Trick or Treat: What a Capital Idea!
October 31, 2019
Remember me? The Witch who warned “Wouldn’t it be scary if we didn’t have a public transportation system?”
Public transportation is essential to the RTA region’s prosperity. With almost two million riders taking it to work, school, appointments, and elsewhere every day, transit is a key driver of our economy. Daily service is funded by rider fares, the RTA sales tax, and funding from the State of Illinois — operational revenue sources that, despite some ups and downs, have been fairly reliable since 2009. Capital funding, on the other hand, has been unpredictable and chronically insufficient, and our assets (such as vehicles, track, stations, and support facilities) have been aging faster than we could replace them.
But, we all got some good news earlier this year. After nearly a decade without a state capital program, the Rebuild Illinois bill was passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Pritzker in June 2019. It provides a needed infusion for transit in the RTA region, with $2.7 billion over five years in new bonding authority for transit infrastructure and annual, sustainable state revenue for capital investments in public transportation, referred to as “pay-go” funding. Rebuild Illinois capital funding will expedite overdue repair and replacement projects, reduce the backlog of deferred improvements, and move the system toward a state of good repair. This new region-wide program addresses two major priorities of the region’s Invest in Transit strategic plan, which was adopted in 2018: It will “Build on Our Strengths” and help transit to “Stay Competitive” relative to other modes of mobility.
The RTA has long advocated for capital funding to address transit infrastructure needs of $30 billion projected over the next ten years. Though Rebuild Illinois falls well short of the region’s projected $30 billion in transit capital needs over the next decade, and certainly is no magic potion, make no mistake: It is a significant step forward! #WeCantAllRideABroom #InvestInTransit
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