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mikeelm Jan 16, 2007 1:28 AM

What is Mr. Kurusi's justifacation for building a new facility and not improving servies and Structures for the CTA?

alex1 Jan 16, 2007 2:09 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lukecuj (Post 2561656)
God I Love Daley, doesn't take bullshit and in a sentence points out the 800 pound gorilla that's in the room that everyone seems to ignore.

I see it the opposite. He needs to put pressure on getting things done. You know, become a real leader. Between Kruesi and Daley, I really doubt that the CTAs problems will subside.

As much as I love Chicago, I will not live in a city that has a "third world" transit system. While there might be a stretch in that quote, I have surely seen first world and 2nd world transit systems that far outdo our CTA.

I move away come September for grad school and will decide upon nY, Boston or overseas come graduation if CTA doesn't get its act together.

jjk1103 Jan 16, 2007 2:43 AM

...I read somewhere that they are going to build a completely new subway line in NYC.....is that true ?

the urban politician Jan 16, 2007 2:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by alex1 (Post 2566547)
I move away come September for grad school and will decide upon nY, Boston or overseas come graduation if CTA doesn't get its act together.

^ Considering Boston's similar transit woes, I would go with either NY or overseas of Chicago's L keeps tickling your feathers.

NY's system has some annoying snags (service disruptions), but they are very well managed. They are announced fairly ahead of time, the dates that service will be disrupted are posted at the stations, and plenty of ramped up bus service (sometimes even shuttle buses) tends to compensate for whatever is lost. People don't seem to view the MTA with disdain and regard them as incompetent as I'm always hearing people say about the CTA.

Alex: I would guess that once the Brown Line rehab is done, things will be running quite nicely, if you're willing to wait it out. I can certainly understand why everyone is angry, though. I depend on transit every day--I hand my daily commute over to these guys--and I get pissed off if I'm even delayed by 10 minutes.

One thing that may get Daley off his ass about transit is if some downtown firms formed a coalition demanding improvements in transit or else threatening to move to the suburbs or elsewhere. Ultimately, that's what it may have to come down to

jamesinclair Jan 16, 2007 4:04 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Marcu (Post 2561441)
Some of the lines are underground for part of the time (red and blue). Others are not for several reasons, including cost, tradition, and "that's just the way they were built back when mass transit was privately run".

Have there ever been proposals to move a line underground in downtown? My only experience with elevated lines (besides Miami, which has the groundwater issue) is Boston, where the two elevated lines were removed, one to below grade (but open) and another removed forever

VivaLFuego Jan 16, 2007 4:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jamesinclair (Post 2566840)
Have there ever been proposals to move a line underground in downtown? My only experience with elevated lines (besides Miami, which has the groundwater issue) is Boston, where the two elevated lines were removed, one to below grade (but open) and another removed forever

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago...a_Transit_Plan

Taft Jan 16, 2007 2:29 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the urban politician (Post 2566635)
I can certainly understand why everyone is angry, though. I depend on transit every day--I hand my daily commute over to these guys--and I get pissed off if I'm even delayed by 10 minutes.

I understand the anger myself. I'm one of the people that will be affected by this move (I ride the brown every day). I do feel, however, that a lot of the anger is misplaced.

The CTA had a budget of around 500 mil for the project, right? When faced with soaring construction costs and higher bids (like we've seen on EVERY SINGLE PROJECT discussed on these boards), they opted to come in on budget and close some stations during construction. What happened? The public went ape-shit. What was their alternative? They don't have the money, so what are they going to do?

Now the same thing happens with track closures. I'm sure they would love an unlimited budget and political support which would allow property acquisitions and infrastructure for a fifth set of tracks. But the fact is: they have *neither* of those things. What the hell are they supposed to do?

If someone has a plausible answer for these questions, I'd like to hear them. So far, however, I just hear bellyaching. Sure, I sympathize. This will be a very painful couple of years (blue line to the halsted bus for me). But we need to focus on what can be done to correct the problem: get the CTA more backing and funds.

I put the blame on the Illinois legislature, Daley and the suburbs. Each has done their part to erode the CTA either financially, politically or both. The problem we are facing now, of course, is that city and state coffers are seriously short. I don't see a major monetary infusion coming from either in the short term. Which basically means: we're screwed.

Quote:

One thing that may get Daley off his ass about transit is if some downtown firms formed a coalition demanding improvements in transit or else threatening to move to the suburbs or elsewhere. Ultimately, that's what it may have to come down to
I like this idea, but I question the feasibility. I seriously question where public money would come from without a tax increase. And we know how hard a tax increase for transit is to get passed (but *I* don't use it! why should *I* pay?). I also like the idea of a public-corporate partnership along the lines of Millennium park. Hell, I'd take a new transit line for downtown over 10 Millennium parks any day. But I see two problems with this.

First, a central strategy in getting corporate money for MP was to allow "branding" for just about everything in the park. The sponsors knew this was going to be high profile art, which helped sell them on the idea. Given a transit line has a far lower profile (there is no central focus, there is little/no art, etc.), I don't see sponsors chomping at the bit to get in on it.

Second, the amount of money needed by transit makes the budget for MP look like small potatoes. MP's 500 mil is barely enough to rehab a line's stations, let alone build a new line (especially underground). Sure, it would help (especially with track repairs and rehabs), but again, would a corporate sponsor really want to pay for repairs? I doubt it.

I personally see little hope in getting better transit in Chicagoland without a serious political shift. I would *love* to be convinced otherwise.

Taft

Jaroslaw Jan 16, 2007 8:14 PM

As far as $$$ for the CTA, I keep thinking this: over a hundred big buildings have gone up in Chicago during the current boom. All of these new buildings contribute new property taxes. Where does this money go? Everything that's going up in Chicago is getting a "free ride", taking advantage of infrastructure built decades ago, with no new capacity being added, whether it's roads or rail... where does the extra tax revenue go??? Can anyone help me on this?

