The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has turned to a surety bond as one of a raft of measures that has enabled it to avoid having to raise its bus and train fares.
The authority had warned its 1.82 million daily customers that it would have to impose hikes on its tariffs, as well as carry out service cuts, if a compromise could not be agreed with its unions to help with closing a $160 million budget gap.
The CTA president, Forrest Claypool, said the Amalgamated Transit Union needed to come up with $80 million worth of concessions by July 1 in order to avoid the rises and the situation looked to be deadlocked until the CTA managed to discover some other areas where savings were possible.
One of the items that allowed the CTA to find some money was replacing a cash-funded debt service with a surety bond, which freed up some $80 million. Another $80 million was found through the accumulated effects of frozen wages, a hiring slowdown, increased ridership, fewer worker injuries than expected, higher sales tax revenue and an unusually mild winter that saw a greatly diminished maintenance bill.
Claypool said, however, that the unions would still have to be looking at concessions for next year’s budget, as the measures that enabled the savings this year were “one-time budget fixes” and could not be repeated next year.
The president of Union Local 308, Robert Kelly, said that he was pleased to hear the news that the CTA had found the savings without cutting services and was marginally more optimistic than usual on the progress of talks for next year’s budget.
He said that the talks with CTA management had been “going better than they usually do”.