Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bankrolling Failure

From, Big Brother begins giving answers only to the questions they approve of being asked, under the guise of "transparency."

Pertinent to this post, I'll refer to you to the question and answer that takes place at about 1:55, as John from Chicago asks the following:

"Will transit and intercity rail projects be a major component of the infrastructure stimulus package, rather than focusing on highway projects?"

For those of you not paying attention, this equates to asking if Obama is going to be bailing out the Chicago Transit Authority, with his Monopoly money "stimulus" plan. There's little reason for shock or awe when the answer is a yes.

As a brief history of events, the CTA has been running slim or at a loss for years. I started riding it regularly when I started college in 1999, and fares have more than doubled since that time, from less than a dollar, to now over two dollars. Ridership currently comes to 1.6 million riders per weekday, on average. At the most recent fares of $2.00 in 2008 (they are only just increasing now for the new year), and taking into account only weekday ridership, that kind of revenue generates, on its own, a yearly revenue stream of $832 million. If we're generous and assume ridership cuts in half on weekends, the total yearly revenue comes to $998,400,000. Based on the RTA's approved yearly operating budget for 2009 of $2.4 billion, which includes PACE (buses) and METRA (commuter trains) as well as the CTA, the Billion Dollar operating budget for the CTA does not seem to me to be that far off the mark, as it runs more trains and buses than either of the other two organizations.

Twice in the past two years alone, once in 2007, and again in 2008, the CTA, which is meant to operate on its own budget, largely independent of city or state, let alone federal tax money, has received bailouts. The 2007 incident saw it receive a $24 million advance against its 2008 operating budget from the RTA, despite already operating at $110 million deficit. The 2008 incident, only three months later, saw the CTA go to Springfield to shake down the state legislature for money to keep the trains and buses rolling, lest they be required to cut services by half! This past year resulted in Blagojevich forcing it through the legislature by including a gubernatorial amendment that seniors receive free rides, thereby shaking down the legislature via the executive seat as well. How exactly did we decide to fund the CTA? Well, since they don't have the authority to create money out of thin air at the state level, they did it by raising Chicago's city sales tax to 10.25% of course!

Apparently this still wasn't enough, because according to the Huffington Post (What? News?), the CTA along with other metropolitan transportation services, has gone the next step already, and has started shaking down the US Congress, asking that the US Treasury back their debt.

Running at a loss didn't stop our government from bailing out the Big Three. I doubt the fact that the CTA continues to run at a nine-figure loss while blatantly refusing to adjust its operations in any way other than charging more with one hand while applying sunblock to the palm of the other will stop them from getting what they want either.

Especially now that the Chicago Machine has its gears turning in the White House.


  1. the fare went up after the New Year from a even $2 to now $2.25. I found this out the hard way when I was on a Clark St. bus last Saturday night

  2. They announced it not too long ago, as they usually do. They just didn't bother to make all too much noise about it. Been there before with some of their past fare hikes. A dime short still doesn't get you on the train!

  3. Not to be too picky, but your statement about Congress bailing out the "Big Three" is not correct. Ford has received no federal funds at all. The funds to GM and Chrysler were loans not the outright grant that I suspect the CTA to get. They have to be paid back and the Feds got a ownership interest in the companies via options. Again, I doubt the CTA will issue such a thing. While none of this dilutes your basic position. The loans to GM and Chrysler are quite different from what is liable to happen here.

  4. Shr_Nfr:

    My point was more toward the effect of being against the bailouts of the automakers in general. Ford, thankfully, didn't want it. GM an Chrysler, however, have been performing horrendously and turning out trash by comparison to the Toyotas, Hondas and Nissans of the world for years. I meant more to draw the parallel to giving money, in either form, loan or giveaway, to any organization that is not performing even to the level of remaining solvent of its own accord.

    As you point out, however, at least those are, in fact loans, and not just straight giveaways to cover up deficiencies as we are likely to see with the CTA and other transportational authorities around the country.

    It's even worse in that respect