Reporting Bob Roberts
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CHICAGO (CBS) — The CTA won’t raise fares for the rest of 2011, but is making no promises beyond that.
“We’re not going to raise fares this year, despite the state’s situation,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool following Wednesday’s meeting of the CTA’s governing board.
Despite his promise, Claypool said CTA faces imminent cash shortages because of the RTA’s inability, by law, to borrow additional money.
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“Essentially, the RTA has sheltered the other transit agencies from the lack of state payments,” he said.
An RTA spokesperson said the state owes CTA alone $109.2 million; overall it owes Chicago-area transit agencies $309 million.
Claypool said at this point “everyone is a banker to the state” — with billions of dollars owed not just to mass transit agencies, but to hospital, health care providers, pension funds and others.
CTA officials said they have yet to see any of the half-fare reimbursement promised this year by the state, and Claypool said the state is nearly six months behind on Public Transit Fund subsidy payments. Sales tax and real estate transfer tax payments are up to date, Claypool said.
RTA spokesperson Diane Palmer said that while sales tax collections are ahead of projections, it is only a fraction of what is needed.
She said the RTA should have enough borrowed money on hand to make payments through the end of the month, but would face shortages in September and beyond.
Palmer said a meeting with state comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, a former RTA board member, has already been scheduled in an attempt to obtain additional money.
Last last month, Costello said he believed the agency would have enough borrowed money on hand to provide subsidies through October.
Claypool refused to say whether the CTA could comply with the law and finish 2011 with a balanced budget, and refused to discuss the possibility of a new round of service cuts and employee layoffs.
CTA cut 18 percent of its bus service and 9 percent of its rapid transit service in February 2010; at the same time, it laid off more than 1,000 employees.
Claypool said he wants to put an end to the financial troubles.
“We are looking to put in place a budget for 2012 that that doesn’t just give us a balanced budget but that really once and for all puts the CTA on a sound financial footing,” he said, but when asked how, he said, “We’re working on it.”