The Chicago Transit Authority fared well overall last year, despite the polar vortex and a decline in bus ridership. Though there was a 3 percent decline in ridership, the CTA reported that its yearly ride total was 514.5 million, making it the seventh year in a row to top a half-billion rides.
Though buses still carry the most CTA passengers, that kind of ridership fell 8 percent from the previous year, while rail ridership rose 4 percent to its highest level in 50 years. (This matches national numbers showing a preference for rail.) Traffic and weather conditions can make bus travel less reliable, of course, and Chicago is no stranger to bus bunching. The CTA is addressing these concerns by building a rapid transit bus system in the Loop that is expected to double travel speeds.
But it’s not all good news for Chicago infrastructure this week. According to the Chicago Tribune, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the Chicago Park District’s debt rating rating to just three notches above “junk” status and one notch above the city’s rating. (The Windy City’s unfunded pension liability doesn’t do it any favors.)
“Given the city’s extreme budget pressures, we believe (the park district’s) financial operations and position could be indirectly affected through city officials’ influence on policy making and budgeting,” the rating agency said in a statement.
The Tribune reports that the park district has $616 million in taxpayer-backed debt, and that the district responded to the downgrade by noting that “there are revenue streams earmarked for debt payments and ‘strong legal protections in place’ for bond holders.”
Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.