CTA Will Use Ride-Hailing Fee Revenue for “FastTracks” Work

The $179 million project includes citywide upgrades to rail, railroad ties, and power systems.

A Green Line train approaching the Cicero stop. Photo: Jeff Zoline
A Green Line train approaching the Cicero stop. Photo: Jeff Zoline

Last November when the City Council passed an additional 15-cent tax on Uber and Lyft trips, which goes up to 20 cents next year, to fund CTA infrastructure, it wasn’t clear exactly which projects that revenue would be used for. Today the transit agency announced that the projected $16 million raised in 2018, and $21 million generated in 2018, will help pay for a $179 million multiyear, citywide rail, railroad tie, and power upgrade project dubbed “FastTracks.”

The CTA says the improvements will shave up to three minutes off typical trips on the the Red, Blue, Brown and Green Lines, the four busiest rail lines, as well as giving straphangers a smoother ride.

FastTracks_graphic
Image: CTA

CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. noted that the ride-hailing fee is important for this project because Illinois has not passed a capital bill to fund transportation infrastructure since 2009. “FastTracks is a great start, but state support will be critical to continuing investment that’s critical to both maintaining and modernizing our system.”

The first phase of FastTracks includes track repairs in various spots on the Green Line just south of 35th Street. The work will address several slow zones where trains travel lower than optimal speed.

Other projects in 2018 through 2021 include upgrades along:

  • Green Line South (between 18th and 35th Streets; between 35th and 59th Street; and along the Cottage Grove and Ashland branches)
  • Green and Pink Lines (between Clinton and Ashland)
  • Blue Line O’Hare branch (electrical power improvements)
  • Red and Blue Line subways (State Street and Dearborn)
  • Blue Line Congress branch (Clinton to Forest Park)Brown Line (between Southport and Western)

The CTA says electrical power improvements along the Blue Line’s O’Hare branch will allow the agency to run extra trains during high-ridership times like morning rush hours, which will help address crowded trains and reduce the amount of time customers have to wait on platforms. This is becoming an increasingly pressing issue due to the boom in dense transit-oriented development construction along the Blue Line in neighborhoods like Wicker Park and Logan Square.

The CTA has recently seen falling ridership, especially during the wee hours on weekends, a drop the agency largely blames on the rise of Uber and Lyft. Addressing the el system’s speed, reliability, and crowding issues will be key if the CTA is to avoid losing more customers to artificially cheap, venture capital-funded ride-hailing services, so FastTracks seems to be an ideal application of the new tax revenue.

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