Ryan plan is only way to avoid cuts, CTA chief warns


By Gilbert Jimenez

Date of Publication: May 12, 1999
Source: Chicago Sun-Times


More and deeper service cuts for city and suburban CTA riders are "impossible to avoid" if state legislators fail to pass Gov. Ryan's transportation funding package, agency president Frank Kruesi warned Tuesday.

Nearly $1 billion in new funding from Springfield is needed this spring if the CTA is going to leverage $1.6 billion in federal assistance, he said. If it doesn't come now, the agency's five-year capital program will be drastically cut back.

That means fewer buses and trains for its 300,000 daily suburban and 1.1 million city riders, Kruesi told a group of business leaders Tuesday.

The state legislature is slated to adjourn for the summer May 21.

"The $2.8 billion under Gov. Ryan's Illinois FIRST program is really just 70 percent of our capital need, but it will allow us to put the CTA system in a state of good repair. We're not talking gold-plating here," Kruesi said.

But "there's no question about it. We'll have to shrink our operations" without Springfield's help, he said.

The CTA needs 715 new air-conditioned buses, but without Illinois FIRST could afford only 100 of them. And 136 old rail cars in the fleet of 1,100 need replacement.

Although CTA ridership is up, fares don't even begin to pay for services and infrastructure.

Lost federal subsidies and the state's failure to compensate for reduced senior fares are two key factors behind the CTA's deferral of crucial maintenance work, officials said.

"This is worse than `Oh, we'll just have to keep hobbling along,' " said Kruesi. "This is do or die for us."