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2023 CTA budget approved with no fare hikes, partnership with city on homeless outreach

The Washington-Wabash ‘L’ stop. Photo: John Greenfield

Today the CTA board approved its proposed $1.8 billion operating budget, with no fare hikes and a stated commitment to get the transit system back to good working order as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes. The agency also inked an agreement with the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services to collaborate on outreach and support service efforts for people experiencing homelessness, mental illness, and substance addiction who are sheltering on trains.

The 2023 budget

“This year, the CTA celebrated its 75th Anniversary," said agency president Dorval Carter Jr., who has been under fire since September 14, when he skipped his own City Council hearing on poor service. (Carter finally attended a hearing with alders last Thursday.) "This budget allows the CTA to make investments to strengthen our system for the next 75 years. In the year ahead, we are committed to maximizing every dollar of our budget to both modernize our system and continue work on the strategic initiatives outlined in support of the guiding pillars of the Meeting the Moment Action Plan, which addresses the most pressing challenges facing our customers and employees.”

Staffing shortages have been a major headache for the agency this year, contributing to unreliable service, and the infuriating ghost train and ghost bus problem. To address complaints about unsanitary conditions on 'L' the system, the budget includes 40 new jobs cleaning trains and stations.

In addition, the CTA’s 2023-2027 Capital Improvement Program, which is siloed from the operating budget, includes $3.4 billion in projects over the next five years, such as the $3.6 billion south Red Line extension. That important racial equity project will mostly be funded by federal money, but the CTA is currently trying to get a Transit Taxi Increment Financing district passed to raise $950,000 for the required local matching funds to unlock the federal grants.

Other capital projects to continue or launch next year include: 

    • All Stations Accessibility Program, to make CTA’s rail system completely wheelchair accessible
    • Expansion of electric bus fleet, with the goal of electrifying the entire fleet by 2040.
    • Refresh & Renew, short-term cosmetic improvements to stations
    • Better Streets for Buses, small-scale infrastructure improvements to improve bus service citywide. 

See more information on the 2023 budget here.

The CTA's partnership with DFSS

The intergovernmental agreement with the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services is designed to expand overall outreach from contracted social service agencies, such as The Night Ministry, to help out people using the 'L' system as a shelter of last resort.

A person sleeping across multiple seats in their stocking feet earlier this year on the Red Line left their sandals on the floor. Photo: John Greenfield
A person sleeping across multiple seats in their stocking feet earlier this year on the Red Line left their sandals on the floor. Photo: John Greenfield
A person sleeping across multiple seats in their stocking feet earlier this year on the Red Line left their sandals on the floor. Photo: John Greenfield

“While CTA traditionally has not played a role in the provision of social services, I believe it is time to address these challenges with new thinking and new tools,” Carter said in a statement. “By expanding our partnership with DFSS to provide additional services through community-based organizations and social service organizations, we can confront these challenges in an innovative way—and do so with respect, compassion and care.” 

Via the agreement, CTA will chip in up to $2 million in funding to DFSS through December 31, 2023 for outreach to connect those in need with housing, medical care, and social services.

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