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Service Boards share robust operational data through new online portals

May 30, 2024

A young woman in a green sweater looks at her smartphone on a Metra train.

At the May RTA Board of Directors meeting, RTA staff shared an update on new, streamlined data portals developed by CTA, Metra, and Pace to boost transparency and give riders access to new information. The data portals are a result of Illinois Public Act 103-0281—legislation enacted in 2023 requiring the Service Boards to publish monthly operational data on their websites for 2024 and 2025. While the Service Boards and RTA have published some of this data for years, compliance with this act has offered an opportunity to better collaborate and offer additional information. The RTA Board must annually certify that the Service Boards comply with the act to receive state funds for free and reduced fare programs, this year totaling $19 million.

Reporting categories and data elements are specified within the act and include:

  • Staffing: budgeted positions, current positions filled, hired staff, attrition, staff in training, absenteeism rates
  • Service: scheduled service, delivered service, total revenue miles, excess wait times
  • Safety: crime incidents, code of conduct violations, other investments in safety and security

Over the past few months, the RTA has coordinated meetings with the Service Boards to provide a forum for a working group to discuss and share methodologies and progress toward meeting the act's requirements. As a result, the Service Boards have made significant progress in sharing more information with the public.

CTA

The CTA performance dashboard includes 13 months of detailed operational data ranging from bus and rail service delivery to customer service complaints and commendations received from riders. In all, there are 18 pages of various data elements. The information is available for bus and rail modes separately, and the data can be displayed by line or route, by month or by individual day.

Metra

Metra is in the final stages of creating a new webpage with early 2024 monthly data populated. The landing page is expected to include the number of scheduled trains for each line by type of day, the percent of delivered service, and other safety and staffing metrics that the agency is tracking each month.

Pace

Pace recently released their performance webpage with January 2024 data on staffing, service, and security. Viewers can download detailed service data in a spreadsheet format. Pace has provided bus route on-time performance data at specified intervals along a route, adding very detailed information for those interested in downloading their data.

The RTA anticipates presenting quarterly updates to the Board and meeting the 2024 deadline with a determination of accordance with the act’s requirements.

Financial report

The RTA Board certified the Service Boards’ financial results through the first quarter of 2024 against the adopted operating budgets.

Continuing the trend from last month and last year, the operating deficit results through March continued to be favorable to budget for each Service Board and the region as a whole. Notably, Pace’s operating deficit finished nearly 24% favorable due to the combination of expenses coming in significantly under budget while ridership and operating revenue also continue to outperform. The 7.7% favorable variance for the Region equates to $56.5 million of favorable variance from the adopted 2024 operating budget.

While the operating deficits are favorable, the RTA expects this trend to change throughout the year, and operations continue to be covered through COVID relief funding. This funding is set to run out by 2026, marking a transit “fiscal cliff.”

Fiscal cliff

Since the RTA’s last quarterly finance report in March, CTA and Metra have requisitioned an additional $150 million in relief funding, and the regional transit system has now drawn down almost $2.2 billion—or about 62%—of the $3.5 billion total in federal relief dollars. This drawdown is regularly updated on the RTA’s State of Transit Dashboard.

The current budget and two-year plan shows that a budget gap in excess of $730 million will materialize in 2026 as the relief funding exhausts, if service levels are to be maintained. The RTA continues to monitor the major variables that will impact the timing and magnitude of that gap, namely ridership and fare revenue recovery, sales tax performance, and Service Board operating expense levels. The proposed 2025-2027 Service Board budgets to be submitted this fall will provide an update on the timing and magnitude of the future regional transit budget gap.

Join the Transit is the Answer Coalition

Transit is the answer to many of the most urgent challenges facing us today, and investing in transit is key to advancing equity, growing our economy, and combating climate change.

The RTA’s regional transit strategic plan Transit is the Answer identifies potential funding solutions and lays out an agenda for advocacy and action that addresses safety, reliability, speed, and other improvements to the system. Join our coalition to take future action and advocate with us for these solutions.

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