CTA: Service Reductions, Fare Increases on the Horizon

CHICAGO — The Chicago Transit Board earlier this month approved a 2008 budget that includes significant service reductions, fare increases and layoffs in order to bridge a projected $158 million “shortfall.”

At the same time, board members said they hoped the Illinois General Assembly can reach agreement on a transit funding package to avoid the fare increases and service reductions.

Effective Jan. 20, 2008, the CTA will eliminate 81 of its 154 bus routes; lay off more than 2,400 employees; and raise fares to record levels, officials said. In addition, the CTA will close three of its eight garages.

Fares will move to a tiered system with higher fares being charged during rush periods for rail service and to those customers who pay with cash. The lowest fare will be $2.25 for a non-peak hour bus ride for Chicago Card or Transit Card users.

The highest fare, $3.25, will be charged on the rail system during peak hours to those who pay cash. Unlimited ride passes will still be available, but at a higher price. The 1-Day Pass will increase from $5 to $7; the 7-Day Pass from $20 to $25; and the 30-Day from $75 to $94.

“We want CTA customers to know that this budget has been approved with great reluctance and regret,” said Chairman Carole Brown. “After working diligently all year with the General Assembly to craft a long-term solution to CTA’s structural funding deficit, we had hoped to have put funding shortfalls behind us for 2008. But with no resolution yet, we had to approve a budget that reflects financial realities.

“We are very sympathetic to the concerns raised by our customers and we have made some changes to try and address some of those concerns, but with a $158 million shortfall, there is not a lot of flexibility,” Brown added. “We know that transit is a life-line for many of our customers and we will continue to fight for funding on their behalf.”

The proposed 2008 operating budget is $1.03 billion, which is $45 million lower than 2007. The CTA expects to generate $562 million in fares and other revenue and anticipates $472 million in public funding.

In order to maintain service and fares at current levels, the CTA needs an additional $158 million in public funding for 2008, officials said.

— Special to Railfanning.org News Wire