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Chicago3rd May 2, 2007 2:00 PM

I am encouraged......if he can do what he is saying it will be easier to go to the state and say fund us better.

VivaLFuego May 2, 2007 2:06 PM

Cautiously optimistic...

Steely Dan May 2, 2007 2:55 PM

i want to marry ron huberman.

VivaLFuego May 2, 2007 3:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by OhioGuy (Post 2800481)
The brown line is running on a decent schedule, though I haven't really noticed much progress on the Montrose & Addision stations over the past few months. Whenever I'm on the train going through those two areas, the most workers I've ever seen was *maybe* 5 (and that's only happened on about 2 occasions). Oh well. As long as they're finished by the end of the year (construction was suppose to take 12 months: December '06 - December '07), I guess that's all that matters.

That's because they're doing foundation work (also why the trains are moving slow through the areas of the stations). If you were at street level you'd see alot more activity.

Chicago3rd May 2, 2007 5:50 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Steely Dan (Post 2809492)
i want to marry ron huberman.

He is mine! All mine! Hope it will not biased me in his favor.

brian_b May 3, 2007 12:43 AM

I have hope that Huberman will help speed things along.

If he proves to be excellent and I can count on the CTA being run well-enough, I think the CTA should consider a bond issue to cover whatever portion of the $5.8 billion they can't get from the government. Obviously their credit rating would be bad but since a fully-funded CTA benefits me financially in other ways, I would put $20-30k in lower-yield (maybe a few basis points above treasury yields) CTA bonds into my IRA account. Again, only if I was convinced they were well-run.

Could the CTA find enough people like me to make it worth it? They'd probably need 100,000 people to make up the shortfall.

nomarandlee May 3, 2007 4:54 AM

More money for Brown Line rehab
 
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/l...l=chi-news-hed

More money for Brown Line rehab

Tribune staff report
Published May 2, 2007, 6:20 PM CDT

The federal government on Wednesday got caught up on financing its share of the CTA Brown Line rehabilitation project with a new payment of $36 million, members of Illinois' congressional delegation said.

The money is part of a $423.1 million federal grant to help pay for the $530 million Brown Line project, which involves expanding rail stations to accommodate longer trains and modernizing tracks and signals between the Loop and the Northwest Side.

The CTA, Regional Transportation Authority and the state Department of Transportation are providing about $106 million for the project.

Federal payments will continue through the end of the project in 2009, officials said.

Keeping the federal payments on schedule reduces the amount of money the CTA must borrow or move from other areas, officials said.

U.S. Reps. Rahm Emanuel and Danny Davis, and Sens. Dick Durbin and Barack Obama announced the $36 million payment from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune

whyhuhwhy May 3, 2007 3:56 PM

I really like what I'm hearing with the new CTA chief. A fresh perspective and a lean CTA is what we need.

Mr Downtown May 3, 2007 4:21 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by brian_b (Post 2810844)
I think the CTA should consider a bond issue to cover whatever portion of the $5.8 billion they can't get from the government.

Um, how exactly would CTA be paying off the bonds? CTA has no profits and no taxing authority.

VivaLFuego May 3, 2007 7:09 PM

CTA already issues bonds all the time to pay for capital projects now, backed by formula funds expected to be received by the federal gov't over the next several years. So CTA actually has a top-noth credit rating on the bond market because the bonds are backed by the Federal government, in effect. I'm not sure what else CTA could use to back another bond issue, for the reason Mr. Downtown gave.


I also like the apparently widely-held concept that leaning up an organization (i.e. firing people) and improving its overall quality are obviously positively correlated...I also don't get why people are excited, I mean its not like the union workers will work any harder, they'll follow their cushy contract to the 't'. The people who will work harder and get downsized are the non-union employees who already don't get stuff like overtime pay and are already largely stretched thin.

CGP124 May 3, 2007 9:59 PM

Does anyone else think it's stupid that the bus from the north an clyborne stop to sedgewick stops at sedgewick where you cannot get into the station, instead of at hudson where the new (temporary) entrance is?

the urban politician May 4, 2007 1:57 AM

PLEASE let this be Blagojevich's last term in office!
 
http://www.chicagobusiness.com/cgi-b...05-03&id=24856
May 03, 2007
By Brandon Glenn
'All options on the table' if no state transit bailout
Regional leaders send letter to Gov. urging investment
(Crain’s) — For Chicago-area public transit riders, no news isn’t necessarily good news.

