Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sheriff Wyatt Yawp Rides High In Kane County

The Daily Herald reported the recent comments of Kane County Board member Bill Wyatt. According to the report, Wyatt "railed" on the Chicago Transit Authority as a "brother that you can't control" at the expense of its suburban siblings Metra and Pace.

Wyatt went on to say: "'People in the suburbs, in my opinion, need to know that Pace is not the problem. Metra is not the problem. The problem's in the city of Chicago,'" Wyatt, an Aurora Republican, said at Tuesday's Kane County Board meeting."

Wyatt's assessment that "Pace is not the problem" doesn't bear scrutiny. By any measure except raw dollars, Pace is in a much deeper in the financial hole than the CTA:

Unfunded 2008 Deficit: $158,000,000
2007 Expenses $1,079,052,000
2007 Revenue: $541,800,000
2007 Ridership: 493,600,000

Unfunded deficit as a percentage of expenses: 14.6%
Unfunded deficit as a percentage of revenue: 29.2%
Per trip unfunded deficit: $0.32

Unfunded 2008 Deficit: $32,900,000
2007 Expenses: $164,757,000
2007 Revenue: $56,435,000
2007 Ridership: 38,900,000

Unfunded deficit as a percentage of expenses: 20.0%
Unfunded deficit as a percentage of revenue: 58.3%
Per trip unfunded deficit: $0.85

In other words, Pace's unfunded 2008 deficit is much larger than the CTA's unfunded deficit when measured as a percentage of operating expense or revenue or on a per trip basis.

By way of comparison, if the CTA's unfunded deficit percentages were the same as Pace's unfunded deficit percentages then the CTA's unfunded operating deficit would range from $215,474,000 (% of revenue measure) to $417,466,000 (unfunded deficit per ride measure.)

Note that Pace's funded operating deficit is higher on a percentage basis than the CTA's funded operating deficit as well. Pace is only required to generate about 40 percent of its revenue from its operations while the CTA (like Metra) has to generate over 50 percent of its revenue from operations. In other words, big brother CTA and little sibling Metra are subsidizing Pace even in the best of times.

Wyatt's comments came at a Kane County Board meeting attended by Metra and Pace representatives, but apparently not the CTA. There is no indication from the report that the Metra or Pace representatives stood up for their CTA "sibling" in the face of Wyatt's verbal onslaught.

Wyatt's apparently unchallenged statements are yet another reason why the RTA (but not CMAP) should be scaled back to possibly two counties (Cook, DuPage) and no more than four counties (add Lake and Will) that have the interest and political will to support a regional transportation system. Once cut loose from the RTA, Kane, McHenry and perhaps other counties could contract with the RTA for service (e.g., Metra service to Elburn) and/or put together self-made and self-funded transit systems on their own. In a time of financial distress, why shouldn't the RTA be scaled back to its core service area, sparing it the potshots and endless yawping from knuckleheads in Kane and McHenry Counties.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Emil Jones on Wednesday:
"We didn't cause this problem. We are trying to help."
Reporter: "Who did."
Jones: "CTA management of course."

Why don't you tear into Jones, too? Or is this part of your anti-collar county crusade?

Any comment on State Sen. Ricky Hendon saying that "white people make theirs, why not black neighborhoods" with regard to the casinos being more important than resolving the transit mess?

6:16 is correct.

Anonymous said...

A strike will show those in the collar counties!

Don't you find it curious that the press conference where the head of ATU Local 308 threatened a job action was not held in Union Hall, but at the RTA Headquarters? Who is jobbing whom?

Also, rest assured that suburban Cook and DuPage want nothing to do with the CTA. Instead of walking out, maybe Daley should do something to foster a resolution of the problem.

Anonymous said...

So are you telling me that if CTA raised fares 32 cents, the operational funding deficit would disappear. If they raised it 40 - 50 cents they could work on deficits from previous years?

sabrina said...

Oh noes, Moderator! The anonymous suburbanites are going to give you what-for!

Anon @ 8:44: What on earth could Richard Daley do to convince collar counties that they should help? I mean, in all seriousness -- what could he possibly do?

I'm in favor of a strike. I want to see what happens when all those Metra riders and NIMBY private car drivers get downtown to work and can't get any Dunkin' Donuts or Potbelly's because those people couldn't get to work. It'll be performance art by that point. And I'll just walk the four miles to get home.

Anonymous said...

It does make one wonder what the root cause of the current RTA planning department restructuring is. Obviously money is tight, but beyond that...?

Anonymous said...

Sabrina: What are the Metra riders going to do if CTA discontinues the depot shuttles and Pace discontinues the feeders, both as promised in all doomsday plans? So your strike threat and snark directed toward suburbanites makes little difference, except, perhaps with regard to when the threat is implemented.

