Capitol Fax.com - Your Illinois News Radar » Proposal to save suburban, Chicago public transit transit includes tax on services, parking and raising RTA sales tax
SUBSCRIBE to Capitol Fax      Advertise Here      About     Exclusive Subscriber Content     Updated Posts    Contact Rich Miller
CapitolFax.com
To subscribe to Capitol Fax, click here.
Proposal to save suburban, Chicago public transit transit includes tax on services, parking and raising RTA sales tax

Friday, Dec 8, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Sun-Times

Chicago-area public transit faces a crisis when federal COVID-19 dollars run out in two years, forcing transit agencies struggling with reduced ridership to make major service cuts.

With this fiscal cliff looming, regional leaders tasked with saving public transit sent a set of policy recommendations to state lawmakers Thursday.

Lawmakers now face politically tough choices to raise $1.5 billion in new funding and implement sweeping organizational reforms recommended by the report, called the Plan of Action for Regional Transit.

They must consider new taxes, consolidating the four regional transit agencies under one board and changing fee structures, according to the 130-page report prepared by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning at the behest of the General Assembly.

* From the report

PART recommends transit funding solutions that put these priorities into action for 2026 and beyond. The revenue options explored include savings and system-generated revenues, as well as a set of baseline revenues that include:

    • Full state funding for paratransit.
    • Full state funding for existing reduced fare mandates.
    • A modernized state sales tax base that includes services, delivering needed revenues for the transit system, state, counties, and local communities.

The regional transportation system would also benefit from additional revenues, including flexing federal funds for transit and new road revenues (e.g., tolling, parking taxes, and vehicle registration surcharges). […]

The package further relies on durable sources that should be implemented to make the system’s funding more fiscally sustainable, progressive, and climate-friendly: expanding the sales tax base to include a broad range of services, increasing commercial parking taxes in downtown Chicago, and imposing a regional surcharge on vehicle registrations. If the region and state are unable to reach consensus on these revenues, other durable revenues outlined below could replace them, such as a higher parking tax, a higher vehicle registration surcharge, or a payroll tax.

To meet immediate funding needs, some diminishing sources will be needed to achieve transformational investment. Raising the RTA sales tax rate in combination with a sales tax base expansion would provide funds that are critically needed to avoid the transit system’s financial collapse. However, as more appropriate sources are identified and implemented, this temporary RTA sales tax increase can sunset. Similarly, increasing tolls for passenger cars on existing toll highways and dedicating that increment to transit provides the funds needed in the near-term, while other solutions that provide greater ties with road usage, congestion management, and climate outcomes — such as road usage charges and congestion pricing — should be explored over time.

* Tribune

The report came from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, which was tasked by the legislature with drafting recommendations as the region’s public transit agencies face a combined $730 million budget hole once federal COVID-19 relief funding starts running out in 2025. Transit agencies have warned that failure to plug the hole could lead to catastrophic service cuts and fare increases. […]

The recommendations also address service, including improvements to the bus system, adding “transit ambassadors” to boost safety and the perception of safety, and moving to one fare system across all types of public transit, instead of maintaining largely separate fares for the CTA, Metra and Pace. […]

The recommendations could include simply strengthening the RTA and keeping the separate agencies, or folding the three transit agencies into one entity, an idea that has been floated before but never gained traction. Whether the concept would gain enough traction this time around remains to be seen.

* Daily Herald last week

The state and other stakeholders will resolve a looming $730 million annual shortfall facing Metra, Pace and the CTA in 2026, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday.

The funding gap emerged after COVID-19 decimated ridership. It’s an issue transit agencies across the U.S. are facing, Pritzker said at a Crain’s event.

“We need subways and trains and buses and it’s vital to our economy. We’re going to do whatever is necessary,” said Pritzker, who also mentioned fares but without specifics.

“The General Assembly and I and the federal government, we all have to address it,” he noted.

* WTTW

“We know that the cost of inaction is greater than the cost of action,” said CMAP Executive Director Erin Aleman. “We are at a decisive and pivotal juncture with an opportunity to make a transformative change.”

