CTA head Ron Huberman and other local transit officials faced the City Council today and faced criticism on potential fare hikes and the debacle that is the Block 37 project. On the subject of a fare increase, Huberman said:
Ultra-low diesel, which is what we use on our buses, has increased 80 percent. Next year, we will be spending $50 million more for the same quantity of fuel than we spent the prior year. Electrical costs are coming in over 25 percent higher than they were the prior year. That means that we will be spending $7 million more just for electricity,” Huberman said.
“The real estate transfer tax is coming in substantially below what we had anticipated. The sales tax is coming in at nine percent below. And the free rides program is also impacting our bottom line. When you take a look at the totality of those factors, it is creating a very challenging budget year.”
“I cannot stand here today and say it’s going to happen. I can tell you we’re seriously contemplating it.
Oh, Ron, stop teasing and just say it: we'll be paying $2.50 a ride next year. RTA Chairman Jim Reilly was more direct, saying, “Going forward, we’re gonna vigorously utilize the enhanced fiscal oversight powers given to use to ensure that transit services are provided as efficiently as possible while also seeking to coordinate hopefully modest increases every few years to provide continuity for riders.”
As for the Block 37 station, on which $213 million has already been spent, there were harsh words from Ald. Thomas Allen (38th), who also serves as chairman of the council's Transportation Committee. "The peasants should be involved in the planning because the peasants ride the trains...We need more input on public transportation." Um, thanks? Allen also referred to the station as, "a hole in the ground." With the station's construction halted for the foreseeable future, the CTA admitted another $100 million would be needed to complete the project. You know, for a station that would provide trains to the airport. Kind of like what the Blue and Orange lines already do.