CTA cutbacks double students’ commute time
Following February 7th cuts to CTA routes, UIC students who use public transportation might have a hard time getting around the city and making it to class on time.Â The CTA had its bus service reduced by 18 percent and its rail service by nine percent. Coupled with this, the RTA Executive Director Steve Schlickman had sent a letter to Governor Quinn, which said if the $250 million owed to the RTA is further delayed, that further cuts like the CTAâ€™s may be undertaken, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Doctorate student Sambit Mohapatra said his wait has been longer waiting for the #7 Harrison bus. â€œItâ€™s a longer wait and itâ€™s usually crowded,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s almost double the time.â€ He added that sometimes he has to wait 15 minutes for a bus. Freshman Linda Zantout said it definitely takes a longer for the CTA. â€œUsually, buses would come about every 10 minutes and now we have to wait about 20,â€ she said.
Zantout said her trip usually takes about an hour and a half versus an hour and 10 minutes, and the buses are usually crowded, even leading her to skip a bus a month ago. She added that she has been late before for her morning class since the switch.
Senior Andrew Catrinta said the bus by his house comes less frequently, but it is nice that the CTA bus tracker has helped him mange his time. Despite that, he was late to class the first day of the cuts. He added that he would be worried about further cuts as he would like to continue to use the CTA after the fall, but if it went over $3 a ride, he would probably not ride the CTA.
Research Professor at UIC and Director of the Metropolitan Transportation Support Initiative, Joseph DiJohn, said in the past the CTA was bailed out in these situations. â€œIn the past, when the transit agencies, CTA in particular, go into financial difficulties, the legislature would pass some reform legislation to bailout the system,â€ he said.
DiJohn added that bailouts had been done several times since the RTAâ€™s creation in 1974, with one being passed as recently as 2007. However, DiJohn said he does not believe that will happen this time. â€œWith the state in the fiscal situation itâ€™s in, I donâ€™t believe they can bail them out because they have their own financial problems,â€ he said. With the other fiscal problems in the state, DiJohn said public transit is probably not even in the top five priorities in the state, leaving service cuts and fare increases to be the two main options.
With workers making up about two-thirds of the CTA budget, cutting wages might seem to be another way to resolve the issue. But DiJohn said this is not possible. â€œThey (union workers) have a contract and their contract calls for mandatory arbitration, so thereâ€™s no way that the CTA can force the unions to make cuts in wages,â€ DiJohn said. â€œIt puts the CTA in a corner.â€ He explained that the arbitration purpose is to evaluate and resolve any grievances filed by the union against the CTA and, if it is found to be in violation of the contract, such as wage rates, then arbitrator will rule against the CTA.
“Letâ€™s say the CTA wants to unilaterally reduce the bus operator and train operators rates by $2 an hour,â€ he said. â€œTheyâ€™d do it, the union would file a grievance, the grievance would go to arbitration, the arbitrator would look at the contract and the arbitrator would rule that the CTA has to give them those $2 back.â€
In regards to offering privatized services, DiJohn said private entities would still have to adopt CTA policy and that no private entity could compete without subsidies such as what the CTA receives, which covers roughly 50 percent of costs. He added that small steps might help save a little, such as subcontracting owl service or even having the CTA pull out of suburbs it services and letting PACE services take over.
As to what may help resolve the issue, DiJohn said, â€œit may take a crisis.â€ DiJohn also said, â€œThe current cutbacks that occurred were really relatively marginal, likewise with PACE and the Metra. But, if there was a significant, like 25 percent cutback, in service and an increase in fare of 50 percent, that could approach crisis.â€ The gridlock on expressways from those resolving to drive to where they need to go would move transportation up on the priority list of the state, DiJohn added.
On federal help, DiJohn said the CTA received help about 8 years ago in the neighborhood of $70 million a year, but that has gone and unlikely to return. DiJohn said the short-term problems will likely be more service cutbacks for now but could escalate into full service cuts. He added the CTA and PACE measure routes according to efficiency and productivity, which lets the least productive ones go first.