Chicago RTA adopts 2023 regional transit budget and five-year capital program

Dec. 20, 2022
The 2023 budget includes $3.583 billion for operations — an increase of six percent over the adopted 2022 budget.

The Chicago area’s Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) adopted its 2023 regional transit budget and five-year capital program, which uses federal relief funding to support operations as pandemic recovery continues.

 The 2023 budget includes $3.583 billion for operations — an increase of six percent over the adopted 2022 budget, which reflects nationwide trends in inflation, rising costs of goods and a labor shortage that is affecting transit agencies across the country.

In 2022, the Chicago region’s transit systems welcomed back many riders and settled into a new normal after several years of disruption. By September, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra and Pace were providing more than one million rides per weekday, a high since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. These numbers are still significantly lower than the pre-pandemic period, which will be a factor in the operating funding challenges forecasted in the years ahead.

Federal relief dollars distributed by the RTA earlier in the pandemic will continue to support transit operations for CTA, Metra and Pace for the upcoming budget year but will be depleted by the end of 2025. A shortfall of more than $730 million per year is expected starting in 2026, a nearly 20 percent hole in the budget that would be devastating to RTA’s regional transit system and the riders it serves. The RTA is prepared with a strategic plan — Transit is the Answer — informed by a 10-year financial plan and a growing coalition of support behind ideas on how to close the gap, improve and adapt service and ensure transit is viable for the next generation.

“Transit is the answer to solving some of our region’s most urgent challenges, including economic recovery, inequality and climate change. This budget and the upcoming strategic plan lay the groundwork for how the RTA will work to improve the transit experience for riders and advocate for increased funding to support our region’s transit system for years to come,” said RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden.

The approved budget also includes the 2023-2027 Regional Capital Program of $5.724 billion, an 8.8 percent increase over the 2022-2026 program due to federal infrastructure funding beginning to flow to the Chicago region, allowing CTA, Metra and Pace to make progress on the backlog of needs and work toward regional goals like accessibility, equity and bringing RTA’s transit system into a state of good repair. Several improvements have been made to the efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of capital program process. In 2022, the RTA released a new map of capital projects to accompany the web-based listing of capital projects and downloadable datasets that have been made available on the RTA Mapping and Statistics website (RTAMS) since 2021.

Transit is the Answer is available for public comment through Jan. 9, 2023, and will be considered for adoption by the RTA Board of Directors at its February 16 meeting, immediately launching the agency and its coalition of supporters into implementation to improve and better fund the region’s transit system.