RTA approves $3.1 Billion 2019 Budget and $4.3 Billion Capital Program
RTA Board Approves $3.1 Billion 2019 Regional Transit Operating Budget and $4.3 Billion 2019-2023 Regional Capital Program
The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) Board of Directors today adopted the 2019 operating budgets for the RTA, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra and Pace Suburban Bus and Paratransit, totaling $3.1 billion. The Board also adopted a five-year capital program in the amount of $4.3 billion. The Transit Agencies’ 2019 operating budgets do not contain any fare increases. CTA and Metra plan to maintain existing service levels while Pace has planned reductions or eliminations of up to 12 under-performing routes. The $3.1 billion operating budget approved by the RTA Board authorizes operations expenses in the following amounts:
The five-year capital program includes an estimated $841 million in capital expenditures for 2019. The RTA estimates that in order to address the region’s growing backlog of capital needs and move forward, the region should be investing $2 billion to $3 billion annually. The current capital program falls far short of that goal.
“I’m proud of the collaboration between the RTA and Transit Agencies especially as we continue to face funding challenges,” says Leanne Redden, RTA Executive Director. “Together, we produced a fiscally responsible and balanced regional transit budget and capital program with a focus on benefitting our region’s riders. As we move towards the future, the RTA will continue to push for sustainable, long-term funding for our transit system.”
2019 Operating Budgets
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The 2019 regional operating budget reflects the State Fiscal Year 2019 budget imposing a 1.5% surcharge on RTA sales tax collections, and a 5% reduction in the State Public Transportation Fund (PTF) match of the sales tax and the Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT). The 1.5% sales tax surcharge translates into $19 million annually and the 5% PTF reduction resulted in a $10 million impact to 2019 budgeted revenues. Both were reflected in the 2019 funding allocations, which also assumed no PTF match reduction beginning with the State FY 2020 budget.
- Total 2019 operating revenues from fares and other system-generated sources are expected to increase by 2.8% to $707.7 million due to increased fare revenue and assumed reinstatement of state reduced fare funding.
- Public funding from RTA sales tax, State Public Transportation Funds, and the RETT is projected at $844.4 million for 2019.
- Total 2019 operating expenses are projected to increase by 2.5% from the 2018 budget, to $1.552 billion, driven by increases in labor, fuel, power, and other expenses.
- CTA’s system-generated revenue recovery ratio is projected at 55.6%, exceeding the RTA-set level of 54.75%.
- Total 2019 operating revenues from fares and other system-generated revenues are expected to increase by 0.3% to $411.7 million as an increase in ancillary revenue more than offsets lower fare revenue.
- Public funding from RTA sales tax, State Public Transportation Funds, and federal sources is projected at $422.6 million for 2019.
- Total 2019 operating expenses are projected to increase by 3.1% from the 2018 budget, to $822.2 million, driven by increases in labor, fuel, and materials expenses.
- Metra’s system-generated revenue recovery ratio is projected at 53.1%, exceeding the RTA-set level of 52.5%.
- Total 2019 operating revenues from fares and other system-generated revenues are projected to grow by 1.7% to $14.2 million due to increased fare revenue from ridership growth.
- Public funding from RTA sales tax and other State funding is projected at $173.0 million for 2019.
- Total 2019 operating expenses are projected to increase by 4.8% from the 2018 budget, to $187.2 million, driven by ridership growth and contractor price increases.
- The ADA Paratransit system-generated revenue recovery ratio is projected at 10.0%, meeting the statutory requirement.
- The total RTA 2019 budget of $41.9 million is supported by $34.2 million of regional public funding and $7.7 million of federal grants and other revenues.
- The Agency budget is comprised of two parts: administrative and regional.
o The $17.7 million administrative budget fulfills the mandates required by state law including performance audits, financial oversight, and regional planning functions. This portion of the budget is 33% below the cap on RTA administrative expenses imposed by state law.
o The $24.2 million regional programs budget includes $17.0 million for regional services provided to the public such as ADA Paratransit certification, travel training, the RTA customer service center, and the travel information center (TIC).
