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CTA funding case

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Join the Transit Task Force-contact chairman James Withrow.

Fares last went up in January 2008. Transit home. CTA page.

Doomsday went back on the table in Feb. 2009, with a deficit of over $200 m looming for CTA and big shortfalls for Metra and PACE. But by July 2009, it was back off, at least through the rest of 2009. Meanwhile, the state passed in July 2009 a five year capital bill with 18b for transportation with 1 in 4 of that for transit (although some/much of that is for high speed rail startup). Not passed was a bill for better project review in line with goals. The transportation part will leverage about $4 billion in federal funds. The question is how much is "shovel ready?"

Some highlights of CTA 2010 doomsday from print media: Deficit still $180m. Rides cost $7 and tax take is down %30 percent. Lost to seniors and others free: $30m.

Fare hikes: $30m. Rest of makeup through service cuts and layoffs. The state will be asked to allow shifting from capital to operating.

Feb. 7 2010 train and express bus fares go from $2.25 to $3.00 (30%)
($390 a year)
Basic bus from $2.25 to $2.50
Full fare 30-day passes from$86 to $110, 7-day from $23 to $30
Fare card users will pay the whole fare, not $.25 discount.

Service cuts:

110 of 150 routes- less frequent service -waiting times will double
Cut in hours on 41 bus routes (morning and evening, 25 mins. to 3 hours +)
Elimination of express service on 9 routes X3, X4, X9, X20, X49, X54, X55, X80, 53AL.


2007: The Regional Transportation Agency (RTA) is seeking local partners including organizations to engage in assessing and planning for transit that is more efficient and gets people out of their cars. Community workshops are a part of the mix. Moving Beyond Congestion. The price tag is $10 billion for basics.

And just as the RTA and service boards put out their call for the state to fund infrastructure work and overhaul financing, Illinois Auditor General William Holland's report called in February for a top-down audit and overhaul of the RTA. The Performance audit agrees that funding is insufficient leading to progressive breakdown, but not only points to underfunded pensions, transit salaries and benefits among the highest in the nation, rampant absenteeism, lack of strong centralized planning and plain leadership, it cites weak leadership, competition instead of cooperation between transit agencies, wasteful duplication and skewed priorities. It said, stop fighting over customers and last federal dollar and expansion and concentrate on putting a coordinated system in place.--"good repair." Contracts, procurement and space utilization are other problems. Rep Julie Hamos has promised hearings. Where that went we do not know except that some oversight changes were enacted for 2008.


In October, 2004, Chicago Transit Authority issued detailed budgets ("gridlock" and "if tax allocation altered) and its case for enhanced funding. In December, in respect for promises of state legislative leaders to work for more funding, the cuts were postponed. But the following would become even more draconian if help is not granted. Note that the CTA's proposals are not the only way to have relief, and some wonder why the city doesn't provide at least a symbolic first put.

The state has failed as of 2006 to develop any plan or consensus to solve this problem. Although in 2005 the legislature shifted paratransit costs so CTA could replace drastic cuts with a modest fare hike (and loss of transfers to those not using the Chicago Card), the underlying questions including what to do about pensions and paying drives continue. There is more accounting and looks at efficiency underway; advocacy groups ask more.

Some of this follows. Web urls are:, The budget can also be viewed at the Office of the Secretary, Merchandise Mart Plaza, room 738, or the Genera office at 567 W. Lake 2nd floor, RTA office 175 W. Jackson 15th Floor, or main, Woodson, or South Shore libraries (and select others).

Comments can be sent to or CTA PO Box 3555, Chicago IL 60654 Attn Gregory Longhini Asst. Secretary

Here are three key charts from the first. Multiply figures by a million.

chart on regional distribution of sales tax for transit

figures in the Total Distribution table are (x 1M) CTA $461,984, Metra $2332,832, Pace $79,052, RTA $65,820, total $839,687.

chart cost effectiveness of subsidies
chart costs/subsidies for paratransit


From CTA press release, October 4, 2004

From Gina Downing, Government and Community Relations Officer

...This funding crisis has resulted in the CTA proposing two budgets for 2005: one budget promotes regional mobility and he other, with service cuts across the region, results in gridlock.

Cutting bus and rail service is not something the CTA wants to do. These cuts are a direct result of the consistent lack of adequate funding for public transportation in the Chicagoland region. Without action by the Illinois General Assembly to change the formula that funds public transit, both customers and drivers will feel the impact....[(dates of hearings- see Transit Task Force page.]

The Chicago Transit Authority does not want to make these service cuts, but we will have no other option without adequate funding from the state. Throughout the fall, CTA will continue to lobby the Illinois General Assembly and we ask you to join us in this your State Representative and State Senator...

Chicago Transit Authority President Frank Kruesi today presented two starkly 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 2004, one that anticipates additional funding 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...

The formula that funds transit operations in this region is fundamentally flawed. The current funding formula was established by the 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. Most fundamentally, it does not sufficiently fund transit services. Funding erosion has contributed to difficult budget decisions year after year...with each new budget year, it has been harder to find ways to reduce costs without impacting customers and service levels...

