CTA enjoying revenue surge, increased ridership

July 17, 2012 (CHICAGO)

The CTA still has its budget issues, but unlike most other public agencies these days, the transit authority is enjoying a revenue surge because of increased ridership.

South Looper Katie Lanigan has seen the upward trend in ridership the past two years. She uses the CTA almost every day to get to school and most other places in the city.

"Especially with summer events I would say, like games and all the events going on, music festivals and stuff, there's tons of people," said Lanigan. "The trains are packed."

The ridership surge includes buses, most of which are standing-room only during the morning and afternoon commutes.

"Because the gas prices have gone up and a lot of people are parking their cars," said CTA rider Michael Newson.

"We had record growth in ridership last year, and we've increased at a higher rate of growth this year," said CTA President Forrest Claypool.

Claypool wants to keep the new riders. The reborn CTA is spending hundreds of millions to cleanup, rehab, and rebuild stations and track, and is buying new rolling stock including a 1,000 new buses.

Tuesday morning, Claypool and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a $205 million program to modernize CTA maintenance facilities.

"You need a modern facility to build a modern fleet, which is what we are doing," said Emanuel.

Just two and a half years ago, CTA officials threatened what they called transit "doomsday," or major cuts in service and layoffs because of lagging ridership and an unrelenting budget deficit.

Claypool says, while increased revenues have eased the crisis, CTA still needs concessions from its unions.

Local 241 Vice President Javier Perez says, "We will not discuss negotiations in the public."

But when asked if he thought workers should get a better deal in the wake of CTA's ridership windfall, Perez added, "Our productivity is way up. Anytime you have an increase in ridership it bodes well for the system."

"The trains are and the buses are cleaner than they were 10 years ago," said Newson.

CTA passenger Newson told ABC7 he thought CTA workers were another reason for the agency's resurgence.

"The employees made this company, and the riders made this company, so whatever profits they make, pass them on to the employees," Newson said.

The CTA is far from being in the black, but increased farebox revenue is certainly having a positive effect on the agency's operating budget.

Claypool says the agency doesn't use that word "doomsday" anymore when it talks budget. The fact is, it is a period of rebirth for the agency.

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