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CTA moves to trim jobs, save $13M

Updated: October 15, 2013 6:37AM

Fueled in part by the debut of the new Ventra fare payment system, Chicago Transit Authority officials Wednesday announced plans to give 104 employees pink slips.

CTA board members agreed to eliminate 149 positions — only 104 of them currently filled — as part of a streamlining effort that will save an estimated $13 million next year.

When the dust settles, 37 other positions will be created due to job consolidations or new Ventra-related duties, CTA officials said.

About a third of the jobs being axed are due to the CTA’s decision to privatize its fare collection system under Ventra, which takes in fares via value-loaded Ventra cards — or certain credit or debit cards — tapped onto fare readers. Old fare cards will be accepted until Dec. 15.

Although buses will continue to accept cash, the transition to Ventra means many of the CTA’s current cash collecting and counting activities will become obsolete, officials said.

“Some people are being laid off,’’ CTA President Forrest Claypool said Wednesday. “They can apply for other positions with the agency — either a handful that are being created, or other open positions and functions of the agency for which we do have a continuing need.’’

Those getting pink slips include 70 non-union employees and 34 union ones. The CTA will work with the union to match displaced union employees with existing or new jobs, perhaps with retraining, Claypool said.

Eliminated jobs will terminate in 60 days unless they are tied to a Ventra function that ends after that.

Although the CTA is working to close a $10 million deficit in this year’s budget, CTA spokesman Brian Steele said the job cuts are more tied to ongoing attempts to streamline the CTA and reduce administrative expenses. Next fiscal year the move should save $13 million, Steele said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Wednesday defended the CTA job shakeup. He noted that the CTA this year was forced to absorb $7 million in state cuts to a reduced-fare program for seniors, students and the disabled, “so there had to be more efficiencies.’’

One day after tweaking Claypool for a bus controversy involving the new Walmart in Pullman, Emanuel complimented Claypool for a “great job” rebuilding the CTA at all levels and upgrading passenger service and safety. While the Legislature “backs away from public transportation,’’ Claypool was doing “an admirable job of making sure commuters are not hurt,’’ the mayor said.

Ventra cards went on sale Monday at CTA stations and 700 retail outlets, although some Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus members have complained they have not yet received their new cards in the mail, as promised.

Mailings to all 500,000 of such card holders should be completed by the end of next week, CTA officials said.

Currently, “about 11 percent of rides are already Ventra rides,” Claypool said.

Concerning a new No. 111A shuttle that started Wednesday to the new Pullman Walmart, Claypool said he could not yet say if bus service will be extended until midnight, when the store closes. He was waiting for actual and projected ridership numbers, he said.

In other business Wednesday, the CTA agreed to rent a concession stand on the Purple Line, at 1022 Central Ave. in Evanston, to a support group for seniors and the ill called Chicago Mezuzah and Mitzvah Campaigns. The location is adjacent to Evanston Northwestern Hospital and has been unoccupied since early 1990, CTA staff said.

Board members also agreed to require CTA contractors to try to hire veterans and “dislocated” or “economically disadvantaged” workers on major CTA projects.

In addition, the CTA announced that Metra had agreed to fully fund the #128 Soldier Field Express bus that runs on Chicago Bears game days between the Ogilvie Transportation Center, Union Station and Soldier Field.

Contributing: Fran Spielman

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