* Greg Hinz talks about a new report due out today from Gov. Pat Quinn’s transit study commission, which is headed, Greg says, “by one of the best big thinkers in the Chicago area: business and civic activist George Ranney”…
Likely to get a cooler response is a proposal to merge the CTA, Metra and Pace into one agency with one governing board and three operating units, in the process dismantling the Regional Transportation Authority. Mr. Ranney is dead set on killing the RTA, which he helped create three decades ago.
The agency never was given the power needed to do its job of supervising the CTA, Metra and Pace. Given that failure, the next-best alternative probably is setting up a mega-agency that would run the operating units, much like the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Doing so has some clear advantages. CTA, Metra and Pace each have their own planning departments, IT units, personnel departments and the like. Consolidating them could save $30 million to $50 million a year, according to people familiar with the Ranney report. That would buy a lot of buses and maybe a train or three.
There are two other financial advantages. Instead of crawling all over each other in Washington in a hunt for federal capital, disputes over priorities would have to be resolved locally. And if the agency actually did some smart stuff—shifting resources to priority areas, unrolling an expansion plan that makes sense, etc.—it would help open the door to what Chicago-area transit really needs: more money.
To quote one item in the preliminary version of the Ranney report, the Chicago region spent half as much per capita in the past decade on transit capital projects as peer cities Boston, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington: $1,039 per person here versus an average of $2,039. All those metropolitan areas have strong unified or regional governance.
* And Bill Cameron at WLS Radio quotes Ranney…
“The problem is not just transit, it’s the entire transportation system in this region has come to something of a standstill and people are spending a whole lot of time tied up in traffic,” Ranney, Jr. said. “The cost of an average commuter is $1500 a year just from the delays involved. So what really needs to happen here is you need an alternative, a relief value for all that auto traffic. And the best way to do it, the most effective and cheap way to do it is getting transit into better shape and encouraging people to use it. That’s the answer.”
And the answer may include raising the RTA sales tax.