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Transit Board Divvies Funding Between Agencies

The Regional Transportation Authority gave 98 percent of new funding to CTA, which includes buses. (Photo by: Sylvia Oben)
The Regional Transportation Authority gave 98 percent of new funding to CTA, which includes buses. (Photo by: Sylvia Obén)

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), which oversees budgeting for the Chicago Transportation Authority (CTA), Metra and Pace transportation systems, voted Wednesday to divvy up funding between the agencies, giving the CTA 98 percent of the funds.

The board missed a Sept. 15 deadline when it last met on Sept. 13. By law, the board was required to agree on how to divide the funds for the 2014-16 budget years.

Board Director J.D Ross said that had the ordinance not passed, it would have delayed the opportunity for the three service boards to prepare their own budgets in a timely manner. This would have allowed for the budgets hearings, which needed to take place before the end of the year.

Ross said that is has been traditional for the CTA to receive the bulk of the funds based on their operating needs and when the board takes a regional approach to funding.

“They carry a bulk of the passengers in the region,” Ross said. “Their share of the load is considerably larger than either Metra or Pace.”

Ross said it’s really a matter of percentages. But, if you represent an agency, you would like to have more discretionary funds to support your agency.

Delcan, an RTA consulting firm, suggested that the system make changes to their allocation funding.

Richard Mudge, vice president and director of Delcan, said one option of the state allocating funds would be to create a centralized system similar to New York City, where there is a single board and returns the overall decision to control of the board.

“RTA is the way it is because there is no history,” Mudge said.

He also said RTA should look into the way New York City is operating its transportation system but not copy their method because each city is governed differently.

Tonia Khouri, county commissioner and chairman of Economic Development, spoke on behalf of the County of DuPage in Wheaton, Ill. She said the county is looking for fair representation on the government’s funds.

“We don’t believe that’s fair allocation of discretionary funds: CTA getting 98 percent, Pace getting two percent and Metra getting zero percent,” Khouri said.

The other transit systems also get funding from the state of Illinois.

Phil Fuentes, director for RTA, said that this is just the beginning of the budget process and the board still needs each of the bus services CTA, Metra, Pace to finish developing their budget to provide the RTA a proposed budget by Nov. 15th.

“We then consolidate those budgets, take them off of public hearing and then need to put them in front of our board by the end of the year, hopefully mid-december and have a consolidated budget adopted for next year,” Fuentes said.

Corita E. Mitchell and Sylvia Obén contributed to the reporting of this story.

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