Chicago Transit Authority President Frank Kruesi today presented the CTA's budget proposal for 2002. The budget recommends initiatives and projects that will advance the ongoing efforts to rebuild the CTA system, continue its commitment to customer service and improve transit services for customers.
At $914.8 million, the proposed operating budget is 5.3% ($45.6 million) higher than this year's budget. Ridership and revenue are forecast to grow by 2.4% and 5.1% respectively, and public funding by 5.4% over 2001. The 2002 budget proposal includes a Capital Improvement Plan of $492.3 million. These capital improvement projects include the ongoing rehabilitation of the Blue Line Cermak (Douglas) branch, the initial design phases of the Brown Line platform expansion project, the purchase of an automated bus announcement system and continuing efforts to modernize the CTA bus and rail fleets and facilities.
The CTA projects a balanced budget as required by law. Public funding required for operations equals the funding mark of $441.6 million set by the Regional Transportation 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 52.0%, which matches the required ratio set by the RTA.
"The spirit of teamwork and commitment has been the driving force in turning the CTA around," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Valerie B. Jarrett. "Years of fiscal discipline, innovative efficiencies and an aggressive effort to secure federal and state funding have allowed us to focus on improving the quality of the services we provide and increasing the number of customers who use our network of trains and buses."
CTA President Frank Kruesi said, "This budget was developed with a keen eye toward moving ahead with rehabilitation projects that will improve our system, service changes that reflect our growth and initiatives that carry on our commitment to provide our customers with on-time, clean, safe and friendly service. The CTA's increasing ridership proves that we're on the right track. The 2002 budget reflects an ambitious agenda for the coming year that builds on our success. We have new plans and ideas to help us improve further and increase our customer base."
In addition to keeping fares at the same levels for a decade, the budget will fund initiatives that carry on its mission to deliver affordable, quality transit services.
On September 10, the CTA broke ground on the Cermak (Douglas) Blue Line project. At a cost of $482 million, this project is the CTA's largest capital improvement project ever. It will take more than four years to complete, and when it is finished CTA customers will have eight upgraded, accessible stations, more than five miles of newer, smoother, more stable track, and a faster commute.
Work continues on plans to expand capacity on the Brown Line, which serves densely populated neighborhoods on Chicago's north side and has experienced significant ridership increases in the last decade. The CTA plans to extend platforms at 18 stations to accommodate eight-car trains. Presently, these stations can only accommodate six-car trains due to platform lengths. Elevators or ramps will be installed to make these stations accessible for seniors and people with disabilities. In 2002, the CTA will finalize the design phase of the project and will work to secure a Full Funding Grant Agreement with the federal government.
Other rail improvements are planned throughout the system. These include the replacement of signal switches and crossings and tying them into a state-of-the-art control system for added efficiency; initiating the replacement of CTA's oldest rail cars in the fleet, the 2200-series cars; completing the mid-life rehab of the 2600-series cars; upgrading the subway signal system and conducting infrastructure work along the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line.
The CTA will test security enhancements at four rail stations through a pilot camera program. As an added benefit, the cameras can also be used to monitor ridership levels.
Given recent events, the CTA is also operating in an environment of heightened security challenges. The CTA must identify those challenges and prepare for them. The CTA, like other public entities, must remain vigilant and continually monitor its procedures and facilities. As analyses indicate a need to modify the agency's current security coverage, the CTA will make necessary adjustments.
The CTA will continue to modernize its bus fleet with the completion of the overhaul of TMC buses to add air-conditioning for comfort in the summer months and block heaters to increase reliability in the winter. In 2002, all 469 new NOVA buses should be in service and the first new NABI articulated buses are scheduled for delivery.
An on-board, automated bus announcement system similar to the one in use on CTA trains will be purchased in 2002. New bus fareboxes will also be purchased next year.
Technological advances have allowed the CTA to operate more efficiently and provide better service for customers. Those efforts will continue as the CTA expands the Smart Card program to make up to 300,000 more cards available to customers.
To keep service on the street running smoothly, the CTA is improving the way it does business behind the scenes. The CTA is investing in an Enterprise Resource Planning system. This integrated computer system will provide efficiencies by integrating all departments of the agency into one common computer platform that will provide financial information on a more timely basis. Funding is also provided for a vehicle maintenance system for bus and rail vehicles. This computer system will better organize and track revenue vehicle maintenance.
However, even with all of these ambitious initiatives and projects and the financial stability of the CTA's operating budget, the CTA still has a great deal of work to do. The CTA estimates that it needs $4.3 billion over the next five years to bring its entire system into a state of good repair, and at least twice that amount to completely renew the system. Despite the CTA's recent success in acquiring state and federal capital funds, the agency is still faced with a sizeable list of unmet capital needs. The CTA is projecting $2.9 billion in capital funds, leaving a funding gap of $1.4 billion through 2006.
"Thanks to the leadership from Mayor Richard M. Daley, Governor George Ryan, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Senator Richard Durbin, the entire Illinois Congressional delegation and the Illinois General Assembly, the CTA has been able to obtain essential funding to improve our system," said President Kruesi.
Illinois FIRST and the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) provided the funding that has made the CTA's capital improvements possible. Managing the money the CTA now has and securing adequate funding in the future are the main financial challenges the CTA faces in the years ahead.
President Kruesi added, "We set three goals: rebuild the system, sustain the momentum, and improve the product. We've made substantial progress on all of them. For the fourth year in a row, more people are riding our bus and rail lines, ridership is up 7.5% since 1997, and growing. But, we cannot take this success for granted."
"Many of our customers have several transportation options; they may own a car or have access to other transit, yet more and more are choosing to use the CTA. In 1997, barely half our customers were Choice Riders, now 68% of our customers choose the CTA over driving or other means of transportation. Last year, the CTA carried more than 45% of the suburban transit riders in the region. Improved service that attracts more choice riders is improved service for all our customers."
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 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Regular, large print, braille and audio copies are available 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 Tuesday, October 30, 2001 at 6:00 p.m. in the Red Lacquer Room, 4th floor of the Palmer House Hilton, 17 E. Monroe, Chicago. Written comments can also be submitted to the Board until November 7, 2001. The correspondence should be addressed to Gregory Longhini, Assistant Secretary of the Board, Chicago Transit Authority, P.O. Box 3555, Chicago, IL 60654-0555.# # #