Even after Regional Transit Authority board members voted last month to accept emergency funds from the state, regular Chicago Transit Authority users in Chicago’s Albany Park fear the agency may again threaten to cut an important neighborhood bus route.
The city’s mass transit system faces a $110 million budget deficit this year, said CTA Spokeswoman Wanda Taylor.
In addition to route cuts, CTA President Ron Huberman outlined personnel cuts and fare hikes ranging from 50 cents to $1 above the current $2 per ride rate. The changes were to take effect Sept. 16, unless the state government intervened.
On Sept. 14, the proposed cuts were delayed when the Regional Transit Authority, which funds the CTA, approved a $91 million emergency funding plan that included $24 million for the CTA, as reported in the Chicago Sun-Times. The money will cover the CTA’s needs until Nov. 4, when funds will once again run out.
The #80 Irving Park Road busses run the width of the city from Sheridan to Harlem avenues. The express bus makes limited stops at major intersections to speed up the commute time. It is one of 39 bus routes slated to be cut by CTA.
Riders say this would result in overcrowding and longer waits for other buses on this route.
A July 2007 ridership report found the #80 express bus served an average of 3,353 riders per weekday in July, the latest month for which data was available, and an average of 12,793 people rode the regular #80 bus.
Both ridership numbers were up about 7 percent from July 2006. If the #80 express bus were cut, those riders would have to find a new mode of transportation, most likely the regular #80 bus.
“People here depend on that bus, and a service cut would force them onto the regular buses,” said Lila Pifer, 52, who takes the Irving Park bus to and from her Albany Park antique business. “Whenever CTA talks about cutting routes, it’s always the express buses. I’m sure we’ll hear more threats in the next few months.”
She would end up waiting another 10 to 20 minutes, Pifer estimated, if the #80 express bus were cut.
Gary Medina, an aide to Ald. Richard Mell (33rd), said he has received many complaints from residents about CTA service.
“We’re a lucky neighborhood in some ways because we have the trains and several bus lines. But we haven’t been able to get a bus on Kedzie Avenue for more than 20 years and CTA’s been threatening service cuts, so it’s a mixed bag,” Medina said. “A lot of people use that Irving Park express bus, and they definitely come to us wondering whether their bus line’s going to get cut.”
The state legislature failed to pass a $435 million comprehensive mass transit funding and reform bill, which is explained in detail on state Rep. Julie Hamos’ (D-Evanston) Web site. Senate Bill 572 would provide long-term solutions for mass transit funding.
While the emergency advance gives lawmakers more time to work out a funding plan, the funds are an advance from the RTA’s 2008 budget. This plan makes some residents skeptical of the government’s ability to fix the funding problem.
“I don’t take the buses myself,” said Jacob Gershberg, a 64-year-old tobacconist whose shop is on Irving Park Road.
“I’ve been reading about it in the paper and it looks like a lot of people are mad,” Gershberg said. “To me, it seems like bad business to borrow next year’s money. It’s just going to lead to more problems in the future.”
A spokeswoman for Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Kristen Lemser, said the governor had given no indication of what kind of funding plan he would like to see.
“We haven’t had a memo issued on that,” Lemser said.
Northwest Side Public Transportation
albany park alderman richard mell cta mass transit x80 bus
The comments attributed to me in this story are not mine, and I older than 52. They must have confused another person’s comments with mine. Lila Pifer