Contact Contact

Investment in Public Transit Benefits Us All

February 14, 2018

1147351 orig jj 2929285637 1561734853203

Today the Governor unveiled his annual budget proposal, and since public investment is on the top of everyone’s mind, it’s probably a good time to talk about the state of public transit’s finances.

As you may know, our regional system really is a PUBLIC transit system. Fares paid by riders make up about half of the system’s operating budget. The other half is from the sales tax we all pay on purchases in our region, along with a state match of a percentage of that sales tax. By law, fares and other revenue have to cover half of the cost of operating the system, so that our region is never overly-reliant on taxpayer dollars.

Last year, the Governor and the Illinois Legislature cut our regional transit operating funding in two ways. First, they reduced the amount of that sales tax match that the region receives by 10% (this was supposed to be only for one year). They then implemented a further cut by keeping 2% of the remaining sales tax as a “collection fee.”  That cut affects all local units of government who rely on sales tax for a large part of their budgets. Together, these two reductions took nearly $80 million of our public transit system’s 2017 and ‘18 budgets. Combined with an overall decline in sales tax and ridership declines that our peers are also seeing around the country, our region saw a funding cut of about $100 million last year alone.

Additionally, partly due to the fact that we haven’t had a state capital, or infrastructure bill, passed in Illinois since 2009, our regional transit system currently has a nearly $20 billion “state of good repair” backlog—meaning that’s what it would cost to replace and repair assets that are beyond their useful life. That’s without even factoring in our “going forward” needs.

It’s time to stop disinvestment and act now.

To combat this funding issue, the RTA spent the past two years working with our regional partners as well as CTA, Metra and Pace to create Invest in Transitthe 2018-2023 Regional Transit Strategic Plan. This plan makes the case for transit investment needed in the region. We should be investing $2 to $3 billion in capital each year to keep our system in good shape and move forward with new innovations. However, we’re currently not even investing half of that each year.

A companion document, Invest in Transit Priority Projects, describes specific, tangible capital priorities for the transit agencies.  A portion of the funding required to advance some of these projects is included in the current Transit Agency capital programs, yet all are still underfunded or un-funded, with a regional need totaling $30 billion over the next ten years.

The agencies have filled some of the funding gaps with short term fixes and by working with local governments and agencies.

  • Metra raised fares and is using a portion of those new revenues to fund capital projects including rolling stock modernization and Positive Train Control (PTC).
  • The CTA and City of Chicago partnered to enable the Red Purple Modernization (RPM) project to receive matching funds needed to leverage a federal core capacity grant. The local funds secured to finalize the federal partnership include $400 million of CTA bonds backed by sales tax revenue, combined with the creation of a Transit Facility Improvement Area (TFIA) along the project corridor.
  • Pace is partnering with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois Tollway to maximize expressway infrastructure for premium transit services through Bus-on-Shoulder and flex lane implementation.

Even with efforts to develop creative local solutions and partnerships, the magnitude of need still outpaces the available funding. Capital funding has been unpredictable over the past ten years and has varied significantly by source, as shown in the following chart.


The time to act is now. If you’re with me, reach out to your State Representatives and State Senators and demand support for a capital funding for our public transportation system.

Join us on the RTA Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and use the hashtags #ThatsMyStop and #KeepILMoving.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

* indicates required
Type your email address here
What emails would you like to receive from the RTA
Tagged in:

Related Articles

RTA ADA AWARENESS 2020 1 RTA celebrates 30 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act

This month the RTA is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA transformed society and provided opportunities f...

July 29, 2020
Pace Buses 3569195969 1588881889263 Take a survey to help improve mobility options for older adults and people with disabilities

Do you or someone you know face transportation challenges? The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) wants to hear from you about transportation issues and...

May 7, 2020
Transportation Tuesday Event Brite Banner V3 004 Transportation Tuesday Webinar Series: Attend the 2020 RTA Annual Planning Workshop Virtually

The RTA is launching a four-part webinar series in place of the Annual Planning Workshop due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The free, virtual sessions wil...

April 17, 2020
Call Banner 3485388325 1590696008966 Announcing the 2020 Access to Transit Program Call for Projects for Small-Scale Capital Projects

We are excited to announce that the call for projects for the RTA  Access to Transit Program is now open. The RTA launched the Access to Transit program in 2...

March 13, 2020
22 RTA 0646 Happy International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month from the RTA

Each year the RTA celebrates Women’s History Month in March to recognize the women who work at, and ride, CTA, Metra, and Pace every day. The celebration coi...

March 8, 2020
Survey image How's Your Ride? Take This Survey

We’d like to hear your thoughts about public transit!  The RTA is sponsoring a system-wide customer satisfaction survey and would like your feedback about yo...

March 2, 2020
Copyright © 2024 Regional Transportation Authority. All Rights Reserved.