Today's Chicago Tribune explains that while the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has serious problems funding its daily operations, it has an even bigger problem finding the $6 billion required to make capital improvements:
The CTA says it is more than $6 billion short of adequately modernizing its rail and bus lines, a staggering number lost in the debate as the agency lurches from one "doomsday" to another searching for the tens of millions of dollars it needs to keep operating.
The result is that more than 500 CTA buses, one-fourth of its fleet, have been on the road for 16 years, logging an average 580,000 miles apiece.
The cost of repairing and maintaining the old buses is soaring. The CTA said it spends $16 million a year to keep the old buses in running order, more than five-fold the $3 million cost for upkeep on newer models.
Reporter Jon Hilkevich does examine some of the reasons for the funding shortfall:
Increasing amounts of the CTA's capital budget -- more than a combined $150 million since 2003 -- have been diverted to operations to help balance annual budgets and reduce the threatened service cuts and fare increases under the CTA's doomsday plans.
At the same time, capital funding to the CTA has fallen by almost $200 million a year since the Illinois FIRST infrastructure program expired almost five years ago.
Without the state launching a successor to Illinois FIRST, non-federal capital funding to the CTA during the next five years is projected at one-tenth the level in 2002, according to CTA budget documents.