By Jon Hilkevitch
7:51 PM CST, December 3, 2012
CTA President Forrest Claypool stood next to a photo of a nuclear mushroom cloud circled in red with a line through it and declared Monday that the transit agency is "moving beyond doomsday."
Claypool told the City Club of Chicago that CTA riders and the agency's workforce would have faced "massive cuts to service and massive layoffs" next year if the CTA hadn't introduced management reforms, cost savings in a new labor contract and fare increases affecting all types of CTA passes as part of the 2013 budget.
He said the recently completed labor negotiations that generated $60 million in savings were difficult, especially with the bus and rail union locals of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which Claypool described as a "two-headed monster, I should say two-headed beast." He then explained that "I mean that very affectionately."
"We were able to finally put the (budget) doomsday scenarios of the past behind us," Claypool told the luncheon crowd of business leaders and politicians.
In addition to the image of a nuclear blast, he used other props — photos of sardine cans and a tub of spilled red ink — to illustrate how the CTA will "de-crowd" buses and trains starting Dec. 16 and keep its financial house tidy moving forward.
One graphic depicting future stability in the operating budget showed revenue and expenses on a parallel trajectory going all the way out to 2020.
Reminded afterward by a reporter that CTA and Regional Transportation Authority officials turned out to be wrong when they predicted four years ago that transit doomsdays were over as a result of a small increase in the sales tax and CTA employee pension and health care reforms, Claypool insisted it's different this time around.
"We've finally structurally fixed the CTA's finances," he said. "The heavy lifting of getting this massive budget deficit, more than $300 million, eradicated is behind us. That provides a stable fiscal footing going forward that protects critical service on bus and rail as well as the jobs that provide that service."
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