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The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) today proposed a $1.8 billion operating budget that keeps fares at current levels, maintains the agency’s commitment to improving service, and continues important investments to upgrade and modernize the system.
The proposed spending advances the CTA’s “Meeting the Moment: Transforming CTA’s Post-Pandemic Future” Action Plan, a multifaceted investment plan that focuses on responding to customers’ concerns and strengthening the foundations of the rider experience – more consistent and reliable service, safe rides, clean facilities, modern amenities, dynamic customer engagement tools, and a strong CTA workforce.
“Our proposed 2023 operating budget is both fiscally prudent and responsible, with a focus on further improving the essential transit services that Chicagoans rely on as the region continues to evolve from the pandemic,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “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 ‘Meeting the Moment’ Action Plan, which addresses the most pressing challenges facing our customers and employees.”
CTA ridership grew steadily throughout 2022, reaching a pandemic-era high of more than 5.5 million weekly rides the first week of October. Ridership is projected to increase further in 2023, approximately 9 percent over 2022 ridership.
To ensure that CTA meets that demand, the agency continues an aggressive, comprehensive recruitment program to address the biggest issue impacting service: attracting and retaining workers, especially frontline employees like bus and rail operators. Like businesses across the country, especially those in the transportation industry, the CTA continues to face workforce challenges related to the pandemic. The impacts of the Great Resignation, retirements, competition for workers and other factors means that the CTA does not have enough Bus and Rail operators needed to provide all scheduled service.
In 2022, the CTA made great progress toward addressing this issue, hosting eight job fairs that attracted hundreds of potential employees, while hiring dozens of new workers into a variety of positions. The agency has also worked closely with its operator’s union to help address a shortage of nearly 1,000 workers.
Additionally, the CTA continues to improve the digital tools used to provide customer information. Already, CTA introduced a redesigned, mobile-friendly Bus Tracker website, and continues to work on the data and algorithms that power the trackers, to make sure they are as accurate as possible.
Since the start of the pandemic, federal funding has been crucial to allow transit agencies across the country, including the CTA, to maintain their operations. Federal funding from the American Rescue Plan will help the CTA close a projected $390 million budget gap in 2023—and allow the agency to continue providing full service. Despite the financial challenges, the CTA continues to look for ways to operate more efficiently and effectively, and to best serve the region.
Additionally, the CTA remains focused on modernization and improvement of its physical infrastructure—tracks, rail stations, buses and trains, facilities and technologies. The CTA’s 2023-2027 Capital Improvement Program—which is separate from the agency’s operating budget—calls for $3.4 billion in projects over the next five years. Among many important investments is the Red Line Extension, which will extend the CTA’s busiest rail line to the southern City limits, and will provide greatly improved transit access and connectivity to the Far South Side of Chicago.
Other capital projects to continue or begin in 2023 include:
“Investment in transit infrastructure has always been an investment in a strong future for the city,” Carter said. “Further, continued investment in transit is directly tied to our city’s economic recovery, a way to promote jobs and opportunities at a time when the city needs them most.”
More information on the proposed 2023 budget is at transitchicago.com
A virtual public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. November 10, 2022. Due to public health concerns, the public hearing will proceed only virtually.
A link to view the hearing will be available at transitchicago.com/finance. Members of the public who wish to speak at the virtual public hearing are encouraged to submit their request prior to the hearing. Options for providing comment at the virtual hearing or for submission to the Chicago Transit Board on the proposed 2023-2027 Capital Program of Projects, 2022 Operating Budget and Program, and the Financial Plan for 2023 and 2024 are detailed below:
WRITTEN STATEMENTS: Written statements will be taken into consideration prior to the adoption of the proposed 2023-2027 Capital Program of Projects, 2023 Operating Budget and Program, and Financial Plan for 2023 and 2024. Written comments for the Chicago Transit Board’s review and consideration must be submitted by 5 p.m. Tuesday, November 15, 2022. Written comments may be submitted in any of the following ways:
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 transitchicago.com/finance. Individuals registered online by Wednesday, November 9, 2022, the day before the hearing, will be called by the CTA, at the telephone number provided, during the November 10, 2022 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.
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 2023-2027 Capital Program of Projects, 2023 Operating Budget and Program, Proposed Fare Reductions and the Financial Plan for 2023 and 2024.
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 Gregory Longhini, Board Secretary, at GLonghini1@transitchicago.com, 312-681-5022 or Relay.
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is the second largest public transit agency in the United States with more than 1,800 buses, 1,400 railcars, 9,000 front line operations staff, and a 2019 weekday ridership base of almost 1.5 million. We serve the City of Chicago and 35 surrounding suburbs and we provide more than 80 percent of regional transit rides. CTA is the backbone of Chicago’s and the regional transportation network.
Similar to many industries, public transit was upended by the COVID-19 pandemic as ridership plummeted in March 2020 and commuting patterns changed for the long-term. CTA met this moment by delivering as much service as possible to the essential workers and transit dependent riders of the region throughout the pandemic. As vaccines rolled out and people began to return to a “new normal”, CTA began facing new challenges with a hiring deficit and growing bus and rail operator attrition impacting service delivery.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. CTA, along with several industries, is feeling the continued impacts of this new normal on our workforce and service. We are also impacted by other socio-economic conditions of the region we serve. Particularly, instances of crime and unruly behavior on our system are negatively impacting rider experience.
Meeting the Moment: Transforming CTA’s Post-Pandemic Future Action Plan aims to address these issues in the near-term, while also laying the foundation for a long-term transformation of the Agency. Our long-term goal is to align our growing transit network with new mobility patterns and ensure CTA is a first choice of travel for many riders in the region.
This customer-focused action plan is grounded in five key pillars.
These pillars are central to the CTA rider experience, and will be reinforced by near-term strategic investments, initiatives, and tools. As the Agency rolls out this action plan, our senior leaders will be seeking input from our customers and connecting with riders across the system, and the Agency will be working hard to recruit bus and rail operators to alleviate the workforce shortage. The engagement and roll-out of this plan will also inform a long-term strategic plan to prepare the Agency for success in a post-pandemic world.