CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM) — Not only is this the day Rahm Emanuel is sworn in as mayor – it is also the first day on the job for his hand-picked Chicago Transit Authority president, Forrest Claypool.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts reports, Claypool is not totally unfamiliar with the system.

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LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts reports

“I’m a regular user of the Brown Line, and sometimes the Red Line to get to a Sox game,” he said. “Obviously, I’ll be riding it a lot more too. That’s part of the challenge to be out there and experience the system, and talk to people.”

Emanuel’s top priority is renovating and extending the CTA Red Line.

“Forty percent of the traffic is Red Line-driven, and the Mayor-elect has made it clear he wants to extend that line on the South Side,” Claypool said.

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel has endorsed a plan to extend the Red Line from its current terminal at 95th Street, south all the way to 130th Street. Currently, there is no CTA rail service below 95th Street, even though the city continues for more than five miles farther south.

Renovation of the Red Line north of Belmont Avenue is also a hot topic at the CTA, which has generates some controversy.

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The CTA has developed six plans for the system. Two call for downgrading Purple Line express and Red Line local service by maintaining three or four tracks. These plans also call for eliminating the Lawrence, Thorndale and Jarvis stops on the Red Line, and the South Boulevard and Foster stops on the Purple Line.
An even more radical plan calls for getting rid of the ‘L’ structure altogether between the Belmont and Loyola stops, and replacing it with a subway.

Bus rapid transit at double the speed of existing bus lines will also be a priority.

It all costs money, and Claypool says he wants to stop draining the capital budget to pay operating expenses while repaying an outstanding state loan.

He says it way too early to predict where fares or service levels will be next year.

Previously, Claypool served on the Cook County Board from 2002 until 2010 and was a prominent member of a group of reformers on the board who frequently clashed with former Board President John H. Stroger Jr. and, later, his son, Board President Todd Stroger.

Claypool ran for Board President against the elder Stroger in 2006, but lost in the Democratic primary, even though Stroger suffered a massive stroke just before the election. The elder Stroger died in 2008.

Claypool decided not to run for re-election in 2010 after two terms on the board. Initially, he said he planned to join the private sector, but he later made a failed independent run for Cook County Assessor.

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Earlier in his political career, Claypool twice served as Mayor Richard M. Daley’s chief of staff and also was superintendent of the Chicago Park District for several years under Daley.