VivaLFuego Jan 16, 2007 8:18 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jaroslaw (Post 2568078)
As far as $$$ for the CTA, I keep thinking this: over a hundred big buildings have gone up in Chicago during the current boom. All of these new buildings contribute new property taxes. Where does this money go? Everything that's going up in Chicago is getting a "free ride", taking advantage of infrastructure built decades ago, with no new capacity being added, whether it's roads or rail... where does the extra tax revenue go??? Can anyone help me on this?

TIF districts....it goes into slush funds that the aldermen can divvy up.

That said, CTA (and the RTA) get $0 annually from property tax, which is absurd. Chicago transit funding is solely from sales tax, which does not keep up with inflation meaning the subsidy shrinks every year.

Chicago Shawn Jan 16, 2007 8:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jaroslaw (Post 2568078)
As far as $$$ for the CTA, I keep thinking this: over a hundred big buildings have gone up in Chicago during the current boom. All of these new buildings contribute new property taxes. Where does this money go? Everything that's going up in Chicago is getting a "free ride", taking advantage of infrastructure built decades ago, with no new capacity being added, whether it's roads or rail... where does the extra tax revenue go??? Can anyone help me on this?

A lot of it is locked up in the city's multiple TIFs, which absorb property tax revenue increases for 23 years. The new LaSalle Street TIF will help fund the Carrol Avenue light rail line (AKA River Line).

I think a density bonus should be added for developers who make a donation to a transit improvement trust fund, just like the very sucessful affordable housing fund which raised $12 millon in its first year. Sure it may not be much, but its something. I brought this up to Daley himself when I had a brief chance to talk to him, and he said the city is exploring the use of TIFs for transit improvements.

Taft Jan 16, 2007 8:47 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 2568092)
TIF districts....it goes into slush funds that the aldermen can divvy up.

That said, CTA (and the RTA) get $0 annually from property tax, which is absurd. Chicago transit funding is solely from sales tax, which does not keep up with inflation meaning the subsidy shrinks every year.

And I don't see this changing given the politics surrounding transit funding. Sure, Daley can say he isn't raising property taxes, but we suffer as a result. Good politics, bad policy. I'd imagine the same goes for spending existing property tax revenues. Diverting them to transit is likely a politically risky venture for Daley.

Taft

Taft Jan 16, 2007 9:19 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chicago Shawn (Post 2568128)
A lot of it is locked up in the city's multiple TIFs, which absorb property tax revenue increases for 23 years. The new LaSalle Street TIF will help fund the Carrol Avenue light rail line (AKA River Line).

I think a density bonus should be added for developers who make a donation to a transit improvement trust fund, just like the very sucessful affordable housing fund which raised $12 millon in its first year. Sure it may not be much, but its something. I brought this up to Daley himself when I had a brief chance to talk to him, and he said the city is exploring the use of TIFs for transit improvements.

The news about TIFs being used for transit funding (esp. the "River Line") is very, very good to hear. I can't think of a better use for that money.

Taft

the urban politician Jan 16, 2007 9:38 PM

^ So true. I'd really like to see this "River Line" happen. Although I'd prefer a subway system, light rail isn't a bad alternative.

Marcu Jan 16, 2007 9:53 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 2568092)
Chicago transit funding is solely from sales tax, which does not keep up with inflation meaning the subsidy shrinks every year.

Can you explain how sales taxes (which are a percent) of gross sale do not keep up with inflation?

10% of 100$ is 10$
If inflation pushes price up to 110$, 10% becomes 11$ and keeps up with inflation. Seems fairly intuitive.

VivaLFuego Jan 16, 2007 10:19 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Marcu (Post 2568318)
Can you explain how sales taxes (which are a percent) of gross sale do not keep up with inflation?

10% of 100$ is 10$
If inflation pushes price up to 110$, 10% becomes 11$ and keeps up with inflation. Seems fairly intuitive.

I should have been more clear; it does not keep up with the inflation in the cost of transit's inputs, about 80% of which is labor (but construction price inflation shouldn't be ignored either). Wage inflation has been much faster than overall CPI inflation, to which sales tax would be more in line. Basically until CTA breaks its union OR gets a new revenue source, it will have a perpetual budget mess. And both of those are political nightmares in this town. That, at least, is the structual problem.

The other problem is that the collar counties only pay a 0.25% tax into the transit fund, while getting more than their share in Pace and Metra service. Suburbanization has very much hurt sales tax collections in the city, in relative terms. As much as we on this board detest big box retail, the city was wise to allow it to be built because so many people were travelling to the suburbs to do their shopping, where the city (and subsequently, CTA, pertinent to this discussing) got none of the tax revenue.

hoju Jan 17, 2007 7:43 AM

Can someone explain what the Carroll Ave (river line) is? What is its proposed route?

Jaroslaw Jan 17, 2007 10:38 AM

Thanks for these illuminating comments. I thought there were general revenues, and a general budget. But it turns out that apparently each alderman/ward has their own budgets as well! It's not enough that Chicagoland as a whole has some 200 different political jurisdictions...

VivaLFuego Jan 17, 2007 10:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by hoju (Post 2568959)
Can someone explain what the Carroll Ave (river line) is? What is its proposed route?

There's maps floating around; some have been posted in this thread. Do a forum search. Basically it would run northbound on canal, southbound on clinton, cross the river at kinzie, then run on Carroll to lower michigan, then turn eastbound on illinois to Navy Pier, westbound on Grand to form a loop. It will either be a Bus Rapid Transit (raised boarding, exclusive lanes in the roadway, signal priority, etc) with eventual upgrade to streetcar/light rail, or will (hopefully) start as a streetcar/lightrail.

