Presented Dec. 13, 2005, on behalf of Business Leaders for Transportation
Thank you for the opportunity to comment today on the Regional Transportation Authority’s 2006 Budget. My name is Peter Skosey and I am here on behalf of Business Leaders for Transportation, the voice of 200 business organizations representing more than 10,000 employers in the Chicagoland region, co-led by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Chicago Metropolis 2020 and the Metropolitan Planning Council.
We commend the RTA for producing an accessible, easy to read 2006 budget document. The strong presentation of the budget made it easy to spot one of the main themes: the importance of keeping the system in a state of good repair as the agency’s top priority. The “fix it first” approach to transportation management is now, thankfully, an industry standard, and we support the RTA’s continued adherence to this principle.
Nevertheless, service enhancement is also necessary in many parts of the system; and one of the most promising tools for quickly improving our transit network is Bus Rapid Transit. We congratulate Pace on finally moving forward with a small scale Bus Rapid Transit program, and look forward to hearing more—soon—from the service board on the best way to build on this initial program to deliver faster, more reliable bus service to even more areas of the region.
Though your 2006 budget is remarkably transparent, we would have liked to see a frank discussion about the lead the RTA is taking on understanding and addressing the service boards’ pension systems; the pension issue is obscured by the presentation of labor costs in the service board budgets as a single line item.
The RTA resorted to two funding solutions that should not become regular practice. The first is the use of capital funding to plug holes in the operating budget; this is a funding solution that, we know, the RTA has been forced to use this year but should be discontinued at the earliest possible moment. The second assumption is that the State Legislature will develop a new funding package for capital improvements by 2007. We look forward to continuing to work with the RTA and State leaders to make sure that a new capital funding package becomes a reality as soon as possible.
Business Leaders for Transportation believes that the RTA’s Strategic Planning process will be an ideal opportunity for the agency to address the root causes of these stopgap funding measures. We commend you for using the plan to get an in depth understanding of your capital and operational opportunities, and the universe of available funding sources. And, we’d like to make a suggestion, use this opportunity to develop project selection criteria that evaluate improvements from a regional perspective and allow greater flexibility of revenue use.
Thank you again for the opportunity to present today,
Business Leaders for Transportation