This will be remembered as one of the best weeks ever for the Chicago Transit Authority. An infrastructure success celebrated on Thursday, followed by a budget victory on Friday.
As board chairman Terry Peterson watched approvingly, CTA President Forrest Claypool delivered the good news for tens of thousands of daily passengers on the systems trains and busses.
"For 2014, I'm pleased to announce the CTA has a balanced budget with no fare increases or service reductions," said Forrest Claypool, president, CTA.
Dramatically increased ridership compared to a decade ago, higher prices for tickets and passes and more efficient management have improved the agency's cash flow, despite the continued lag in government subsidies.
"We're mostly happy that this has happened for riders this year. But we do think that there is still a funding concern," said Brenna Conway, Active Transportation Alliance.
"We brought the CTA and the Red Line South into the 21st century," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday.
On Thursday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other elected officials took a test run on the CTA'S rebuilt Red Line south. The project was finished under budget, ahead of schedule with a workforce that the mayor promised would include residents of surrounding neighborhoods.
"Mayor, you have made that promise and kept that promise, we thank you so very much for it," said Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago & South Suburbs).
When Emanuel appointed the former Cook County Commissioner Claypool to the CTA presidency in 2011, the agency had a $308 million deficit. For the now-balanced budget, Claypool credits his management team of CTA veterans and newcomers.
"I think we have the best of the veterans here and I think we've brought in some new blood which has had a tremendous impact," said Claypool.
At Friday's news conference, Claypool acknowledged problems rolling out the CTA'S Ventra payment system, but that's minor compared to the fiscal problems the agency appears to have overcome.
Just a few years ago, there was concern about a CTA "doomsday" when much of the system might have to shut down because of money.