That is the basic route, and there are a bunch of assorted branches (such as one going up St. Clair, or extending the Grand/Illinois loop to connect to the Grand Red line station, and it all started as part of a tie-in to the Ogden streetcar proposal. I'm not sure which of these branches are still under consideration.

The number I heard thrown around a year or 2 ago was $400 million, but who knows if that holds any weight.

the urban politician Jan 18, 2007 1:59 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by hoju (Post 2568959)
Can someone explain what the Carroll Ave (river line) is? What is its proposed route?

^ It's in the Alternative Analysis stage, which is one step beyond the proposal stage. The Circle Line is also in this stage. And that's not saying much, because they're both still years away.

Correct me if I'm wrong on any of this, transit experts

hoju Jan 20, 2007 8:10 AM

Crain’s Investigates: What’s wrong with the CTA?

http://www.chicagobusiness.com/cgi-bin/news.pl?id=23556

(Crain's) — Business travelers on Blue Line trains crawl downtown from O’Hare International Airport at speeds as low as 15 miles an hour—half the speed of a fast horse.


CRUMBLING STRUCTURES
$904 MILLION: Foundations, bridges, walls and viaducts need fixing. Support structures on the Red Line from Wilson to Howard were built in the 1920s.
Loop office workers from the North Side jam Red Line cars for a trip that can take an hour thanks to aging rails, agonizing slow zones and balky switches.

Brown Line riders face more than two years of construction delays that could double their travel time, but won’t upgrade the line’s structure or signals.

Commuting on the el is bad and getting worse, with no likely solution in sight.

A decrepit elevated train system is sliding deeper into decay that eventually will threaten service on almost every line.

The Chicago Transit Authority says repairing the system will cost $6 billion, money it doesn’t have.

Even if the state and federal governments cough up the money, repairs will take years—meaning years of additional delays and other inconveniences for Chicago commuters.

The question commuters are asking: What’s wrong with the CTA?

The answer: a crippling combination of aging infrastructure, funding shortfalls, questionable choices by CTA management, a string of bad luck and a historic rise in ridership — up 25% since 1999 — that has overwhelmed a rail system once considered nearly as reliable as cold in January.

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The CTA clearly is struggling to deal with that troublesome mix. Just last week, it fired five workers in connection with a Blue Line derailment in July, one of four such accidents last year.

Recently, trains at times have been moving at reduced speeds on as much as 18% of tracks, mostly due to safety engineers’ fears that aging tracks and ties could lead to more accidents.

It adds up to unending heartburn for CTA passengers, who are expected to ride the rails a total of 170 million times this year, and a huge hit to the city’s economy.

“The short-term costs are staggering,” as workers and their employers lose time “easily” worth tens of millions of dollars a year, says Joseph Schwieterman, director of the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University.

In the long run, CTA woes are one more reason for middle-class workers — and developers — to head to the suburbs, he adds.

Agency officials, led by CTA President Frank Kruesi, blame funding shortfalls that have forced them to defer routine and critical maintenance year after year.

There’s truth in that. But it’s also true that the CTA under Mr. Kruesi often has spent its limited capital dollars on ostentatious expansion projects rather than the smaller, cheaper, more mundane maintenance that keeps trains running on time.

“You can’t be so enamored of glamorous capital projects that you are neglecting the million people you serve a day,” says Robert Paaswell, the CTA’s top manager from 1986 to 1989 and now director of the Urban Transportation Research Center at City University of New York (CUNY).

Most of what’s wrong at the CTA can be linked to delayed capital investment.

The agency pegs its unfunded capital needs by 2011 at $5.8 billion — an amount called “immensely high” by Mr. Paaswell, who hasn’t studied the CTA’s predicament lately but is an authority on transit systems.

The amount “tells me they got behind,” he says. “They’re having to play catch-up.”

CRUMBLING WALLS, SEEDY STATIONS

Remarkably, the CTA is coming off a relatively flush period, having funded major work on four lines (Brown, Red, Blue and Green) in recent years with federal cash and the proceeds of Illinois First bond issues. But the Illinois First money has about run out. If the General Assembly doesn’t come up with a new funding source this spring, the CTA may not have the local dollars needed to qualify for matching federal funds.

Even when it was flowing, Illinois First money wasn’t enough to tackle many of the CTA’s thorniest problems, especially along North Side routes, where some of the oldest transit lines run through many of the city’s fastest-growing neighborhoods.

For instance, among the CTA’s $5.8 billion in unfunded capital needs are large, crumbling sections of concrete walls supporting the 1920s-era Red Line from Wilson Avenue to Howard Street that are held together by steel braces and plates.

Estimated cost of replacement: $406 million.

At least five seedy, forbidding subway stations on that same line need to be rebuilt at $50 million-plus each.

Even if the CTA gets the money, such projects will likely slow or take whole sections of train lines out of commission for years.

One developing trouble spot: railcars. The CTA hasn’t bought any since Orange Line service began in 1993, and while some new cars are on order, they won’t start arriving until 2010. By then, the average age of the 1,190-car fleet will be 27 years, above the 25-year maximum recommended by the Federal Transit Authority.

At the same time, the agency doesn’t have the $623 million it needs for quarter- and half-life overhauls that would extend the useful age of its existing cars, says Paul Fish, CTA vice-president of capital planning. Instead, it makes spot repairs, costing an extra $50 million a year, according to the agency.

That could lead to big problems eventually, because rising passenger traffic means cars run more often, with total annual fleet mileage up 25% since 1999.

And the cars are more crowded, with rush-hour trains, designed to carry no more than 600 to 800 passengers, jammed with as many as 1,000 at a time, according to Rick Harris, president of Local 308 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents rail workers. “They need more equipment,” he says.

