CTA’s proposed budget keeps fares stagnant despite major projects ahead

Julia Jacobs, City Editor

The Chicago Transit Authority will not raise fares in 2016 based on its proposed budget, despite major investments in infrastructure improvements and new technology launches, the CTA announced Thursday.

In its nearly $1.5 billion operating budget, CTA has proposed a fare freeze with no service cuts for the fifth year in a row while implementing ongoing capital projects such as overhauling or replacing almost all of its buses and planning for a major modernization of the Red and Purple lines. There have been more than $5 billion worth of improvement projects announced, begun or completed in the past five years.

“Equally important with keeping up with meeting the needs of our customers is to continually find ways to do so more efficiently and cost-effectively,” said CTA President Dorval Carter in a news release.

Because of the lack of a state budget for its fiscal year 2016, CTA’s proposed 2016 budget was based on 2015 state funding levels, Carter said in a letter attached to the budget. CTA officials have been in conversation with legislators to try to keep a similar level of funding from the state, Carter said.

In 2016, CTA will also launch two technology updates, including a long-delayed Ventra app that will allow customers to purchase fares for CTA, Metra and Pace on their smartphones. The transportation service is also on track to fully launch 4G wireless service for its entire subway system by the end of the year.

“CTA’s budget proposal builds on our unprecedented investments to modernize and improve Chicago’s transit system,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a news release.

In the next year, CTA will continue planning states for the Red and Purple Modernization Program, which was announced in May. The project, awaiting approval by the Federal Transit Administration, aims to meet projected future demand for the two lines, which connect Northwestern students from the Evanston Campus to the city.

This fall, the CTA will complete preliminary engineering for the project’s first phase, which includes the construction of a new track bypass allowing eight more trains to pass per hour over the Red Line.

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