And if there is nothing that Daley could do to convince the suburbanites, why is he continually appealing to the legislature instead of finding a way to fix the CTA's problems that doesn't involve the suburbanites and downstaters? Don't forget that Frank Kruesi started this by saying that the collar county tax rate should be increased to 1%, without any contribution by Chicago. Is that an example of the CTA management fault cited by Jones?

Anonymous said...

One possible advantage of a strike: don't think riders on the primary grid won't be affected. Also remember, Local 308, which made the threat, represents the rapid transit workers. Go ahead, shut down the L.

Anonymous said...

12:18:00 PM

Can you elaborate a bit... a clue at least as to the meaning of your cryptic comment?

Tom Bamonte said...

8:18: Senator Jones did not go on to say "Pace and Metra aren't the problem," as did Mr. Wyatt from Kane County. Hence, I did not go after Senator Jones. The equitable distribution of casino monies and of ownership shares in a publicly-chartered casino strike me as a good thing. Do you have a problem with that approach? The devil, of course, is in the details.

8:44: It is very interesting that the RTA, long the leading proponent of privatized transit services, provided a bully pulpit for a CTA union leader to expound about a "job action."

12:05: The math speaks for itself. However, I believe that the CTA counts every link of a journey as a trip. Thus, you would have to tack on 32+ cents to every transfer as well to make up the projected deficit. In addition, you would have to set the "trip" fare higher to offset the ridership loss from the higher fares.

Sabrina: A strike is illegal. Plus, if you are a CTA union member with sufficient seniority to escape the Doomsday job cuts are you inclined to strike to support a legislative proposal that will have an adverse effect on your compensation?

Plus, stranding Metra commuters makes the Chicago central business district a less attractive place to do business and be employed. That can't be a good thing for the region's public transit system since roughly half of the CBD workers take public transit.

12:18: Details on the changes to the RTA's Planning Department would be appreciated. An earlier post on this blog noted the lengthy titles of the RTA planning executives:

Have those titles or positions been scaled back?

12:43: Why shouldn't the whole region pay the same tax rate for a regional transportation system? Sure, the urban core gets more service, but the suburbs get more heavily subsidized service. If the 'burbs want more Metra service and demand response service (at $25-$30 ride) then they have to chip in.

12:47: More effective than a strike by transit workers, who would be characterized as a bunch of overpaid ingrates, would be a day where all users of public transit stayed home from work and play as a way of demanding action to preserve the region's public transit system. That kind of "blue flu" would send a far more powerful message.

Anonymous said...

I think the entire region should pay the same % RTA tax. I believe this would be more palatable if there was a guarantee of dial a ride for special populations guaranteed all over the region -- without extra money from the townships. We should count the tax money paid by townships to have dial a ride service either a) like sales tax, althought it is an extra property tax paid for transit in the suburbs or b) unfair charge to locations already paying RTA sales tax for transit but who have to pay even more to have public transportation in their location. Why do local communities have to provide their own public transportation if we have a suburban public transportation provider?

From Pace "Pace has service agreements with villages and townships
for the operation of 30 other dial-a-ride projects.
In most cases, the local community operates the service.
For 2008, Pace’s funding formula for service agreements
is based on providing a subsidy of $2.25 per trip or 75%
of deficit, whichever is less ($2.25/75%)."

Anonymous said...

"The equitable distribution of casino monies and of ownership shares in a publicly-chartered casino strike me as a good thing. Do you have a problem with that approach?" No, if that was being proposed. However, I have problems with the overt racial politics (the reference to "white people making theirs") and making it a precondition to talking transit, which was supposed to be the topic of the summit. It also appears that you make very fine distinctions between suburban politicians on which you heap contempt, and city politicians, on whom you don't. You could have made a point about Pace and Metra also having financial problems without invoking "Sheriff Yawp." Other than that, he didn't say anything any different than Jones, except, of course, that Jones does have the power to move the legislation.

The comments about the tax rate were basically in response to Sabrina's comment "What on earth could Richard Daley do to convince collar counties that they should help?" That is what Daley and his minions have been trying to do for three years, unsuccessfully to this point. Also, he is apparently relying on Jule Hamos, a suburban legislator to carry the SB572 water.

7:04 is right that commensurate community services need to be provided as a condition of obtaining that kind of suburban support. You continue to perpetuate the myth that vanpool and demand response services have a subsidy of $25 a ride, when that is the ADA paratransit rate--vanpool has a recovery ratio of over 100%, and as that commentator points out from the Pace budget, the community services subsidy is 1/10th of what you assert.

Please stop the snide comments and misinformation.

