CTA riders speak out

Brian Johnson, a blind Chicago Transit Authority rider,  remembers a time when the CTA was reliable.

"We could depend on our transit system just as we could depend on electricity."

Now, Johnson says, he can't count on the agency's service, and he won't be able to trust what the CTA says about its budget problems, even if the CTA resolves its current fiscal crisis.

"The damage has already been done," he said.

CTA officials got an earful of such opinions from riders last night  at the agency's final public hearing on the proposed 2008 budget.

The budget includes stiff fare increases and service cuts designed to cope with a projected $158 million deficit.

Johnson's friend, Kate Mayer said public transit is "make or break" for her independent lifestyle. She relies on the 96 bus and said she often has to wait in the cold on the corner of Foster and Sheridan because many of the buses are not in service.

"That's an empty bus and I am a fare-paying customer," said Mayer.

Lise Valentine of the Civic Federation commended the CTA for having a balanced budget in 2008.