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Proposed CTA budget holds fares steady, lays out $5.1B capital investment plan

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The plan would rely on state money for projects like a new Cottage Grove Green Line stop and Blue Line upgrades

An elevated train station with a blue glass canopy along a tree-line street.
A conceptual rendering of a new station along the CTA’s proposed Red Line extension.

Chicago Transit Authority fares and service will remain at their current levels next year, according to the agency’s proposed 2020 budget. Increased labor security costs have added roughly $18 million making the CTA’s operating budget hit $1.57 billion for 2020.

The agency has also outlined a five-year $5.1 billion capital budget that would tap Illinois’s recent infrastructure bill to support new and ongoing investments in bus and train infrastructure. It prioritizes projects such as the overhaul of the Cottage Grove Green Line station, service improvements to the O’Hare Branch of the Blue Line, and the ongoing (albeit slow-moving) initiative to bring full ADA accessibility to every station.

The plan will fund design and engineering work for the proposed extension of the Red Line to Chicago’s Far South Side. The study will help the CTA secure federal funding for the massive undertaking, which is expected to cost $2.3 billion in total. Riders can also expect to see a handful of new electric buses and 7000 series rail cars.

Despite getting a boost from the state when it comes to capital investment, the CTA continues to feel the fallout from Springfield cutting back its operating funds.

“CTA losses since the state cut our operating funds will total $180 million through 2020,” said CTA president Dorval R. Carter Jr. in a statement. “We continue to call for the restoration of full operating funding for this agency so that we may better serve our customers.”

The CTA’s announcements come at a time when some public transit routes face a decline in ridership. Mayor Lightfoot’s recent plan to impose higher fees on ride-hailing usage—specifically in Chicago’s transit-rich central business district—may play a role in reversing that trend.

“Public transportation is the great connector of Chicago, and this city has a fundamental obligation to ensure all residents of all communities have access to affordable, accessible, and equitable transportation options,” said Lightfoot in a statement Thursday.

“From extending CTA’s Red Line south to ensuring every CTA station is 100 percent accessible, I’m proud to say this budget reflects not only our priorities but most importantly—our values,” added the mayor.