For transit, not such a splitting headache this year

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No news is good news, but is it news? Metra Chairman Marty Oberman is arguing it is.

Oberman says the fact that Chicago’s three transit service boards – Metra, Pace and the CTA – this year put aside their usual squabbling over the divvying up of so-called discretionary money and came to an early agreement deserves more attention.

The shares of the money, called marks, are supposed to be approved by Sept. 15. The service boards missed that deadline by a good bit last year, and in 2012 the bickering lasted so long that the Regional Transportation Authority couldn’t approve its budget by its Dec. 31 deadline. The RTA oversees the service boards.

For agencies that are all about meeting schedules, they didn’t seem to think that applied to their own budgets. Last month, a Paris-based research agency, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, said the lack of coordination among the service boards is “depressing.”

But this year everything was done with three days to spare.

“The public knows about all those [past] battles,” said Oberman, who went through the process for the first time this year as chairman of the commuter rail service. But what they don’t realize, he said, is that this year things were worked out “in a cooperative fashion.”

“It was peace … there was no deadlock,” he said.

New RTA Chairman Kirk Dillard said reaching an agreement by the deadline “hasn’t been the norm of late” and says the fact that it happened this year is a sign that the service boards are in more cooperative moods.

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