Public Transit Outlook: Leaders Talk Infrastructure, Funding Needs

Riders of the three public transit agencies serving northeastern Illinois will dodge a fare hike next year based on next year’s budgets for the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra commuter trains and Pace bus service.

But those agencies, governed by the policy and oversight body known as the Regional Transportation Association, are operating with aging infrastructure and receiving well below the adequate amount of funding based on a five-year strategic plan published by the RTA.

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That report states transit agencies are grossly underfunded – receiving a total average of $750 million in funding per year, when the agencies should be getting between $2 and $3 billion instead.

To make up that shortfall, Mayor Rahm Emanuel publicly announced support on Tuesday for a statewide bill to raise capital for infrastructure – primarily through an increase of the state’s motor fuel tax by as much as 30 cents per gallon.

Poll: Do you support a state gas tax increase to fund transportation infrastructure?

Illinois hasn’t passed a capital infrastructure bill since 2009 and hasn’t raised the state gas tax since 1990, as Emanuel noted.

RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden said both state and federal governments are underfunding the agencies.

“We have the second largest transit system in this country; however, it’s also one of the oldest,” Redden said. “Metra has railcars built under the Eisenhower administration, if they were human they’d be getting Medicare and that’s not the way to run a railroad.”

Joining us to discuss their plans for revitalizing the region’s public transportation systems are the four leaders of local transit agencies: RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden, CTA President Dorval Carter, Metra CEO and Executive Director James Derwinski and Pace Interim Executive Director Rocky Donahue.

Note: This poll is not meant to be scientific. It’s a way for readers to weigh in on an important topic.

Follow Evan Garcia on Twitter: @EvanRGarcia

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