Business group urges transit overhaul, from funding to board oversight

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A business-backed civic group has issued a report outlining its vision for transportation in Illinois. It includes:

  • Doubling the use of public transit in the Chicago area.
  • Consolidating leadership of area transit from four oversight boards to just one.
  • Removing the funding biases that favor cars over transit.
  • Creating a dedicated source of capital funding for transit expansion and repair.
  • Doubling the state gasoline tax and using it for all transportation modes.

Chicago Metropolis 2020 on Sunday issued its report “Building Our Economy: Transportation for a New Illinois.”

“The report offers dozens
of recommendations to accelerate growth and job creation by making
smarter public transportation investments and calls on state and local
governments to act decisively and strategically in dozens of specific

“It points out that businesses and families
spend $100 billion on transportation in Illinois yet, public debate
centers on the $12 billion spent each year by 2,859 units of government.”

You can read the recommendations here, and here’s the executive summary.

This report makes a lot of sense. And it’s probably way to sensible for the Illinois politicians to act on. Tis more the pity.

Read the continuation for the overall recommendations.

Building Our Economy: Transportation for a New Illinois Recommendations

Become an Innovative Leader in Transportation
• Create an Illinois Transportation Advisory Commission
• Set measurable goals and objectives; report on the results of investments
• Reduce the private costs of transportation
• Design a transportation system that supports the tourist economy
• Reduce petroleum use by promoting alternative fuels and setting emissions standards
• Make Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) full partners with IDOT; fund the MPOs
with a share of capital dollars
• Coordinate land use decisions with transportation investments
• Aggressively protect our position as a leading center of air transport
• Extend broadband access throughout Illinois
• Provide direction to local governments on achieving transportation goals
• Promote connected street networks, walkable communities and mixed use developments

Make Transit a State Priority

• Reform, integrate and adequately fund metropolitan Chicago transit to double transit use
• Expand metropolitan transit throughout the state to meet each region’s unique needs
• Provide the residents of rural Illinois with on demand transit options
• Provide a dedicated source of capital for transit; make the road fund a transportation fund
• Create a reliable passenger rail system to connect metropolitan areas
• Remove the funding biases that favor cars over transit

Promote Our Position As Freight Center of North America
• Create an Illinois Freight Authority to invest in goods movement infrastructure
• Prepare a comprehensive freight plan for Illinois
• Stimulate investment in freight centers throughout the state
• Promote policies that will enable rail to carry more of the freight load
• Develop truck-only corridors and shared intermodal terminals to reduce congestion and
speed shipments

Increase Investment in our Transportation System
• Double the state motor fuel tax and annually adjust it for inflation; use it for all
transportation modes
• Make counties responsible for township roads
• Expand the use of tolling and variable pricing throughout the state
• Use innovative financing techniques that are available but rarely used
• Authorize and promote the use of public-private partnerships
• Enact design-build legislation


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  • Rule 1.
    Require the mayor of Chicago, all members of the Chicago City Council & the entire Cook County Board to travel exclusively via public transportation!
    Everything will work beautifully then!

  • Would be great to see this go into effect. Unfortunately, well thought-out plans never seem to be taken up by Illinois lawmakers, who always seem to prefer the status quo (think of the Civic Federation's budget reform proposal).

    I'd urge everybody here to actually write to your elected officials urging them to take some tangible steps to improve transportation in Illinois and Chicago. If we aren't proactive about this, our system will continue to age and degrade.

  • Remember who said on Friday, in effect, "board oversight" and "one board," and commented on the lack of understanding of that concept by other posters (except Cheryl)?

    And I am not even affiliated with that civic group.

    Besides Scooter's recommendation, instead of asking about the mayor appointing his or her guy or gal to the CTA "Presidency" (which, by the way, is not a department of city government, like Streets and Sanitation), why not ask the candidates how they intend to implement (or at least push for) the program described above?

  • In reply to jack:

    BTW, the full report goes into much more detail about the problems of the current structure than I ever could. Read starting about page 58 of the pdf (section 1 page 56).

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack, I gotta say, you are a psychic! And you are correct!

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    I've told people I don't have ESP, and didn't have an advance copy of this report.

    My current conclusion is based on about 5 years of thinking about it, starting with Ask Carole. Among the steps:

    1. Carole was essentially saying that the suburbs should pay for the CTA's deficit, while she endorsed a "Sundays only" doomsday plan that would have cut off service to the suburbs CTA claimed to be serving (primarily Evanston). Carole also demonstrated, in the since deleted comments, total ignorance about how the suburban services operated, even though she was then on the RTA board.

    2. The various restructurings exacerbated the service overlaps. At the time CTA was extending Route 90 to the Green Line, it was also complaining that Pace had a free fare promotion in the West Division, taking business away from CTA. Pace then said that it was thinking about a Harlem BRT from Glenview to Tinley Park, even though that would add further overlap to that area, and would, if so designed, necessarily run through some city areas. CTA completely forgot the 1997 idea that it should coordinate with Pace in the fringe areas.

    3. While there was some indication that Leonis, Zagota, and even occasionally Brown were exercising some independent judgment (even Carole questioned the Airport Express report), there has been no indication of that since they were replaced.

    4. Even though Kruesi should have been long gone, the board should have fired him. Instead, we now have Daley's fungible functionaries. While Huberman might have been needed to put some good management practices into an agency that had gone out of control, the last swap of Rodriguez for Huberman (plus what has been going on in the schools, including the Michael Scott suicide) shows that Daley has run out of gas.

    5. The 2008 RTA bill only paid lip service to the Auditor General's report, by imposing majority or supermajority requirements even before the Executive Director could investigate.

    6. While we all believed Metra's story that it was the best run commuter railroad, it turns out that the Board was just enabling Pagano's thievery.

    7. Just about everywhere else has metropolitan coordination of transit, even if there are some collar county agencies working with the metropolitan one. The only exception is Detroit, for the obvious reason that also applies to CTA, plus the Detroit system has been a city department since the 1920s, something the CTA never has been, at least legally. Even NW Indiana is starting to consolidate management and services, even though there is the problem that GPTC has independent taxing authority.

    When you put these parts together, the current system in NE Illinois is beyond salvaging. I'm glad that someone else realized that.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack - yes, you were ahead of the game here. I'd just clarify that my beef with your comments on Friday wasn't their substance (as I said then, I'm all for simplifying the board structure and cutting waste), but that I thought (and still think) you are missing the big picture.

    Simply focusing on the CTA/RTA board structure means you miss out on the chronic underfunding and continued deterioration of transit in the Chicagoland region. This report, which recommends fixing both problems (board structure and transit funding), in on point.

  • In reply to aaronjbrown:

    The "chronic underfunding problem" ignores (1) that funding means taxes, and the RTA got a tax hike in 2008, but little good came of that, and (2) and the waste and duplication indicate that any funding wouldn't be prudently and efficiently spent, and certainly not based on a regional blueprint, which the report also says is necessary.

    There were also the "capital bills" in 2009, about maybe 1/5th of which have been bonded out and disbursed by now, and which depend on such questionable funding mechanisms as video gambling.

    Hence, the legislature put the cart before the horse in 2008 by imposing real taxes but offering only the chimera of reform. Furthermore, the root of the problems are with the Legislature, which does not want to tackle both problems. Think about that when you vote in the fall.

  • In reply to jack:

    This is excellent. I'm all for asking candidates for all offices if they're on board with the recommendations in this report.

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