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CTA’s proposed 2021 includes no service cuts or fare hikes — for now

Photo: Jeff Zoline

Chicago transit advocates can breathe a small sigh of relief in response to the CTA’s proposed 2021 budget. The 2021 budget will retain current fares and service levels. However, the budget is predicated on desired federal funds to make up for a $375 million COVID-related shortfall. Transit agencies were provided an infusion of funds by the federal CARES ACT earlier this year. That money helped the CTA and other transit agencies maintain service for the rest of 2020 and for the early part of 2021. However, unless the feds pass another stimulus bill soon, it is highly likely there will be service cuts and possible fare hikes.

“Over the last seven months, the CTA has provided an essential service to those who needed it the most: health care workers, emergency responders, grocery and manufacturing workers, and those needing to make essential trips,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. in a statement. “But in order to ensure we can continue to provide this critical service, we absolutely must receive additional funding from Congress.”

In spite of challenges to the CTA's operating budget which covers day-to-day operations, the CTA is continuing to pursue capital improvements. The proposed 2021 budget includes a five-year Capital Improvement Program of $3.4 billion, which would continue investments in modernization and capital improvement projects that will provide safer, more reliable service for riders, continued expansion of public art, removal of slow zones, and upgrades to transit tools such as Ventra. The CIP is supported by funding from Restore Illinois, the 2019 state infrastructure bill, the first in more than a decade. More than half of the capital funding will go towards previously announced major projects including: 

    • Upgrade of the Cottage Grove Green Line station ($60M)
    • Blue Line O’Hare Branch power improvements ($50M)
    • Advancement of the Red Line Extension project ($327.8M)
    • Phase 1 station improvements under the All Stations Accessibility Plan (ASAP ($78M)

Other capital projects to continue or begin in 2021 include:

    • Testing of the 10 new 7000-Series rail cars
    • Quarter-life overhaul work on 5000-Series rail cars
    • Roll-out of newest all-electric buses
    • Start of station and track structure construction as part of RPM Phase One

Advocates interested in urging Congress to provide additional funding for transit can find a petition on the Active Transportation Alliance website. A new report called "Stranded," released by TransitCenter and the Center for Neighborhood Technology, details the impact of what a lack of additional federal funding for transit could mean for the Chicago area and nine other regions. Hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans could face a loss of frequent transit and these impacts would be most felt by Black and Brown Chicagoans, groups already bearing the brunt of the pandemic.

We hope that Congress will show up for transit agencies which provide necessary mobility for millions of Americans.

Here's how to provide input on the plan. A virtual public hearing will be held on November 12, 2020, at 6 p.m. A link to view the hearing will be available at Members of the public who wish to speak at the meeting are encouraged to submit their request before the hearing. Options for providing comment at the virtual hearing or for submission to the Chicago Transit Board on the proposed 2021-2025 Capital Program of Projects, 2021 Operating Budget and Program, and the Financial Plan for 2022 and 2023 are detailed below:

Written statements: Written statements will be taken into consideration before the adoption of the proposed 2021-2025 Capital Program of Projects, 2021 Operating Budget and Program, and Financial Plan for 2022 and 2023. Written comments for the Chicago Transit Board’s review and consideration must be submitted by 5 p.m., Monday, November 16. Written comments may be submitted in any of the following ways:

    • Via US Mail, CTA Board Office, 567 W. Lake Street, 2nd Floor, Chicago, IL 60661
    • Via drop off at CTA Headquarters, 567 W. Lake Street, 1st floor mailroom
    • Via fax at 312-681-5035
    • Via email at

ORAL STATEMENTS: Members of the public who wish to speak at the virtual public hearing are encouraged to register prior to the hearing, by completing and submitting a Request to Speak form online at Individuals registered online by 6 p.m. on November 11, 2020, the day before the hearing, will be called by the CTA, at the telephone number provided, during the November 12, 2020 hearing, to be connected to the virtual public hearing proceedings.

DIAL IN AT THE TIME OF THE HEARING: Members of the public may also dial-in, while the hearing is in progress, to request to speak, by calling 312-681-3091.Individuals who pre-register to speak will be taken up first at the virtual public hearing. Individuals who call while the hearing is in progress will then speak in the order that they call in.

Copies of the proposed 2021-2025 Capital Program of Projects, 2021 Operating Budget and Program and the Financial Plan are also available for review in standard size print and large print at the Archer Heights Branch Library, 5055 South Archer Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60632; Austin Branch Library, 5615 West Race Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60644; Harold Washington Public Library, 400 South State Street, 5th floor, Chicago, Illinois 60605; Austin-Irving Branch, Chicago Public Library, 6100 West Irving Park Road, Chicago, Illinois 60634; Avalon Branch Library, 8148 South Stony Island Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60617; West Town Branch Library, 1625 West Chicago Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60622; Woodson Regional Public Library, 9525 South Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60628; Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Avenue, Evanston, Illinois, 60201; Evergreen Park Public Library, 9400 South Troy, Evergreen Park, Illinois, 60805; Oak Park Public Library, 834 Lake Street, Oak Park, Illinois 60301; and the Skokie Public Library, 5215 West Oakton, Skokie, Illinois, 60077.

At the virtual public hearing the CTA will afford an opportunity for interested persons or agencies to be heard with respect to social, economic, environmental and other related aspects of the proposed 2021-2025 Capital Program of Projects, 2021 Operating Budget and Program, and the Financial Plan for 2022 and 2023.

At the virtual public hearing, an American Sign Language interpreter and a Spanish interpreter will be provided. Individuals with disabilities who require other accommodations to review the budget or to provide feedback should contact Amy J. Serpe, Manager, ADA Compliance Programs, or 312-350-2301 or Relay.

A copy of the proposed budget is also posted on the CTA's web site at

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