Coronavirus Recovery

Recovery from COVID-19

This page links to a number of activities in our region's response to the COVID-19 pandemic's effects on transit. Visit the websites of CTA, Metra, and Pace for current information about their services. Scroll down this page for adjustments to RTA Reduced Fare and Ride Free Programs for seniors and persons with disabilities.

NEW: Public comments sought on COVID recovery Step 2 process

As part of Step 2 in the regional transit system's three-step COVID recovery strategy, the RTA Board has approved release of a draft process for sustaining critical transit during the pandemic. The public is encouraged to comment on:

  • Sustaining Critical Transit in 2021 draft report, which defines transit Critical Need Areas (CNAs) and a methodology for allocating federal COVID relief dollars.  
  • A staff memo to the RTA Board, which describes envisioned funding impacts. 

Also, see an interactive RTA Story Map that offers insights into how CNAs are being identified.

Send comments by email to or U.S. Mail to RTA Administrative Offices, 175 W. Jackson Blvd., Suite 1650, Chicago, IL 60604. Requests for translated materials or other requests to enhance the accessibility of this content should be sent to

All public comments will be provided to the RTA Board for its meeting at 9:00 a.m. on March 18, 2021. The public can view all RTA Board meetings via WebEx or YouTube. See the RTA Board Meetings web page for details. 

Three-Step COVID Recovery Strategy

Operations of CTA, Metra, and Pace have been able to continue due to a previous $1.4 billion infusion from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was passed in March 2020. To lead the regional transit system through the COVID pandemic, in October 2020 the RTA began a three-step strategy:

Step 1 culminated on December 17 when the RTA Board adopted the 2021 regional transit operating budget and five-year capital program. As described in an RTA press release, 2021 operations rely in part on passage of a new federal COVID relief package, without which the regional transit system would face a potential shortfall of more than $500 million.

Step 2, which began in January 2021, includes defining the process for allocating approximately $482 million that the region will receive from a second federal relief package that — passed in December 2020 — includes $14 billion for transit systems nationwide. The RTA is committed to working with the Service Boards to ensure an effective, transparent, and accountable process for allocating these dollars.

Step 3 will begin in May 2021, taking a long-term, strategic planning approach looking out to 2023 and beyond.

Other COVID Recovery Resources

Transit is crucial for economic recovery from the COVID pandemic, and significant financial challenges mean this can’t be taken for granted. In addition to activities described above, RTA resources include:

Transit leaders discuss pandemic response on WTTW

On August 6, 2020, WTTW’s Chicago Tonight featured two segments on public transportation’s importance to the regional 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.

CARES Act funding, 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, which have been projected and agreed to by the RTA and the Service Boards based on ridership and public funding shortfalls.  The region’s CARES Act funds were allocated as follows:

Agency Amount
RTA $28,764,509
CTA $817,487,351
Metra $479,216,723
Pace $112,75,976
Total $1,438,225,459


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.