Updated: October 18, 2013 6:33AM
We disagree with the suggestions of Regional Transportation Authority chairman John Gates about expanding the RTA’s oversight powers. This concept has not been discussed with the RTA board, nor do we believe it reflects the will of the entire board.
At a time when a healthy public-policy debate on mass transit is underway, the last thing we need to do is reward failed oversight with more power at more cost to taxpayers and riders.
Every dollar spent internally by the RTA is a dollar that would otherwise go to the three service boards for actual transit operations. The RTA diverts a minimum of $33 million annually from the operating budgets of the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace, with little evidence of positive impact.
In fact, each current RTA function — other than the annual approval of the budgets of the transit boards — is already handled by another agency.
Both the Federal Transit Administration and outside firms audit the transit agencies. The Illinois Department of Transportation and the FTA regulate construction and maintenance. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning is designated by the federal government to oversee transit planning. The state inspector general has investigative powers.
Instead of expanding the RTA, we should fundamentally reconsider its role. Instead of adding to an expensive bureaucracy that doesn’t deliver a single rider to their destination, we should embrace the current momentum for real change. Anything less would be a disservice to transit riders and taxpayers.
Anthony K. Anderson
Christopher C. Melvin
RTA Board members