Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=225767
Story Retrieval Date: 3/8/2014 1:09:50 PM CST
Teresa Veramendi, 28, of Lakeview is skeptical of Ventra's parent company, Cubic, and refuses to get a Ventra card.
Budget hearing becomes Ventra gripe session, but CTA OKs budget regardless
About 80 people attended a public hearing Tuesday night.
On Wednesday, CTA board members did not address issues raised at a public hearing the night before.
Eighty people angrily protested Ventra and other CTA service issues on Tuesday night. Less than 24 hours later the board approved its budget for next year without addressing a single concern raised the night before.
The CTA’s $1.38 billion operating budget was approved unanimously; $44 million above this year’s budget.
“The proposed $1.4 billion 2014 operating budget freezes fares and preserves service levels,” said Tom McKone, CTA vice president of budget, management and finance. “Ridership is projected to remain strong and increase next year by 1 percent, to 534.6 million riders.”
The budget also reflects decreases to fuel expenses, down $4.1 million, and security services, $24.1 million below projections. Officials said the CTA’s fuel hedging policy and a staffing switch from contracted security officers to customer service agents are expected to save the CTA money.
However, moving from contract to employed security officers will increase labor expenses $37.3 million next year to $973 million. Wages will also go up.
McKone said next year’s budget also reflects cost efficiency efforts, the addition of 1,000 new jobs, and no transfers of assets.
However, the rosy picture presented Wednesday didn’t reflect the anger coursing through the room Tuesday night. About 20 people took center stage at a hearing to protest Ventra and its parent company, Cubic. Cubic specializes in transportation revenue collection systems and military and security services.
Teresa Veramendi, 28, of Lakeview, a protestor at Tuesday’s hearing, said she refuses to buy a Ventra card because she’s skeptical of company’s controversial ties to military surveillance.
“I have a deeper problem with the privatization of public services,” Veramendi said. “It seems like that’s Rahm Emanuel’s agenda – to privatize and sell out the common citizens of Chicago. I don’t want to give my information to a company that sells information to the government.”
Brian Steele, CTA vice president of communications, said the hearing was meant for the comments on the budget.
“Obviously we want to hear from all the people who show up to this meeting,” said Steele on Tuesday, “but we’ve got a handful of people with signs about Ventra. Ventra is not a budget issue. Ventra has nothing to do with the 2014 budget.”
The CTA placed Ventra switchover deadlines on hold indefinitely until Cubic can resolve issues with the system.