Transit fare hikes unlikely for rest of 2018 under new state budget

 
 
Updated 6/4/2018 7:15 PM
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  • The newest state budget doesn't offer as grim a prognosis for fare hikes on Metra, Pace or the CTA as the previous version did.

    The newest state budget doesn't offer as grim a prognosis for fare hikes on Metra, Pace or the CTA as the previous version did. Daily Herald File Photo

Metra, Pace and CTA experts are still digesting the state budget finalized Monday but two of the three agencies already say they expect no fare hikes this year despite the meager rations.

It's not clear what will transpire in 2019, however.

In 2017, lawmakers ended a two-year stalemate by approving a Fiscal Year 2018 budget that slipped in a 2 percent collection fee on sales taxes intended for transit and a 10 percent cut in the sales tax pie distributed to the agencies.

For Fiscal Year 2019, it's bad -- but not as bad, officials said. The collection fee administered by the Department of Revenue dips to 1.5 percent while funding from sales tax will be cut by 5 percent, Regional Transportation Authority analysts said.

The 2018 budget was a factor in fare increases instituted by all three agencies and officials warned a second revenue beatdown could result in even higher rates midyear. But so far, Pace and the Chicago Transit Authority don't expect to have to raise fares right now.

Pace still faces funding challenges for FY2019, but the lower 1.5 percent rate "will certainly help" as will the less painful cut in revenues, Pace Media Relations Manager Maggie Daly Skogsbakken said.

"Before these adjustments, Pace faced an $8 million loss and now only faces a $5 million loss in Fiscal Year 2019. There is no plan to raise fares at this time."

"CTA is still analyzing the budget to determine the specific funding impacts," spokesman Jon Kaplan said. "There are no plans to change fares or service this year. It is too soon to know the impacts on next year's CTA budget."

Metra officials said they were still "analyzing the impact of the new budget on our funding for this year and next year."

Following the Fiscal Year 2018 state budget, Pace raised fares by 25 cents on regular single fares while Metra increased rates up to 12.6 percent, along with service cuts on routes such as the North Central Service. The CTA also instituted a 25 cent hike in its base fare.

The state had been without a budget for more than two years when legislators reached a controversial deal in summer 2017.

On Monday, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a $38.5 billion budget that he called a bipartisan compromise although noting "it does not include much-needed debt paydown."

In the meantime, the state owes about $450 million to the RTA to pass on to the three transit agencies, financial staff said in May. The RTA is borrowing about $150 million in the short term to help cover operating expenses.

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