CTA’s Proposed Budget Includes 25-Cent Fare Hike, No Cuts to Service Hours, Frequency

CTA president Dorval Carter announced the fare hikes this afternoon at the CTA headquarters, flanked by a chart that shows that most other major U.S. transit systems currently have higher fares. Photo: CTA
CTA president Dorval Carter announced the fare hikes this afternoon at the CTA headquarters, flanked by a chart that shows that most other major U.S. transit systems currently have higher fares. Photo: CTA

Welp, we can’t say it came as a surprise. A November 8 letter from the Regional Transit Authority to the CTA warned that the transit agency needed to raise fares to plug a $33 million budget hole, the result of last summer’s state budget deal, or else face massive service cuts. Today the CTA announced that it plans to do just that, bumping up the price of bus and rail rides by a quarter, and raising the price of a 30-day pass by $5.

Personally, I suspect that the purpose of the RTA memo may have been to give Mayor Rahm Emanuel political cover for this unpopular move. It’s also worth noting that CTA president Dorval Carter announced the bad news on the afternoon before Thanksgiving, when many residents are traveling and are therefore less likely to read about it. The good news is that, as previously promised by Emanuel, the 2018 CTA budget doesn’t include any cuts to service hours or frequency.

The proposed $1.51 billion operating budget hikes the base (undiscounted) fare for bus rides from $2 to $2.25, and the price of ‘L’ trips from $2.25 to $2.50. The CTA notes that this is well below the rate of inflation since the current fare was established in 2009, and that all other major U.S. transit agencies have raised their fares during this time.

Reduced-fare rides for people with disabilities and members of the military are required by law to be 50 percent of the regular fare, so these will go up by 10-15 cents. Student fares will remain the same at 75 cents for bus and rail trips.

The price of a 30-day pass will be raised from $100 to $105. All other passes and fares will remain the same.

The CTA projects that the fare hikes will generate an additional $23 million in revenue, which it’s quick to note is the same amount that the agency announced yesterday that it will save via budget cuts and efficiencies, plus additional ad and concessions revenue.

The transit agency hasn’t yet released projections on what impact the fare hike may have on ridership.

The CTA is also proposing a $2.7 billion capital budget for 2018-2022, which will include station rehabs, new rolling stock, track and signal upgrades, more security cameras, and new technologies. Here’s Streetsblog Chicago’s roundup of current and upcoming CTA infrastructure projects.

An additional ride-hailing fee of 15 cents per trip in 2018 and 20 cents in 2019 passed City Council yesterday, which the CTA projects will contribute an estimated $16 million for infrastructure next year and $21 million the year after.

A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held on Tuesday, December 12, at 6 p.m. at CTA headquarters, 567 West Lake.

Written and oral comments will be taken into consideration before the CTA board votes on the budget action. Written comments can be sent to: Gregory P. Longhini, Assistant Secretary of the Board, Chicago Transit Authority, P.O. Box 7567, Chicago, Illinois 60680-7567. Comments also may be submitted in writing either via email to: glonghini1@transitchicago.com or via fax: 312-681-5035. The deadline to submit written comments is noon on Wednesday, December 13.

You can read the proposed budget online here.

The proposed budget is also available for public review at the CTA headquarters reception desk on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Copies are also available for review in standard size print and large print at the following locations:

  • Regional Transportation Authority, reception desk, Suite 1650, 175 West Jackson
  • Archer Heights Branch Library, 5055 South Archer
  • Austin Branch Library, 5615 West Race
  • Harold Washington Public Library, 400 South State
  • Jefferson Park Branch Library, 5363 West Lawrence
  • South Shore Branch Library, 2505 East 73rd Street
  • West Town Branch Library, 1625 West Chicago Avenue
  • Woodson Regional Public Library, 9525 South Halsted
  • Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Avenue, Evanston
  • Evergreen Park Public Library, 9400 South Troy, Evergreen Park
  • Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake Street, Oak Park
  • Riverdale Public Library, 208 West 144th Street, Riverdale
  • Skokie Public Library, 5215 West Oakton, Skokie

Streetsblog Chicago will resume publication on Monday. Have a great Thanksgiving!

