Current fares maintained; Service improved; Modernization programs continue
The Chicago Transit Board today unanimously approved a balanced $1.44 billion budget for 2015 that freezes fares and improves transit service levels, while continuing historic investment in projects and programs to modernize regional transit and improve the customer transit experience.
“The Chicago Transit Board applauds this fiscally responsible 2015 budget that reflects the effective management of this agency under the leadership of CTA President Forrest Claypool and his team,” said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Terry Peterson. “The Board is pleased that CTA continues to operate in a financially sound manner and still make major investments in our train and bus system, and thanks Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his leadership in recognizing the importance of transit to our region’s economy.”
CTA’s 2015 budget expands rail service to meet growing rail ridership, expected to increase by more than 2 million rides in 2015. The agency next year will also continue its aggressive modernization plans that are improving the speed, comfort and reliability of the nation’s second-largest transit system. This includes the more than $5 billion in system-improvement projects completed, begun or announced since 2011, including rehabilitating rail stations and building new ones, modernizing rail and bus fleets, leveraging new technology to improve the commuting experience, and bringing the agency’s massive infrastructure into a state of good repair to improve reliability and safety.
“This administration has worked hard to restore this agency’s fiscal health and offer a budget that, for a fourth straight year, controls spending and expenses and invests in safe, affordable and reliable transit for everyone,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “We have replaced the days of doomsday budgets and runaway costs with responsible financial management of this agency that has created jobs, modernized our transit system, increased safety and accomplished all of these things in a financially sound manner that is good for customers and taxpayers.”
The 2015 operating budget is the fourth consecutive CTA budget that preserves capital investment in the transit system without diverting capital funds to balance the operating budget, a past practice that delayed critical infrastructure projects. The operating budget is also balanced despite the challenges of higher unfunded state mandates for retiree health care, pension costs and providing free and discounted rides.
Major projects that will begin or continue in 2015 include projects that benefit customers and in several cases will boost local economic development in Chicago’s neighborhoods:
- The $240 million 95th Street Terminal project, which began in fall 2014 and will expand and upgrade the 95th/Dan Ryan bus and rail station that connects Far South Side communities to job centers throughout the region
- Continuation of the environmental review processes for both the proposed Red Line Extension from 95th Street to 130th Street and Phase One of the Red and Purple Modernization Program to modernize the Red and Purple lines
- The $203 million reconstruction of the Wilson station, which has begun and will transform Wilson into a modern, accessible transfer station for Red and Purple Lines
- The 146th CTA rail station, the Cermak/McCormick on the Green Line, which will open in 2015, providing much-needed rapid transit access to the Near South Side and McCormick Place
- Continuation of the four-year Your New Blue program to upgrade the O’Hare branch of the Blue Line, benefitting the 80,000 weekday passengers who use the branch
- The $71.2 million Ravenswood Connector project to significantly upgrade track and related rail structure between the Chicago and Armitage stations on the elevated Brown and Purple Express lines, providing more comfortable and reliable rides for customers
- Upgrade wireless communications in CTA’s subway tunnels and underground facilities to 4G technology to increase the speed and reliability of underground communications
- Station project work including the new Washington-Wabash station, Quincy (Loop) and Illinois Medical District (Blue Line) station rehabilitation
- Complete the delivery of all 714 5000-series rail cars and 300 new Nova-manufactured buses as part of the CTA’s ongoing fleet modernization; receive bids for the next generation of rail cars, the 7000-series, to replace the CTA’s oldest cars and reduce the fleet’s average to just 10 years by 2022 from more than 25 years in 2011
The Chicago Civic Federation has given its support to the proposed budget, noting the “significant fiscal turn-around for the CTA in its past three budget cycles. The agency is working under a more sustainable labor agreement, no longer relies heavily on one-time revenue sources and has balanced its budget for the past three years without increasing base fare rates.”
Total ridership on the CTA is expected to grow in 2015 from this year to increase to 522.5 million in 2015, the eighth consecutive year of ridership exceeding a half-billion rides and the second-largest ridership of all public transit agencies in the country. The projected ridership represents an increase of 0.7 percent from 2014’s expected total ridership.