Lacking any commitment from Springfield lawmakers for desperately needed operating funds, transit leaders won’t say what might happen if those funds aren’t secured by July 1.

“All options are on the table,” said Steve Schlickman, executive director of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), which oversees the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), the Metra suburban rail system and suburban Pace bus lines.

At least two options — fare hikes and service cuts — would pain transit riders. Others include layoffs and diverting capital dollars, which are earmarked to update and repair equipment, to operations.

Mr. Schlickman, who with other transit officials spoke Thursday morning at an RTA board meeting, said he expects the agency’s choice to become clearer by the RTA’s next board meeting on June 7.

“It’s clear that Northeast Illinois stands on the edge of an abyss,” RTA Chairman Jim Reilly said at a news conference after the meeting.

In a separate development, leaders from seven Northeastern Illinois counties, in addition to a regional planning group, sent an open letter to Gov. Rod Blagojevich urging greater investment in the region's transportation infrastructure.

"If we want to keep our communities vibrant places for residents to live and work and attractive places for businesses to locate and expand, then we must make this investment one of our top priorities," the letter said.

The governor's press office did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

In December, the RTA passed its $2.2-billion 2007 budget with a $226-million hole in operating funds. The agency has said that hole would affect operations after July 1.

The agency has been hoping for a bailout from seemingly reluctant, or at least preoccupied, Springfield legislators.

Former state treasurer and Republican gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka, a relatively new addition to the RTA board, seemed far from convinced that any cash from Springfield will be forthcoming.

She noted that Gov. Blagojevich and the General Assembly are more focused on a wide array of issues including taxes, education and health care. “Nowhere does the question of transportation come up,” Ms. Topinka said during the board meeting. “It’s nowhere on anybody’s radar.”

Further decreasing the likelihood of a Springfield bailout, she said, is the fact that the Legislature’s current session is scheduled to end May 31.

Ms. Topinka expressed concern that the transit funding uncertainty could jeopardize Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics.

“Does it sink us?” she pointedly asked Mr. Schlickman.

“I can’t speak directly to that,” he responded.

Remarking that it was just his second day on the job, new CTA President Ron Huberman acknowledged he didn’t yet have much to add to the discussion.

“I’m going to have very little to say here,” he said, adding that the funding shortfall is “something we’re very concerned about.”

nomarandlee May 4, 2007 7:23 AM

Transit official: 'Moment of crisis'
 
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/l...l=chi-news-hed

Transit official: 'Moment of crisis'

By Richard Wronski
Tribune staff reporter
Published May 3, 2007, 8:31 PM CDT

Frustrated regional transit officials all but conceded Thursday that their strategy for winning a major increase in state funding by building grass-roots consensus has failed so far.

Transportation funding is "not even on anybody's radar" in Springfield, said new Regional Transportation Authority Board member Judy Baar Topinka, a former legislator, state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate.

Transit officials warned that fare increases, service cuts and further diversion of capital funds to pay for day-to-day operating needs will be necessary unless the state legislature heeds calls for new funding.

While reluctant to declare a "doomsday scenario" yet, top officials of the CTA, Metra and Pace joined RTA leaders in asserting that unless legislators act this spring, the agencies will be forced to revise their 2007 budgets that counted on $226 million in state funding for operating costs.

"It's clear northeast Illinois stands on the edge of an abyss," RTA Chairman Jim Reilly said. He predicted that the suburbs and collar counties would feel the brunt of the cuts, as opposed to previous years when the focus of funding shortfalls fell on the CTA. Future transportation projects, such as the suburb-to-suburb STAR rail line, are also jeopardized, Reilly said.

Separately, the seven county chairmen in northeastern Illinois, a coalition of business and labor representatives and the region's comprehensive planning agency on Thursday also reiterated the need for more transportation and infrastructure funding. With only weeks left in the legislative session, the groups urged Gov. Rod Blagojevich and lawmakers to act now.

RTA officials have long endeavored to build grass-roots consensus for a long-term transportation funding program. This was the philosophy behind "Moving Beyond Congestion," the RTA's first strategic plan, which it began formulating more than a year ago.

