Major CTA cuts take effect Sunday

February 5, 2010 2:54:14 PM PST
Chicago Transit Authority riders must prepare for service cuts that will go into effect Sunday, barring a last-minute infusion of money from the state or the federal government.

One-thousand workers will also be laid off. The transit authority is facing a budget deficit of almost $100 million.

Click Here to see the complete list of service cuts

At this hour, the agency and workers unions have no new talks scheduled as they remain at odds over the plan. The routes will be reduced and there will service reductions on other routes. What does this mean for riders? Increased wait times and crowded buses and trains.

"I'm sorry it had to come to this," said Richard Rodriguez, CTA president.

Rodriguez apologized to his ridership as the agency blames its unions for the major service cuts and layoffs that could further inconvenience mass transit customers.

"This could all be avoided by sitting down, coming up with something in terms of giving back the merit increase and taking some furlough days," said Terry Peterson, Chicago Transit Board chairman.

"Our largest labor unions have been unwilling to help us reduce costs even if it means more than 1,000 of their members lose their jobs," said Rodriguez.

With a $95.6 million deficit for 2010, transit officials say they have no choice but to let workers go and scale back operations.

Pink slips went out weeks ago, but details of the cutbacks that affect both CTA employees and their riders were announced Thursday.

"I want them to know we feel just like them. We feel the pain they feel. We're not the bad guys," said Joseph Lee, CTA bus driver.

The cost-cutting plan goes into effect on Sunday and means less frequent service on 119 bus routes and seven of eight CTA rail lines. On 41 bus routes service hours will start later in the morning and end earlier in the evening, or both.

Nine express bus routes will also be eliminated (#X3 King Drive Express, #x4 Cottage Grove Express, #x9 Ashland Express, #x20 Washington/Madison Express, #x49 Western Express, #x53 South Pulaski Limited, #x54 Cicero Express, #x55 Garfield Express, and #x80 Irving Park Express).

"I've got to get up even earlier, three or four hours earlier, to go to work. You've got the Cicero bus not running as consistently as the express bus," said Francisco Collins, CTA bus rider.

On Thursday, Mayor Daley asked unions representing CTA bus drivers and rail operators to make cost-cutting concessions. They say they already have and won't be held responsible for the CTA's financial mismanagement.

"They haven't made any management cuts although they reported some. And when you look at their salaries, they pretty much double our salaries. None of our people make $70,000 a year. It's only on their side," said Darrell Jefferson, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241.

Still caught in the middle are already frustrated riders like Hector Cruz.

"If the bus stops early and people get out of work late, how are they going to get home? I think we should boycott, don't take the buses," said Cruz.

CTA also rejected a union request to wait 30 days to implement the plan. An arbitrator said the CTA does not have to deliver those layoff notices based on seniority. And, if indeed this agreement or some sort of agreement is reached, CTA officials say that they can and will, in the next week or so, get service restored back to normal -- even after these cuts are made.