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posted: 10/9/2013 5:27 PM

DuPage forming opposition to CMAP, RTA merger

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  • Tonia Khouri

      Tonia Khouri

 
 

DuPage County officials are gearing up to oppose legislation to merge the Regional Transportation Authority and Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

They say the measure, sponsored by state Sen. Terry Link, wouldn't fix the representation and funding inequities that the collar counties are facing on public transit issues.

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"The bill falls short," said Tonia Khouri, chairwoman of DuPage County Board's ad hoc committee on mass transit. "The RTA currently does not have the tools, resources and authority to effectively carry out its statutory duties and responsibilities. Senate Bill 1594 does nothing to strengthen the oversight agency at all."

The ad hoc panel is calling on DuPage to formally oppose the measure. The county board's legislative committee next week is expected to consider the recommendation.

It's unclear when state lawmakers will vote on the merger proposal. Attempts to contact Link were unsuccessful.

Combining the agency that oversees public transit in the metropolitan area with the group responsible for regional planning is intended to "eliminate unnecessary and duplicative functions and provide the most cost-effective means to ensure that transit services are fast, well-planned, coordinated, well-maintained, efficient, convenient, safe, and attractive," according to the legislation.

If lawmakers approve the measure, the 16-person RTA board and 15-person CMAP board would be replaced by a new 16-member panel.

The new board would have five Chicago representatives, five Cook County representatives and one member appointed by the governor, officials said. DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties each would get one representative.

That makeup wouldn't address what DuPage officials are calling "the inequality of board representation" at the oversight level.

"The city of Chicago has five representatives (on the RTA board) and DuPage County has one," Khouri said. "But if you look at population, Chicago has 2.7 million (residents) compared to DuPage's 917,000. That's a 3-to-1 ratio. They should have three members to our one."

The merger proposal also doesn't address "an unfair allocation" of public transit funding, Khouri said.

While DuPage contributes a significant portion of the sales-tax money the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace receive, the CTA gets the lion's share of so-called discretionary funds from the RTA.

County board Chairman Dan Cronin has said the way discretionary funds are doled out must be changed because the need for public transportation has grown in the suburbs.

He has discussed partnering with leaders in other collar counties to "fight for our fair share of public transit dollars."

This week, one county board member said it might be time to make that happen.

"How about we get together with the other suburban counties and say we want this issue resolved?" board member Robert Larsen said.

Khouri said the first step is to oppose the proposed merger of CMAP and RTA.

"Then we'll see where to go from there," she said. "But we're definitely going to remain vocal, and we're definitely going to remain active."

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