2019 CTA Budget Avoids Hikes and Cuts, But Lack of State Funding Is Still a Problem

Photo: John Greenfield
Photo: John Greenfield

Last year, in order to plug a $33 million budget hole, the result of that summer’s state budget deal, the CTA bumped up the price of bus and rail rides by a quarter, and raised the price of a 30-day pass by $5. It was the first fare increase in nine years.

Local commuters will be glad to hear that today the agency proposed a $1.552 billion operating budget with no fare hikes or reductions in bus and train service hours or frequency, while a number of infrastructure projects are in the works. “I am pleased to present a spending plan that not only maintains vital transit service in neighborhoods across the city, but also continues our investment to improve and modernize our service,” said CTA president Dorval R. Carter, Jr. in a statement. “And I’m especially pleased to be able to hold the line on fares, despite the many financial pressures our agency is facing.”

The agency is also proposing a $2.9 billion five-year capital budget for 2019-2023. The money would cover projects including rehabbing existing stations and building new ones, upgrading rail cars and buses, track renovation to remove “slow zones,” and adding new technology.

According to the CTA, the proposed budget includes over $20 million in cost savings and operational efficiencies. These include freezing hiring for 150 positions and locking in fuel and power costs at low prices. (Of course, if a hiring freeze means that key jobs, such as planning future improvements, go unfilled, that’s not in the system’s longterm interests.) The agency claims that since 2015 under Carter, the CTA has raised over $150 million due to cost-cutting, efficiencies, and non-farebox revenue, such as advertising.

But Carter cautioned that that’s not enough to cover the lack of support from the state in the long term, adding that it’s been about a decade since Springfield legislators passed a capital funding bill to pay for transportation infrastructure. (There has been some talk among lawmakers that there could finally be a big infrastructure bill after the upcoming election.) He also said that without more state funding, future fare hike and/or service cuts are likely.

Here are the capital projects in the works for 2019:

There will be a public hearing on November 7, 2018 at 6 p.m. at CTA headquarters, 567 W. Lake Street, in the second floor conference room.

Written and oral comments will be taken into consideration prior to Chicago Transit Board action. This input will be welcomed at the hearing or by correspondence addressed 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 Wednesday, November 14, 2018 by 12 noon.

The proposed budget is available for public review at the CTA Headquarters reception desk, second floor, 567 W. Lake Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60661, 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 main office of the Regional Transportation Authority, reception desk, Suite 1650, 175 West Jackson, Chicago, at the Archer Heights Branch Library, 5055 South Archer Avenue; Austin Branch Library, 5615 West Race Avenue, Chicago; Harold Washington Public Library, 400 South State Street, 5th floor, Chicago; Jefferson Park Branch Library, 5363 West Lawrence Avenue, Chicago; South Shore Branch Library, 2505 East 73rd Street; West Town Branch Library, 1625 West Chicago Avenue, Chicago; 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; and at the Skokie Public Library, 5215 West Oakton, Skokie.

A copy of the proposed budget is also posted on the CTA’s web site at www.transitchicago.com.

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