Kruesi responds with dire warning
By Dan Mihalopoulos
Tribune staff reporter
Date of Publication: July 20, 2004
Source: Chicago Tribune
West Side aldermen on Monday strongly urged the Chicago Transit Authority to restore weekend and night service on the Blue Line's renovated Cermak branch, but CTA President Frank Kruesi saidthere would be "serious reductions" on all rail lines next year unless state legislators boost funding.
If lawmakers in Springfield do not vote this fall to change the 21-year-old funding formula for mass transit, Kruesi said, "we will see a very much different, a very much smaller CTA" in 2005.
Kruesi's testimony to a City Council committee did not sway aldermen who blasted his refusal to commit to restore service on the Cermak branch, also known as the Douglas "L."
Some council members said the CTA could not count on their support in its efforts for increased funding from the state until it provides better service to neighborhoods along the Cermak branch.
Ald. Danny Solis (25th) noted that service on the branch is less frequent than on the CTA's other rail lines.
Community activists say the CTA discriminates against the mostly minority neighborhoods along the Cermak branch.
"If [those neighborhoods] are getting less service than others in the city, then they have a right to be upset," Solis said.
The CTA points to the $482 million renovation of the Cermak branch--the largest project in the transit agency's history--as proof of its commitment to the West Side.
But officials say a deficit that could reach $100 million prohibits them from committing to restoring late-night and weekend service.
Failing to add trains to the Cermak branch after the rehabilitation work is completed would be like "buying a Porsche and keeping it in the garage," said Ald. George Cardenas (12th).
"Hispanics and blacks on the West Side have been waiting long enough," Cardenas said.
CTA officials say public funding for the agency has declined over the last 20 years, primarily because of lower sales-tax growth in Chicago compared with the collar counties.
Even fare increases would not be enough to fill the hole in the CTA's budget, Kruesi told the council's Committee on Transportation and the Public Way.
Mayor Richard Daley recently said he would not rule out service cuts and fare increases, but a transit bailout by the state is considered highly unlikely.
While Kruesi has lobbied state lawmakers, the agency has been studying new rail service--tentatively called the Silver Line--linking the Blue and Green Lines near downtown.
Activists fear that the Silver Line would divert some Cermak branch trains serving the Little Village, Pilsen and Lawndale neighborhoods. About 100 West Siders protested before the committee meeting at City Hall and cheered frequently each time an alderman chided Kruesi.
Jovita Flores of Little Village relies on the Blue Line to visit her immigration lawyer and opposes development of the Silver Line.
"First they should make [the Cermak branch] better," Flores said. "Then they can worry about doing other things."
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