  • Jeremy

    Why wouldn’t they just make cash bus fares $3, instead of $2.50?

    I find the monthly pass pricing interesting. It is essentially priced as: “pay for your work commute, ride for free on the weekends”. ($2.5 x 2 x 22 = $110) I wonder if a deeper discount would encourage more people to buy a monthly pass. Has the CTA ever stated the % of riders that use a monthly pass?

  • F. Hayek 69

    The price of the train should have gone up to $3, and the trains should be driverless. This will raise millions, and save millions. This can eventually be used to be pay for bonds for capital projects.

  • planetshwoop

    I doubt the law allows completely driverless trains.

    Having recently been on a train with a medical emergency, it seems like a poor idea.

  • planetshwoop

    particularly if you could factor in the “you can deduct this from your taxes”, like some people can through pre-tax transit benefit. This further reduces the costs.

    I like the idea that the Oyster card had. If you took so many rides in a month, it would kind of automatically upgrade you to a cheaper fare. So if you took enough rides, it would automatically switch you to a daily pass instead of more individual rides, monthly after X number of days usage, etc.

    Certainly with Ventra there are more options possible. Or at least better data to look into them.

  • what_eva

    30 day passes aren’t the only way to use a pre-tax transit benefit these days. Mine allows me to just put $x onto my Ventra card each month.

  • hodeho

    It’s been a long time since there was a fare increase. I think this one is reasonable.

  • Tooscrapps

    Laws aren’t the hold up on automated trains in the US; unions and the politicians that rely on their votes are.

  • Austerity economics that starve main streets in favor of wall street if you want to go even more radical politically. Granted, a robust economy now would likely lead to a lot more driving and congestion both making things worse for transit. So then the real issue becomes the powers of car and road lobbyists even if the capital budgets were well funded. In that sense big unions are a symptom of corporate oligarchic plutocratic control over politicians not a cause. When it comes to controlling voters, media in this day and age, has way more power than unions.

  • Tooscrapps

    Unions in Chicago (and Illinois) are still a force to be reckoned with.

    Same goes for NYC.

  • Agreed. But less and less. Realistically if you can’t maintain a good relationship with your unions, both pay and work rules wise, you are likely going to have much more severe and dysfunctional problems in your organization. imho.

  • Tooscrapps


    Generally though, it’s all about the number of jobs. Even though automated trains may be more safe and efficient (I’m not necessarily saying they are), unions will fight them because it means less conductors. That’s not a pay or work rule issue. It’s a membership issue and society may be worse off because of it.

  • Cameron Puetz

    The RTA memo was really just stating an obvious fact. With one funding source cut, either other funding sources need to increase, or costs need to decrease. The CTA doesn’t have control over funding other than fares, or many places other than service cuts to cut costs.

  • the thing is increasing automation is supposed to generate free time for society’s members. But because the rich have captured government they force austerity economics on us in order to keep their grip on the economy and their wealth and power.

    That’s the sea we swim in. So we have to force people out of work in order to have a better transit reality. Sure a worse social reality and maybe we can reduce fares to make up for the flip side of reduced jobs.

    Anyway unions are on the way out. They had their moments in the sun fighting the odscene rich now the question is who or what is next up at bat.


The New CTA Budget Doesn’t Include a Fare Hike, But It Should

We’re announcing our proposed 2016 budget today. Good news: we’ll continue to maintain/improve existing services and fares stay the same! — cta (@cta) October 22, 2015 Today, the Chicago Transit Authority cheerfully tweeted that their proposed 2016 budget calls for no fare hikes or service cuts, plus some improvements in service. That sounds good in […]