(The "mobility" budget: $1.02 billion with public funding level of $524 million, up $82.5. Increased weekend service and other recommended improvements on the Douglas Blue line are among projects funded.)

(Since 1997, CTA has reduced operating cost by over $760 million including 1,100 positions while making service improvements on 68 percent of bus routes and all rail lines including 281 improvements including 25 new bus routes, expanded hours, added trips access, and connectivity. The positive budget includes reducing 200 more positions on top of last years 446s cuts and raised fares). Select fares and fees will be raised regardless.)

(With no help from the state: RTA can only allocate 441.6 million to CTA-same s 2002. Deficit will be 912 million or $35.7 million less after inflation that in 2003. In this case, CTA proposes to cut an additional 250 jobs, steeply raise charge for paratransit whose cost is growing very fast, 10 cents more for U-pass and a parking rate increase. This still leaves $55 million in deficit, to be covered by service cuts and layoffs- 1000 bus and rail operating jobs. More is coming: $34.4 in 2006 and $10 in 2007. 2005's service cuts is one-fifth of service- bus vehicle hours 21.5, rail vehicle hours 11 percent. This means 3090 peak hour buses, elimination of 30 of 152 bus routes, 21 with no weekend service, and 9 will be shortened. And frequency and hours will be cut on almost every route, bus and rail. )

The service cuts were chosen through an analysis that considered ridership, geographic distribution and federal requirements. In addition, the importance of retaining 24-hour service and regional connections were factors... For the bus system the primary measure used to establish the initial list of service reductions was route productivity. Route productivity is defined as the number of riders per vehicle-hour of service. Routes were reviewed for reductions if the productivity per vehicle-hour was lower than 75 percent of the system average for the time period in question. Additional criteria...included the desire to continue 24-hour service, and protection of growing markets and regional connections. Lastly, retention of service on key routes was favored over service on support lines.

(Rail: substantial capital investment was a factor- because of investment already made, rail service is generally more productive ...due to additional capacity. Ridership was reviewed by time period and geographic and federal requirements.)

(Kruesi says CTA receives $100 million less in annual funding because funding has not kept even with inflation--cumulatively 1.5 billion since 1985.)


CTA FUNDING ISSUES by Kenneth L. Acoff, Jr.

On June 25, 2004, WGN-TV, the Chicago Tribune, and the Chicago Sun-Times all reported that the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) would be forced to increase fares and/or cut service throughout the system, due to a projected $50 to 100 million deficit for fiscal year 2004. CTA Chairman Carole Brown and President Frank Kruesi reportedly said these increases would be necessary due to inadequate funding from local and state governments. The reports also mentioned that overnight (OWL) service could be eliminated on bus and rail routes.

One advantage Chicago has over many other major U.S. cities is relatively easy accessibility to public transportation. However, CTA service cuts would cause the city to lose this advantage as more people will be forced to drive to their destinations—which would contribute to more road congestion and air pollution—and would make many potential residents consider relocating elsewhere.

People Affected:

Ø Low-income neighborhoods
Ø Senior citizens
Ø Work Commuters
Ø High School/College students
Ø Tourists and club and party goers

Potential Effects:

Ø Lack of access to employment centers for people without reliable car
Ø Less independence for seniors wanting to run errands and meet appointments
Ø Increase in traffic congestion and air pollution due to dependence on automobile
Ø Chronic absenteeism and tardiness for students and employees due to sporadic service and overcrowded buses and trains
Ø Increase in alcohol-related automobile accidents, injuries, and deaths due to potential loss of overnight (OWL) service for late-night party and club-goers.

RTA Statistics (2002 Annual Report at

Agency Agency Annual ridership (% of total system) Operating budget IL Taxes Allocated* (% of Op. budget) (% of Op. budget
CTA 457,300,000 (80.4) $964,449,000   $441,632,000 (46.0)
Metra 76,300,000 (13.4) $445,167,000 $238,955,000 (53.7   31.5
Pace 34,900,000 (6.2) $130,792,000 $79,052,000 10.4
TOTAL 568,500,000 (100) $,540,08,000 759,639,000 (49.3) 100

*Illinois State Taxes distributed through the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA)

Budget Concerns:

It has long been stated by citizens’ advocacy groups, like the Campaign for Better Transit (, that both the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago fall well below other states and cities in terms of public funding (i.e., tax revenues) for public transit. According to a study conducted by the Michigan Land Use Institute (, Chicago—the nation’s third most populous city and metropolitan area—lags behind the significantly smaller cities of Cleveland, Atlanta, and Miami when it comes to local tax dollars per-capita allocated to public transit. Furthermore, the less populous states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania contribute more tax dollars than Illinois—the nation’s fifth most populous state—to public transit. Because of these issues, the CTA—the nation’s second largest public transit system—is forced to rely more heavily on the fare box for operating revenues than many smaller cities.

Viewing... charts [at the site, copy available from author or this site]..., long suspected conclusions about public transit funding in Illinois and Chicago have been confirmed.

*Source: Michigan Land Use Institute

Prepared June 28, 2004 by Kenneth L. Acoff, Jr.