Progress on the Regional Transit Strategic Plan

The RTA staff presented the 2019 Strategic Plan Progress Report during February’s RTA Board meeting. This progress report outlines strides made toward the vision and goals of the Regional Strategic Plan, Invest in Transit, over the last year since the plan was adopted. Invest in Transit makes the region’s case for pursuing stable and dedicated funding streams that will enable the Transit Agencies to provide vital public transit into the future. The accompanying document, Invest in Transit Priority Projects, outlines and describes specific capital priorities for CTA, Metra, and Pace that are currently unfunded.

Unfortunately, little has changed over the past year and our investment is still at risk for three major reasons:

  • State Capital Funding Is Still Non-Existent: Despite efforts to communicate our need and plans for capital funding, the State has not passed an infrastructure bill. The Transit Agencies have received a small increase in federal formula funds this year, but the federal role in public transit remains unpredictable as well.
  • Most Of Our Assets Continue To Get Older: Furthermore, CTA, Metra, and Pace developed Transportation Asset Management (TAM) Plans for the first time this year, as required now by Federal rule. The TAM Plans indicate that the Transit Agencies continue to have significant state of good repair needs that will take several decades to address. At current spending levels, 37% of our assets will still be beyond their useful lives in 20 years.
  • Transit Ridership is Down: Transit ridership was down 2.5 percent or 14.7 million rides in 2018, the sixth consecutive year of a decreasing ridership trend. It’s down across the nation, so the region’s Transit Agencies are not alone, but this is still an issue that affects the bottom line.

Bad news aside, transit is still a critical and productive investment for the region. We continue to operate the second largest public transit network in the nation. No other mode provides two million rides per week day as safely and efficiently! Here are some positive highlights from the report:

  • The Transit Agencies have spent the year advocating for more capital funding, but a state capital bill has not passed, leaving the region’s transit needs substantially underfunded. As a result, little progress has been made toward the Invest in Transit Priority Projects and the transit infrastructure continues to age.
  • The vision and goals set forth in the plan remain prescient as new commercial and residential projects near transit assets in Chicago and surrounding suburbs are poised to leverage the existing transit system and to bring economic development near transit stations.
  • The mobility environment remains competitive, so the Transit Agencies piloted new operating models and worked to better understand travel preferences in order to embrace Transit’s role as a part of a larger mobility ecosystem.

In 2019, the Agencies will continue to advocate for capital funding and transit-friendly policies throughout the region. The Annual Report and related documents are available on the RTA website.