Chicago Transit Faces Steep Budget Gap

The region’s transit riders could see major fare hikes and reduced service if agencies don’t find new ways to make up for reduced fare revenues.

1 minute read

December 11, 2022, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

CHicago elevated train passing by brick buildings

wonderlustpicstravel / Chicago train

Without new funding sources, the Chicago Transit Authority could be forced to raise fares and reduce service by 2026, warns Dan Zukowski in Smart Cities Dive.

The Regional Transportation Authority of Northern Illinois acknowledges the heavy reliance of Chicago-area transit agencies on fare revenue is unsustainable. The agency faces a $730 million budget shortfall in 2026.

The RTA released a five-year strategic plan that seeks to address this and other problems facing the region’s transit. “Advocacy issues include finding additional funding for transit operations and infrastructure that reduce the Authority’s reliance on the farebox. Action items aim to address public safety concerns, accessibility, customer convenience and transitioning to a near-zero emission regional transit system.”

If the plan fails to gain political support and bring in the needed funding, Zukowski explains, “One-way fares for Chicago Transit Authority elevated trains, Metra trains and Pace buses would double. That would make Chicago’s trains and buses some of the most expensive in the country, the RTA states in the plan document.” The plan admits that this could backfire and lead to even lower ridership. 

Zukowski points out the long history of public transit in Chicago, where the first elevated train began running in 1892 and more than a million people use the region’s trains and buses daily.

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