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Our View: It’s time to start over on mass transit

Updated: November 25, 2013 1:21PM



A new report last week on how to best reorganize the Chicago area’s mass transit system seems to be on track and jives with another report last week by Gov. Pat Quinn’s task force that’s studying the same thing.

The task force was created by Quinn this year after the controversy over political meddling at Metra and a lucrative severance package for its chief executive. The other report is from a consultant hired by the Regional Transportation Authority to study mass transit in the region and make recommendations to the RTA Board.

The two reports essentially agree that the existing system is ineffective and wasteful — beset by continual political power plays and occasional corruption, feuding over funding and, in the words of the task force’s preliminary report, “duplication, competition, uncoordinated service and a lack of accountability.”

How to fix things? Quinn’s task force hasn’t made recommendations yet (it’s still studying), but the study commissioned by the RTA concludes what seems to us to be obvious — end the independence of the three service agencies and their separate staffs and boards and consolidate everything under a unified agency to oversee all mass transit operations.

Something like the RTA itself, which now has oversight over the CTA, Metra and Pace without the power to provide real oversight. Such a superagency makes sense and exists in other major metro areas, but in Illinois we had to create a Byzantine system to ensure political fiefdoms and unnecessary jobs and board seats.

The RTA consultant found that the RTA doesn’t have the authority to direct the financial and planning decisions of the CTA, Metra and Pace, as the Legislature intended when it created the RTA. We agree, so it’s time for legislators to give the RTA that clout and realign the transit system to streamline it and improve service.

The RTA study and the eventual final report of the state task force will provide lawmakers with blueprints for the necessary reorganization. All they have to do is put aside political interests and take a professional approach to repairing a broken system.

That shouldn’t be too hard for the Legislature, right?



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