Chicago Transit Authority President Frank Kruesi today presented the CTA's budget proposal for 2001. In good news for CTA customers, the budget recommends holding the line on fares, which have not increased in nine years. It also advances the CTA's extensive efforts to upgrade and renovate its bus and rail fleets and facilities in order to provide better service for customers.
At $869.2 million, the proposed operating budget is 3.3% ($28.1million) higher than this year's budget. Ridership and revenues are forecast to grow by 3.4% and 2.6% respectively, and public funding by 4.2% over 2000 levels. In addition, the budget proposal contains a five-year Capital Improvement Plan including $427 million in projects for 2001. These capital projects include previously announced renovation projects on the Cermak (Douglas) Branch of the Blue Line and capacity expansion on the Brown Line and ongoing initiatives that will bring the CTA fleet and facilities into a state of good repair.
As required by law, the operating budget is balanced and the public funding required for operations meets the mark of $419 million established by the Regional Transit Authority, the agency responsible for financial oversight of the Chicago area's public transportation companies. The Recovery Ratio, which measures the amount of operating expenses the CTA has to fund from revenues it generates, is forecast at 52.10%, which exceeds the required ratio by .31 percentage points.
"When I joined the Chicago Transit Board five years ago, the agency's financial outlook was grim. Through several years of belt-tightening and fiscal discipline, our financial picture has greatly improved," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Valerie Jarrett. ?Because we?ve been careful and creative with our spending, we?ve been able make improvements to our service and still keep fares low. Going forward in 2001, we want to continue with that strategy."
?As we developed this budget, we evaluated projects on how well they could advance our efforts to rebuild the system, improve the product and sustain the momentum that we have built up. These objectives are the foundation for our budget recommendations," said Kruesi. ?In the past few years, innovations and service improvements led to a ridership increase of more than 5%, reversing a 40% decline over the previous 15 years. We are determined to build on that success and continually make improvements that will attract new riders and encourage existing customers to ride more often."
In addition to keeping fares at 1992 levels, the budget will fund initiatives in the CTA's three main divisions. The CTA's Transit Operations division intends to focus on increasing the reliability of service, especially for bus customers who make up 2/3rds of the CTA's ridership. This will be aided by major fleet improvements such as the delivery of more than 200 air-conditioned, accessible new buses over the year and the renovation of more than 200 existing buses. In 2001 the CTA also expects to place an order for up to 200 new articulated buses to serve some of its most heavily traveled routes.
As new buses are added, more CTA routes will become accessible to customers with disabilities and the CTA will begin a training program so that customers who currently use special services can more easily make the transition to using the CTA's mainline system. The CTA's bus system is expected to be 96% accessible by year-end 2003.
The CTA is also moving ahead with other initiatives to expand service options for mobility-impaired customers by increasing the budget for paratransit services by 9%. The 2001 budget proposal recommends a $2.5 million expansion of special door-to-door service and Taxi Access (TAP) trips as the CTA strives to increase service for customers who are unable to use the mainline system. The budget also anticipates a taxi fare increase, and is structured so CTA customers who use the Taxi Access program will not have to bear that cost.
Improvements will be made to the mainline system as well. In 2001 more rail stations will be made fully accessible to customers with disabilities and a comprehensive repair/replacement plan for elevators and escalators will improve their reliability and the CTA's ability to maintain an accessible system.
Transit Operations will continue to test ways to reduce bus bunching, through a pilot program that gives bus operators on select routes the authority to immediately make adjustments when they detect problems, and through technological advancements. These initiatives are important as traffic congestion increases and contributes to service disruptions.
The renovation of 168 rail cars will help ensure more reliable service for rail passengers. The quality of rail service will also be improved through projects to upgrade rail signal systems and reduce slow zones due to track and structural disrepair.
The Construction and Facilities Maintenance division will implement a far-reaching preventative maintenance program for all facilities. This systematic approach to the maintenance and repair of facilities will improve long-term reliability. Construction and Facilities Maintenance will also oversee the CTA's major reconstruction of the Cermak (Douglas) Branch of the Blue Line, which begins in 2001.
And the Administrative division will take advantage of new technology to consolidate vital data into a single system. More than eight computer systems, many outdated and incompatible with one another will be streamlined under one plan. This management tool, known as an Enterprise Resource Plan (ERP), will enable the CTA to better access, analyze and quantify data.
However, even with all these initiatives and the financial stability of the CTA's operating budget, there is still much to be done. The CTA estimates that it needs to invest $4.6 billion in capital improvements over the next five years to bring its entire system into a state of good repair. To completely renew the system would cost at least twice that amount. At this point, the CTA has identified $2.8 billion in funds toward its capital needs, leaving a funding gap of $1.8 billion.
However, Kruesi added, "We have come a long way in a short time. Three years ago only 19% of our capital needs were funded, now we are at 70% thanks to the significant support for public transit that our local, state and federal leaders have shown.
Kruesi cited the increased spending flexibility made possible through the federal transportation bill, TEA-21, and Governor Ryan's Illinois FIRST program which provided funds that enabled the CTA to access more federal funding programs, and the support of Mayor Daley, Governor Ryan and Chicago and Illinois representatives.
"We have seen tremendous support from our elected officials. Mayor Daley, Governor Ryan, Senator Durbin, Senator Fitzgerald, Speaker Hastert, Congressman Lipinski and the entire Illinois delegation have all been strong backers of public transit and worked together successfully to meet the transportation needs of the region and the state. In these last few months, as decisions have been finalized, the leadership of Speaker Hastert on this issue has made all the difference. On behalf of the CTA and its customers, I want to thank them."
The proposed budget is available for public review at the CTA's General Office at the Merchandise Mart, 300 N. Wells, 7th Floor, weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Both regular and large print copies are at this location.Copies are also available at the main office of the Regional Transportation Authority, 181 W. Madison, Suite 1900, Chicago. A copy of the budget summary is also posted on the CTA's website at www.transitchicago.com. A list of libraries and additional locations where the document will be available is attached.
Public comment will be taken into consideration prior to Board approval of the budget. Both verbal and written comments will be accepted at a public hearing on Monday, October 30, at 6:00 p.m. in the Red Lacquer Room of the Palmer House Hilton, 17 E. Monroe, Chicago. Written comments can also be submitted to the Board until Tuesday, November 7, 2000. The correspondence should be addressed to Gregory Longhini, Assistant Secretary of the Board, Chicago Transit Authority, P.O. Box 3555, Chicago, IL 60654-0555.###