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The CTA Will Somehow Avoid Fee Hikes And Service Cuts This Year

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Oct 22, 2015 7:00PM

The CTA has proposed a $1.47 billion operating budget for 2016 that thankfully avoids those dreaded fare hikes or service cuts that the city and state's budget woes have portended.

But, the budget largely relies on Springfield lawmakers agreeing on a budget of their own and paying the CTA over $221 million the state owes, according to the Tribune's Jon Hilkevitch. The budget is also hoping that Gov. Bruce Rauner will bring back funding to the city's free- and reduced-fare programs for low-income commuters and commuters with disabilities, which were cut by 50 percent earlier this year.

It seems like a risky bet, according to this choice quote from the budget book:

"Significantly, the budget assumes the historic formulas for state funding to support CTA operations ... Any reduction in state funding to the CTA would negatively impact the Authority."

To save some money, the CTA budget also calls for the elimination of 100 "non-critical" management positions. While there will be staff cuts, at least it won't include bus and train operators.

The budget is riddled with unknowns, and it sounds like CTA officials know this, but CTA president Dorval Carter Jr. told the Tribune the budget is still "realistic." "Even if we do have to pivot, I am still focused on maximizing efficiencies," he said.

The budget shows that the CTA is expecting a slight gain in overall ridership—a 1.4 percent gain in train riders, and no gain in bus riders. Those modest projections come despite a massive effort to improve service in the past couple years by reducing slow zones on train lines and creating new express bus routes. Since last year bus ridership has declined slightly while train ridership has gone up just over 1 percent.