Transit audit supports MPC's call for more funding, system reforms - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Transit audit supports MPC's call for more funding, system reforms

Council: Funding without reforms, including a stronger RTA, would be a mistake

(Chicago) … Auditor General William G. Holland’s performance audit of northeastern Illinois’ mass transit agencies supports the Metropolitan Planning Council’s (MPC) position that more funding is needed now for public transportation, but must be accompanied by systemic reforms to increase the efficiency of, facilitate coordination between, and improve planning by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra, Pace, and Regional Transportation Authority (RTA).

Funding

The auditor general’s review confirms what transit riders already know: northeastern Illinois ’ transit system is in danger of crumbling under the dual demands of increasing ridership and decreasing capital and operating funding.

Aging tracks, technology, rail cars and buses are slowing down service. Ridership growth and inflation have sharply increased operating expenses. Meanwhile, capital and operating revenues continue to be insufficient to cover expenses. As a result, at a time when northeastern Illinois should be improving and expanding service to meet growing demand for public transit, agencies are struggling to maintain the current system with inadequate resources.

“A strong public transportation system is a cornerstone of a healthy regional economy. More capital funding to repair and modernize our public transportation system, and more operating funding to meet growing demand for transit service are needed now,” said Michael McLaughlin, MPC’s new transportation director. “Reviewing the current funding formula is one necessary step toward identifying additional revenue to ensure metropolitan Chicago does not take a step backward in terms of meeting the region’s transportation needs.”

Reforms

Increasing public transportation funding without instituting systemic reforms would be a mistake. While more funding is needed now for public transportation, to reap the greatest benefit from any infusion in funding, the region’s transit providers must have a long-term plan in place for how those dollars will be spent and for quantifying the benefits. For instance, a long-term plan should coordinate with regional development patterns to maximize efficiency and reverse the trend toward an increasing dependence on cars and longer commutes.

“The RTA must play a key role in shaping that plan,” McLaughlin added. “A strengthened RTA should lead on planning for new and expanded infrastructure and service, and should coordinate and guide the operating and financing activities of CTA, Metra and Pace. In so doing, the RTA can find opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness of the system as a whole.” For instance, establishing a universal fare card would make it easier for transit users to transfer seamlessly between CTA, Metra and Pace.

For comment from MPC on the report, transit funding, and a potential state capital investment package, please contact Mandy Burrell, communications associate, at 312-863-6018 (office), 773-640-1206 (cell), or mburrell@metroplanning.org; or Michael McLaughlin, transportation director, at 312-863-6022 or mmclaughlin@metroplanning.org .

 

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