EXPANSION OVER NEW SIGNALS

For frustrated commuters, the CTA’s most pressing need might be the $727 million it would take to finish replacing mechanical signals, built as far back as the 1950s, with electronic gear. Modern devices are more reliable and can handle more trains, Mr. Fish says. Mr. Paaswell calls such spending “probably the best investment you can make” on a train system. “It’s better than expansion.”

And yet expansion is what the CTA often has opted for under Mr. Kruesi.

The CTA is spending $130 million building a super-station under the Block 37 development on State Street that would anchor express service to O’Hare. The idea behind the station, which is also getting $42 million in city subsidies, is to let air travelers check their luggage downtown before being whisked to the airport. To help pay for it, the CTA shifted money from equipment purchases and viaduct work in Evanston, transit sources say. But that service will never begin unless a private operator can be found to bring up to $1.5 billion of its own capital to the project.

CTA Chairman Carole Brown replies that the Block 37 project provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a spur connecting the Red Line, under State Street, with the Blue Line, which uses the Dearborn subway, thereby providing operational flexibility. “For us, Block 37 is a tunnel project that happens to have a station on top of it,” says Ms. Brown, who herself has questioned the wisdom of the current proposal.

But Jacqueline Leavy of the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, a coalition of community and economic development organizations, considers the episode an example of the CTA’s focus on glitz over grit — “gilding the lily instead of taking care of immediate needs.”

She points to the Brown Line expansion, which has grown in cost from the $298 million estimated by the CTA in 1998 to $530 million today — not including $250 million needed to upgrade signals, structural steel and electrical substations. “There’s no one looking over their shoulder on cost containment,” Ms. Leavy says, arguing that too much is spent on things like station design and not enough on the signals, switches and trains that are keys to reliability. (One Brown Line station was to include a clock tower before the item was cut, CTA sources say.)

The CTA asserts that the Brown Line project always was about expanding platforms to accommodate more cars, not structural renovation, and that the costs rose as federal officials agreed to more substantial station work.

Another example cited by CTA critics: the recent, $37-million reconstruction of the “Paulina connector” on the Near West Side. It’s being used for the CTA’s new Pink Line but, more significantly, would anchor the proposed $3-billion Circle Line that has been a top priority of Mr. Kruesi’s.

Federal funding for the Circle Line is nowhere in sight. Meanwhile, the rail union’s Mr. Harris says the Pink Line has overstretched crews and equipment that are needed elsewhere, causing delays.

Mr. Kruesi was not available for comment. Other CTA officials say the Pink Line has attracted new riders and has not caused operational woes.

CUNY’s Mr. Paaswell says he learned a critical lesson while running the CTA: “You can’t expand a bad system.”

Beyond the glamour projects, the CTA also has been spending precious capital dollars on non-capital items.

For instance, the agency recently began borrowing in anticipation of receiving federal grants — a practice that puts the cash in hand faster but also adds costs. In the next four years, the agency will spend $143 million on interest, according to CTA documents.

And in the past two years, political pressure forced the CTA to shift $56 million from capital accounts to operating costs.

COUNTING ON SPRINGFIELD

Some transit insiders also say the CTA’s current difficulties are related to a long-standing tendency to move slowly in deploying available funds. Mr. Kruesi tried to address such difficulties several years ago when he announced that the CTA would begin outsourcing management of capital spending on projects.

But as of August, the CTA had $1.5 billion in available but unspent grant money — $495 million of that not even under contract. The CTA blames overly restrictive rules by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), which provides a share of most CTA capital projects. IDOT officials dispute that.

Ms. Brown notes that many of the CTA’s current and imminent train delays stem from renovation plans, efforts that eventually will improve service. Indeed, slow zones virtually have disappeared on the Dan Ryan leg of the Red Line since the agency spent $282 million renovating the line last year.

The CTA hopes its successes will persuade state lawmakers this spring to provide the funds to match federal capital grants. The agency must also hit up legislators to pay unmet operating costs, like $200 million in unfunded pension obligations. The CTA is likely to get something, but how much depends on whether Gov. Rod Blagojevich agrees to new taxes or fees. Fares have been raised a total of 33% in two hikes over the past three years, making another increase unlikely.

Meanwhile, back on the O’Hare leg of the Blue Line, Ms. Brown says she’s still trying to figure out why ties that were supposed to last half a century are falling apart after 24 years, creating slow zones. Asked if a little Chicago-style procurement magic took place, she says all that’s certain is that the unidentified supplier “used a different (preservative) compound” than is used elsewhere in the CTA system.

Replacing the ties will cost more than $54 million. Unless the state ponies up, Blue Line riders will face “permanent” slow zones, according to Ms. Brown, who says, “We’re trying to do w¬hat we can with very, very limited resources.”

hoju Jan 20, 2007 8:15 AM

Things are looking very dismal for the CTA. With all the recent media coverage of this issue(alderman calling it 3rd world and whatnot), I really hope this becomes an important election issue. I am happy that Crain's has been hammering this point pretty hard of late. Daley needs to make fixing the CTA the top priority of this next term, and Blago had better deliver some matching state funds, or we will soon be screwed. As much as I want to host the Olympics, I would trade it in a second for some momentum to fix the current system and funding for the circle line and the downtown connector.

LA21st Jan 20, 2007 4:27 PM

^
Me too. Screw the Olympics. CTA problems will effect our city for years, if not a few decades. All the subway stations need to be rehabbed and modernized ASAP. You dont think visitors notice the grunge down there? Please.

Chicago3rd Jan 20, 2007 4:54 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by LA21st (Post 2577060)
^
Me too. Screw the Olympics. CTA problems will effect our city for years, if not a few decades. All the subway stations need to be rehabbed and modernized ASAP. You dont think visitors notice the grunge down there? Please.


