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Brown tells House CTA is poised with $500 million in "shovel-ready" projects

Late last month, CTA Board Chairwoman Carole Brown told a U.S. House committee that the CTA has more than $500 million in "shovel-ready" transit projects "to fix slow zones on our rail system and buy rail cars and buses."

Brown wrote about her testimony last week on her rarely-updated blog. Her full testimony on Jan. 22 to the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee can be found here.

Here's where we stand on the transit funding in the $825 billion economic stimulus bill, aka, the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009." The bill passed the House last week with about $12 billion for mass transit projects -- after some Illinois House members lobbied for $3 billion more than was originally allocated. It still has to pass the Senate. It's expected to be signed into law by President's Day, Feb. 16. 

But the CTA hasn't been guaranteed any money yet. But it's ready and able to spend at least $500 million quickly, said Brown in her testimony:

"... (A)s long as federal stimulus money flows quickly and directly to the CTA rather than being held up at the state or regional level, we could obligate more than $500 million in 90 days to fix slow zones on our rail system and buy rail cars and buses. This would create over 1,000 high paying construction jobs in Chicago, and countless other jobs in places such as St. Cloud, Minnesota, where New Flyer would construct buses for the CTA system. Unfortunately, New Flyer . . . has informed the CTA that if they do not receive orders from transit agencies soon – the CTA has an option for over 50 buses with New Flyer - they will be forced to close their St. Cloud plant."

Below is a chart showing unfunded capital needs that Brown showed panel members.

CTA 2009 unfunded capital needs  

Comments

Thanks for the update Kevin. Also, please correct the 4th paragraph, even I can spend $500 quickly.

Oops. Thanks for the eagle eye John. I fixed that to read $500 *million*. The Tattler editor job is still open. No pay, lotsa work, but great prestige! LOL!

Go Steelers!

You have to wonder who is giving the spin when Carole Brown says that NF will have to close a plant, but NF says it has a great order backlog and doesn't expect any cancellations, as well as 25% of the orders being firm.

http://newflyer.com/index/news-app/story.62

Carole hasn't had a good track record on her blog, especially when the facts are inconsistent with her latest crusade, but then again, if NF's orders are like the 58 CTA ones previously discussed, who knows?

You can't believe everyone.

BTW, your preview is much better!

So, this would provide about 7% of our unfunded needs. It's not much, but it's a start.

You'd think based on the numbers on that chart, that we could spend more than $500 million with the bus fleet and rail alone requiring $2 billion between them.

Is traction power the category for third rail power? Anyone know more specifics on what this money would go towards other than simple updating?

>>>
You'd think based on the numbers on that chart, that we could spend more than $500 million with the bus fleet and rail alone requiring $2 billion between them.
<<<

Oh, no doubt. There's no doubt that even more than that could be spent, too.

But the key is not all those projects are ready to go. The idea behind this Federal money is it's suposed to go to projects that will create more jobs than a few engineers and project managers. These are the projects that are ready to be implimented within about 90 days.

There are only so many dollars to go around. It's important that as long as there are projects anywhere in the country that are ready to go can go ahead before money starts to go to projects that still need significant planning.

Yeah, I just figured between those categories that more would be "ready to go" considering the age of many of the buses and train cars.

"During the morning and evening rush periods, Red Line trains will run every three-and-a-half to four minutes. With Red Line trains operating eight minutes faster, a trip from the Howard terminal to downtown will take approximately 32 minutes compared to an average of 40 minutes during three-track operation.

And the frequency of Purple Express trains to the Loop will increase from every 15 minutes to every eight minutes during the rush periods. A trip on a Purple Express train from Howard to downtown will be 35 minutes compared to 40 minutes during three-track."

Does anyone understand why the purple "express" is slower than the red line to the loop? Is it due to slow zones?

Chris:

It is probably due to the fact that they trail Brown Line trains into the Loop. Additional stops at Diversey, Wellington (future), and Armitage, as well as snaking around the old tracks south of Armitage, instead of running in the subway.

Having ridden Purple Line trains, they usually pass a couple of Red Line trains north of Belmont, although sometimes they get held up waiting for Red Line trains to clear Howard.

Chris, wouldn't you think it's because they have to share tracks with the brown line and because there's more stops before hitting the loop?

[Does anyone understand why the purple "express" is slower than the red line to the loop?]

It may also depend on where they're timing it to. Is that 35 minutes to Clark/Lake (the first stop in the loop)? Or Washington/Wells (the last)? It's not clear from the way they phrase it (i.e., simply "downtown").

Where's the salary article from today's Sun-Times. 16%-50% salary increases, and Huberman says they are actually making less money because they have to contribute 3% to a pension of which they are the beneficiary, don't let the door hit you in the keester.

I'm with Jim on this one. 150 people with $100K salaries? That's ridiculous.

http://www.suntimes.com/news/watchdogs/1408610,CST-NWS-watchdog02.article

I love Huberman's logic how they are making less money with a raise. The pension money they get back don't they? I'd love to have that problem where I make more money and then have to pay more taxes.

I'm not saying that Huberman doesn't deserve his pay, but he's got to come up with a better explanation. Right now he sounds like an idiot. Doesn't he pay someone $100K for PR?

=====
Huberman defends the 2008 raises as deserved and necessary to hold on to talent, especially since the CTA pays less to executives than other U.S. transit agencies do.

...

