The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) announced it has proposed a $1.99 billion operating budget that keeps fares at current levels and maintains the delivery of bus and rail services, with plans to add additional service to meet growing ridership demand.
The proposed spending budget reflects a 9.2% increase (or $168.2 million) over the previous year’s budget and supports CTA’s ongoing workforce initiatives for hiring and retaining key operations personnel, while also introducing new measures that will help improve the overall customer experience with enhanced security and improved Ventra fare system features.
This includes a new ChatBot for improved customer service, ongoing work with our transit partners at Metra, Pace, and RTA to deliver fare products, plus a new, dedicated program that will provide pre-loaded Ventra Cards to victims and survivors of domestic abuse.
“I deeply believe that an examination of an agency’s budget is all that is required to understand who and what it prioritizes. The CTA’s proposed 2024 budget puts a high premium on providing the highest levels of service, customer comfort, modernization, and equity,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “I am pleased with the continued progress and positive trends that CTA continues to make, but we still have work to do to provide the service that I believe our customers deserve and expect. I am committed to returning more scheduled service to our bus and rail systems in 2024.”
CTA Experiences Growth in Ridership, Workforce
CTA ridership grew steadily throughout 2023, reaching a pandemic-era high of more than 25.83. million rides during the month of September. Overall system-wide ridership for 2023 is forecasted to finish 12% higher than in 2022. Ridership is projected to increase further in 2024, approximately 5.7% over the 2023 forecasted ridership.
In 2023, the CTA made progress toward addressing the workforce issue, hosting seven job fairs that attracted more than 3,000 potential employees, while hiring hundreds of new workers into a variety of positions.
As a result of CTA’s ongoing recruiting efforts, it has already surpassed its goal of hiring 700 new bus operators in 2023 and anticipates hiring more than 900 bus operators by the end of the year.
CTA is also on track to hire approximately 100 bus mechanics in 2023, which is more than double the normal rate.
On the rail side, almost 100 flaggers will have been trained and transitioned into rail operator positions by the end of 2023.
Overall, CTA is projecting to hire more than 2,000 new employees for the current year, also exceeding the 1,200 annual hiring norm.
CTA Funding and Programs
Federal funding from the American Rescue Plan will help the CTA close a projected $473 million budget gap in 2024 and allow the agency to continue providing as much service as possible with its available workforce.
“While more and improved funding and investment is unquestionably the most important issue facing CTA finances, our number one priority is always the people who take hundreds of millions of rides on our system every year. It is incumbent upon us to work diligently to find better ways to serve them and improve their travel experience.” Carter added.
The CTA’s 2024-2028 Capital Improvement Program, which is separate from the agency’s operating budget, calls for $3.61 billion in projects over the next five years. Among the investments is the Red Line Extension, which will extend the CTA’s busiest rail line to the southern City limits and will provide improved transit access and connectivity to the Far South Side of Chicago.
A public hearing will be held on Thursday, November 9, 2023, at 6:00 p.m. at CTA headquarters located at 567 W. Lake Street, second-floor conference room, Chicago, Illinois 60661. The facility is accessible to people with disabilities.
CTA added that it will afford an opportunity for interested persons or agencies to be heard at the public hearing with respect to the proposed 2024-2028 Capital Program of Projects, the 2024 Operating Budget, and the Financial Plan for 2025 and 2026.