October 20, 2010

Pace board releases proposed budget

Despite the slow pace of the economy's recovery from recession, Chicago's Pace Board of Directors released a very stable and austere budget with virtually no impacts on riders in the form of fare increases or service cuts, including paratransit services.

"We've cut costs internally over the past few years to remain as efficient as possible while continuing to offer a high level of service to our customers, and that allows us to release a balanced budget that calls for no sacrifice on the part of riders," said Pace Chairman of the Board Richard Kwasneski.

The proposed Suburban Services operating budget, made up of fixed-route bus, vanpool, and dial-a-ride service totals $183.3 million and is balanced thanks to proactive steps taken during 2010. These cost controls offset growth in revenue over the past three years that has been essentially flat at just 1.1 percent, according to the agency.

Although Pace is prepared to use up to $2 million of capital funding to eliminate any operating expense deficit, that may not be necessary if sales tax collections- the primary source of operating funds- outpace current estimates.

The proposed Regional ADA Paratransit operating budget adds up to $120.7 million, with a bit more than 78 percent of expenses stemming from service provided in Chicago, and close to 20 percent for suburban service. Ridership is again projected to grow as service changes in recent years have expanded capacity, though per-trip costs continue to trend downward thanks to efficiencies that have also been implemented.

On the capital side, $4.7 million will be used to purchase new paratransit vehicles using capital funds that the local government released earlier this year. The purchase of these vehicles marks the first dedicated investment by Chicago in the ADA Paratransit capital program.

Public Hearings will take place during the last two weeks of October. The Board will review public comments received prior to approving the budget and submitting it in November to the RTA. In December, the RTA Board approves its final budget inclusive of the respective budgets from Pace, Metra and the Chicago Transit Authority.

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