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Harsh Winter Takes A Toll On CTA, Pace Budgets

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Commuters wait on a snow-covered platform for an L train in the Wicker Park neighborhood on February 5, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. About six inches of snow fell on the city overnight marking the 34th day of measurable snow this season, well above the 18-day average. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Commuters wait on a snow-covered platform for an L train in the Wicker Park neighborhood on February 5, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. About six inches of snow fell on the city overnight marking the 34th day of measurable snow this season, well above the 18-day average. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The polar vortex has blown a hole in the CTA and Pace budgets, but neither agency is pushing the panic button yet.

CTA’s January farebox and pass revenues were $1.2 million below budget, while expenses were over budget by nearly $1.8 million, and that is without final power bills, which are expected to add to that shortfall.

In the four worst days in January alone, Pace spokesman Patrick Wilmot said that the suburban bus agency’s fixed-route ridership dropped by 200,000.

When the snow-and-deep freeze cycle continued, Pace commissioned an in-house study to tell if those riders were lost for good. Wilmot said it appears not, although the study determined that Pace loses riders any time the high temperature remains below freezing.

“Access issues have been a problem in some places just because of the volume of the snow,” Wilmot said. “But so far it appears we haven’t lost actual customers, and that puts us in good shape going into the spring.”

CTA doesn’t seem to be worried either.

Chief Financial Officer Ron DeNard said February and March results also could prove bumpy financially, with CTA taking a hit in such areas as labor, fuel, power and materials that include everything from sand and salt to burned-out ‘L’ car motors. So far, though, he said he believes belt-tightening alone will be enough to keep the budget balanced.

“We’re always looking for ways to save money during the year,” he said. “So at this point I don’t anticipate any particular issues.”

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