Despite what some politicians here in Chicago might lead you to believe, increasing taxes and fees seem to be the norm around here these days - especially in a tough economy where overall tax revenues are way down, although operating and capital costs continue to rise.
But will raising taxes and fees really generate more money? Or, will impacted Chicago Residents change their behaviors to avoid paying the new taxes and fees?
Two years ago, when Chicago and Cook County IL Sales Tax Levies increased - initially to help stave off financial disaster for the CTA, and then, ostensibly, for Cook County Services - consumers who could afford to left the city, and, in some cases, the county, to purchase in neighboring towns and counties. Those who could not leave town to shop, or who had to ride the CTA El Trains or Buses, were often left picking up the tab!
Usually, as rapid transit fares on our storied CTA El Trains, and our buses, go up, a certain percentage of riders find other ways to get to work, or get around. In other words, simply increasing fares will not result in a lateral increase in revenues.
As announced earlier this week, and reported by Chicago Tribune "Getting Around" Reporter Jon Hilkevitch in yesterday's Trib, CTA President Richard Rodriguez presented a new Chicago Transit Authority Budget which, if adopted, would bring CTA El Train Fares to some of the highest in the U.S. for a major city - $3.00 per ride, from the current $2.25 level. That's an increase of 1/3!
Bus fares would increase roughly 11%, to $2.50 per ride, from $2.25 presently. Monthly and weekly bus passes would also climb under the new fare structure.
But the icing on the cake? Service cuts - substantial ones - that would reduce service on 110 of the 150 CTA Routes in Chicago. Waiting times might double in some areas. Express service would be curtailed.
And hundreds of CTA Jobs - many of them union employees - could be eliminated. With unemployment so high in Chicago and across the nation these days, these CTA job cuts seem to be coming at exactly the wrong time for employees affected.
The reason for the draconian measures?
A projected $300 Million CTA Budget Shortfall, brought on by fewer tax dollars coming from the State of Illinois, coupled with reduced overall ridership due to the recessionary economy. (In times of high unemployment, fewer ride mass transit - because fewer have a job requiring a daily commute!)
The problem - such a substantial fare increase, coupled with service cuts, could keep more riders away from the CTA, perhaps back into their far-less-fuel-efficient cars. That's not good for the environment!
In the long run, it's not good for the CTA either! Another fare hike, and more service cuts, would need to be implemented to fill another likely revenue hole a couple of years down the line.
The vicious circle - very likely to continue, one might imagine!
See our post today via BlogChicagoHomes.com.
DEAN & DEAN'S TEAM CHICAGO