RTA kicks off next Regional Transit Strategic Plan process
August 19, 2021
At its August meeting, the RTA Board of Directors will kick off the next regional transit strategic plan with a workshop to discuss key themes for the successor to Invest in Transit.
Adopted in 2018, Invest in Transit sets a bold vision for “Transit as the core of the region’s robust transportation mobility network” and underscores the importance of sustainable, long-term investment in the system to achieving the plan’s stated vision of public transit as the core of the region’s mobility network. The plan has guided the collective work of the Chicago region’s transit agencies, which includes the RTA, the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, and Pace, since its passage and yielded success with the passage of Rebuild Illinois in 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to dramatic impacts on transit ridership and funding. As of mid-July 2021, regional ridership has recovered to around 50 percent of 2019 levels. Three federal relief packages helped avoid operational funding crises, but the future remains unclear. It will likely take more than a year to determine “a new normal” of ridership levels for the system as a whole, and relief funding will eventually run out. At that time the regional transit system will need to be financially sustainable again.
In October 2020, RTA staff outlined a Three-Step COVID Recovery Strategy.
The first two steps focused on near-term decisions that were confronting the RTA Board in late 2020 and early 2021 to pass a budget and sustain critical transit during the first waves of the pandemic. The third step of the recovery strategy, to “Engage in Strategic Recovery Planning,” is an opportunity for the RTA to set a longer-term vision with an update of the regional transit strategic plan that will have an outlook of 2023 and beyond. Priorities the RTA identified as important during recovery – funding, service, and transparency – will continue to lead our efforts during the strategic planning process.
Even before the pandemic, the transit system was facing challenges related to limited funding and reduced ridership, as well as long-standing issues related to equity and the environment. All of these issues have been exacerbated by the pandemic and must be central conversation points in this next strategic planning process.
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