Public Comments for 2024 Budget Hearing
Transit Group Recognizes CTA for Maintaining Service
at the Same Level for the Past Five Years
The community organization Citizens Taking Action for transit recognized the successful efforts by CTA during the previous five year period to maintain operations with no cuts in service or increase in fares, despite the loss of fare box revenue, due to a drop in and lower ridership since 2020 with the spread of covid-19.
This determination was made in a written submission to the CTA as public comments regarding the upcoming 2024 budget. The operation of CTA is particularly important for transit-dependent riders since it constitutes 81% of service in the six-county Chicago region.
Charles Paidock, Secretary of the community group, stated that “in reviewing the budget we put together a summary of the “system at a glance” for purposes of comparison of transit previously provided. When we went back several years, we were surprise to find that the CTA as a system was nearly identical in many respects to exactly as it had been before.”
He added that: “While there was a period during which bus routes were either shortened or eliminated altogether, or hours of service reduced, and so-called “service adjustments” were happening frequently, however that ended over ten years ago in 2013. We have researched and studied changes in CTA service since it was established on October 1, 1947.”
Since then the group has found that the size of the vehicle fleets remained the same, with 1,864 buses then, and 1,859 now, and 1,492 rail cars then, and 1,480 today. Previously CTA had 129 bus routes, and has 127 today. The number of elevated stations has not changed at 145. Passengers could board at 10,768 bus stops then, and can do so today at 10,715. The number of revenue miles of operation has not change significantly, at around 1,500 bus route miles and trains running on 224.1 miles of track.
In spite of severe lower ridership for some time due to covid-19 pandemic, and work-at-home arrangements, it was noted that several efforts were made to upgrade and modernize the system and improve the overall customer experience.
For example, the Red Line extension project continued as planned, and the Purple Line modernization, innovative fare products were being offered, 14 rail stations are now fully-funded for future accessibility, and security was to be improved with additional guard teams patrolling the system. Overall system-wide ridership for 2023 is forecasted to finish 12 percent higher than in 2022.
Of primary concern is the end of the federal government provided relief funding, beginning in 2020, to
transit systems impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through July 2023, the CTA has drawn $1.1B or approximately 50% of its allocation. The remaining funds are expected to be exhausted in 2025. There are proposals under review for confronting the anticipated $730 million combined financial budget shortfall expected for CTA, Metra, and Pace in 2026. It is generally acknowledges Illinois state’s 40-year-old, woefully inadequate formula for funding transit must be revised.
Mr. Paidock added that one problem we see right now is that “service is severely limited outside of the rush hour. Thirty-nine (39) bus routes cease running during the early evening, and another forty-four (44) stop running in the late evening. Out of a total of 127 routes, only eighteen (18) buses run a full twenty-four (24) hours, and most of these on routes which are shorter than those of daytime operations. Only two L lines operate at all times every day, the Red and the Blue lines.”
Bus Routes Eliminated and Elevated Stations Closed Since CTA was Started on October 1, 1947
Transit Group Study Shows Significant Cuts in Bus Service
CTA Group Seeks to Expand Bus Hours of Operation