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President Dorval R. Carter outlines CTA’s 2024 budget

November 16, 2023

22 RTA 1480

This guest blog was written by Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) President, Dorval R. Carter, Jr. Learn more about the proposed 2024 Regional Transit Operating Budget and Capital Program and submit a comment before December 7, 2023, here.

As we approach 2024, CTA is budgeting for a brighter future. We remain on track with steady improvements across the system and our recently proposed $1.99 billion operating budget solidifies the many advances we’ve made and expands on them. The great news for customers is that fares will stay the same while allowing us to maintain the delivery of scheduled rail and bus service.

More importantly, our 2024 budget will allow us to increase bus and rail service next year, as we continue to hire and train bus and rail operators in record numbers. As transit agencies across the country are facing the same workforce challenges, CTA continues its unprecedented efforts to recruit and train talented and capable individuals that a city with big shoulders can rely on for a ride.

Our proposed budget maintains ongoing investments in capital projects while leaning on innovative ways to improve the customer experience – from our highly anticipated chatbot that will provide quick, automated responses to common customer inquiries, to expanded security personnel and the continuation of our expanded cleaning regimen at stations across the system.

We’ll also continue to cooperate with our regional service partners to develop fare products that make the customer experience more seamless, in addition to a new program that provides pre-loaded Ventra Cards to survivors of domestic abuse.

This proposed budget wouldn’t have been possible without the steady improvements CTA has made over the past year, in areas of:

  • Increased ridership
  • Improved service reliability
  • Reductions in crime
  • Regular station cleanings
  • Trackers that are more reliable

A year ago, we made a promise that CTA would be committed to addressing customer complaints and expanding and modernizing our system.

Our intention is to get back to pre-pandemic service levels, despite staffing shortfalls that CTA, along with almost every transit agency in the nation has struggled with.

As part of this budget, CTA has designated $3.61 billion for our 2024-2028 Capital Improvement Program, which includes:

  • Red Line Extension (RLE): Extending CTA’s busiest rail line from 95th Street to 130th Street, including the construction of four new accessible stations.
  • All Stations Accessibility Program (ASAP): Modernization of 14 rail stations for future accessibility. Five of these are already under construction, three are in design, and five are in various stages of planning. As part of the station improvements, $37 million will be spent on elevator replacements or upgrades to existing elevators systemwide.
  • Rail Fleet Modernization: Increased production of the 7000-series rail cars and ongoing overhauls of CTA’s older 5000-series cars.
  • Refresh & Renew: Expansion of CTA’s annual facilities improvement program to include more employee workspaces and continued rail station repairs and improvements.

As part of those capital allocations, CTA also will invest in electrifying our bus garages to power our growing fleet of electric buses. E-buses run cleaner and that’s better for the environment and the people who live and work in the areas they serve.

Our number one priority is always our customers, who are accounting for over a million rides on our system on weekdays.

Systemwide ridership for this year should finish about 12 percent higher than last year, and we expect to increase another 5.7 percent in 2024 as well. We still have a way to go before our ridership is at pre-pandemic numbers, but as more people return to their office buildings, ridership should continue an upward trend.

Despite this steady progress, we recognize there is still more work to be done. Which is why CTA is committed to returning more scheduled service to our bus and rail systems in 2024. Specific increases and locations have not yet been determined but will generally be guided by lines/routes that have seen schedule reductions due to worker shortages, as well as increased ridership growth. All decisions will be made to ensure an equitable approach.

CTA couldn’t have made these strides without the people of Chicago, who recognize that the lifeblood of our great city is our transit system. Many of those Chicagoans have answered the call and joined our ranks, and many more reach out to us about job openings. CTA is always hiring! And we’re pleased that we have surpassed our hiring goal of 700 new bus operators in 2023, while nearly doubling our rail operator training class sizes. We’re training at an unprecedented pace, using every training resource we have available and expect to bring on almost 100 new rail operators by year’s end. It'll be a banner year for hiring at CTA. Overall, we expect to have hired more than 2,000 new employees.

As a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars, CTA has maximized every single penny in our commitment to delivering quality, reliable and affordable transit service. Since 2015, CTA has implemented a myriad cost-saving and non-farebox revenue measures that have saved this agency and taxpayers over $1 billion.

We’re encouraged by the improvements and investments we’ve made—and the positive trends we’ve seen—in the past year, and we will continue to improve the CTA travel experience in 2024. The city of Chicago deserves a transit system that is World Class, and we are working diligently to deliver on that.

For more information, see the 2024 Regional Operating Budget and Capital Program web page for links to agency budgets as well as RTA’s proposal regional transit budget that includes new 15 evaluation criteria for capital projects.

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Tagged in: CTA | Budget

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