You can comment on RTA's plan to shift a bigger share of COVID relief to CTA

  • Commuters board their train at the Elgin Metra station.

      Commuters board their train at the Elgin Metra station. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/18/2021 8:18 PM

A one-time exception is how Regional Transportation Authority leaders on Thursday characterized a plan to channel to the Chicago Transit Authority a portion of federal COVID-19 relief dollars that typically would go to Metra and Pace.

The move that upends traditional funding allocations for the transit agencies is necessary to ensure "critical" services are delivered amid the pandemic crisis until more federal aid comes, officials said.

 

Congress approved its second COVID-19 package in December. The RTA plan would give the CTA $361 million, or 77.5%, Metra $83 million, or 17.9%, and Pace $22 million, or 4.6%, of a $486 million pot. The remainder would go to paratransit.

"It is unique to this moment and not setting a precedent," RTA Chief of Staff Jill Leary said.

The first COVID-19 relief bill provided $1.43 billion that was split up following an established formula of 58% to the CTA, 34% to Metra and 8% to Pace. It netted the CTA $817.5 million, Metra $479.2 million and Pace $112.8 million, with the remainder going to the RTA.

The public will have a chance to comment on the RTA's proposal until March 5. The report is available at rtachicago.org, and comments may be sent to communications@rtachicago.org.

RTA planners said they focused on highly used transit corridors that serve essential pandemic workers in dense areas. Another factor was whether riders had other options or were dependent on public transit.

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Many bus and train routes in Chicago fell into those categories, RTA analysts said.

Metra directors bristled at the proposal during a meeting Wednesday, saying suburban residents were being shortchanged.

"It's the most unequitable report that I've ever seen," said Hanover Park Mayor and Metra Director Rod Craig. He noted that towns along Metra's Milwaukee District West Line qualify for Title IV, which under federal law protects transit riders who are minorities against discrimination.

The RTA has not yet approved the plan, but a majority of board members indicated it was necessary -- in the short term.

Meanwhile, Pace spokeswoman Maggie Daly Skogsbakken said "the latest round of stimulus funding helps our region cover significant pandemic-related deficits. The allotments given to each service board get us all though 2021, and that was the goal.

"We are hopeful for another round of stimulus later this year and anticipate a return to traditional funding splits at that time."

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