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updated: 10/3/2012 7:06 AM

RTA merger proposal draws objections

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  • Is a merger between the RTA and CMAP a match made in heaven?

      Is a merger between the RTA and CMAP a match made in heaven?
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

Better transit is just a merger away, according to the civic group Metropolis Strategies.

The organization on Tuesday continued its push for the Regional Transportation Authority, which has oversight of Pace, Metra and the CTA, to become one with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

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Combining the two will save money -- about $10 million a year -- by eliminating redundant bureaucracy, Metropolis leaders said Tuesday.

And, as CMAP is responsible for transportation planning for the region, its mission dovetails with the RTA's, Metropolis Vice President Jim LaBelle contended.

The RTA currently acts as a referee for disputes among the CTA, Metra and Pace, and isn't focused on the big picture, he argued.

"Their role is more to settle things, not a grand vision of how transit should work. Transit use should double in the next 25 years," LaBelle said.

Not surprisingly, the RTA brushed aside the proposal.

The Metropolis Strategies "proposal has been out there for a while, and the RTA disagrees with the idea of merging with CMAP," said Diane Palmer, deputy executive director for communications.

The agency currently is trying to build consensus among warring factions on its board over use of about $184.8 million in discretionary funds. The dispute is between Chicago RTA directors who want the CTA to get 99 percent of the revenues and suburban representatives who are fighting to reduce that share to 95 percent so Pace and Metra can split the remainder.

"Now more than ever, the Regional Transportation Authority is needed to focus specifically on the needs of transit from a regional perspective. All of the service boards face tremendous financial challenges, and we will continue to do our best to serve the needs of the six county region's riders," Palmer added.

Asked why not seek the merger of the RTA, Chicago Transit Authority, Pace and Metra, LaBelle said Metropolis advocated that 10 years ago but the idea didn't get any political traction. Any change in the RTA's structure requires approval in the Illinois General Assembly.

"The principal is sound," said LaBelle, who is also a member of Metra's board of directors.

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