But on Thursday frustration over their failure to budge legislators or the governor was obvious.Warning that "the moment of crisis in 2007 is upon us," RTA Executive Director Steve Schlickman said the $226 million is vital for the transit agencies to meet their current budgets. In addition, the RTA is calling for $400 million in annual operating funds and $10 billion in new capital funds over the next five years.

Legislators in Springfield have been stymied by Blagojevich's plan for a $7 billion business tax increase to launch his sweeping health-care plan and increase school funding. Blagojevich said transportation would not be considered until the other issues are addressed.

Schlickman called Blagojevich's insistence on levying a gross-receipts tax on business to fund his plans "the boulder in front of us."

Doug Whitley, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and co-chairman of the Transportation for Illinois Coalition, agreed, saying that "when the wheels come off the gross receipts tax," transportation and other issues will be dealt with.

Without new transportation funding by July 1 to plug budget gaps, the commuting public will see higher fares and fewer buses in 2008, if not sooner, officials said. No specific cuts have been proposed yet, but "everything is on the table," Schlickman said.

Metra has already prepared a 2007 contingency budget that diverts $60 million into everyday operations from basic maintenance, replacement of aging rail cars and tracks, and new signals, Executive Director Phil Pagano said.

Continuing to divert capital funds for operating needs will throw Metra back to the late '70s and early '80s, Pagano said. Those were the days when locomotives broke down regularly, rail car windows leaked, cars had holes in the floors and trains were late 40 percent of the time, he said.

If Pace is forced to cut service, suburban residents who have no other option to get to school and work will suffer, Executive Director T.J. Ross said. Cuts would disproportionately affect senior citizens and people with disabilities, who depend on Pace's paratransit service, he said.

The CTA is evaluating service reductions and other steps to close its $110 million budget gap, the agency's new president, Ron Huberman said, adding that the CTA is "weighing all its options."

In a letter to Blagojevich, the business-labor Transportation for Illinois Coalition, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and seven county chairmen warned that Illinois faced a crisis due to declining investment in infrastructure.

"Chicago's public transit system is breaking down," the letter stated. "Our highways are among the nation's most congested. Downstate roads and bridges . . . are literally crumbling. And rail bottlenecks and interstate highway congestion in greater Chicago are adversely affecting the region's commerce."

rwronski@tribune.com

nomarandlee May 4, 2007 8:12 AM

Breaking the doomsday cycle
 
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/o...inionfront-hed

EDITORIAL

Breaking the doomsday cycle

Published May 3, 2007


For years, the annual standoff over funding for the Chicago Transit Authority has gone like this: CTA officials moan that the state doesn't give them enough money or authority to do their jobs. Lawmakers complain that the CTA doesn't manage what it has effectively. The CTA threatens doomsday service cuts, lawmakers grumble about a bailout, and we end up with a budget that allows the system to limp along for another year. It's no way to run a railroad.

The best thing that happened to mass transit riders this year was an Illinois auditor general's report that showed both sides are right: The CTA is underfunded and mismanaged. Maybe now they can stop arguing about whose fault it is and fix it.

The crisis looms larger than ever since House Speaker Michael Madigan muscled through a bill requiring the CTA to start making huge annual contributions to its nearly bankrupt pension fund. That was a necessary mandate, but it blew a $150 million-a-year hole in the CTA's operating budget.

Madigan told the CTA not to come crying for more money, but he knows good and well Chicagoans can't all walk to work. So does Mayor Richard Daley, who generally keeps his distance from the CTA's woes except to second the complaints about underfunding. Two weeks ago, Daley axed his CTA president, Frank Kruesi, a close friend for more than 30 years, because he knew lawmakers would rather watch the transit system go down in flames than give more money to Kruesi.

New CTA President Ron Huberman promises he'll turn the CTA into a performance-based operation, starting with "a lot of slashing." That has been a long time coming. But the CTA will have to do more than eliminate jobs. It will have to change the pay and benefit structure for the people who still work there.

The CTA's retirement plan was only 34 percent funded as of Jan. 1, 2006, and projected to run dry in six years. The CTA got in this bind by financing operations with money that should have gone to pensions. The auditor general's report notes that the CTA took pension "holidays" in 1994, 1995 and 1997 and has deferred more than $1 billion in contributions.

