Once again angry Chicago Transit Authority riders showed up to a public hearing about the CTA’s proposed service cuts, fare increases and layoffs on Monday night.
This was the third hearing in two weeks about the drastic threats made in one of two possible 2005 budgets proposed by the board. The so-called “doomsday” budget is claimed to be unavoidable by the CTA board if additional funding is not granted from the state. Community groups and other riders have been skeptical about the board’s real reasons for requesting more money and very critical of the CTA’s attack on disabled riders, by doubling paratransit fees, in either budget.
While Monday night’s hearing at Evanston Township High School in the northern suburb had a smaller turn out and calmer crowd than the two previous hearings this month, rider after rider still expressed their opposition to service cuts and layoffs. One rider tried to explain to the bored CTA officials that public transit is the people’s service, not the executive’s service. Another woman expressed contempt at having to come to such “farce” hearings year after year, always after decisions have been made and already set into motion.
Regarding the increase in paratransit fares, presentations were again made by users who stressed that they were simply unable to afford $150 per month passes. While the CTA may have thought they could get away with attacks on the disabled without much fuss, they are being proved wrong. As on man stated loud and clear, “Do not even try to raise paratransit fares in January.”
Again the CTA board sat silent during the hearing, except to say that they had answered people’s questions in a document available at the check-in table. The document had not changed since the last hearing on October 19 at the Chicago State University, when audience members could not find their direct questions to the board made at the first hearing within it.
Security was also beefed up this time around, with at least one audience member being told he would be escorted out if he were to cheer out loud again.
The final public hearing this month will be the CTA’s annual budget hearing at 4p.m on Wednesday October 27th at the Palmer House (17 East Monroe). A large turn out is expected with many groups ready to confront CTA President Frank Kruesi and the rest of the CTA board.