January 13, 2021

As our state and nation continue responding to the pandemic, public transit remains an essential service, responsible for transporting health care employees, emergency responders, and retail workers to jobs throughout the region. The RTA remains committed to keeping elected officials and stakeholders up to date about COVID-19 impacts on transit and the region’s response. Please feel free to encourage others to subscribe.

Regional transit recovery enters critical new phase

With the passage of a new federal COVID relief package on December 27, 2020, the RTA three-step strategy for the regional transit system's recovery from the pandemic has begun its second phase. In Step 2, to sustain transit throughout this ongoing uncertainty, the RTA, CTA, Metra, and Pace are working together to execute the operating budget and five-year capital program that the RTA Board approved on December 17.

The RTA and the three Service Boards are grateful for our partners' continued advocacy of federal relief, without which system-wide operations would face a $500 million gap in 2021. The $900 billion COVID relief package sets aside approximately $14 billion for transit nationwide. It stipulates that no transit system can receive more than 75 percent of its total 2018 regional operating budget when combining funds from this package and the earlier CARES Act, which provided $1.4 billion to the RTA region. Therefore the greater Chicago urbanized area should receive approximately $486.2 million.

The RTA is committed to a transparent and accountable distribution policy for relief funds. In the RTA Board meeting at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, January 21, RTA staff will lead a discussion of criteria for distribution of relief funding for 2021. The goal of this process will be to establish a policy that sustains critical transit services and provide mobility for those who most need public transportation at this time, including bus riders, essential workers, residents with economic hardships across the region, and people with disabilities. Then in February, RTA staff will recommend a distribution policy for relief funding. This recommendation will be released for public comment before the RTA Board makes any decision.

Beginning in May and beyond, Step 3 will emphasize strategic planning for the long-term future of the transit system. 

We encourage all interested parties to monitor these activities at and provide public comments, which are due by noon on the day before any Board meeting. 

Chamber event looks at mobility in metro Chicago region

Tomorrow I will be among several panelists in "Back on Track: The Future of Mobility in Chicagoland," a virtual event hosted by the Greater Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. It begins at noon on Thursday, January 14. Registration is free, and contact with questions.

Joint CMAP-RTA call for community planning proposals

In addition to its impacts on transit, the COVID-19 pandemic has strained the capacity of local governments like never before. From January 20 through February 3, the RTA Community Planning program and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) Local Technical Assistance program invite applications for planning assistance, with a special focus on high need and very high need communities. Starting January 20, one simple online application at will allow a community to be considered for both programs. 

COVID Transit Dashboard

The RTA dashboard, which is updated weekly, shows that ridership as of December 5 was 66 percent less than the 2019 baseline. Explore the COVID Transit dashboard at

Thank you,

Leanne Redden
RTA Executive Director
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All rights reserved.

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