CHICAGO — The Chicago Transit Authority has proposed its operating budget of $1.57 million for 2020, which will luckily call for no service cuts or fare increases.
The budget, announced late last month, will use tens of millions of dollars to modernize Chicago’s public transit infrastructure and will aim to make for an overall better commute experience for all city travelers.
The proposed $5.1 billion five-year budget for 2020 to 2024 will also include a monumental funding plan for the passage of the State of Illinois’ Rebuild Illinois capital bill from June of this year.
It will also continue more than $8 billion of historic transit investment that has been started, completed or announced since 2011. These particular projects include: rehabilitating rail stations and implementing new ones, expanding public arts, rail and bus modernization, rail slow zone removal, and new technology additions. This work will aim to increase reliability, reduce commute times, improve safety, and strengthen the transit experience for all customers.
“Public transportation is the great connector of Chicago, and this city has a fundamental obligation to ensure all residents of all communities have access to affordable, accessible and equitable transportation options,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot as the new CTA budget was revealed. “I’m proud to say this budget reflects not only our priorities, but most importantly our values.”
According to the CTA, public transportation usage has dropped significantly in recent years. To gain more riders, the CTA plans to upgrade rail stations and improve the system’s reliability and quality of service.
“Despite continued cuts by the state legislature to the CTA operating funds,” said CTA President Dorval Carter, “we are grateful to Mayor Lightfoot and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker for fighting to finally provide CTA with a capital program that will help improve and modernize our infrastructure.”
From this budget, the CTA will invest $310 million into the $2.3 billion Red Line rail route extension project, which will work to extend the Red Line–which connects Chicago’s north side and south side to the Loop business district–south by 5.3 miles. The Red Line Extension project will also include four new and fully accessible stations at 103rd Street, 111th Street, Michigan Avenue and 130th Street.
These funds are the largest contribution the CTA has ever committed towards the RLE project, and be funneled into the new engineering and design work needed in order for it to receive federal funding.
The 2020 budget will also fund $78 million for the All Stations Accessibility Program, a plan to make all CTA rail stations completely vertically accessible. This plan was announced by President Carter in 2018 and is the first blueprint of its kind that aims to modernize rail stations that are currently non-vertically accessible. The plan will improve 42 of Chicago’s rail stations in this manner and will also upgrade elevator systems to align with the renovations.
For the first time in a decade, CTA received an extremely significant funding commitment in 2019 for a State capital plan, which came in the Rebuild Illinois bill.
This capital bill will give CTA $1.2 billion in bond funding through the next five years, and includes $141.5 million in proposed projects–implementing an overhaul of the Cottage Grove Green Line station and the first phase of the Red and Purple Modernization Program, which broke ground this fall and will include a rail bypass to meet future capacity requirements and will rebuild four Red Line Stations.
Additional projects from 2020 funding will include 20 new electric buses, Blue Line O’Hare Branch traction power upgrades, Blue Line station and signal improvements, and 10 new prototypes of the 7000-series railcar, the transit system’s newest generation railcar.
The 2020 budget also includes over $26 million in cost savings and operational efficiencies such as the hiring freeze, which is projected to affect at least 200 positions–an increase of 50 from 2019. The savings will also lock power costs in at historically low prices.
CTA has continued to be negatively impacted by operating fund cuts by the State of Illinois, President Carter said. “CTA losses since the state cut our operating funds will total $180 million through 2020. We continue to call for the restoration of full operating funding for this agency so that we may better serve our customers.”