CFL News
May 31, 2012

Fare hike dodged; CTA closes budget gap

Budget savings ease pressure on negotiations between CTA and transit unions

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

By Kim Janssen

For months, the Chicago Transit Authority warned that passengers would face bus and train fare increases and service cuts if transit unions didn’t come up with $80 million in concessions by July 1.

Now CTA president Forrest Claypool says the threats no longer apply — thanks to savings the agency has made in other areas.

Claypool in November warned that 1,000 union jobs could be lost in addition to service cuts and fare increases if the Amalgamated Transit Union didn’t give up what he called “antiquated work rules.”

But on Wednesday, the agency announced it has closed a $160 million budget gap. Replacing a cash-funded debt service with a surety bond freed up $80 million, while frozen wages, a hiring slowdown, increased ridership, fewer worker injuries than expected, higher sales tax revenue and an unusually mild winter that slashed maintenance expenses accounted for another $80 million in savings, Claypool said.

CTA bosses said the measures are “one-time budget fixes” that can’t be repeated next year. They are still negotiating changes to work rules with the union.

Union Local 308 president Robert Kelly said the CTA announcement was “good news in the short term” for passengers, but warned that a long-term deal still has to be hashed out.

In November, he said negotiating with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration was “like dealing with Republicans,” but he struck a cautiously optimistic note Wednesday. The talks with CTA management “are going better than they usually do,” he said.