“The longstanding underfunding of transit operations coupled with the unprecedented challenges spurred by the pandemic have brought us to a critical inflection point in transit’s history,” said city of Chicago COO John Roberson. “We cannot shy away from the scale of the funding needs our transit system faces. It is significant, but the value transit provides for the city and for our region is immeasurable.”

In addition to more funding, the plan CMAP came up with proposes unprecedented changes to the way transit is run. One option would give more power to the regional authority overseeing CTA, Metra and Pace.

The other, far bolder option would create a single regional transit agency, essentially combining the current hodgepodge of transit agencies into one.

* Nationally…

    * Governing | Navigating the Fiscal Crisis in Public Transit: The biggest crisis facing U.S. transit agencies since the COVID-19 pandemic began is the so-called fiscal cliff — the steep drop in fare revenue that resulted from ridership losses and the looming expiration of federal relief funds that were provided to temporarily fill the gap. In separate events on Wednesday, two of the biggest transportation-focused nonprofits in the country convened discussions on how agencies can navigate their financial challenges, with perspectives from transit advocates, researchers and industry leaders. The Eno Center for Transportation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, held an event called “Climbing Down From The Fiscal Cliff: Lessons From Transit Advocates.” TransitCenter, a New York-based advocacy group, hosted a webinar called “Transit’s Last Fiscal Crisis: Identifying Sustainable Funding Solutions for Agencies.”

    * Bloomberg | Commuters Ditched Public Transit for Work From Home. Now There’s a Crisis: As pandemic aid dwindles, the nation’s biggest transit systems face a roughly $6.6 billion shortfall through fiscal year 2026, according to a Bloomberg tally of the top eight US transportation agencies based on passenger trips. Rising labor costs and inflation are hitting as farebox revenue stagnates after ridership collapsed. Those eight agencies serve regions that combined contribute about $6 trillion annually to the national economy. Local officials are pressing for help. Last month, the California Transit Association asked the state for $5.15 billion over the next five fiscal years. Without more money, transit officials across the country warn that the public can expect steep ticket price increases and drastic cuts to train and bus schedules, while long-planned expansion projects are on the chopping block. That pleading worked for New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority when state lawmakers recently approved a massive bailout.

    * GovTech | How Important Is Surveillance Tech on Public Transit?: A poll conducted to determine why riders haven’t returned to the service revealed public safety and cleanliness concerns. More than half of 1,000 survey respondents had witnessed or been a victim of a crime on BART. Meanwhile, 85 percent of BART riders who have reduced or eliminated their usage said they would ride the system more often if it was significantly cleaner and safer. In early 2023, BART announced new public safety initiatives, most visibly, doubling the amount of officers on trains.

       

33 Comments
  1. - Donnie Elgin - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 11:05 am:

    “expanding the sales tax base to include a broad range of services, increasing commercial parking taxes in downtown Chicago, and imposing a regional surcharge on vehicle registrations”

    IL vehicle registration/renewal fees are already super high - either 1st or 2nd in the USA. Simple money grab and it will be unlikely to incentivize folks to give up their cars and go with public transit.

    https://tinyurl.com/vu94sk9e


  2. - George Ryan Reynolds - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 11:09 am:

    This seems like a problem for 2025 legislators. Can’t imagine much appetite to vote on tax hikes before Nov. 5, 2024. Some January 2025 lame-duck session magic (like how we got Soldier Field renovation, Quinn tax hike, etc.)? Plenty of time to start building coalitions and figuring out solutions.


  3. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 11:10 am:

    Those tax increases are going to be a big lift to say the least. It seems the pandemic has made people way more car centric. Work from home is here to stay. The transit agencies need to find a way to market their services for more than just the to and from work commute.


  4. - Halfback Option - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 11:12 am:

    Sales Tax on services is never going to happen. Tale as old as time. Allowing the planners to even throw it out there these days is wasting everyone’s time.


  5. - Sad - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 11:12 am:

    Raising taxes statewide to pay for Chicago area transit seems like a tough lift.


  6. - Huh? - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 11:13 am:

    As long as the costs of transit in the Chicago metropolitan urbanized area are supported by the residents of the region, do whatever you want.

    As someone who lives outside of the area, I shouldn’t be required to pay for a service that I cannot access unless I drive into that region.


