Saturday, October 4, 2008

Confidence vote for area transit; RTA official calls woes 'manageable'

The problems confronting Chicago-area mass transit are completely "manageable," the chief of the Regional Transportation Authority told city aldermen Thursday in a surprisingly upbeat assessment.

It clashed with dire budget warnings from the transit agencies about the effects of high fuel costs and lost revenue because of free rides now being provided to some passengers.

Regarding day-to-day service, a small boost in the transit subsidy that the state provided in January will provide stability "for years to come" in the operating budgets of the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace, RTA Chairman Jim Reilly told the Chicago City Council Transportation Committee.

Fare increases will be required from time to time, Reilly said, but it is "way too early" to say whether the CTA or Pace will need to increase fares in 2009, he said.

Metra, which boosted fares in February, has already ruled out another hike next year. But CTA Chairman Carole Brown has made it clear the agency's budget challenges are severe and that a fare increase "has to be on the table."

Transit insiders said Reilly's portrayal Thursday of transit operations being on an even keel could be used against the CTA when the agency announces its next fare hike. Reilly said the biggest problem facing the transit system is that the state has not provided capital funding in four years.

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Posted by: ValBona Kokoshi

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