Chicagoland Transit Agencies Call for State Funding as Budget Shortfall Looms

Illinois transit agencies want to see changes to a law requiring them to collect half of their revenue from transit fares, arguing that low ridership and staffing shortages will lead to a massive budget gap without intervention.

2 minute read

March 24, 2023, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

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wonderlustpicstravel / Chicago train

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) in Illinois is calling on state lawmakers to change a law that requires half of the agency’s revenue to come from transit fares, citing continued low ridership after the pandemic, when emergency exemptions kept the agency afloat. Writing in Crain’s Chicago Business, Andrew Adams explains that “Last month, RTA's board approved a strategic plan that includes seeking increased funding overall to the system and developing a new model that is less reliant on fares.”

Members of the state Senate Transportation Committee said they would likely support assisting the RTS and Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), which it oversees, but expressed interest in addressing “certain reforms and issues, like safety and accessibility, that need to be addressed.”

“Beyond the long-term inequities in access, the CTA has also faced criticism from lawmakers and advocates about increased wait times for services and ‘ghost busses,’ a term to describe when a bus is scheduled to come but never does,” problems the CTA attributes to a worker shortage.

The challenges aren’t unique to the Chicago area. “Transit systems in Bloomington-Normal, Peoria, Rockford, Springfield, Champaign-Urbana, Decatur, Kankakee and DeKalb have all faced decreased ridership since the pandemic began.” According to Adams, “As of December, the combined number of trips being taken on these systems is down to 69 percent of what it was at the same time in 2019, according to data from the Federal Transit Administration.”

Wednesday, March 15, 2023 in Crain's Chicago Business

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