As Chicago's CTA falls further into decay, gridlock, permanent construction projects, the ominous threat of fare hikes and service cuts persists. The president of the CTA is reduced to panhandling as this just-received email attests:
Letter from CTA President Ron Huberman
Dear CTA Customer:
Today, I unveiled the CTA's proposed 2008 budget that lays out a series of painful service cuts, fare increases and lay-offs that will happen on January 6, 2008. These actions are required to meet our legal obligation to submit a balanced budget and are in addition to those service cuts and fare increases that will take effect on November 4th.
All of us at the CTA understand that these service cuts and fare increases will cause you a tremendous hardship. We know that you will face fewer travel options, less frequent service and more crowded buses and trains. To make matters worse, the drastic measures described in the 2008 budget are in addition to the service cuts, fare increases and lay-offs that will take place on November 4th if the Illinois Legislature does not enact fundamental funding reforms.
It is important for our customers to know that all of us at the CTA do not want to see this budget become reality. We remain hopeful that the Illinois General Assembly will pass a long-term funding solution.
Please know that we sought to minimize the impact of our budget deficit wherever we could. For example, we reduced our costs by over $38 million this year alone - without impacting service. The CTA and its unions have also agreed to an unprecedented five-year contract, contingent on legislative action, which would enable the CTA to reduce costs and manage itself more like a business. The Illinois Legislature, however, has yet to pass the bill that would give the CTA authority to put these reforms in place. This inaction is costing the CTA more than $11 million each month.
So, while the CTA continues to look for every opportunity to cut costs, there is simply no way we can manage our way out of a $158 million deficit in 2008.
The CTA continues to fight for sufficient transit funding and we need your help. Please contact the Governor and your state legislators and tell them how important mass transit funding is to you. In addition to calling or writing your legislators, you can go to www.transitchicago.com where a link will allow you to easily send a message.
With your support, we are hopeful that we will finally get a long-term solution to the CTA's funding shortfalls and put future "doomsdays" to rest. If the State enacts pending legislation before November 4th, these service cuts and fare increases will not go into effect.
Where is the outrage? This is what happens when you have half-assed neither-free-market-nor-socialist crony corporatism. If the CTA were a public company, even as a monopoly there would be a shareholder revolt. I'm not exactly a fan of socialism, but if the people of Cook County were the actual owners of the CTA (since the taxpayers ultimately pay for it anyway), this never would have happened. Instead the people of Chicago are at the mercy of a political elite, who use the CTA as a way of rewarding their minions with easy jobs, and simply milk the populace for more money when the patronage jobs run out. To paraphrase James Howard Kunstler, this transportation system would be the envy of a third world nation like Bolivia. I see only a few options for the average citizen:
- Vote with your feet. Do not reward piss poor performance with more fares. Use alternate transportation like the Metra, bicycling, walking, driving, and cabs. I got to work downtown faster on my bicycle than I ever would on the Brown Line.
- Demand that the monopoly be broken up. The most basic study of economics would reveal that competition reduces prices and improves quality.
- Demand that the monopoly be bought out by the government. This would be the least desirable solution, but a government funded monopoly is far worse than a government agency. At least this would put the CTA's decision making process into the hands of the people and make it easier to monitor. No taxation without representation!