Service Cuts, Fare Hikes Possible, Transit Officials Warn

Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget calls for nearly $170 million in cuts to mass transit

Should Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget be fully realized, reductions in transit service or fare hikes -- or both -- may be implemented to help balance the books, Regional Transportation Authority officials warned Thursday.

Rauner's proposed budget calls for nearly $170 million in cuts to mass transit. The CTA would see the most pain, losing about $130 million in state funding. Metra would lose nearly $21 million, Pace's budget would be cut by about $10 million, and Pace's Paratransit Service would lose another $8.5 million.

The cuts are deeper than those first presented in Rauner's February budget address. Initial projections put the hit at $127 million to all three transit agencies, but transit officials say that amount was only to the state match on RTA sales tax revenues.

"The $127 million reduction in direct transit subsidies represents less than 5 percent of the RTA's budgeted revenues," Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said via email. 

Still, the CTA says they're not working with a "doomsday" budget proposal, and said it's too early in the process to speculate about a possible fare increase. Instead, a transit official said the agency would continue to try working with legislators to avoid a hike and cuts to service.

"Gov. Rauner's proposed cuts threaten the CTA's four years of impressive, hard-fought gains," said CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase. "Under Mayor [Rahm] Emanuel, the CTA wiped out a $308 million deficit without a general fare increase or service reductions. With modern management practices and a new labor agreement, the CTA has improved service while investing an unprecedented $5 billion to modernize its system."

"Now is not the time to try and reverse those gains with short-sighted state cuts," she continued. "Transit is a job creator and a revenue creator for our regional economy, as the past four years at the CTA demonstrates."

A Metra fare increase just kicked in last month, and will continue to rise each year for the next decade.

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