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RTA adopts strategic plan, chairman proposes transit agencies merge planning departments

The Regional Transportation Authority's (RTA) board recently adopted a 2013 strategic plan to guide Chicago-area transit services for the next five years, RTA officials announced yesterday.

The plan was created in partnership with the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra and Pace, as well as with input from the public, stakeholders and elected officials in the six-county region. The plan addresses a lack of capital funding, ways to provide customer service through a "more modern and integrated system," and other issues, authority officials said in a press release.

Recommendations in the plan include:
• addressing the significant capital backlog and insufficient capital funding by seeking long-term funding to support a state of good repair and invest in modern technology;
• modernizing the "customer experience" to facilitate seamless regional travel;
• accommodating high demand during peak usage and increasing ridership to leverage capacity during off-peak hours; and
• balancing tight operating budgets by managing costs, increasing efficiency and growing revenue.

The plan "offers up real-world solutions to the challenges the region faces and consistently makes the riders' safety and satisfaction its No. 1 priority," said RTA Executive Director Joe Costello.

Meanwhile, RTA Chairman John Gates has called for the consolidation of all RTA, CTA, Metra and Pace planners and Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) mass-transit planners into a one department within a single agency.

Doing so would "achieve efficiencies and ensure that plans are being developed to optimize regional mobility," Gates said in a Sept. 2 letter to RTA's board, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the president/chairmen of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.

RTA, CTA, Pace and Metra each have their own planning departments that develop plans for their own transit service areas, "while the RTA is charged with coordinating overall transit planning activities with regional goals in mind," Gates wrote.

"These planners often operate in silos that result in inefficiencies, including lack of communication and competition for funds, all of which diminish the shared goal of optimal regional accessibility," his letter states.

Gates' planning-department proposal was the latest of several legislative reform recommendations he's made in recent weeks, just as Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's new task force on transit service in northeast Illinois prepares to meet in light of a leadership shakeup at Metra.

"I believe Illinois legislators should seriously consider amending the RTA Act to assure the RTA and all agencies can best serve the system's 2 million riders," Gates said in a statement posted on RTA's website.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/4/2013