CHICAGO (CBS) — The Regional Transportation Authority is discussing an end to most reduced and free rides, should Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed cuts to mass transit funding come true.
Nothing has been approved to date, because transit officials do not know what level of funding they will receive, and an RTA spokesperson said the scenario is only one of many cost-cutting options that have been discussed in meetings between the RTA and its three service boards.
But in answer to questions posed by members of the RTA board Thursday, RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden said if state funding is cut, free fares could disappear; as could reduced fares for students and the military. Any such changes would require the approval of the Illinois legislature, which mandated them.
No legislative or federal approval is needed to restrict reduced fares for the elderly and riders with handicaps to off-peak hours.
“The services boards and us are talking operationally, do we want to roll that back a little bit and just offer that benefit, the federally-required benefit, to its bare minimum also?” she said.
Redden said discussions on a variety of options, also including general fare hikes and service cuts, are underway with the CTA, Metra, and Pace, to be imposed only should state funding levels be cut, although an RTA spokesperson said that the cutback on free and reduced-fare rides scenario is only one of many cost-cutting options that have been discussed.
While the RTA is charged with overseeing the finances of Chicago’s mass transit agencies, it cannot set fares or service levels; that must be done by the CTA, Metra and Pace individually.
Rauner and Democratic lawmakers have been engaged in a budget standoff all year, and state government has been operating without a spending plan since the start of the current fiscal year on July 1.
Rauner’s budget proposal called for a $170 million reduction in funding for Chicago area mass transit, including $130 million at the CTA, and the RTA had previously warned that could result in higher fares and reduced service. However, so far, Rauner’s budget proposal has not been called for a vote in the legislature.