Detailed leaflet with information about resistance to fare hikes in Chicago buses.
Fight the CTA!
April 13, 2005 -- The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) met this morning and approved a new "doomsday budget" that will go into effect July 17th, unless the CTA gets more money from state legislators. The budget will reduce bus and "L" service by 36%, more-or-less to Sunday levels every day. This means increasing the average wait time by 68%, completely eliminating 54 bus routes, completely eliminating the Purple Line on the "L" and laying off 2000 CTA workers. It also means raising the fare for people paying cash from $1.75 to $2.00 a ride as well as not allowing them to buy transfers. These fare increases will follows on the heels of the January 2004 increase that raised the base fare from $1.50 to $1.75.
A version of these service cuts and fare increases was originally scheduled to go into effect January 1st of this year. In mid December in an atmosphere of increasing protests and a campaign of organized fare evasion, state representatives made vague promises to increase funding by this spring and the CTA voted to delay the cuts 6 months.
DOOMSDAY FOR WHO?
The CTA say they need more money from Springfield to cover the $55 million deficit in their operational budget. "We have to pick a poison," said CTA board member Nicholas Zagotta. But who is being poisoned? At the same time that the CTA is threatening massive service cuts, they are planning to build a whole new "L" line in a circle around downtown that will cost them and the city over $2 billion. They are also planning a new downtown superstation ("Block 37") which will allow people to check their luggage in the CTA station and then take express trains out to either Midway or O'Hare airport. It seems yuppies, tourists and businessmen are being spared the poison while the everyday working class transit riders and workers are having a nasty cocktail of service cuts, fare increases and job losses forced down our throats.
How is all this seen by the CTA bureaucrats? "We look at this as an insurance policy" said CTA Board Chairwoman Carole Brown. In other words, if the CTA doesn't get more money, they won't have to endanger their larger plans for transit in the city, and will instead balance their budget on the backs of working people in the city.
MORE THAN A LITTLE NERVOUS
Nevertheless the CTA (and Mayor Daley's political machine it is tied to) aren't feeling too sure of themselves. Their plan to whip up everyone into a frenzy and get more money from Springfield has not worked quite how they wanted. They know that there is a lot of anger against the CTA over this issue, and that they have to be careful. Now they are at least claiming that they want to minimize cuts to poorer neighborhoods. The proposed fare increase of cash fares (not Chicago Card fares) is a way of heading off fare evasion. They are also cracking down on protest.
Last Saturday a small protest called by Midwest Unrest was attacked by Chicago Police. The protest was to meet in a park and then march to the house of CTA President Frank Kruesi, three blocks away. When protesters arrived in the park, there were signs from the Chicago Police Department saying that if the protest left the park they would be arrested. After a short rally in the park, protesters decided to leave and flyer the neighborhood. When they began to leave, police blocked their way and arrested two people. "The police were acting like Kruesi's personal body guards" said one protester. "We aren't going to be intimidated by this," said Chelsea Lee, a spokesperson for Midwest Unrest, "We'll be back for sure, and with more people."
The two arrested are being charged with violation of a city ordinance that prohibits protesting at a private residence--a ridiculous charge, as there have previously been protests at Kruesi's house by other groups that were not attacked. The CTA and the City are doing everything they can to be in a good position for the coming conflict over service cuts.
IT'S FIGHT OR WALK
Few people are jumping on Kruesi's bandwagon and sending in the postcards they are giving out to the Governor, and the state reps. Community groups and just pissed off riders and workers have been coming up with all sorts of alternative ideas on what the CTA, the City and the State could do. We support these efforts, but believe that they need to be taken further. It's not for lack of ideas that the CTA is planning these cuts. There is money for cameras and GPS devices to monitor drivers but not to pay their wages and benefits. There is money for undercover transit cops and aggressive anti-graffiti campaigns, but they have to raise the fare. There is money for new "L" lines around downtown and express trains to the airports, but not to maintain regular service. The budget crisis is built in--it's a convenient excuse for citywide attacks on working class Chicagoans (whether we work for the CTA or not). It's part of an offensive that, if left unchecked, will leave us all working 16 hours a day, then walking home, to a house we share with 10 other people, eating plain macaroni for dinner and hoping we don't get drafted and sent to die in the Middle East. We can't sit around and wait for the politicians and union leaders to fix things for us. They won't. We have to get together and fight for ourselves. At this point it's fight or walk.
Get in touch if you want fight the service cuts, layoffs and fare hikes.