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About one-third of all work trips in Chicago are comprised of people biking, walking, or riding public transit.

CTA budget hinges on support from state

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The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) budget released Thursday doesn’t include a fare hike or service cuts, but it’s clear the agency will still need more funding to meet rising transit demand citywide.

CTA leaders are rightly being praised for their proposed budget in a difficult financial climate for state and local government. The agency has earned a reputation for spending public dollars relatively efficiently for decades, despite being drastically underfunded in comparison to peer cities across the country.

This budget counts on transit funding remaining flat at the state level, which is far from certain with a tumultuous legislative session upcoming in Springfield.

Soon after taking office, Gov. Rauner proposed cutting one-third of state funding for transit in the Chicago region, including more than $105 million from the CTA.

If Gov. Rauner’s proposed cuts are included in the final state budget, CTA, Metra and Pace will have to revisit their own budgets for next year and fare hikes or service cuts could be back on the table.

The governor and legislative leaders in Springfield have been at an impasse on the budget for several months and there’s no clear timetable for resolving the stalemate.

If a state budget does move forward early next year, there’s also potential for a long overdue state capital plan that could fund transit improvements and expansion in a big way.

Those additional funds could be used on the proposed Red Line Extension 5.3 miles south from 95th St. to city limits near 130th St. CTA plans to hold public meetings on the project in 2016 after completing planning work this year.

The Red Line Extension is just one of several long-proposed rapid transit expansion projects that lack funding. Our Transit Future vision features 10 potential projects in Cook County and calls for a dedicated revenue stream to fund transit expansion long-term.

Here are three ways you can support the Transit Future campaign as it enters a critical stage.

The 2016 budget also highlights the agency’s focus on improving bus service with changes like dedicated bus lanes and Traffic Signal Priority (TSP) for buses approaching red lights.

The Loop Link, the city’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor, is scheduled to launch later this year to speed up east-west travel downtown.

CTA is also restoring express bus service on two of its busiest routes — Ashland and Western Avenues — and adding TSP on both corridors, paving the way for dedicated bus lanes and other BRT improvements on Ashland.