CTA ‘Looking At Everything’ To Solve Budget Crisis

CHICAGO (CBS) — The CTA says it faces a $277 million budget shortfall in the coming year. It won’t say yet that it plans fare hikes or service cuts, but CTA President Forrest Claypool made it clear he’s targeting union work rules.

He called union benefits, pensions and health care “gold-plated,” in remarks to reporters following a meeting of the City Club of Chicago at which he outlined the figures.

Amalgamated Transit Union Division 308 President Robert Kelly, whose local represents rapid transit employees, said he was “surprised” to learn of the figure from the media and said if Claypool wants rule changes, he should expect to change some CTA practices as well.

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Claypool said that CTA is bound not just by work rules that have been in place 50 or 60 years, but also by equally old arbitrators’ decisions that must be negotiated in order to be changed.

He said one such example is an arbitrator’s ruling that bars CTA from seeking competitive bids from private bus firms to operate some lines at the lowest possible cost. “It’s absolutely prohibited by the collective bargaining agreements based on ancient arbitration rulings,” he said.

Kelly said CTA policies governing sick leave are anything but gold plated. He said the first two days of an employee’s illness are unpaid. Days three throughs even are at full pay, but he said after that, sick pay drops to $200 a week until the worker returns.

Claypool said he needs union cooperation to try to reduce absenteeism on the job. Kelly conceded that the problem exists.

Over the past four years, Claypool said, CTA has borrowed $554 million to balance its budget. He said its legal borrowing limit has been reached and that he cannot borrow to close the 2012 gap.

He said CTA must look to its unions because sales and real estate transfer tax proceeds have been far below what was expected, even as expenses and pension costs increase.

CTA last raised its fares in 2009. In February 2010, it imposed an 18 percent cut in bus service and 9 percent on rapid transit lines.

  • Guy Who Hates Blago

    Blago is ultimately responsible for the dire state of Illinois. He bankrupted the CTA by pandering to seniors, i.e., giving them free rides. He introduced Pat Quinn as his lieutenant governor. His corruption and removal from office ultimately paved the way for Quinn to come in and nearly double the state income tax.

    I hope they throw the book at Blago for his miserable legacy. Pretty soon, he’ll be braiding some big homeboy’s corn rolls at college.

  • tom Sharp

    Let’s see the other blog here clams there is “excessive and chronic absenteeism by CTA employees…” and this one says there is a budget crisis. I wonder what the solution could be…????

  • betty smith

    How about the CTA stop buying artwork and spending tons of money on turning El stops into museums. Also, cut out the bus tracker – I can’t see this being any more accurage than keeping to their published bus schedules. What a waste of money

  • PG

    I’m just waiting for the annual “dooms day” budget that they will release. You know, the one that they refer to every year, with “drastic” cuts to schedules and major increases in fares. They will do this and then plead with the state for more money (joke is on them though, the state is broke too!). Sorry, CTA, you’ve cried wolf one time too many to gain my sympathy or attention.

    • Paul F

      Privatize it and you won’t have to worry about Doomsday budgets! Think it can’t be done? Read my comment below. Public ownership of mass transit just doesn’t work.

    • kch

      What about the cost of purchasing and maintaining the little used bike carriers? Perhaps buses will soon be equipped to tow cars around as well.

  • Paul F

    Here is why publicly-owned mass transit systems don’t work, according to Wendell Cox of the Cato Institute:

    –Newer large-rail transit systems have not attracted drivers from their cars for work trips;
    –Increases in transit funding tend to produce a considerably smaller corresponding increase in transit ridership;
    –Transit’s capital and operating costs are excessive and preclude its potential for expansion;
    –There is little potential for transit to attract drivers from automobiles for the vast majority of urban trips because of transit’s limited competitiveness with the car; and
    –The claimed benefits of transit have been exaggerated, including economic impacts, energy efficiency, and savings in congestion, consumer, and accident costs.

    The solution? Privatize the darn thing already! Think it can’t be done? Randall O’Toole tells us exactly how it can be done http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/PA670.pdf

    Imagine how a privately owned transit system could benefit the city with reduced costs and market-driven business practices!

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