Coronavirus Recovery and the RTA

Recovery from COVID-19

As our state and nation continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, public transit remains an essential service, responsible for transporting health care employees, emergency responders, and retail workers to jobs throughout the region. Throughout the pandemic, the RTA has been in contact with elected officials, stakeholders and regional partners, sharing information about the effects of the public health situation on regional transit ridership and funding. This page is a resource for updates, or you can subscribe to receive regular email communications throughout the crisis.

Visit the webpages for CTA, Metra, and Pace for additional information.

Transit leaders discuss pandemic response on WTTW

WTTW’s Chicago Tonight featured two segments on public transportation’s importance to the Chicago region’s economic recovery from COVID-19. RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden, CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr., Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski, and Pace Executive Director Rocky Donahue, described how the transit agencies have together created a culture of COVID prevention. The trains and buses have never been cleaner, and it is vitally important for riders to do their part by wearing masks at all times.

We also explained that, while federal CARES Act relief dollars have sustained operations so far, difficult choices still lie ahead due to decreased ridership and revenues.


RTA sends letter to Congress requesting additional federal support for transit

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that passed in March provides substantial transit funding, which has been critical in maintaining operations during the pandemic. On June 30, 2020, RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden sent a letter to the Illinois Congressional delegation to reiterate that the RTA strongly supports including additional federal resources for public transportation in the next coronavirus legislative package. Read the full letter.

Ready to Ride Again?

The RTA has published a guide for returning safely to the region’s transit system with best practices for riding transit safely and consolidates information about how each transit agency is cleaning its vehicles, providing space for social distancing, and rebuilding confidence in the system. Read more on the Ride On. blog or download the guide

COVID-19 Transit Dashboard

The RTA published and is regularly updating a dashboard that shows the status of ridership, finances, and operations of transit in the RTA service area. Visit for more information.

RTA COVID Dashboard

Legislative Updates

In March 2020, the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocated $25 billion for public transit nationwide, including more than $1.4 billion for the RTA region that can go toward reimbursement for operating costs to maintain service and lost revenue due to coronavirus. At this time the CARES Act funding is the only known source of supplemental operating funding for transit in the face of what may be a long-term decline of ridership and revenue.  As a result, the region’s transit funding allocations are based on anticipated revenue shortages of the current 2020 regional budget, that have been projected and agreed to by the RTA and the Service Boards based on ridership and public funding shortfalls.  The funding for the region’s share of the CARES Act will be the following:

Agency Amount
RTA $28,764,509
CTA $817,487,351
Metra $479,216,723
Pace $112,756,876
Total $1,438,225,459

On May 18, 2020, RTA Chairman Kirk Dillard sent a letter to Illinois legislators on behalf of the RTA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Later in May, the General Assembly met and passed a state budget that funds the region’s essential transit system, though more discussions on funding will be needed as the crisis evolves. Read the full letter on RTA’s blog, Ride On.

Board Materials

RTA staff is providing regular updates on the pandemic and its effects on the transit network during monthly Board of Directors meetings. View previous meeting videos, materials, and presentations in the Board Meeting Archive.

RTA Service Changes

Due to the pandemic, all RTA customer service offices are closed. Updates on RTA-managed ridership programs can be found below.

Reduced Fare and Ride Free Programs

  • For customers who have a Reduced Fare or Ride Free permit that has expired or will expire during the pandemic, the RTA will be extending a one-time courtesy of automatically renewing eligibility so these customers can continue access reduced fares without needing to take action to renew. A new permit will come in the mail prior to the expiration of the current permit.
  • Customers who are applying for a Reduced Fare or Ride Free Permit for the first time can download a Reduced Fare and/or Ride Free application online.
  • Call 312-913-3110 for assistance or other questions.

RTA Travel Training Program

  • The RTA is temporarily canceling all scheduled Travel Training sessions. If you are interested in Travel Training when the program resumes, or have questions about the program, please call 312-663-HELP (4357) to be placed on the Travel Training waitlist.

ADA Paratransit Certification Program

  • The RTA’s South and Northwest Chicago Mobility Assessment Centers are currently closed and will not be performing interviews and assessments for ADA Paratransit Certification until further notice. 
  • For all customers whose ADA paratransit certification has expired or will expire during the pandemic, the RTA is extending a one-time courtesy six-month extension of eligibility.
  • Call 312-663-HELP (4357) to apply for ADA paratransit eligibility for the first time or for additional questions.