The Chicago Transit Authority will have to make do with $35 million less this year after the Regional Transportation Authority board cut the operating budgets of Chicago-area transit agencies by $67 million Thursday.
The severe shortfall is the result of declining tax revenues. Metra will have to reduce $19 million in spending and Pace loses $7 million. Pace's paratransit program for disabled riders will have to cut $6 million.
CTA President Richard Rodriguez said riders should expect longer wait times though not necessarily the elimination bus routes, the Sun-Times reports:
"Everything is on the table," Rodriguez said after speaking at the City Club of Chicago. "I can't necessarily stand here and say specific routes are going to be eliminated or weekend service is going to be eliminated or any of that." He said one possibility is that instead of having five-to-seven minute headways between buses on some routes, it could be 10 to 15 minutes.
Rodgriguez told the CTA Tattler Tuesday-- before, they note, the extent of the budget cuts were known-- that he is open to using federal stimulus money intended for station improvements to fill budget holes. But that move has a back-end cost, Rodriguez warned.
"The more we delay this (capital and repair) work," he told the CTA Tattler, "the worse our system becomes."
Watch a report on the RTA board meeting:
One potential budget fix that the CTA Tattler's Kevin O'Neil predicts will not be on the table is the controversial free rides for seniors program started by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and maintained by current Gov. Pat Quinn. One option that could be is to take a page out of New York's playbook and sell station naming rights.