The pension disaster isn't a simple matter of not enough money. The CTA has an overgenerous retirement plan and an outrageous retiree health-care package, far better than what other public employees get. Unlike plans that cover teachers or state and municipal workers, the CTA pension is subject to collective bargaining. The CTA regularly asks for concessions during contract negotiations, but those talks invariably end up before an arbitrator, who rejects the requests.

The CTA plays by different rules because that's how the legislature spelled things out in 1946. Those rules need to be changed so the CTA can bring its retirement plan in line with what taxpayers can afford. The CTA needs more latitude to determine pension eligibility, contributions and benefit levels. It needs the authority to restructure its pension plan so that, for example, new hires aren't promised the same benefits guaranteed to current employees. Under the current plan, retirees don't even pay premiums for health-care coverage.

The 2006 law requires that the pension be 90 percent funded by 2059. CTA Chairman Carole Brown has asked the General Assembly to authorize an alternate plan, under which the CTA would sell bonds to bring the pension to 90 percent almost immediately. The plan would stabilize cash flows and reduce the annual debt service by tens of millions of dollars. But lawmakers would be wise to address the underlying problems before they resort to creative borrowing. Without structural changes to the pension plan, taxpayers will continue to pay for unreasonable and unsustainable benefits.

The CTA should have to swallow some other changes before lawmakers break out the checkbook. Many of those changes are part of an overhaul of the entire regional transit system proposed by Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston), who chairs the House Mass Transit Committee. Hamos' plan incorporates many of the suggestions contained in the auditor general's report. It would give the Regional Transportation Authority more power over the CTA, Metra and the Pace bus system. The RTA would assume a greater role in planning and budget matters, including ordering fare increases, if necessary. It would set and enforce performance standards. It would promote regional cooperation instead of letting the three transit boards go their separate ways, fighting over riders, duplicating services and spending money on pet projects that don't benefit the overall system.

Such reforms would help assure that taxpayer dollars are being well managed and well spent. When those conditions are met, lawmakers will have no excuse to shortchange the CTA.


Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune [/I]

nicopico May 4, 2007 8:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by nomarandlee (Post 2813888)
Transportation funding is "not even on anybody's radar" in Springfield, said new Regional Transportation Authority Board member Judy Baar Topinka, a former legislator, state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate.

Wow, I'm so out of the loop. When did Topinka move to RTA? Here is a woman who I think can make some change from one end. Here's a woman who can get things done. A Republican, tho I remember specifically three miniature flags on her desk in her office: one rainbow, one the flag of Israel, and the last the US flag. Here's a woman who can listen to all sides and bring them together, to hammer out compromise and bring change. I have great confidence in her.

alex1 May 4, 2007 4:45 PM

^She's never been extremely pro or anti transit. I always assumed massive service cuts to the CTA if she was governor (believes strongly in fiscal accountability which would have straddled CTA with a higher burden of collection percentage).

However, I'm sick of Blago using transit as hostage for his other programs (even though I agree with him on increasing taxes for better schools and healthcare). Priorities need to be made and sensible solutions must be put on the table. Holding an entire region hostage on the transit front isn't the best approach to being a good leader.

whyhuhwhy May 4, 2007 4:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the urban politician (Post 2813311)
http://www.chicagobusiness.com/cgi-b...05-03&id=24856
May 03, 2007
By Brandon Glenn
'All options on the table' if no state transit bailout
Regional leaders send letter to Gov. urging investment
(Crain’s) — For Chicago-area public transit riders, no news isn’t necessarily good news.

Lacking any commitment from Springfield lawmakers for desperately needed operating funds, transit leaders won’t say what might happen if those funds aren’t secured by July 1.

“All options are on the table,” said Steve Schlickman, executive director of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), which oversees the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), the Metra suburban rail system and suburban Pace bus lines.

At least two options — fare hikes and service cuts — would pain transit riders. Others include layoffs and diverting capital dollars, which are earmarked to update and repair equipment, to operations.

Mr. Schlickman, who with other transit officials spoke Thursday morning at an RTA board meeting, said he expects the agency’s choice to become clearer by the RTA’s next board meeting on June 7.

“It’s clear that Northeast Illinois stands on the edge of an abyss,” RTA Chairman Jim Reilly said at a news conference after the meeting.

In a separate development, leaders from seven Northeastern Illinois counties, in addition to a regional planning group, sent an open letter to Gov. Rod Blagojevich urging greater investment in the region's transportation infrastructure.

