Focus on rebuilding the system, sustaining momentum, improving the product
A full fleet of air-conditioned, accessible buses; 142 new rail cars; more than 1000 new bus shelters; the elimination of most rail slow zones; renovations at approximately 20 rail stations; security cameras on all buses; and a new, centralized paratransit reservation system are among the customer-focused improvements that will get underway at the Chicago Transit Authority over the next five years.
Announcing the CTA's proposed budget for 2000, CTA President Frank Kruesi said today that the transit agency is nearly doubling the amount of money earmarked annually for capital improvements. Thanks to an infusion of funding from Governor Ryan's Illinois FIRST program and the federal transportation bill, the CTA expects to fund $409 million in capital improvements next year, compared to $235 million budgeted in 1999. Capital grant commitments are expected to increase over the next five years for a total investment of nearly $2.8 billion.
"Those who question the critical importance of maintaining and replacing aging equipment need only look at this past year, with our own rail equipment breakdowns during last January's blizzard and the impact ComEd equipment failures had on our service this summer," said Kruesi. " We don't ever want to be in that position again. That is why, like the City of Chicago, we are proposing a major investment in our infrastructure."
"We won?t lose sight of our customers," he added. "The improvements we have outlined in our capital improvement plan will significantly improve the comfort and reliability of the services we provide our customers, but they will also yield long-term operational and maintenance benefits for the CTA, which is also important, and very necessary, with a system as old as ours."
"The CTA has come a long way," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Valerie Jarrett. "A few years ago ridership was at a low point and less than 20% of our capital needs were addressed. We've moved away from the perilous cycle of increasing fares and declining ridership. We've now seen two successive years of ridership increases and can budget nearly 70 percent of the capital improvement projects we need in order to get to a state of good repair."
"We've built up momentum and we want to use it to continue to make the kinds of improvements that will benefit CTA customers for years to come and restore their confidence in our ability to offer reliable service," she added.
Kruesi and Jarrett added that while not all of the CTA's projects are funded, the situation is night and day from where it was two years ago.
"Without Illinois FIRST and the TEA-21 bill, we would be looking at a $150 million capital program instead of one worth more than $400 million. It's the difference between dismantling the system and rebuilding it, " said Kruesi.
The CTA estimates an operating budget of $841 million for 2000, a 5.7% increase over the 1999 budget, reflecting higher labor and health insurance costs. However, increases in CTA-generated revenues and public funding will cover the costs, so no fare increases or service cuts are necessary. Public funding is expected to total $402.1 million, up $17.3 million from last year, and system generated revenues are estimated at $439 million, $27.9 million higher than in 1999. This is partly because the CTA expects full state reimbursement for the reduced fares it offers to seniors, students and disabled passengers, a commitment made by Governor Ryan. The CTA's growing ridership has also contributed to higher anticipated revenues.
The Regional Transportation Authority set the CTA's Recovery Ratio, which measures the amount of operating funds the CTA must generate for itself, at 51.7%. However, the CTA's budget projects that it will actually recover 52.5% of its costs in 2000.
Kruesi said all initiatives in the budget were evaluated to determine how they could help further the CTA's performance objectives of being on-time, clean, safe and friendly.
The major initiatives fall into four categories. Highlights include:
1) Preventive Maintenance of Rolling Stock
- The entire bus fleet is expected to be air conditioned by the Summer of 2003. This will be achieved by a combination of new bus purchases and by retrofitting nearly 500 existing TMC buses with air conditioning.
- The 2200 series rail cars, which operate on the Blue Line and first entered service in 1969-70, will be replaced. The CTA has 142 of these cars.
- Improvements are planned to several heavily used bus turnarounds, including 95th/Dan Ryan, and more than 1000 new bus shelters are proposed.
2) Track and Structure Improvements
- Work to be funded over the next five years will eliminate 80% of the slow zones that exist today. Presently, slow zones exist on over 20 miles of the CTA's 220 miles of track.
3) Station and Passenger Facilities
- Repairs and major improvements are planned for more than 20 stations as well as ongoing ADA upgrades at many others.
4) New Starts
- The capital plan includes funding for continued design and engineering work for the renovation of the Cermak (Douglas) branch of the Blue Line and expansion of capacity on the Brown Line.
The proposal now goes to the Chicago Transit Board for review. Copies will be available for public review weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the front desk of the CTA's General Office, Merchandise Mart Plaza, located north of the Chicago River, between Wells and Franklin. Additional copies will also be available at the main office of the RTA, 181 W. Madison, Suite 1900, Chicago.
A public hearing on the budget will be held November 4th. Written comments will be accepted through Friday, November 5th. Correspondence should be addressed to Greg Longhini, Secretary of the Board, Chicago Transit Authority, P.O. Box 3555, Chicago, IL 60654-0555.###