Thursday, October 30, 2008

CTA board gets earful from riders

Chi-Town Daily News:
About 100 transit riders and advocates for the low-income and disabled turned out last night during the Chicago Transit Authority’s public hearing on its proposed 2009 budget.

Many expressed disdain for the CTA's proposed fare hikes.

“Working people cannot pay this month for transit,” said Mario Garcia, 21, a Pilsen resident who told the board he rides his bike rather than wait for buses that show up only sporadically on his route.
“A lot of people live on fixed incomes," Garcia said. "It’s too much. Leave the fare alone.”
“Every nickel and dime makes it harder to buy eggs, meat and oatmeal,” said Alfred Rogers of the Southwest Latino Organization.
Rider Robert Stone drilled the board on the agency’s "doomsday" campaign of  late 2007,  questioning why the CTA still finds itself short of cash.

“It hasn’t been a year since doomsday and now we have a fare increase. Why? Incompetency,” Stone said.

However, a few audience members praised the board for hiking fares instead of cutting service. Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation government research organization, praised the CTA for cutting expenses internally before asking riders to shoulder more of the costs.

The proposed budget calls for the CTA to operate with 531 less employees through a series of layoffs, elimination of vacancies and fewer staffing needs associated with construction projects.

“We believe it is a reasonable and responsible plan because it maintains service. Although fare increases are difficult, they are necessary,” Msall said.

“It’s still a bargain compared to parking and the costs associated with driving.”

But Charles Paidock, secretary of the transit advocacy group Citizens Taking Action, criticized the Civic Federation for being out of touch with struggling workers.

“Poor people do not think a transit fare is cheap,” Paidock said.
The meeting where the CTA votes on the budget itself will be at a 10 AM meeting at CTA HQ.

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