Chicago's transit system needs a reliable revenue stream that provides at least $2 billion annually over multiple years to remain in a state of good repair and preserve the city's economy, a new study warned.
The study was released Monday by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce with the research conducted by transportation analyst Joseph Schwieterman of DePaul University's Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development and Laurence Audenaerd
Several Illinois lawmakers attended the Monday news conference to support a call for additional state funding.
"Without a strong transit network, the city will lose the vitality of its downtown area, which is home to more than half a million jobs," Schwieterman said. "Overall, the deterioration of the system will impose more than $500 million — or $175 per household — in costs annually on highway and transit users, primarily as a result of higher travel times and congestion."
Researchers included the impact of the transit system on a range of economic factors including property values, job creation, and the impact of chronic investment shortfalls.
Adequate investment could provide an estimated $1.5 billion in annual benefits, the study found.
The Regional Transportation Authority of Illinois' current five-year capital program for 2012-2016 totals $3.8 billion. The capital budget for 2012 totals $1.4 billion. The RTA has warned that its services' boards — the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra commuter rail and Pace suburban bus — would need to spend $24.6 billion over the next decade to keep the system in a state of good repair.
The RTA recently raised the idea of asking state lawmakers for approval to issue $2.5 billion in new debt over five years for capital. The agency has exhausted its bonding capacity. It would use natural growth in its sales taxes and maintenance savings to repay the debt. The state's current $31 billion capital budget provides $2.7 billion in transit aid, but Illinois' own fiscal struggles make it unlikely to provide additional support in the near term.