Metra snafu boosts criticism of RTA

SHARE Metra snafu boosts criticism of RTA
SHARE Metra snafu boosts criticism of RTA

The angry public reaction to Metra’s decision to buy out its CEO’s contract at a cost that could reach $750,000 has put more momentum into an effort to get rid of the Regional Transportation Authority as we know it.

The RTA oversees the three service boards that provide Chicago area transit – the CTA, Metra and Pace. In the spring legislative session, a bill passed the Illinois Senate Executive Committee that would have merged the RTA with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

The bill, SB1594,didn’t get any farther than that, but its backers haven’t given up. Discussions now are focusing instead on theCMAP board simply taking over the RTA’s functions, eliminating the need for a separate RTA altogether.

RTA Chairman John Gates has ordered a review of the controversial severance deal for Metra CEO Alex Clifford. But that doesn’t keep RTA critics from pointing out that the agency is dealing with the issue only after the fact.

“It does keep people thinking what we need to do to make transit work,” said one of the parties to the discussions, which include mayors, county chairmen, representatives of the service boards and others.

George Ranney, chairman and CEO of Metropolis Strategies, called the Metra snafu “evidence of the dysfunction that we have been saying exists at the RTA and now … is Metra, too. … If a company had this kind of turnover, the shareholders would be irate.”

Earlier this year, Gates said “fiddling around with the governance structure” won’t resolve the pressing transit issues in the Chicago area, including that the metropolis has “the most under-invested major transit system in the country, and [has] for at least a decade.”

The real problem is $31 billion of capital needs and deferred maintenance, Gates said.

Read a June 27 Sun-Times editorial on Metra here.

Read a June 24 Sun-Times editorial on Chicago transit here.

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