The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on regional transit have been profound. The public health crisis has reduced ridership, led to service changes, and placed significant strain on the public and system generated revenues that fund transit operations in Northeastern Illinois.
In response to the crisis, the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) initiated a scenario planning project to look out 1-2 years into the future. The purpose is not to predict the future – many factors are far beyond transit’s control – but to analyze multiple possible futures and test the regional transit strategic plan, Invest in Transit, goals and strategies.
A survey, available online now, is an opportunity to gain needed input from regional stakeholders. While much about the future is unknown, the RTA firmly believes the region is strongest when we coordinate and cooperate together, toward regional goals.
The RTA assembled an internal working group to articulate possible future scenarios. Each scenario looks at three broad factors below in comparison to 2019. Using analysis tools, public and system revenues are projected for annual operations for each scenario in comparison to 2019 baseline.
- Economy: How will transit funding be impacted in a weak or strong economy?
- Commuting: How will growth in remote work impact overall transit ridership?
- Transit Mode Choice: Of the workforce that is still commuting to work, how will transit mode share compete in this new mobility environment?
Three scenarios were selected for discussion representing extreme but certainly possible futures.
In this scenario the economy struggles. A recession becomes a depression, there is high unemployment across industries. Remote work continues to grow and, of those still working outside of home, mode share for transit declines from 2019 baseline levels.
This scenario projects 45% decline in the combination of public (sales tax and other public funding) and system revenues (farebox revenue) to operate the regional network. The current plans and policies will not be sufficient to navigate the realities. New policies will be needed to ensure mobility is provided where it is most needed.
In this scenario the economy rebounds but is stymied by congestion and lost productivity. Remote work continues to grow and, of those still working outside of home, mode share for transit declines from 2019 baseline levels.
This scenario projects a 20% decline in revenues, most of the declines coming from system revenue (i.e. ridership is low and farebox recovery is weak). New policies will be needed to manage externalities and shape behavior.
In this scenario the economy exceeds 2019 levels. Remote work continues to grow but, of those working outside of home, transit mode share is strong.
This scenario produces a 5% increase in revenues with a combination of public and system. Current plans in place envision this reality but new emphasis will need to be placed on coordination and cooperation to fully realize this scenario.
Please complete the survey by September 7, 2020.