  7. - Just Me 2 - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 11:32 am:

    The governance of our transit system makes no sense. The officials who appoint the service boards are the same that appoint the oversight agency. Anytime the RTA even thinks about flexing its oversight muscle they immediately back off due to pressure from the appointing authorities.

    Related - when the RTA was created CMAP didn’t exist. Those two agencies are so similar they even share office space. They should be merged for sure.


  8. - Who else - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 11:35 am:

    ==As someone who lives outside of the area, I shouldn’t be required to pay for a service that I cannot access unless I drive into that region.==

    Well, ok. But the Chicago metropolitan area actually subsidizes your contribution to the state’s revenue base. If you want to get what you pay for, you’ll get less than what you get now.

    This list of revenue options is the same list of revenue options that everyone has. I agree that, generally speaking, people don’t like to pay more for things. And while legislators enjoy voting for things that cost more, they do not enjoy voting for things that actually pay the bills.


  9. - Incandenza - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 11:37 am:

    Transit is one of the top “green” initiatives for a state, as it’s one of the least carbon intensive way of getting around (yes including EVs). Letting transit crumble would be a give away to fossil fuels. If Illinois legislators claim to be environmentalists, they should save transit.

    Letting transit fail will only make traffic and pollution worse. Not raising taxes is just shifting those negative externalities on to future generations.


  10. - Pot calling kettle - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 11:59 am:

    Combining the admin into one agency should be step one. Public transit should not be partitioned; it should be one integrated system. This should save money while improving service. As mentioned above, a single fee/payment system should be part of the mix. Metra to El to bus should be seamless and paid by an app on the rider’s phone or with a tap of a card. The schedules should be aligned as much as possible so that specified transfer points have minimized wait times.


  11. - Give Us Barabbas - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 12:01 pm:

    Agree with consolidation.

    I also have a radical suggestion; drop fares to zero or a dollar a day. Fund it all out of taxes, like we do other public services like fire and police. This would have been possible if the gov had passed the tax on billionaires. But it might still be possible: where I’m coming from is, the collected revenue from riders is a small percentage of the overall funding. If you drop fares more people will ride, reducing road traffic congestion and pollution, improving public health and the environment. You’re spending money in a lot of inter-related areas; some costs go up as others go down, you’re looking for the best overall combination.


  12. - Suburban Mom - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 12:04 pm:

    ===The other, far bolder option would create a single regional transit agency, essentially combining the current hodgepodge of transit agencies into one. ===

    Please do this. My colleagues in other cities have way, way simpler transit benefits and don’t have to navigate several different and only partially interconnected systems.


  13. - Lake Villa Township Dem PC - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 12:12 pm:

    Have to make electronic parking payments a thing (and keep cash too)


  14. - Lake Villa Township Dem PC - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 12:13 pm:

    Well, a thing outside of metra stations like Lake Forest.


  15. - sim1 - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 12:19 pm:

    ==Combining the admin into one agency should be step one. Public transit should not be partitioned; it should be one integrated system. This should save money while improving service.==

    Why is it that this “logic” only ever seems to apply to public transit, which is arguably already among the most consolidated public services in the Chicago region–there are only three service providers, each having distinct operational responsibilities. Why don’t people get so enthused about this consolidation logic with respect to other public services like roads, education, libraries, first responders, parks, etc etc?

    ==As mentioned above, a single fee/payment system should be part of the mix. Metra to El to bus should be seamless and paid by an app on the rider’s phone or with a tap of a card.==

    This exists and has existed for many years. It’s called the Ventra app and it’s available on both iPhone and Android systems. Give it a try!

    ==The schedules should be aligned as much as possible so that specified transfer points have minimized wait times.==

    The less frequent transit service gets, the more mathematically impossible this becomes. For instance if one route runs every 20 minutes and connects with other routes that run every 60, 30, or 10 minutes, it will be mathematically impossible to align schedules to avoid lengthy waits somewhere. The only solution for minimizing wait times is to make more services more frequent. But there’s a cost to that.


