper into it. They know we are going to pay because we have to take the train everyday," said Alex Griffin, CTA rider.

The Regional Transportation Authority Board (RTA)- which governs the finances of area public transit- voted unanimously to slash funding by $67 million because of lower than expected sales tax and real estate transfer tax revenue earmarked to subsidized mass transit.

"It is an unprecedented situation. It's the worst economic challenge we've every had. We're going to deal with it with the least impact on riders," said Steve Schlickman, RTA Executive Director.

Still -- that could mean fare hikes and service changes as agencies make more cuts to meet the new funding crunch on top of the earlier shortfall this year of nearly $ 216-million.

That means CTA will have to reduce this year's budget by another $35-million, METRA would have to do the same by $19 million, and PACE would have $7million. Another $6-million will also have to be cut from PACE's paratransit program for disabled riders.

To keep that service running, the board must now consider shifting $25 million in the 2010 federal capital fund to the paratransit service before it runs out of money in October. The RTA board remains split over the transfer.

"We will fund paratransit. It's that simple. We'll do what we have to do to fund it," said Michael Rosenberg, RTA Board Member.

Despite another crisis for public transit, there are those who say during these tough economic times, everyone has to feel the pain.

"If it benefits us, I will just have to give more as well," said Michael Fischer, CTA Rider

Officials at the CTAand Metra aren't warm to the possibility of bearing the bulk of the $25-million diversion for paratransit. It's been suggested that PACE consider increasing paratransit fares in exchange for the board supporting a capital funds diversion. A decision on the shifting of funds for paratransit was delayed until next month.


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