Public transit has come a long way since its earliest days in Chicago. Original horse drawn service began in 1859. By 1947, the Chicago Transit Authority is granted the exclusive right to own and operate a unified, local transportation service and became the sole operator of Chicago transit. According to the Chicago Transit website, today, the CTA operates the nation’s second largest public transportation system. To some, it is an everyday means of travel, to work, school, friends, and/or all sorts of attractions. It opens up the city to everyday consumers, rain or shine, night or day, and aims for affordable access for everyone.
There are over 1.6 million people who depend on the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) as a means of transportation on an average weekday. The 2011 budget estimated systemwide ridership to be 521.8 million, with a projected ridership that will end the year at 524.4 million, meaning there is a slight increase in ridership this year than estimated. The CTA has been able to provide a public option of transportation for the city of Chicago. Whether it is using this form of transportation around downtown, or to the 40 suburban communities that are also accessible, the CTA attempts to offer a quality and affordable transit service to serve the people. However, just as most businesses have been hit hard with the recession, the CTA is no exception. The CTA faces monumental financial complications.
According to a press release from the CTA, “Throughout the budget process, our goal has been to manage responsibly and make strategic budget decisions so that we can weather this recession and still provide the critical, affordable services that so many working men and women rely on,” said Chicago Transit Authority President Richard L. Rodriguez. Rodriguez supported the 2010 budget cuts made in order to not increase the current fare price for consumers. The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) was created by state legislation and is the CTA’s fiscal oversight agency. Between the RTA and the State of Illinois, the RTA agreed to issue debt to provide an additional $83 million to the CTA in 2010 and 2011. This debt allowed to hold the same fare prices over those years, however, it is not predicted to reoccur in 2012. This could prove problematic and lead to fare increases in the near future for CTA riders.
The overall approval of the past budget meant service reductions, furlough days for workers, elimination of 1,100 jobs, bus service reduction by 18%, and rail service by 9%. There are currently 41 bus routes with later start times and/or earlier end times. Besides the routes cut altogether, these reduced routes (as featured on the chart) support increased planning of travel by tracking the arrival times of buses and trains. This timing was made possible with the advancements in technology. CTA Bus Tracker and CTA Train Tracker offer a way to plan your transportation online, so riders can plan accordingly to avoid to extended wait.
As previously mentioned, the Chicago Transit Authority has undergone several budget cuts in the past years. The CTA president also proposed a 1.24 billion 2012 budget recommendation plan to address the financial struggles they continue to face today. This year, escalated fuel prices and increased electric power, used for extreme weather conditions, went over budget in those allotted areas. The CTA has recovered from small setbacks due to adjustments in their budget. However, the 2012 operating budget faces bigger issues. It lacks $131.2 million that was available the previous year. As featured in the CTA’s budget breakdown, the debt is projected to exist until 2033.
The outcome for the Chicago Transit Authority might seem problematic, but, in the past, they have made it through other financial hardships. They are currently in the process of trying to avoid further service cuts and fare increases through different measures, most articles suggest union work rule changes.
The Chicago Transit Authority offers full opportunity for consumer feedback on their website. Next year seems in need for further budget cuts. It will be interesting to see if fares end up increasing and/or the union will reach some sort of agreement with the CTA. Comparing the entrance fee to get into a cab in Chicago is about the same price as an entire trip on the CTA, I would still consider a quarter-more hypothetical price increase to be a bargain.
By Ashley Prete