The CTA's top salary of $198,000 -- paid to the president -- has been the same since at least 2004, when Kruesi headed the agency. Huberman says the heads of transit agencies in other major cities make more.
=====

I'm going to shock everyone here, and actually agree with something Huberman said.

In theory, compensation for the head of the CTA should be at least comperable to, or more than the compensation recieved by people who head other major city transit systems.

Now I'm not saying to just go by raw numbers. You need to make sure you're comparing apples to apples, and looking at their entire compensation packages.

You also have to make sure that you're not including some oddity in there. For example, you need to understand if the number from some city is artificially high because they needed to attract someone normally out of their league to fix the problems left from some successor.

Which leads into paying for experience. Huberman had no experience. Training wages are normally lesser than what you'd pay if you hired an experienced person.

Now here's the thing: The *job*, the *possition* should have a pay rate attached to it. You can't give someone a raise to keep them if you're trying to out-bid another organization that wants to hire that person for what amounts to a promotion.

In other words, if my job is at rank 10, and I get a job offer with another agency for a job that's at rank 12, I'm probably worth every penny you've been paying me to do my rank 10 job. But you shouldn't pay me rank 12 wages just to keep me from taking a promotion somewhere else. On the other hand, if I'm looking at a rank 9 job somewhere else that pays more than you're paying me for rank 10 work, you've been underpaying the job position. I shouldn't have been doing rank 10 work for rank 9 wages.

If the wages are really out-of-whack, perhaps it's time for a whole salary study to see if the jobs have the right level of pay for the level of contribution they make. Then adjust upward or downward as needed.

One more thing: It's pointed out that the pay is the same as 2004. Apparently increases were deferred. But you can't make-up the whole deferment at one time. Nor should you be making up the deferment during bad times.

It's very hard to know what people should be making, espeically from the outside. But 16% raises are a bit obscene even in good times, let alone bad times.

The President of the CTA's pay is not the question, it is the fact that countless others have received 14%-50% increases over 2 years from a cash-straped agency with a poor performance record. 4 former city employees who made approximately $100,000 at the city are now making $149,000 for CTA, one had even been fired by the city. THese individuals needed an 50% pay increase as enticement to follow Ron to CTA? Huberman gave out pay increases as if it was his own personal company.

"I'm going to shock everyone here, and actually agree with something Huberman said."

So that's why I felt the earth shift on its axis at approximately 6pm last night. Mystery solved!

"If the wages are really out-of-whack, perhaps it's time for a whole salary study to see if the jobs have the right level of pay for the level of contribution they make. Then adjust upward or downward as needed."

Uh... Good luck with that. I appreciate what you're saying, but not gonna happen. The only thing you'll find out is that this city is essentially built on paying blue-collar workers with white collar salaries. The fact that I went to college and work in a good IT job, but barely make more than a city garbage man (and is part of a union and gets a pension) doesn't exactly sit well with me.

Thanks for your insight on the purple/red comparisons. Makes you wonder why riding the purple line is even helpful... Unless your stop is closer to where you are going, it doesn't seem to make much difference, or as much of a difference as you'd expect with an "express".

Don't know why that article was never posted for comment. That is similar to the banks taking taxpayer money (which CTA does) and giving out bonuses to its employees anyway. To gloss over it is sad, shows the positive press than ROn has received his entire career at CTA.

[[The fact that I went to college and work in a good IT job...]

Um ... maybe it's not as good an IT job as you think?

I don't understand why IT people should make more money than trash collectors. Both jobs are important.

"I don't understand why IT people should make more money than trash collectors. Both jobs are important."

Umm, yes, they are both important.

Trash collection is hard, sometimes backbreaking, good, honest work. But trash collection doesn't require a degree in anything or computer literacy or any experience doing anything.

There has to be meaningful professional incentive to go to school and incur student debt and put off a full-time career for a few years in order to learn how to be a competent computer technician. Otherwise, who in their right mind would bother?

as a ironworker with 40 yrs experience and a cta employee since 1986, the cta stripped our capital funding away for much needed repairs instead of buying new rail cars too impress the public they should spending money on improving the steel structure if the public knew how bad the structure was they would stop rideing it

[There has to be meaningful professional incentive to go to school and incur student debt and put off a full-time career for a few years in order to learn how to be a competent computer technician. Otherwise, who in their right mind would bother?]

Seems like a valid question to me. Doesn't pretty much every IT cubicle jockey ask themselves exactly this on a daily basis?

I think a variant of this question exists for just about every non-management white collar job out there. And don't even get the teachers started - most of them don't even make as much as the IT guys!

"I don't understand why IT people should make more money than trash collectors. Both jobs are important."

This should be helpful to you, Cheryl:
http://www.amazon.com/Economics-Dummies-Sean-Masaki-Flynn/dp/0764557262/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1233724516&sr=8-1

I'm an IT guy. I'm 35, and I've already earned over a million dollars in my career - pretty much averaged at least $100k/year, but I don't think I'm qualified for most of the CTA management jobs.

Why would people who are qualified choose to work for the CTA instead of for private companies if the CTA doesn't pay them well? Most of the skills involved with CTA management work would apply at freight or other private transportation companies.

If you want to see questionable salaries, search here: http://www.suntimes.com/data/1408824%2Cillinois-salaries-teacher-administrator.article?appSession=99466605698172

Over 500 jobs at CATALYST CIRCLE ROCK ELEM SCHOOL paying six figures. Seems fishy to me. Lay off the CTA, and check out the CPS.

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