  16. - Rich Miller - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 12:32 pm:

    ===Why don’t people get so enthused about this consolidation logic with respect to other public services like roads, education, libraries, first responders, parks, etc etc? ===

    Because transit is such a mish-mash mess. Also, your response is more than a bit on the defensive side.

    === It’s called the Ventra app ===

    It’s a bit janky, and it’s a somewhat confusing three apps in one.

    ===The less frequent transit service gets, the more mathematically impossible this becomes.===

    You ever hear of a computer?


  17. - Excitable Boy - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 12:41 pm:

    - You ever hear of a computer? -

    Lol, now I’m picturing Dorval Carter trying to work this out on a napkin.


  18. - Frida's boss - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 12:50 pm:

    - when the RTA was created CMAP didn’t exist. Those two agencies are so similar they even share office space. They should be merged for sure.-

    We should not merge RTA with CMAP. CMAP is not a governing body, they are a taxpayer-funded think tank, nothing more.

    CMAP is controlled by Cook County. 15 voting members 5 from Chicago appointed by Mayor, 5 from Cook County with approval from
    mayors for 4 of them, and 1 approved by Cook County Commissioner. If you don’t think Toni Preckwinkle in partnership with Brandon Johnson, her mentee, and the Cook County Dem mayor’s designees can’t roll that board to do whatever they need you may underestimate Chair Preckwinkle. All the collar counties have 5 votes total, 1 each, Kane and Kendall share a vote.

    I would be interested to see if the collar county members are all on board with this recommendation of massive tax increases. Especially on vehicles since that is the preferred method of transportation in the collars and they still pay massive taxes on gas.


  19. - James the Ointolerant - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 12:57 pm:

    Seven salaries at Metra > $235K for an agency that needs 20% more funding to make ends meet. Doesnt seem right.


  20. - sim1 - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 1:09 pm:

    == Because transit is such a mish-mash mess. Also, your response is more than a bit on the defensive side. ==

    I’m certainly not trying to defend the “mish-mash mess” (I like the term!) that transit often is in our region. What I’m trying to suggest is that further consolidation of the operating agencies isn’t likely to lead to the types of service improvements we may want. We can look at any major urban region in the world where transit is arguably better than the Chicago region and what we’ll find is none of those regions has fewer than the three transit operating agencies than our region has. So I don’t see any necessary connection between consolidation and fixing the “mish-mash mess” that is transit in our region. Instead we should be more specific about what exactly makes transit such a “mish-mash mess” here but less so in other places? And what can we learn from those other places? I would argue a big part of it is that so many of our bus and train lines don’t go where most people want to go, when they want to go, and at a convenient frequency. Others may have further insights to share, gleaned from their own transit riding experience, but my essential point is that one consolidated agency can (and likely will absent other changes) provide poor service just as well as three.

    == [The Ventra app is] a bit janky, and it’s a somewhat confusing three apps in one. ==

    Always room for improvement. Perhaps we can point our transit agencies to other apps that do it better.

    == You ever hear of a computer? ==

    If it’s mathematically impossible, a computer can’t solve it. I was seriously trying to make a constructive point. I’ve actually written transit schedules, and yes it’s done on a computer. I don’t think my comment warranted such a dismissive response.


  21. - Just Me 2 - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 1:25 pm:

    Friday’s boss - I believe you are misinformed. CMAP is the designated metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for northeastern Illinois. It long the long-term planning and approval of any project in northeastern Illinois that receives federal funding. A project can’t receive federal funding unless CMAP is behind it, including transit projects.

    Related - Its operations are also funded by IDOT whereas RTA is funded by local sales tax dollars.


  22. - Rich Miller - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 1:27 pm:

    ===I don’t think my comment warranted such a dismissive response. ===

    You’re right. Sorry.


  23. - sim1 - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 1:29 pm:

    == You’re right. Sorry. ==

    apology accepted :-)


  24. - Just Me 2 - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 1:32 pm:

    ===Why don’t people get so enthused about this consolidation logic with respect to other public services like roads, education, libraries, first responders, parks, etc etc? ===

    Because those systems aren’t expected to all work together to provide the same service to the same person at the same time. (I assumed by roads you meant purely local roads like through neighborhoods or business parks because major roads are coordinated at the county, regional, and state level.)


