Daley: CTA's Woes Paint "Very, Very Ugly" Economic Picture

Transit agency recommended service cuts, fare hikes Monday

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    NBCChicago.com

    Mayor Richard Daley didn't offer any specific suggestions, but empathized with the Chicago Transit Authority's latest budget woes and said that things are likely going to get worse before they get better.

    "No one wants to see fare increases or service cuts, but they are in a very difficult position," Daley said during a press event touting new technology initiatives at the Aon Building.

    He said the recommendations the CTA announced Monday -- which cut 827,000 hours of bus service and 57,803 hours of rail service in an effort to close a $300 million budget gap -- paint a "very, very ugly" picture of the current economy.

    The transit agency last week announced measures to cut $122 million from its budget, but it still about $180 million short.

    "People are getting laid off, people are cutting back, taking cutbacks in your pay, taking furlough days off and things like that. It's happening all over, and government is not immune to this," he said.

    The mayor didn't explicitly state an opinion, but said ""they have to revisit everything," including the free rides for senior program, for which the CTA has said costs between $30 million and $60 million per year.

    He said the fare hike could inadvertently end up costing the CTA money rather than bringing in needed revenue.

    "When you raise fares, it drives people away, you know that. And that's why they're coming up with every form of cost savings in regards to keep the CTA reasonable and fair to everyone," he said.

    He didn't have encouraging words for those trying to weather the economic storm.

    "It's going to get worse, and it's not going to get much better .  It's getting worse, especially the fall and the winter, it will get worse," he said.

    The CTA's budget proposal, which is targeted for Feb. 7, would make fares on the nation's second-largest transit system the most expensive in the country.  Riders are welcome to give their feedback on the recommendations at three budget meetings scheduled through Nov. 3.