September 22, 2004

General Assembly Being Asked to Review Current Public Transit Funding Formula to Avoid Service Cuts

At today's Chicago Transit Board meeting, the Board approved a resolution seeking support from the General Assembly for the increased operating funding levels recently established by the Regional Transportation Authority. Unless the General Assembly supports RTA's operating and capital transit funding marks for 2005, CTA will be forced to drastically cut service. To prepare for potential service cuts, the Board also announced tentative public hearing dates of October 12, 19, 25 and 27 for CTA customers and the general public to comment on the 2005 budget proposal and potential service cuts.

?The resolution provides a clear target for members of the General Assembly as they review how transportation is funded in Northeastern Illinois," said Carole Brown, Chairman of the Chicago Transit Board. ?There are serious structural flaws in the way transit is currently funded. Without General Assembly action this fall, the CTA will be forced to cut transit service, which will increase congestion and hurt the region's economy. It is in the best interest of drivers, business owners and transit customers, that we have a strong, well-funded regional transit system."

The resolution seeks support from the RTA and the General Assembly for increased funding and changes in state statute to provide the RTA greater policy discretion to allocate funding in a manner that more effectively:

Reduces traffic congestion and urban sprawl.

Increases transit ridership by basing funding in part on each Service Board's ridership performance.

Improves air quality thereby lowering asthma rates, ozone levels and improving the general health and welfare of the entire region.

Induces and rewards efficient and cost-effective transit subsidies.

Ensures that operating funds are distributed fairly to minority and non-minority residents as required under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"The Chicago region depends on an interconnected transportation system of CTA, Metra and Pace to help maintain a strong economic base. Proper funding makes for a stronger regional transit system that provides safe and affordable access to jobs, schools, healthcare, shopping and recreation," added CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?Transit is not simply an overflow outlet for those who would rather drive; for many, it is - by choice - their primary mode of transportation."

Since 1985, the inflation-adjusted amount of public funding to operate the region's trains and buses has fallen and CTA has been the hardest hit. Adjusted for inflation, CTA received about $397 million in 2004 for bus and rail operations compared to $491 million in 1985. In response, CTA has cut annual costs by over $120 million.

?Without adequate funding, CTA will have no choice but to drastically restructure its service in order to achieve a balanced budget. This is not a choice the CTA wants to make," explained Brown. ?But we are at a crossroads and it is now time for the General Assembly to look at the way in which transit is funded and the consequences of not updating the funding formula for 20 years."

?Public transit provides a necessary balance to automobile travel. Without it, Chicago's expressways would suffer from traffic jams far more serious than those already experienced on a daily basis," continued Kruesi. ?Without assistance from the General Assembly to correct the structural flaws of the current formula, public transit in the region will have to make significant changes in the way it operates, including substantial cuts in service."

The CTA provides over 80 percent of all transit trips in the six-county region, including nearly half of suburban transit trips, but only receives 59 percent of regional public transit funding. In 1980, CTA received 71 percent of available transit funding. The current transit funding formula is designed around geographic boundaries and retail sales and does not reflect ridership, service levels and other performance-based criteria.

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