Daley's plan is to have the CTA all fixed by then...he is expecting lots of outside money for that. This was stated at the very beginning of our attempt for the Olympics.

Glad someone (note it wasn't the Sun Times nor the Tribune) had the balls to put the problems in print!

aaron38 Jan 20, 2007 6:35 PM

Where is the fare money going? If ridership is up 25% since '99, shouldn't the CTA have the money it needs?

If ridership was down, I'd understand how they could have problems. But with ridership up, they should have more money for repairs today than they did in '98.

Here's an idea for CTA funding though. How about for FAR bonuses for all the downtown development, we cut back on funds to landscaping and instead have an L repair fund?

Norsider Jan 20, 2007 7:31 PM

Funding this, funding that. Blah blah blah. Screw all these "ideas" for funding. The damn federal government could fix the entire CTA, plus build 2 new subway lines for what it costs them to spend ONE F-ING MONTH in Iraq. We don't need "ideas," we need money. 15 billion may sound like a lot of money to me and you and the guy down the street, but it's not. It's chump change, boys. We need to tell the government to stop wasting it in the Middle East and start investing within the borders of the USA.

And please stop helping the cause of those that would shut us down by constantly jawing about how expensive everything is. Just stop. It's not expensive AT ALL. We just need to change priorities. And oohing and aahing over the pricetags doesn't help us with this effort in the slightest.

Taft Jan 20, 2007 9:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Norsider (Post 2577330)
Funding this, funding that. Blah blah blah. Screw all these "ideas" for funding. The damn federal government could fix the entire CTA, plus build 2 new subway lines for what it costs them to spend ONE F-ING MONTH in Iraq. We don't need "ideas," we need money. 15 billion may sound like a lot of money to me and you and the guy down the street, but it's not. It's chump change, boys. We need to tell the government to stop wasting it in the Middle East and start investing within the borders of the USA.

And please stop helping the cause of those that would shut us down by constantly jawing about how expensive everything is. Just stop. It's not expensive AT ALL. We just need to change priorities. And oohing and aahing over the pricetags doesn't help us with this effort in the slightest.

+++++

Quote:

Where is the fare money going? If ridership is up 25% since '99, shouldn't the CTA have the money it needs?
This is quite complicated. Boiling it down:

The CTA takes in from fares but a fraction of the money it needs to keep running. Most of the money comes from sales tax from the city and county. The CTA runs as a bit of a charity due to pressures from mayors, legislators and community groups. Until the latest round of fare increases, the pace of CTA fare raises was FAR below the rate of inflation. Fare increases are REALLY unpopular. As is the idea of cutting trains during off hours, on underperforming lines, or reducing coverage to areas that don't use it.

There are a lot of external expectations and pressures on the CTA that basically cripple them in terms of funding. Combine that with questionable management and city, county, state and federal governments that just don't give a shit and you have the current CTA situation. The crains article gave a lot of weight to CTA critics, but I think it is overall a fair assessment of the problems the CTA has.

Taft

hoju Jan 20, 2007 9:25 PM

The idea of using the TIF districts for transit instead of tulips seems like a good one. In the end though, we need 6 billion dollars to fix the system, and no TIF district or fare increase is going to cover that. We need the feds to give us money and right away. Daley needs to push for transit and make the same kind of effort the mayor of LA is making to try to get funding. We can only hope that democratic victories in the past election may give Daley some more clout in the IL legislature. Obama getting elected may help.
What do you guys think of the idea of corporations ponying up money for rail lines in order for naming rights. Like McDonalds station, or the walmart line. Personally that makes me want to vomit, but I would rather have the walmart circle line than no circle line at all.

the urban politician Jan 20, 2007 11:52 PM

Norsider is the man of the hour right now :cool:

Also, kudos to Crains for continuing to hammer this important issue, and making it TOP priority.

I am respecting this particular publication more and more over time, even while my respect for the Tribune and Sun Times plunges into the toilet.

headcase Jan 21, 2007 12:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by LA21st (Post 2577060)
^
Me too. Screw the Olympics. CTA problems will effect our city for years, if not a few decades. All the subway stations need to be rehabbed and modernized ASAP. You dont think visitors notice the grunge down there? Please.

Screw the stations too, the only think I care about is that the tracks and trains work.

SSDD

LA21st Jan 21, 2007 12:31 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Norsider (Post 2577330)
Funding this, funding that. Blah blah blah. Screw all these "ideas" for funding. The damn federal government could fix the entire CTA, plus build 2 new subway lines for what it costs them to spend ONE F-ING MONTH in Iraq. We don't need "ideas," we need money. 15 billion may sound like a lot of money to me and you and the guy down the street, but it's not. It's chump change, boys. We need to tell the government to stop wasting it in the Middle East and start investing within the borders of the USA.

And please stop helping the cause of those that would shut us down by constantly jawing about how expensive everything is. Just stop. It's not expensive AT ALL. We just need to change priorities. And oohing and aahing over the pricetags doesn't help us with this effort in the slightest.

Very true. In fact, they could also cover the Circle Line, Carrol Ave, and possibly a new LSD light rail with all that money. Whoever becomes the next president should ditch Iraq ASAP and focus on our country's infrastructure stat. We are getting left behind and we shouldnt be.

ardecila Jan 21, 2007 8:09 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by hoju (Post 2577542)
Obama getting elected may help.

I doubt it. Obama has shown no indication of strongly pursuing pork projects for Illinois, beyond his reasonable duty to the state; he doesn't want to be labelled as a demanding, money-grubbing congressman. I doubt he will help us out more than any other city if he is elected president.

However, Obama's policies (if elected president) might in fact lead to an increase in Federal transit spending across the board, which would indirectly benefit us, NYC, LA, and a whole host of other cities like Detroit and Milwaukee who are trying to move past the bus transit stage.

