RUNNING OUT OF EVERYTHING. The Principle of Substitutes works, although legislatures haven't grasped the implications for their transit authorities.

While the politics of transit may appear more toxic here than elsewhere, the Chicago area's mass-transit agencies have plenty of company across the nation as ridership on public transportation surges.

Some 85 percent of U.S. transit systems are reporting capacity problems, due mainly to high gas prices, according to a new survey conducted by the American Public Transportation Association, the trade group representing transit agencies.

In addition, 65 percent of the agencies questioned say they don't have funding for more service, the survey found.

In Boston, Charlie may have to come up with a few more nickels.

Despite record increases in riders on trains and buses because of high gas prices, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is going broke, agency executives admitted last Thursday.

The situation is so dire that the T is borrowing money to pay salaries. The agency has a $1.5 billion budget, but because it is out of cash, it may be forced to raise fares and reduce service. If so, this would be the third year in a row it has raised fares.

Fare revenues are up $11 million because of the increased ridership, but it is not enough. The Authority needs to borrow $35 million just to keep operating.

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