The Chicago Transit Authority has launched an outreach campaign in support of fair funding for regional public transit to help encourage the General Assembly to change the way public transit is funded in the region. Next week, ads directed at CTA customers will begin appearing on CTA buses and trains to alert customers to the need for additional transit funding. In addition, banners along area expressways will encourage drivers to help support a change in funding in order to avoid the traffic congestion that will result from reduced transit service.
The CTA has also created a web site, www.keepchicagolandmoving.com, that provides information on regional funding for public transit and encourages visitors to contact their state senators and state representatives in the General Assembly and ask them to support fair transit funding to avoid potential service cuts in 2005.
?A strong transit system reduces congestion, improves air quality and enhances economic competitiveness. Through the combined systems of CTA, Metra and Pace, the Chicago area has one of the most extensive public transit networks in the United States," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?It provides access, opportunity and choice to the people who live in the six-county metropolitan area. But transit is not appropriately funded in this region and we are all suffering the consequences."
On October 4, Kruesi presented two vastly different budget recommendations for 2005. In September, the Board of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) directed that all three regional transit agencies, CTA, Metra and Pace, prepare two budget proposals for 2005, one that anticipates additional funding of $82.5 million for CTA if the General Assembly acts to modify the current funding structure and provide additional funding for public transit, and another that anticipates no new funding. Unless the General Assembly supports RTA's operating and capital transit funding marks for 2005, CTA will have a significant budget deficit and will be forced to drastically cut service.
The formula that funds transit operations in the Chicagoland region is fundamentally flawed. The current funding formula was established by the Illinois General Assembly in 1983. It determines funding levels based on geographic boundaries and retail spending rather than ridership, service provided or other transit performance criteria.
?We are appealing to those individuals who will be impacted most if the worst case scenario happens in January," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown. ?Anyone who drives or rides in the region will feel the result of a reduction in CTA train and bus service through overcrowded expressways as well as heavier customer loads on the CTA service that will still be available in 2005."
Over the past two decades, CTA's erosion in funding as a result of the formula has contributed to difficult budget decisions each year. Although CTA staff worked diligently each year to find more ways to cut costs, operate more efficiently and increase revenues, it has been harder to find ways to reduce costs without impacting customers and service levels.
If CTA receives adequate funding, it will be able to maintain current service levels and make moderate service improvements. But without adequate funding, CTA will have no choice but to restructure its service in order to achieve a balanced budget.
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