Chicago Shawn Jan 23, 2007 1:05 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Norsider (Post 2577330)
Funding this, funding that. Blah blah blah. Screw all these "ideas" for funding. The damn federal government could fix the entire CTA, plus build 2 new subway lines for what it costs them to spend ONE F-ING MONTH in Iraq. We don't need "ideas," we need money. 15 billion may sound like a lot of money to me and you and the guy down the street, but it's not. It's chump change, boys. We need to tell the government to stop wasting it in the Middle East and start investing within the borders of the USA.

And please stop helping the cause of those that would shut us down by constantly jawing about how expensive everything is. Just stop. It's not expensive AT ALL. We just need to change priorities. And oohing and aahing over the pricetags doesn't help us with this effort in the slightest.

A-FUCKING-MEN! You spoke my mind. I'll one-up that with a question, can anyone at all think of a major infrastructure project built in the last 15 years anywhere in the US which did NOT involve a design around gas guzzeling, smog producing cars. I sure can't, which only re-enforces why so much money is sent back to the Middle East through the department of Defense. Gotta keep the cheap oil flowing, gotta keep the proffits of the oil lobby up, gotta keep the paradox going of the American Joe forced to shell out shitloads of cash for personal transportation, gotta keep spending more, more, more and more tax money on a ever exapnding system of bigger, longer, wider roads, highways, bridges, overpasses, underpases and Texas-sized stack interchanges at a $half billion a pop.

No one ever fucking complains at the cost of highway construction, that is always "progress" but somehow fixing our nation's crumbeling rails is wastefull pork and un-American Socialism. :hell:

Rail Claimore Jan 23, 2007 6:01 AM

It makes the news only now because the busiest lines in the system... the north side elevated, the northwest side blue, and both subways, are experiencing problems. Every other line in the city is either newly rebuilt, relatively young, or is currently being overhauled. This westsider ain't complaining. :haha:

Seriously though, I read the other day that the brown line rennovation was only to extend the platforms and redo the stations. Is any work being done at all on the actual track structure?

VivaLFuego Jan 23, 2007 2:52 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Rail Claimore (Post 2582999)
It makes the news only now because the busiest lines in the system... the north side elevated, the northwest side blue, and both subways, are experiencing problems. Every other line in the city is either newly rebuilt, relatively young, or is currently being overhauled. This westsider ain't complaining. :haha:

Seriously though, I read the other day that the brown line rennovation was only to extend the platforms and redo the stations. Is any work being done at all on the actual track structure?

Short answer, no, the structural work (primarily flange angles) was already completed over the last 5 years. I think at some point in the 80s or 90s there was significant track work (i.e. new rail and ties where needed) so in general the Brown Line track and structure are in pretty good shape at this point.

That said, probably within about 15-20 years the Brown will need significant track and structure work, just like the Green will too (realistically the rail infrastructure components only last about 25-40 years before needing major work).

the urban politician Jan 24, 2007 4:27 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lukecuj
From my vantage point it wasn't until this Daley administration took over that there was any serious attempt at tackling the 60 plus years of deffered maintence. Other than Jane Byrne orange line/Ohare extension, what did any other administration do to update and modernize the CTA?

As of late....
Green Line Redo
Douglas Line Redo
Fare Automation system
Subway station Updates
Power washing the subway tunnels
Brownline capacity expansion

Clearly the Daley administration have just been sitting on their asses again

^ Um, or it could be that Daley has been in office for 18 years AND COUNTING. What Mayor since his father has come anywhere close to that?

More time, naturally more gets done--even if you're dragging your feet. Seems simple to me

Marcu Jan 24, 2007 5:28 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lukecuj (Post 2584062)
From my vantage point it wasn't until this Daley administration took over that there was any serious attempt at tackling the 60 plus years of deffered maintence. Other than Jane Byrne orange line/Ohare extension, what did any other administration do to update and modernize the CTA?

As of late....
Green Line Redo
Douglas Line Redo
Fare Automation system
Subway station Updates
Power washing the subway tunnels
Brownline capacity expansion

Clearly the Daley administration have just been sitting on their asses again.


Is power washing the subway tunnels really that big of an accomplishment? Almost sounds like a joke or parody. Also, the fare automation was just done so Chicago doesn't look like a joke compared to other cities.

Chicago Shawn Jan 24, 2007 5:51 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Marcu (Post 2585179)
Is power washing the subway tunnels really that big of an accomplishment? Almost sounds like a joke or parody. Also, the fare automation was just done so Chicago doesn't look like a joke compared to other cities.

Toronto still runs on cash, tokens and paper transfers, and yet it has a fare recovery rate of 80+%, the highest in North America for any rapid transit system. Just imagine what the CTA could do with an extra 30% of its budget comming from the fare box. Technology is not always a better way, I think the high number of faulty Chicago cards is a pretty clear example of that. How much money is the CTA losing from people getting free rides becuase the cards won't scan?

You know what is amazing, tonight in Bush's State of the Union address, he set a goal to reduce gasoline consumption by 20%, and yet not one word was muttered about increasing use and funding of public transit. Not one fucking word! Agian, public transit takes a back seat in the public view of transportation policy.

VivaLFuego Jan 24, 2007 3:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Marcu (Post 2585179)
Also, the fare automation was just done so Chicago doesn't look like a joke compared to other cities.

Actually we had this implemented years before the other major systems, but by all means, please continue with your preconceived notion of perpetual and thorough idiocy and incompetence at CTA!

VivaLFuego Jan 24, 2007 3:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chicago Shawn (Post 2585225)
Toronto still runs on cash, tokens and paper transfers, and yet it has a fare recovery rate of 80+%, the highest in North America for any rapid transit system. Just imagine what the CTA could do with an extra 30% of its budget comming from the fare box. Technology is not always a better way, I think the high number of faulty Chicago cards is a pretty clear example of that. How much money is the CTA losing from people getting free rides becuase the cards won't scan?