Anonymous said...

Moderator said:
"In a time of financial distress, why shouldn't the RTA be scaled back to its core service area, sparing it the potshots and endless yawping from knuckleheads in Kane and McHenry Counties."

O.K., here's the deal. The suburban areas take care of the approximately $40 million Pace deficit and $60 million Metra one, and decide among themselves how to spit it. Chicago, you are on the hook for the burgeoning $155 million CTA deficit and pension problems, problems which Daley appointees created. Tell Daley and friends to quit yawping.

Anonymous said...

I meant split it. Also, from your later post, it is apparently only a $32 million Pace problem and $40 million Metra one. Chicago, you are still on the hook for $155 million.

Tom Bamonte said...


If suburban Cook County funds your proposed deficit solution in proportion to its CTA/Metra/Pace ridership shares I suspect you might have a deal.

An important part of any long-term solution is to find a way to stop the identification of service boards with either the City of Chicago or the suburbs. Consider combining Pace bus and CTA bus into one operating unit and Metra rail and CTA rail into one operating unit and tuck both into a regional transit authority that has operational responsibilities and hence direct financial accountability.

Currently, the RTA has financial oversight responsibility but no "skin in the game" as it were. Other than perhaps a measure of public censure from a few cranky bloggers, the RTA has not felt any adverse consequences from its wrongheaded and possibly unlawful decision to approve seriously unbalanced 2007 service board budgets.

When you have to make payroll, it concentrates your attention a bit more than the RTA Board has demonstrated.

Anonymous said...

10:17 here, now we are closer to making a deal.

However, there are several conditions:

1. I have no problem with a unified transit system, even with separate bus and rail operating divisions. However, its governing body must be properly apportioned--including abolishing the CTA Board and the mayor's control over it. Also, other players are not entitled to political set asides. Are Daley and Stroger willing to settle for that in return for tax increases for the RTA, and are Blagojevich, Madigan and Jones willing to exert enough leadership to put that through? I think we both agree that the current RTA board doesn't have what it takes to accomplish the proposed increased role, and should be reconstituted, as it was in 1983. Giving the unions a platform for the "job action" threat shows where the RTA's priorities lie.

2. Any idea that suburban Cook County is responsible for a proportion of the CTA's deficit depends on (a) an accurate measure of its share, and (b) eliminating service overlap with Pace, as the Auditor General recommended and the legislature flubbed. It must be based on passenger miles, not boardings, and it must be based on some authority mandating which agency serves which area.

Of course, if we get the unified transit system, your suggestion that suburban Cook County subsidize its undefined portion of the CTA becomes moot. In any event, SB572 is so out of tune with the proper approach of one operating entity, or at least assuring efficiently run agencies, that now I have little care about what happens to it in its current form.

Anonymous said...

The second blogger and Mr. Jones hit the nail on the head. Yaers and years of mis-management, patronage and bloat at the expense of all. Sure, it's conviemnent to rail on suburbanites and "take your eye off the ball" as Daley wants us to do.

Tom Bamonte said...

11/17 9:25 a.m.--

You state: "You continue to perpetuate the myth that vanpool and demand response services have a subsidy of $25 a ride, when that is the ADA paratransit rate--vanpool has a recovery ratio of over 100%, and as that commentator points out from the Pace budget, the community services subsidy is 1/10th of what you assert."

I can't speak to the vanpool costs, but surely the demand response services have a cost structure similar to ADA paratransit, e.g., roughly $25/ride. It may be true that Pace's current share of the cost of demand response service provided by local communities is less than that full cost. My focus, however, was not on Pace's current share of those costs but rather at the costly nature of the service itself.

The suburban communities that want more demand response service and no doubt struggle to pay the high cost of such service are trying to off-load those costs to the region. The current version of SB 572 allocates $20 million annually to the Suburban Community Mobility Fund to pay for such service. Likely a portion of the $10 million set aside annually for the Innovation, Coordination and Enhancement Fund will be used to fund such demand response services.

The juxtaposition of cutting Pace and CTA bus routes that cost say $5/ride in the name of efficiency while expanding suburban demand response service that costs several times as much would be interesting to say the least. Senator Hendon no doubt would have something to say about that once the demographic effects of that shift in service modes were realized.

In sum, I question the wisdom of tacking on more demand response service to an already inadequate funding stream for mainline transit service. That is why I support letting Kane and McHenry Counties out of the RTA so they can build and fund demand response service which no doubt is better suited to their areas for the most part than mainline service.

Anonymous said...

Considering that the South Cook-Will plan suggests putting DAR in places like Phoenix, Olympia Fields, and West Joliet, what is the racism isssue? More misinformation.

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