CTA has no fare hikes in approved $1.8 billion 2023 budget

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The Chicago Transit Authority’s board of directors approved a $1.8 billion operating budget for 2023 in November that avoids fare hikes and aims to address customer concerns.

The approved budget is slightly larger than the $1.7 billion budget last year but relies on $390 million in federal relief funds to help cover a shortfall as ridership remains low.

CTA said the budget invests in its “Meeting the Moment” action plan, which was introduced by the agency in August to address a slew of customer complaints, including unreliable service, safety and cleanliness.

The budget includes an 3.5% increase in labor costs from last year as the agency plans to hire more bus operators to help reliability. Forty janitors will also be added to help clean trains and stations.

“We are committed to maximizing every dollar of our budget to both modernize our system and continue work on the strategic initiatives outlined in support of the guiding pillars of ‘Meeting the Moment’ Action Plan, which addresses the most pressing challenges facing our customers and employees,” CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr said in a statement.

The 2023 budget will also maintain its discounted passes in hopes of bringing riders back. This includes one-day passes ($5), three-day passes ($15), seven-day passes ($20) and 30-day passes ($75).

The agency has seen its budget increase in recent years thanks to post-pandemic relief dollars from Washington. In 2019, the budget was just over $1.5 billion. CTA has about $1.2 billion of federal relief funding that will help the agency through 2026.

The board also approved the CTA’s $3.4 billion capital improvement program for new and ongoing projects in the next five years, the most significant of which is the extension of the Red Line to 130th Street. The capital improvement program is separate from the agency’s operating budget.

The All Stations Accessibility Program, which aims to make the CTA rail system 100% accessible via ramps or elevators, is also included in the capital projects plan. The program was first introduced by the CTA in 2018. Now, 103 of the CTA’s 145 rail stations are accessible, according to the agency. 

Other capital projects touted by the CTA include an expansion of its electric bus fleet, a citywide plan for bus-priority streets and efforts focused on cleaning and repairing train stations.

A plan is also being developed to modernize the CTA’s West Loop Control Center, which manages rail operations and security functions. The agency said the new facility will have more space and updated technology.

The CTA also announced a new $2 million agreement with the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services aimed at providing outreach and aid to riders who are unhoused, as well as those struggling with mental health problems and substance abuse.

DFSS will use the funds toward expanding its network of community-based social service organizations to provide resources such as housing and medical care to those individuals, the CTA said.

“While CTA traditionally has not played a role in the provision of social services, I believe it is time to address these challenges with new thinking and new tools,” Carter said.

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