"If we want to keep our communities vibrant places for residents to live and work and attractive places for businesses to locate and expand, then we must make this investment one of our top priorities," the letter said.

The governor's press office did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

In December, the RTA passed its $2.2-billion 2007 budget with a $226-million hole in operating funds. The agency has said that hole would affect operations after July 1.

The agency has been hoping for a bailout from seemingly reluctant, or at least preoccupied, Springfield legislators.

Former state treasurer and Republican gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka, a relatively new addition to the RTA board, seemed far from convinced that any cash from Springfield will be forthcoming.

She noted that Gov. Blagojevich and the General Assembly are more focused on a wide array of issues including taxes, education and health care. “Nowhere does the question of transportation come up,” Ms. Topinka said during the board meeting. “It’s nowhere on anybody’s radar.”

Further decreasing the likelihood of a Springfield bailout, she said, is the fact that the Legislature’s current session is scheduled to end May 31.

Ms. Topinka expressed concern that the transit funding uncertainty could jeopardize Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics.

“Does it sink us?” she pointedly asked Mr. Schlickman.

“I can’t speak directly to that,” he responded.

Remarking that it was just his second day on the job, new CTA President Ron Huberman acknowledged he didn’t yet have much to add to the discussion.

“I’m going to have very little to say here,” he said, adding that the funding shortfall is “something we’re very concerned about.”


Unbelievable. What a joke. This is the same Gov that used half a million to post his name above all the suburban open toll plazas.

You know he would expand health care and boost school spending and cut transit funding if he could. Did you know that since Blago has gone into office he has taken $1.5 billion a year from transit/gas taxes and siphoned them up to boost general government spending? How about spending the gas taxes and transit money on TRANSIT? It's not like Chicago doesn't have a congestion problem!

whyhuhwhy May 4, 2007 4:50 PM

http://illinoisissues.uis.edu/politics/expense.html

Illinois faces added expenses with new federal transportation dollars

by Charles N. Wheeler III

"Never look a gift horse in the mouth," cautioned the Roman theologian St. Jerome in a 5th century biblical commentary. Despite such sound advice, Illinois policymakers could hardly be blamed if they were to feel a tad concerned about the massive windfall of federal dollars — an estimated $9.4 billion over five years — the state could receive under the new transportation bill President George W. Bush signed in August.

While state leaders welcomed the federal bonanza for roads, bridges, mass transit and other transportation needs, they're in a position akin to the guy who wins a new car in the church raffle and has to figure out how to come up with the taxes, fees and other expenses that accompany his good fortune.

With the new transportation bill, the "additional expenses" the state faces are the matching amounts required to garner all the available federal dollars.

Transportation officials say they're confident they can find the roughly $1.7 billion needed to match the federal highway funds available over the lifetime of the federal law.

But in addition to a pot of money distributed through federal formulas — which the state generally can use for projects of its choosing — the new law earmarks dollars for a host of specific projects. In some cases, though, the federal money plus the state matching funds may not be enough to cover the full cost of a particular project.

For example, the proposed Prairie Parkway — dear to the heart of U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a Plano Republican — is down for $207 million. Add in the required state match of $52 million, and the total is only about a quarter of the estimated $1 billion price tag to build the new road between Interstates 80 and 88 in Hastert's district. State transportation officials haven't figured out yet where the additional dollars might be found.

Part of the difficulty is the result of unprecedented use of highway funds for general government spending. Gov. Rod Blagojevich's first two budgets siphoned off roughly $1.5 billion in gasoline taxes and license fees to help prop up general state spending, and an estimated $650 million more will be diverted this fiscal year. While highway user fees always have helped pay for such road-related activities as the state police and the secretary of state's licensing operation, the current administration's three-year average for such diversions is roughly double the amount funneled off in prior years.

j korzeniowski May 4, 2007 4:53 PM

all this is very depressing. i hope something can be worked out. this whole transit-funding subject is always there to dampen for me any of the other good news that goes on in this city.

not quite a white elephant, but something that is always in the back of my mind when i read about the spire, olympics bid, chicago as a tourist destination, etc.

whyhuhwhy May 4, 2007 5:03 PM

Can I ask what the heck is Blago doing with all this extra BILLIONS of transit/highway money he's been siphoning off and spending? I mean, on what?


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