Friday, December 15, 2017

RTA Board approves $3B 2018 regional transit operating budget

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RTA Board approves $3B 2018 regional transit operating budget File photo

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) Board of Directors has adopted the 2018 operating budgets for the RTA, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra and Pace, totaling $3 billion.

 

 

For the first time in nine years, all three service boards proposed a fare increase. The $3 billion operating budget the RTA Board approved allows for operations expenses in the following amounts:

  • CTA: $1.514 billion
  • Metra: $797 million
  • RTA: $34.3 million

The Board also adopted a $4.2 billion five-year capital program, which includes an estimated $1.2 billion in capital expenditures for 2018.

For the fourth consecutive year, the transit system cannot expect new capital money from the state of Illinois.

The RTA estimates that to address the region's growing backlog of capital needs and to move forward, $2 billion to $3 billion needs to be invested annually.

The current capital program falls far short of that goal, RTA said.

"The 2018 budgeting and capital planning process was exceptionally challenging. Each Service Board tackled these obstacles by making difficult decisions and, when possible, mitigating the negative impact on riders," said RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden. "In order to produce balanced operating budgets as required by law, the budget approved by the RTA board today incudes fare increases for CTA, Metra and Pace that are unavoidable in light of current challenging economic factors and cuts in state funding."

For all Metra fare zones, one-way fares will increase by $0.25, 10-ride tickets will increase by a range of $4.25 to $7.75, and monthly passes will increase by a range of $9 to $12.50.

The proposed Metra 10-ride and monthly pass prices reflect a lesser discount versus one-way fares. Some reduced fare tickets and pass prices will also increase, RTA said.

Weekend pass prices will increase by $2. The fare increase would be effective Feb. 1, 2018.

A small number of weekday trains will be curtailed or eliminated on the North Central Service, South West Service and Rock Island Line, and weekend trains will be cut on the Milwaukee District North Line. Those changes will start Feb. 5, 2018.

The CTA will implement a 25-cent increase in the base fare for bus and rail rides, a $5 increase in the cost of a 30-day pass, and increased reduced-fare rides by 10 to 15 cents to partially offset funding cuts from the state.

The following fares will remain the same: 75-cent student fares; 1-Day, 3-Day and 7-Day unlimited ride CTA passes—$10, $20, and $28, respectively—and CTA Single-Ride and 1-Day Ventra tickets—$3 and $10, respectively.

Train rides beginning at O'Hare will remain $5.

CTA's average base fare is projected to be $1.17 in 2017, up slightly compared with 2016. With the fare increase in 2018, the average fare is budgeted to increase to $1.26 and increase further to $1.31 by 2020. The new fare structure will go into effect Jan. 7, 2018, RTA said.

The RTA Board of Directors is also set to consider for adoption "Invest in Transit: the 2018-2023 Regional Transit Strategic Plan" in January 2018.

"As state funding delays continue, the agency will raise awareness of regional capital infrastructure needs and advocate for a new, sustainable source of state capital funding," RTA said.

The RTA plans to continue leveraging its positive credit rating to affordably provide financing options, such as $150 million in short-term borrowing to help manage continued state funding delays and $150 million in long-term bonding to support Service Board capital programs.