  25. - ChicagoBars - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 1:34 pm:

    But I thought Chicago City Hall was going to pass a Statewide service sales tax to fund migrant services? In a election year (banned punctuation). /snark


  26. - Biker - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 2:14 pm:

    ===moving to one fare system across all types of public transit, instead of maintaining largely separate fares for the CTA, Metra and Pace.===

    Imagine trying to convince gas stations to all accept the same form of payment./snark


  27. - City Zen - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 2:32 pm:

    ==payroll tax==

    This payroll tax, while technically paid by the employer, is factored into employee salaries, which means employees bear the cost. No thanks.

    ==Sales Tax on services is never going to happen==

    One of the reasons the sales tax rate is so high is because of the exclusions like services. Any expansion into services should have a corresponding decrease in the overall sales tax rate. Of course, they don’t want that.

    And even if it does happen, there are dozens of agencies waiting to get their hands on that new revenue source.


  28. - StarLineChicago - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 2:35 pm:

    ===Related - when the RTA was created CMAP didn’t exist. Those two agencies are so similar they even share office space. They should be merged for sure.===

    It’s true that CMAP didn’t exist until 2005, but CMAP was formed out of Chicago Area Transportation Study (CATS) and the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission (NIPC), both of which predated the RTA by decades. So if your argument is that CMAP should lead by example with an agency consolidation, they’re actually way ahead of you.


  29. - DuPage - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 3:38 pm:

    Consolidation might make it harder to figure out exactly where the money is being lost. One agency, yes, but is it the trains, buses, the services that used to be Metra, or the CTA? Easier to figure out if each agency has to present it’s actual financial records.


  30. - Give Us Barabbas - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 3:52 pm:

    A consolidated transit agency would still break its organizational tree into three sub-directorates, similar to the three independent entities existing now… so you’d still have some duplication of administrative functions. I’m still for consolidation, but it’s not going to magically cut management staff by two thirds.


  31. - Rich Miller - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 3:54 pm:

    ===but it’s not going to magically cut management staff by two thirds===

    So?

    The idea is to get rid of the fiefdoms and force real service connections.


  32. - Rich Miller - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 3:55 pm:

    …And, by the way, I’m not usually a consolidation fan when it comes to state agencies. Some have become too big. But this makes sense to me because everything is so disjointed and disconnected.


  33. - Rich Miller - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 4:06 pm:

    ===would still break its organizational tree into three sub-directorates===

    Also, that’s not necessarily true. You could have two: One for trains, one for buses, with mandates that they both coordinate schedules.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* Man arrested for threatening Rep. Keicher (Updated)
* Isabel’s afternoon roundup
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Extra
* Caption contest!
* Uber Partners With Cities To Expand Urban Transportation
* US Reps. Sean Casten, Chuy Garcia call on President Biden to drop out of race (Updated)
* How the CrowdStrike outage is affecting Illinois (updated)
* Abbott says he will resume migrant busing to Chicago ahead of DNC
* Open thread
* Isabel’s morning briefing
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Live coverage
* Selected press releases (Live updates)
* Yesterday's stories

Support CapitolFax.com
Visit our advertisers...

...............

...............

...............

...............


Loading


Main Menu
Home
Illinois
YouTube
Pundit rankings
Obama
Subscriber Content
Durbin
Burris
Blagojevich Trial
Advertising
Updated Posts
Polls

Archives
July 2024
June 2024
May 2024
April 2024
March 2024
February 2024
January 2024
December 2023
November 2023
October 2023
September 2023
August 2023
July 2023
June 2023
May 2023
April 2023
March 2023
February 2023
January 2023
December 2022
November 2022
October 2022
September 2022
August 2022
July 2022
June 2022
May 2022
April 2022
March 2022
February 2022
January 2022
December 2021
November 2021
October 2021
September 2021
August 2021
July 2021
June 2021
May 2021
April 2021
March 2021
February 2021
January 2021
December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004

Blog*Spot Archives
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005

Syndication

RSS Feed 2.0
Comments RSS 2.0




Hosted by MCS SUBSCRIBE to Capitol Fax Advertise Here Mobile Version Contact Rich Miller