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The Chicago region’s current hub-and-spoke transit system leaves nearly half a million Cook County residents stranded in transit deserts.

What does Riders for Better Transit think about the proposed CTA budget?

Last week the CTA announced its proposed budget for fiscal year 2012. Transit riders everywhere sighed in relief as they read that Forrest Claypool, the head of CTA, declared no service cuts or fare increases would be implemented…. maybe… tentatively… if and only if….

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photo credit: Leslie Bacon

It’s true, the CTA’s proposed budget as it stands does not include service cuts or fare increases. Based on what we knew about the financial trouble of the CTA–and that Metra’s proposed budget includes a significant fare increase–it’s fair to say that we as riders were bracing ourselves for something worse.

But in this budget, keeping fares and service levels as they are now is precariously balanced on top of a pyramid of contingencies that should have riders very worried.

CTA has made significant cuts in their management and budget, attempting to improve efficiencies within the agency. We as riders applaud this.

But in the proposed budget, CTA's plan to make up the rest of the deficit is dependent on re-negotiation of the labor contracts with the union employees who operate our trains and buses.

Riders for Better Transit encourages finding efficiencies in labor just as we encourage the CTA to cut all possible costs before turning to the riders to bail them out. But we also value our transit operators and understand their need for a living wage and benefits.

Whose side should you take?
As riders we only stand to lose if we take sides in this argument. The CTA and the transit operators are our allies–they care as much as we do that public transit continues to run and improve.

We are their customers and they would love nothing more than to provide us with the best service possible.

We encourage both CTA’s leadership and the local ATU to negotiate in good faith and find a solution that doesn’t reduce service or raise fares.

As transit riders, we want to be a voice in this argument, not a pawn. The burden of bringing our transit agencies to a state of financial stability is being tossed around like a hot potato from the CTA to labor with the very real possibility that at the end of the day it will still land on riders.

It should really fall on our elected officials. Only they have the power to prioritize transit and invest in it meaningfully.

So, hurray for no service cuts or fare hikes?
Let’s not forget, the best case scenario here is that successful negotiations keep fares where they are, giving transit riders the same service we have now–no restoration of the 2010 service cuts and no extensions or expansions. For better transit, we need sufficient and sustainable sources of funding, and neither labor unions nor the CTA will be able to provide that on their own.

Help us speak up. Join Riders for Better Transit today.
 

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