CTA saves alot of money (several million, I think $5-10 million per year) by reducing and otherwise consolidating cash handling, which is very expensive and tedious. That said, by being first to market, our system isn't as nice as some of the others.

Quote:

You know what is amazing, tonight in Bush's State of the Union address, he set a goal to reduce gasoline consumption by 20%, and yet not one word was muttered about increasing use and funding of public transit. Not one fucking word! Agian, public transit takes a back seat in the public view of transportation policy.
I noticed this too. Aaaaargh. We already have clean technology that can move people around for most of their daily tasks in a very efficient and scalable manner, no need to throw money at R&D for technology that doesn't exist and may never prove economically viable.... c'mon George let's start by growing our cities smarter and investing in and promoting transit use for people's day-to-day trips (i.e. work, school)

Marcu Jan 24, 2007 6:49 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 2585884)
Actually we had this implemented years before the other major systems, but by all means, please continue with your preconceived notion of perpetual and thorough idiocy and incompetence at CTA!

Don't take it so personally. I was just lucky enough to have been on the subway systems in DC, NY, LA, SF, Boston, London, Moscow, Kiev, Bucharest, and Paris. I guess I just have slightly higher expectations than powerwashing the subways.

nergie Jan 24, 2007 7:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Marcu (Post 2586294)
Don't take it so personally. I was just lucky enough to have been on the subway systems in DC, NY, LA, SF, Boston, London, Moscow, Kiev, Bucharest, and Paris. I guess I just have slightly higher expectations than powerwashing the subways.

Our CTA is a joke, Singapore and HK have so much nicer systems it makes you wonder WTF. Chicago is the 3rd largest city in the richest country on earth and our GD politicos are bumbling numbskulls who couldn't buy an idea with a fistful of $100 bills. When Hastert was Speaker why couldn't he and
Durbin work together to find funding for the CTA. Also the f-ing farmers downstate need to realize that Chicagoland is what makes Illinois.

Marcu Jan 24, 2007 8:08 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by nergie (Post 2586392)
Our CTA is a joke, Singapore and HK have so much nicer systems it makes you wonder WTF. Chicago is the 3rd largest city in the richest country on earth and our GD politicos are bumbling numbskulls who couldn't buy an idea with a fistful of $100 bills. When Hastert was Speaker why couldn't he and
Durbin work together to find funding for the CTA. Also the f-ing farmers downstate need to realize that Chicagoland is what makes Illinois.

No one wants to fund the CTA until it becomes more transparent and develops a more competent and less corrupt image. But the CTA argues the system can't become better without more funding. The only solution I can think of is a compromise where Springfield increases funds for the CTA while getting more oversight and involvement in its operations. Money in exchange for power.

Also, the HK and Singapore systems, like most Asian systems, are public-private partnerships which generally tend to work much better. Most "developing" countries also have these systems (e.g. Sao Paulo), which explains why third world countries have better mass transit than most American cities. The main argument against a public-private system is it's unprofitable to run underutilized lines to poorer areas. However, Sao Paulo simply setup a subsidy mechanism where the trains run frequently to all parts of town while remaining private.

Chicago Shawn Jan 24, 2007 9:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 2585891)
CTA saves alot of money (several million, I think $5-10 million per year) by reducing and otherwise consolidating cash handling, which is very expensive and tedious. That said, by being first to market, our system isn't as nice as some of the others.

Thanks, I knew it saved money, but that is a higher ammount than I expected. I would really love if the CTA would bring in more of the multi-card machines NYC's MTA uses in all of its stations. We have one on the Chicago Red Line mezzanine. I really hate being forced to find a currency exchange to buy a multi-day pass, and making sure I have cash on hand for the purchase. BTW, what is the cut retailers recieve when they sell CTA passes?

And what is the situation for advertising on CTA property? Is there a board who decides where ads can be placed? Why can't more of our stations and train cars be turned into billboard space? If advertising is a for profitt venture, then surley the CTA can squeeze some more revenue out of it. Plaster everything in ads if it means more revenue for the system.

VivaLFuego Jan 24, 2007 10:08 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Marcu (Post 2586294)
Don't take it so personally. I was just lucky enough to have been on the subway systems in DC, NY, LA, SF, Boston, London, Moscow, Kiev, Bucharest, and Paris. I guess I just have slightly higher expectations than powerwashing the subways.

Spent 15 minutes looking at the PDF budgets from each of the following agencies. not quite apples to apples (i.e. MBTA and NYMTA include commuter rail, all of them include bus+rail though, which is why I didn't include BART), but it gives a good idea of relative funding levels and efficiency in providing transit trips. Sorted by subsidy per ride. Figures in millions. Not sure how to do tables in this forum system, if someone explains it I'll do it

Quote:

Annual Ridership:
LAMTA - 467
MBTA - 260
NYMTA - 2200
WMATA - 337
CTA - 497

Operations Revenue:
LAMTA - 278
MBTA - 424
NYMTA - 3749
WMATA - 529
CTA - 558

Operations Expenditure:
LAMTA - 1428
MBTA - 985
NYMTA - 8234
WMATA - 1104
CTA - 1082

Operations Subsidy:
LAMTA - 1870
MBTA - 873
NYMTA - 5005
WMATA - 671
CTA - 524

% Operations Recovery:
LAMTA - 19%
MBTA - 43%
NYMTA - 46%
WMATA - 48%
CTA - 52%

Operation expense per ride:
LAMTA - $3.06
MBTA - $3.79
NYMTA - $3.74
WMATA - $3.28
CTA - $2.18

Subsidy per ride:
LAMTA - $4.00
MBTA - $3.36
NYMTA - $2.28
WMATA - $1.99
CTA - $1.05

These numbers really speak for themselves in terms of how pathetically underfunded CTA is, and to how efficient its operations are given what it has to work with.

