About the plan
Our vision is safe, reliable, accessible public transportation that connects people to opportunity, advances equity, and combats climate change.
The Chicago region is home to more than 8 million residents of all races and ethnicities, but a legacy of racism and segregation, including in our transportation system, has led to inequitable access to opportunity for too many.
The RTA recognizes the historic harms that have left communities of color, those experiencing lower incomes, residents with disabilities and older adults — all groups who rely most on transit — without the transportation network they deserve.
Transit connects people to jobs, education, and healthcare. It provides independence to people with disabilities. It transports people to economic opportunities beyond their community. During the pandemic, it was a constantly humming lifeline, continuing to provide essential trips, including those for workers like nurses and warehouse employees to jobs that allowed millions to stay home.
Fulfilling the promise of a more equitable transit system, including increasing access by Black and Latinx workers, for the Chicago region will take deliberate policy decisions made by a coalition of decision-makers, and changes to policies and administrative processes that operationalize those decisions. In addition to the moral imperative to provide equitable transit access, doing so is economically the smart decision. Employers cannot access the full talent pool that could improve their workforce, and as the Chicago region continues to recover from the pandemic, we can’t afford to leave anyone behind.
In our region, Black and Latinx residents can access 18% and 17% fewer jobs via transit than the average resident, while White and Asian residents can access 19% and 43% more jobs than the typical resident on average.
Across the region, Black and Latinx residents who rely on transit to get to work have longer commute times compared to the regional average and White workers.
Committed to change
The pandemic shifted the way we live, work, and move; as a result, public transit must adapt.
The RTA acknowledges that it can be challenging for public agencies to change, but the status quo is not an option. The combined effect of changing travel trends, new technologies, and the pandemic, have resulted in more people today working from home or choosing to drive rather than ride transit than five years ago. This makes our roads more crowded, our commutes slower and more expensive, and our air more polluted. It also means that the commuter-focused transit system will need to pivot to serve people in the middle of the weekday, evening, and weekend.
Innovation is required not only to rethink how we fund transit and meet the changing needs of riders, but also to improve how our transit agencies work together and better engage the communities we serve when making decisions about transit investments.
Across more than 1,000 people surveyed from November 2021 to February 2022 “creating a more flexible system that better serves destinations outside of downtown Chicago during hours outside of the traditional AM/PM commutes” ranked at the top of potential changes that need to be made to regional transit.
Transit also preserves affordability. Across the region, households allocate 20% of their budget to transportation costs, and the average cost to own and drive a car is nearly $12,000 annually. By using transit, households can drive less, own fewer cars, and save thousands of dollars each year.
The RTA recognizes that we are stewards of America’s second-largest transit system, a world-renowned combination of historic infrastructure and modern innovation. This system has allowed the Chicago mega-region to grow into a dynamic global economy equal in size to that of Switzerland and now must adapt in response to urgent questions of social, economic, and environmental change even as financial challenges loom.
The RTA and Service Boards are committed to addressing these financial challenges head-on while also being good financial stewards of the limited dollars available to ensure that this mass transit system, a lifeblood that runs through 274 communities, is viable for the next generation.
Prior to the pandemic, our region was one of the most efficient in delivering transit service. In 2019, the average operating cost per passenger mile traveled was $0.75, which was lower than that of the majority of peer regions.
Our system is operated in a cost-effective way, but keeping costs low is not the best or only way to measure stewardship or overall effectiveness. We as a region must do more to acknowledge and measure transit’s place as a public good in our society. Making investments in our public transit system means making communities more accessible to everyone, providing people with access to a job, education, healthcare, and the necessities of life while reducing the climate impacts of the broader transportation system. Investing our shared resources in transit is how we can all be good stewards of the world around us and create the region we want for ourselves and for our future.