Chicago Tribune, May 29, 2007

CTA riders

This is in response to "The CTA's self-help strategy" (Editorial, May 23). As a public transit activist and advocate for more than 10 years, I have listened to, at our monthly meetings and sundry public forums, virtually every conceivable suggestion for improving this central public enterprise known as the CTA.

The Tribune's suggestions, i.e., eliminate CTA employee pensions and benefits and increase fares, rank as perhaps the most pedestrian from a transportation perspective.

Amazingly the editorial board then declares that "lawmakers should embrace this."

Under no circumstances have we, Citizens Taking Action for transit dependent riders, ever collectively advanced that service levels should be maintained at the expense of drivers or operators. If a bus either does not come, or is crowded, you cannot blame the driver. They are too easy a target and don't exercise any authority over operations.

The pensions and health benefits of the employees were established through collective bargaining, established though mediation or the decision of an arbiter. They don't, under labor law, have to do this over again, and the matter is not subject to new negotiations. It's a done deal. The employer can't say, well I've changed my mind, or things are different now. The employer looked them in the eye, and shook their hands.

And the so-called modern "401(k)-style program[s]" are simply a device clearly invented to avoid paying employees a pension.

As for a fare increase, for a number of years I have done a study comparing transit fares of the 25 major cities in the country. Chicago has always been either the highest or within the top three. It amounts simply to a regressive tax on the poor who simply have no other choice.

A recommendation to increase fares, given congestion, pollution and fuel shortages attendant to automobiles, is not the way to increase transit ridership. Most riders simply want to go to and from work, school or store, and being a good citizen, providing for your own, is not something I have ever thought should be penalized.

Charles Paidock


Citizens Taking Action for transit dependent riders