The Chicago Transit Board today approved the proposed 2003 budget at its regular monthly meeting. The budget contains 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 $924.6 million, the operating budget is just 1.1 percent ($9.8 million) higher than this year's budget. Ridership and revenue are forecast to grow by 1.1 percent and 1.4 percent respectively over this year's forecast, with a 2.7 percent increase in public funding over the 2002 budget. As a result of cost-conscious management, the budget contains no fare increases or service cuts.
The CTA projects a balanced budget as required by law. Public funding required for operations equals the funding mark of $453.5 million set by the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA). The Recovery Ratio, which measures the portion of operating expenses the CTA has to fund from revenues it generates, is forecast at 52.6 percent, which is slightly higher than the required ratio set by the RTA.
The 2003 budget includes a capital improvement plan of $539 million. Projects include: the ongoing rehabilitation of the Cermak (Douglas) Branch of the Blue Line; the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project; delivery of 151 low-floor articulated buses; installation of an automated bus announcement system; upgrading the bus turnaround at 95th Street; renovating eight stations on the Dan Ryan Branch of the Red Line; the reconfiguration of Harrison Curve; upgrades to the signal and communications systems at Clark Junction; and preparation for the purchase of new 'L' cars.
"This budget is designed to build on the momentum already established by key rehabilitation projects such as the Cermak (Douglas) Blue Line construction," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Valerie B. Jarrett. "The CTA is drawing upon the knowledge and creativity of its staff to find ways to do more with available resources to rebuild the region's public transit infrastructure."
"Thanks to the infusion of capital from Governor Ryan's Illinois FIRST program, which allowed the CTA to leverage federal funds, CTA customers have more comfortable, reliable service," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. "With Illinois FIRST and the support of Mayor Richard M. Daley, U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and many other elected officials at all levels of government, the CTA is rebuilding rather than tearing down the century old Cermak (Douglas) Branch of the Blue Line, a vital transportation artery."
"We need to use every resource available to renovate our stations, replenish our fleet and improve service," explained Jarrett. "Capital investment in the bus and rail fleet has yielded visible results for our customers over the past five years and we plan to continue down that path of investing in the system."
Even with all of these ambitious initiatives and projects, the CTA still has a great deal of work to do. It needs $5 billion over the next five years to bring the existing system into a state of good repair. Currently, the CTA has identified approximately $3.1 billion in funding and must secure an additional $1.9 billion to meet its needs.
"Most important, customers are noticing the improvements and responding positively," continued Kruesi. "The CTA's bi-annual customer satisfaction survey found that overall satisfaction increased from 80 percent in 1999 to 85 percent in 2001."
2003 is a critical year for the CTA. The legislation that determines its federal funding levels, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), will expire. Both Illinois FIRST and TEA-21 provide the funding that has made the CTA's capital improvements possible. The support the CTA has received from all levels of government acknowledges that public transit is an important part of the solution to regional traffic congestion.
# # #