Our Pledge To You

News

Emanuel blames $33 million state funding cut for CTA fare hike

A new CTA rail station opened recently at Washington and Wabash in the Loop. Getting through those turnstiles likely will cost more starting sometime in January. | Sun-Times file photo

Raising CTA fares by 25 cents while cutting costs and preserving service is a “balanced approach to make up for the state’s failure” to adequately funded mass transit, Mayor Rahm Emanuel argued Wednesday.

In his first public comments on the CTA’s proposed fare increase, the mayor noted that the fare hike announced on Thanksgiving eve — while most riders were focused or preparing for the feast — was the CTA’s first in eight years and that runs contrary to the annual increases Metra has imposed in recent years.

Emanuel also stressed that CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. and Board Chairman Terry Peterson met his pre-conditions.

“There will be no cuts anywhere in any services. Two, there had to be cuts to the central office. And there were enough cuts to the central office to match the fare increase, dollar-for-dollar. And third, the budget today at CTA is … $9.7 million less than the budget in the prior years,” the mayor said.

“That tells you that the CTA is doing exactly the right type of methodical work so they weren’t just going to the commuters, of which I am one, before they did some hard work.”

Earlier this month, the Regional Transportation Authority that must approve the CTA budget set itself up to play the political heavy.

In a letter to Carter, RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden declared that the tentative CTA operating budget submitted to the RTA “did not offer clearly identifiable and reliable revenue streams” to close a $33 million budget gap.

The shortfall was triggered by a state budget that includes a “permanent, two percent sales tax surcharge” imposed by the state, a ten percent reduction in Public Transportation Funds” and a slowdown in “sales tax growth,” Redden said.

“Fare increases, while onerous, are the most reliable way to generate revenue and achieve the CTA and regional recovery ratios” requiring 50 percent of revenues to come from fares, Redden wrote.

“The RTA strongly encourages the CTA to implement a fare increase.”

On Wednesday, Emanuel predictably blamed the state for the fare hike.

“The state cut the CTA by $33 million. So I said, `One, you’re not gonna cut any aspect of service. In fact, they expanded service on the South Side. Two, you’ve got to find cuts inside management before you go to commuters. Third, the state has cut us. Fourth, the budget is less by $9.7 million. And fifth, we’ve gone eight years without a fare increase,” Emanuel said.

“That, to me, while nobody likes to do it, was a balanced approach to make up for the state’s failure.”

Patty Schuh, a spokesperson for Gov. Bruce Rauner, refused to wear the jacket for the fare hike.

“When factoring the reduction in Public Transportation funding and the 2% sales tax surcharge, the reduction is approximately 2% of the RTA and three service boards’ operating revenues,” Schuh wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“The CTA has not raised fares in eight years. This fare increase is not the fault of the State.”

Aldermen interviewed days before the CTA’s announcement made it clear that their constituents fear service cuts even more than fare hikes.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), whose North Side ward includes Wrigley Field, noted that “two-thirds” of his constituents use public transit.

“They understand that prices have to go up. … They’re more concerned about service and reliability,” Tunney said last week.

“Will they be happy? No. But, they’re very upset about the No. 11 bus [Lincoln Ave.] bus gone. They want more trains. But, people have to understand that we’ve got to live with gradual inflation. Part of the problems with the parking meter [deal] is, we doubled `em overnight. That’s what people don’t like.”

Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) has said she is “strictly on board with maintaining service to communities of color that really need to be able to get back and forth to work.”

“I cannot tell my people that ride public transportation that that bus is not gonna be riding down their street,” Harris said.