VivaLFuego Jan 24, 2007 10:12 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chicago Shawn (Post 2586641)
And what is the situation for advertising on CTA property? Is there a board who decides where ads can be placed? Why can't more of our stations and train cars be turned into billboard space? If advertising is a for profitt venture, then surley the CTA can squeeze some more revenue out of it. Plaster everything in ads if it means more revenue for the system.

from the Suntimes:
Titan Worldwide has been awarded the exclusive contract to sell advertising media on the Chicago Transit Authority. In a three-year contract beginning Feb. 1, Titan will assume all advertising sales responsibilities within CTA’s service area, including the city of Chicago and 40 surrounding suburbs. Titan now controls all the major transit markets, including New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Seattle. Titan began five years ago with 12 employees and $3 million in revenue. Today it has more than 700 employees and pro forma sales for 2006 of about $400 million.

I can't give specifics at this point, but expect some pretty cool stuff and alot more ads on CTA property.

Chicago Shawn Jan 24, 2007 10:43 PM

^Thanks for the info.


Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 2586749)
Spent 15 minutes looking at the PDF budgets from each of the following agencies. not quite apples to apples (i.e. MBTA and NYMTA include commuter rail) but it gives a good idea. Sorted by subsidy per ride. Figures in millions. Not sure how to do tables in this forum system, if someone explains it I'll do it


These numbers really speak for themselves in terms of how pathetically underfunded CTA is, and to how efficient its operations are given what it has to work with.


Holy crap, the CTA has the HIGHEST rate of fare recovery combined with the lowest expense per ride, and the lowest subsidy of those systems listed. I don't think I can ever really complain about CTA mismanagement again given those numbers, the blame purley needs to be on the outdated funding formula. This is the type of stuff that needs to be printed in newspapers to sway public opinoin. I mean, the CTA spends 50% less per ride than LA, with only 25% of the subsidy per ride that LA recieves, and its pretty far under the other numbers of other systems as well. That is really quite impressive, especially given the overall age of our system.

Chicago3rd Jan 24, 2007 11:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 2586749)
Spent 15 minutes looking at the PDF budgets from each of the following agencies. not quite apples to apples (i.e. MBTA and NYMTA include commuter rail) but it gives a good idea. Sorted by subsidy per ride. Figures in millions. Not sure how to do tables in this forum system, if someone explains it I'll do it


These numbers really speak for themselves in terms of how pathetically underfunded CTA is, and to how efficient its operations are given what it has to work with.

But I am in a quandry.
100% behind more comprehensive public transportation in Chicago.
100% getting more money for it
100% Don't trust CTA to spend it.

VivaLFuego Jan 24, 2007 11:52 PM

^ Some restructuring of CTA oversight is probably in order; competent and fair oversight would go a long way towards winning public trust.

The problem is, the way politics work in this town, everything is part of a deal. So the oversight regime is changed; what do the lawmakers who enact these changes get in return? Why come to them with such a generous offer?

And yeah, the LA numbers do seem crazy high. Part of it is that the LA region is realizing the importance of transit since they've discovered you can't simply pave over the entire planet to solve congestion. However, it's possible the numbers could be skewed if that operating expenditure includes things like debt services (interest, etc.), but even if it does we still have ballpark numbers.

Wright Concept Jan 25, 2007 12:38 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 2587028)
^ Some restructuring of CTA oversight is probably in order; competent and fair oversight would go a long way towards winning public trust.

The problem is, the way politics work in this town, everything is part of a deal. So the oversight regime is changed; what do the lawmakers who enact these changes get in return? Why come to them with such a generous offer?

And yeah, the LA numbers do seem crazy high. Part of it is that the LA region is realizing the importance of transit since they've discovered you can't simply pave over the entire planet to solve congestion. However, it's possible the numbers could be skewed if that operating expenditure includes things like debt services (interest, etc.), but even if it does we still have ballpark numbers.


They are skewed because also included in that costs are routine maintenance that they do quite frequently on Weekday evenings to keep the system running smoothly.

One other thing to keep in mind is that half of the Rail lines are carrying at a healthy ridership load (Red and Blue) While others need more riders to make the operating costs balance out (Gold and Green)

One of the most important things that plagued us was an entity called the BRU which forced the MTA via the Consent Decree (It expired in November) to take their operations money and purchase new buses while not enabling them to raise fares. That is a big reason why the numbers were skewed. If that were the case we'd be at a 40-50% recovery.

VivaLFuego Jan 25, 2007 1:25 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by PracticalVisionary (Post 2587138)
They are skewed because also included in that costs are routine maintenance that they do quite frequently on Weekday evenings to keep the system running smoothly.

One other thing to keep in mind is that half of the Rail lines are carrying at a healthy ridership load (Red and Blue) While others need more riders to make the operating costs balance out (Gold and Green)

One of the most important things that plagued us was an entity called the BRU which forced the MTA via the Consent Decree (It expired in November) to take their operations money and purchase new buses while not enabling them to raise fares. That is a big reason why the numbers were skewed. If that were the case we'd be at a 40-50% recovery.

Ok I edited it, using LAMTA 2007 budget numbers, that 2 billion number I had previously for operating expenditures included some capital costs so I removed that, the actual operating total is about 1428 million. for the operating subsidy, I'm assuming the sales tax revenue is used for operations, while state and federal grants are used for capital; this is how it is in Chicago. It may differ in LA; in fact I'd say its likely it does to some extent, since the sales tax subsidy is greater than all of the operating expenditures, though some of that difference could be made up of stuff like debt services. If someone can tell me what % of that sales tax revenue is directed for capital funds, I'll update the figures again.


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