Five things to know about the imminent CTA cuts
1 As of press time, the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA)—the parent agency to the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra and Pace—was scrambling for money to avoid severe transit cuts on Sunday 16. The RTA asked the state legislature for $10 billion over the next five years for infrastructure projects, as well as $400 million a year for daily operations, to prevent the elimination of 39 CTA bus routes and a 50 percent fare hike, and to avoid serious cuts to Metra and Pace service.
2 State legislators have balked at the request, as it would require a sales-tax increase in Cook County and its five collar counties—largely shouldered by the suburbs. Gov. Blagojevich has discouraged that, in part, because he has said he won’t raise taxes; he’s also noted that the sales tax is regressive, meaning that people who make less money are hit harder.
3 Money for public transit comes from a formula that includes a 1 percent sales tax collected in Cook County and a .25 percent sales tax in the collar counties; these funds are then split among Metra, Pace and the CTA.
4 That formula was a temporary political solution instituted in 1983—the result of friction between city and suburban legislators. The funding formula was insufficient from the start, so the RTA has had to beg for additional funds every year. And Chicago’s waxing and waning political clout in Springfield has meant erratic funding.
5 With explosive suburban development, not including public-transit infrastructure, the state has spent more on roads, which cuts into public-transit funding. At the same time, more people have moved back into the city, which has increased demand for public transit. Thus the need for constant fare hikes and cutbacks.—Gewargis Canon