No Fare Hike From Regional Transportation Authority Comes With Warning

Bob Roberts
December 14, 2018 - 8:25 am

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Chicago-area mass transit riders are getting a Christmas present from the Regional Transportation Authority: a 2019 without fare increases. But the CTA, Metra and Pace 2019 spending plans, given final approval Thursday, come with a warning.

Fares are frozen in the combined $3.1 billion operating budget, as are service levels on both the CTA and Metra. On the capital side, RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden said the breakdowns that have begun to plague Metra, including an engine fire last week, are evidence of the need for an infrastructure plan that calls for a big increase in capital spending from the $4.3 billion planned over five years.

"The challenges that they face in really the shortfall of capital funding is coming home to roost, to some extent," Redden said.

 The state of Illinois has had no capital plan since 2009. In addition, the state is $424 million behind in operating subsidy payments, a figure that stretches its borrowing limit, she said.

Pace will reduce service on five routes and discontinue seven no later than April 1, including a route to and from far northwest suburban Richmond that had only one regular rider. The money saved is being redirected to other routes, including its Pulse Milwaukee bus rapid transit line.

Routes being discontinued include:

  • 304/North Riverside-LaGrange
  • 326/West Irving Park
  • 362/South Park Forest
  • 532/Illinois Avenue
  • 661/Southwest Westmont
  • 809/Richmond-Fox Lake Metra station
  • 824/East Bolingbrook-Lisle

Routes losing Saturday service include:

  • 209/Busse Highway
  • 348 Harvey-Riverdale-Blue Island
  • 504/South Joliet
  • 540/Farnsworth Avenue
  • 546/ Orange-Walnut

Two other Pace routes originally slated for elimination will continue, thanks to community input, but will be re-examined in a year:

  • 590/Round Lake Area Call-n-Ride
  • 681 Lincoln Park-Naperville Metra

 Metra is buying retired Amtrak locomotives to try to stretch what capital funding it has, some of which will be placed in service this month.  And it says that at its current replacement rate of three bridges a year, it will take 150 years to replace bridges that in some cases are more than a century old.