Morning commuters to cope with CTA cuts

February 7, 2010 9:08:11 PM PST
Service cuts threaten the morning commute for thousands of people. The doomsday scenario the CTA has fretted over for years arrived over the weekend. That means riders on both buses and trains may find their commutes longer and more frustrating.

Click here to see the complete list of service cuts

Bus service is being cut by 18 percent and 'el' train service is reduced by 9 percent. In addition, more than 1,000 workers were laid off as of Sunday.

It's all happening because of a $95 million hole in the CTA budget.

The transit authority wants unions to agree to more concessions to save jobs and service.

Union leaders held a news conference Sunday. The unions says they want to talk, but they also want the costly "free rides for seniors" program to come to an end. However, they say they understand that program is a state legislature issue.

In the meantime, they say after giving the CTA concession after concession for years to try to fix the budget woes, not this time. They say CTA management is top-heavy, and that is where cuts need to be made.

Regardless, service reductions did go in to effect Sunday morning.

CTA says it continues to monitor the situation, and officials say they expect the greatest effects to come Monday.

But there were some riders Sunday who were already feeling the impact of the cutbacks.

All CTA rider Ariela Pierce could do Sunday was wait at her bus stop, now that CTA service reductions are in effect.

"It usually takes every 15-20 minutes, but now it's taking 30 or 40 minutes," she said.

As of Sunday, the CTA is operating less frequently on 119 bus routes and on seven of CTA's eight rail lines.

In addition, 41 bus routes have reduced hours of service; routes will either start later in the morning or end earlier in the evening or both.

Nine weekday express routes with corresponding local service have been eliminated.

"If you're trying to go six or eight blocks, you've got to pay 10 or 15 bucks for a cab. It's ridiculous," rider Cody Miller said. "Where is the relief for everybody else."

CTA blames the budget shortfall on a bad economy and disgraced for governor Rod Blagojevich's $30 million free rides for seniors program.

"All we're doing is indicating that this is where the lost revenue is," said CTA Pres. Richard Rodroguez. "We talked to Springfield last year. We'll continue speaking with them on that and on any other avenues we may find for generating additional revenues."

Transit officials say they still need unions to step up with more concessions.

"The union has been very clear saying members are not interested in giving anything back. That's their position. Can they go back and convince their members to change their position? That's up to them, and that's what I'm anxiously waiting to hear back," Rodriguez said.

"We need them at the table. The state has stepped up, in terms of money, to keep fares where they are," CTA Board Chairman Terry Peterson said.

"The direction we've been given is not to open the contracts. If something comes back different than that, then we'll do what the members request us to do," said Darrell Jefferson of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241.

Monday morning, CTA riders can expect buses and trains to be more crowded and longer wait times. Buses may be two to five minutes apart, and trains one to two minutes apart, as a result of some of the cutbacks.

Union leaders say they are going to talk to their membership and possibly reach out to CTA Wednesday or Thursday of the coming week.

Some riders speaking with ABC7 Chicago said they think the union should give back for the public good.

"The unions need to give because a lot of people need to go to work and do their every day things," said Nicole Moore.

"I think the unions should give a little, just a little bit, to help everybody because we're all trying to struggle and make it in this hard time and recession," said Justin Campbell.