2019-2023 Capital Programs
Even without a state capital bill, and inadequate capital funding, all three Transit Agencies are working to continue to attract riders and provide world class service through the following capital projects:
CTA’s portion of the 2019-2023 Capital Program totals $2.885 billion (including payment of debt service on bonds) and includes investments to modernize and add transit capacity.
- CTA plans to invest $899.7 million on rail modernization and extensions. The Red Purple Modernization (RPM) project represents $827.7 million, which includes $0.4 million for Core Capacity studies, while the Red Line Extension (RLE) project has $40.2 million of funds allocated, and the Your New Blue (YNB) project on the O’Hare Branch has $31.8 million budgeted.
- The plan includes a $430.7 million investment in rail rolling stock improvements, which includes $238.7 million for performing quarter life overhauls on the 5000 series rail cars and other rail car maintenance. CTA also allocated $192.0 million to the purchase of the 7000 series rail cars, which will replace the older 2600 series rail cars.
- A projected 5-year investment of $276.0 million is dedicated to CTA’s bus fleet that includes maintenance and overhauls to existing buses as well as the purchase of diesel and electric buses.
Metra’s portion of the 2019-2023 Capital Program totals $1.165 billion and includes the following investments to move its system towards a State of Good Repair and improve service reliability and comfort for its customers.
- Over the next 5 years, Metra plans to invest $577.7 million, or nearly 50% of its capital program funds, to improve its fleet. In-house rebuilding program of current rolling stock is estimated at $201.7 million, locomotive improvements and the purchase of new locomotives at $200.4 million, and the purchase of new rail cars at $175.7 million. This investment in fleet will help Metra improve on-time performance, offer better amenities to riders, and reduce high maintenance costs associated with aging rail stock.
- Another important goal for Metra is to maintain track and structures in a state of good repair, by using an investment of $255.6 million over the next 5 years. Major projects include $115.5 million allocated to rebuilding bridges and improving structures associated with the rail system, replacing rail ties and other rail renewal with an investment of $110.6 million, and improving rail crossings with $29.5 million.
- Metra has budgeted $116.7 million for improvements and state of good repair projects for electrical, signal and communications systems. The plan has $100.7 million budgeted for signal upgrades, improvements to interlockers and switches, and electrical upgrades, all of which are expected to lead to improvements in system reliability. Another $16.0 million is budgeted for positive train control in 2019, with the project expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Pace’s 2019-2023 Capital Program totals $289.5 million. The majority of funding will be used for state of good repair projects that focus on acquiring new rolling stock, updating and improving support facilities and equipment, and renovating and improving the passenger experience at stations and facilities.
- Pace budgeted $142.9 million for support facilities and equipment, with the largest investment of $46.8 million going to a new Northwest Division garage that will be more environmentally friendly by utilizing compressed natural gas buses, which will save an estimated $1.3 million in annual fuel cost. $30.7 million is dedicated to preventive maintenance, and the remaining funds are dedicated to IT projects, farebox equipment, non-revenue vehicles, and other associated capital.
- Pace’s plan includes investing $106.1 million in rolling stock. This includes $98.1 million for the purchase of new buses, paratransit vehicles, and vanpool vans. Over the 5 year plan, Pace projects to acquire 159 new buses, including special buses for the new Pace Pulse route on Milwaukee Avenue, 305 new paratransit vehicles, 69 community vehicles, and 187 vanpool vans. The remaining $8.0 million in rolling stock investment is for engine and transmission retrofits during midlife bus overhauls.
- Pace’s plan includes new stations, passenger facilities, and improvements to existing transit facilities. Overall funding for these projects is $39.3 million, of which $23.2 million will fund renovations at Homewood, Gurnee Mills, the Harvey Transportation Center, and the second Pace Pulse line facilities on Dempster Avenue.
About the RTA
The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) is the transit agency charged with regional financial oversight, funding, and transit planning for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra and Pace bus and ADA paratransit. The system provides more than two million trips each weekday on the RTA region’s transit system in six counties with 7,200 transit route miles throughout Northeastern Illinois. The Agency also provides customer services including online and telephone travel planning assistance and travel training for seniors and people with disabilities. For more information, visit www.RTAchicago.org.
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Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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