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Watchdog group: CTA overstated bus mileage reports for decades

Updated: October 18, 2012 9:10AM

The CTA overstated bus mileage reports as far back as 1982, allowing it to receive up to $150 million of additional federal taxpayer dollars, according to a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group.

Cause of Action’s report “A bus tour of Chicago-style fraud” alleges the CTA inflated the annual number of miles reported to the Federal Transit Administration for its in-service buses.

The group based its allegation on a 2007 audit in which it says the CTA overreported the miles, allowing it to receive between $1 million and $5 million in extra funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation that year.

The $150 million total figure is an estimate based on the one year’s audit.

The “2007 report implies that similar amounts were likely overstated in previous years,” the report says.

A CTA spokesman late Wednesday said the agency hasn’t seen the report but that the FTA had approved CTA’s mileage reports for the last three decades.

In dispute, is how mileage is reported for buses traveling from garages to customer routes, according to the CTA.

The transit agency had counted the miles for that commute until the FTA clarified its definition of “revenue service” in 2011. The FTA informed the CTA that it did not have to revise it reporting for previous years.

CTA spokesman Brian Steele said the reason that CTA counted miles of buses traveling from garages to primary routes was so drivers could pick up passengers who flag them down at marked stops.

But “CTA did not include as revenue miles bus trips along non-service routes [along the Dan Ryan, or during non-service hours],” said Steele in an emailed response.

The report alleges that Calvin L. Scovel, the Department of Transportation inspector general, and the U.S. House of Representatives were informed of the “fraud” in 2009 and 2011 but did not begin a federal investigation.

The report says the “failure on the part of multiple government agencies to hold CTA accountable is particularly troubling in light of the fact that CTA’s General Counsel from 2001-2004, Robert Rivkin, is the current General Counsel of the DOT, and Valerie Jarrett, Chair of the CTA from 1995 to 2003 is a Senior Adviser to President Obama.”

Cause of Action is a nonprofit organization that “investigates and exposes federal government corruption, waste, cronyism and fraud,” the group says on its website.

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