Monday, May 7, 2007

Ron Huberman Draft Letter to Springfield

Here's an imaginary draft letter from Ron Huberman, the CTA's new President, to the General Assembly. The premise of the draft is that Huberman is more likely to achieve his ambitious operational goals at the CTA and obtain a larger and more secure stream of long-term operating subsidies and capital funding if the CTA first has to downsize, raise fares and fix its pension problems. Just a thought:

* * *
Dear Legislators:

The RTA's Moving Beyond Congestion effort has brought to your attention the financial challenges facing the region's public transit system. Our needs are great if we are going to build a world-class transit system that this region deserves.

I believe that public agencies should ask for more taxpayer dollars only when absolutely necessary and only when they are as efficient and cost-conscious as they can be. In my short tenure at the CTA, I've become convinced that the CTA is not at that point. As the Auditor General pointed out, the CTA has increased service levels well beyond its available resources. Costly work rules remain in place. The CTA has not prudently funded or managed its pensions. All those involved with the CTA--labor and management alike--share in the blame.

Consequently, I am asking you to put off for one more year any fundamental changes in the level of operating funding for the CTA. Please give the CTA sufficient additional resources to cushion the shocks from the fare increases and deep service reductions that will soon be necessary. I welcome dialogue on what that level of support might be.

I'm pleased to announce in this regard that the Mayor of the City of Chicago has pledged to ask the City Council for a $25 million one-time grant to the CTA to help the CTA make its transition to a new and better way of doing business. We will put all this money to use maintaining essential services and holding down fare increases.

With respect to the other service boards, I urge you to provide adequate funding for paratransit, which serves our region's most vulnerable citizens. I also urge you to provide sufficient capital dollars so the CTA and the other service boards can at least maintain the existing public transit system. If the other service boards have demonstrated to the General Assembly that they are as efficient and cost-conscious as they can be, please consider their requests for major increases in their operating funding. In no way should this letter be construed as lack of support for the Moving Beyond Congestion effort. The CTA simply does not want its challenges to be a distraction that obscures the legitimate needs of Metra and Pace.

Over the next year I will do my best to address the pension, service level and many other issues that you and the Governor have signaled need to be addressed at the CTA before the State will feel it an appropriate use of public money to increase its financial support for the CTA. Only then will the CTA ask you for the substantial additional resources that are certainly necessary if the CTA is to provide the quality of service that this region deserves.

Very truly yours,

Ron Huberman


Anonymous said...

Right-O Plan B

More Transit for Money before
More Money for Transit.

Anonymous said...

What does someone (other than you) think the odds are of:
1. The City Council coming up with $25 million, when the city's contribution to operating has been minuscule, and Daley has said that transit is the State Legislature's problem?
2. Huberman (or anyone in city government) giving a care about Pace and Metra? [Wasn't part of the idea of moving paratransit to Pace to (a) get it off the CTA's books, and (b) put the onus on the Pace board to raise fares to meet the recovery ratio required by the 2005 legislation? The CTA Board, other than Carole Brown, killed a proposal for CTA to raise the paratransit fares in 2005 after Daley said no.]

I'll take the opposite side on either betting proposition.

Anonymous said...

Great letter. Too bad its not real - yet.

Anonymous said...

If you haven't seen it, Chicago Metropolis 2020 has just today released an interesting report calling for substantial reforms in the RTA. More info is available at:

Moderator said...

Jackonthebus--I think the City Council would be receptive, especially the new labor/reform crew. The Mayor probably knows that once the City kicks in $25 million/yr. it will be stuck at that level.

Someone should analyze what the $3 million that the City has kicked in since at least 1983 would be worth today on an inflation-adjusted basis.

My guess is that $25 million wouldn't be that much of an increase on an inflation-adjusted basis.

pc said...

From an online CPI calculator:
"What cost $3000000 in 1983 would cost $6041941.97 in 2006."