CTA to cut jobs to balance budget

CHICAGO There will be no service cuts or fare increases, but the agency is cutting about 80 administrative jobs, worker overtime and even some maintenance to balance its budget. But officials are making it clear that future cuts will definitely affect its riders.

The cuts come despite an increase in ridership. The agency says it's having financial difficulties because of a loss of tax revenue, increased fuel costs and the free rides for seniors program.

The CTA is over budget by about $30 million. The agency plans to replace old buses with leased ones to combat some of the budget problem. But they say the program that gives free rides to seniors is affecting their bottom line.

"Had free rides for seniors not occurred, we would be $30 million north of our revenue and our picture would be very, very different. But if you look at the ridership and minus the free rides, you still come at below budget for this year," said Ron Huberman, CTA president.

"I think we are just planning to outline Saturday of the impacts on our budget and to prepare people for what will be a very difficult 2009 budget season and let people know we are trying to take whatever measures we can internally to prepare for that," said Carole Brown, CTA board.

CTA officials made it clear that service cuts and fare increases are not out of the question in the near future.

Forty-three people in CTA's administrative department were scheduled to be let go Monday.

The governor's office issued a statement in response that reads in part, "The CTA has a $1.2 billion budget, ridership is up five percent, and its revenue is also up with those increases. We do not believe allowing seniors to ride for free, especially during difficult economic times, is a hindrance."

Despite the cuts, seniors still want their free ride.

"All seniors, they have this problem of less money," said Arun Mitra , senior CTA rider.

To keep the system running, the CTA plans to eliminate 80 administrative positions, relocate current employees and reduce maintenance costs. The union that represents CTA train operates says they hope the cuts can stop there.

"Unfortunately, we don't have anything left to give in the sense of concession because, like I said, we've been giving them for years," said Rick Harris, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308.

Watchdog groups like the Civic Federation say state government has to step in and help.

"It's simply not tolerable that we would shrink the system. The state of Illinois has an enormous responsibility to make sure the CTA and the RTA have the necessary resources," said Laurence Msall, Civic Federation president.

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