For the first time in 10 years, the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace will rely on current and recurring revenues to cover operations, according to the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA).
"They will no longer use capital funds or one-time measures to cover operating expenses,” said John S. Gates, Jr., RTA board chairman.
“Our transit system is on more solid financial footing because critical capital funds won’t be transferred to operations but will be used for their intended purpose, to improve the transit system by purchasing and maintaining the equipment, facilities, and technology needed to improve the customer experience,” Gates said. “The service boards deserve credit for incorporating operational efficiencies to balance their budgets on a sustainable basis.”
Chairman Gates further noted that the budgets continue to fund the employee pension plans on a sound actuarial basis.
The RTA has worked diligently to coordinate and oversee the agencies while they face downward funding trends and aging infrastructure. Though transit is still in need of billions of dollars in funding, the service boards are poised to leverage capital funding in the coming years for critical transit projects including slow zone eradication, security cameras, reconstruction of Metra stations and transit infrastructure along the I-90 corridor.
Capital funding will be used largely for rolling stock renewal and other projects aimed at taking care of the existing system. Specific projects funded in the 2013-2017 capital programs include:
• Slow zone eradication
• Wilson Station reconstruction
• 3,000 security cameras
• 400 Bus-Tracker displays
• Ventra open fare payment system roll-out
• Station renew crews
• Introduction of Highliner train cars
• Train car rehabilitation
• Reconstruction of Cicero and Fox River Grove stations
• Bridge replacement and rehabilitation
• Purchase of coaches for I-55 Bus on Shoulder service expansion
• Bus and van replacements
• I-90 corridor transit infrastructure
• Paratransit vehicle replacements
• Construction and improvement of garages
Although the capital-to-operating transfers have stopped, Chairman Gates calls attention to the fact that the transit system still needs significantly more funding for further maintenance, enhancement and expansion. An RTA asset condition evaluation completed in December 2012 determined that the system has a 10-year capital need of $30.9 billion to achieve a state of good repair.
The RTA is leading a national effort to advocate for long-term federal funding through the "Getting America to Work" campaign.