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The Regional Transportation Authority is seeking suggestions on how to improve transit options for people with disabilities, older adults and reverse commuters.

If you've got a good idea for a capital or operating project that would make the CTA, Metra and/or Pace more efficient while not duplicating existing service, you can apply for federal grant money to make that idea happen.

The RTA is accepting applications for two federal grants worth a combined $6.5 million. One is the Job Access Reverse Commute Program, which focuses on improving transit for low-income and reverse commuters. The other, the New Freedom Program, seeks to add new public transportation options for people with disabilities.

More information will be available at a Jan. 30 open house at the RTA's headquarters, 175 West Jackson Blvd, Suite 1550, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can also download a grant application at

All applications are due by 4 p.m. on March 20.

You now have until the end of the year to get one of the CTA's "smart" cards free of charge before proposed doomsday fare hikes take effect.

The CTA is waiving the $5 fee to obtain a Chicago Card or Chicago Card Plus until Dec. 31, to give riders more time to switch to electronic fare cards.

The CTA is holding three public meetings on its proposed 2008 budget, which involves cutting 43 bus routes in addition to the 39 that would be cut on Nov. 4.

Meeting dates are: Oct. 30 at Lane Tech College Prep, 2501 W. Addison; Nov. 1 at Percy Julian High School, 10330 S. Elizabeth; and Nov. 5 at the CTA’s headquarters, 567 W. Lake. All meetings start at 6 p.m.

The CTA board will likely vote on the proposed $1 billion budget at its Nov. 7 meeting.

The agency is facing a $158 million deficit for 2008, fueled by growing pension and healthcare obligations, lower state subsidies and the lack of capital money that has been used in the past to pay for operations, the CTA says.

Southbound Red Line trains operating through the Loop will be rerouted to the elevated tracks because of planned construction related to the Block 37 project.

Trains will be rerouted at 9 p.m. tonight until 5 a.m. Friday morning. It'll happen again at 9 p.m. Thursday until 5 a.m. Friday.

Southbound trains will be rerouted a third time at 11 p.m. Friday until 1 a.m. Monday.

You should allow extra travel times, the CTA says.

Read more about it here.

Tonight will be the first of four public hearings on the CTA's proposed Doomsday plan, which involves cutting 63 bus routes, the Yellow Line and the Purple Line Express if the CTA does not receive additional state funding to balance its budget.

The Chicago and Sedgwick stations on the Brown Line will be closed this weekend for work related to the Brown Line expansion project.

To get more specifics on existing bus routes serving both stations, check out the CTA's website.

By the way, did anybody get up early last week to watch them move the Belmont station across the street? There's something you don't see every day.

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