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CTA chief calls proposal to put transit agencies under one umbrella ‘crazy’

CTA Chairman Terry Peters(left) President Forrest Claypool spoke with Sun-Times editorial board Monday afternoon. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

CTA Chairman Terry Peterson (left) and President Forrest Claypool spoke with the Sun-Times editorial board Monday afternoon. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

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Updated: November 23, 2013 6:31AM

“Forget about it.’’

That was CTA President Forrest Claypool’s assessment Monday of what to do with a consultant’s recommendation that one regionally-focused transit board oversee CTA, Metra and Pace.

“I would never work for such a crazy governance structure,’’ Claypool said of one of the key recommendations of a $380,000 study by Delcan, a transit consulting group.

“Power flows from the ballot box,” Claypool told the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board Monday. Voters’ ability to hold Mayor Rahm Emanuel accountable at the ballot box if they don’t like CTA decisions is the “model’’ governance structure, Claypool said.

“Any other structure [and] you’re working for a committee, which — forget about it. Just forget about it,’’ Claypool said.

An executive with Delcan, an international transit consulting group, told a gubernatorial transit task force last week that northeastern Illinois needs one regional board to oversee CTA, Metra and Pace to ensure that planning is regionally-focused and not dominated by parochial concerns.

He suggested a model similar to that used in New York City, where the governor appoints several members of a transit board that oversees subways, rail systems, buses, bridges and tunnels that service southeastern New York and parts of Connecticut.

The CTA, Metra and Pace could function as “subsidiaries’’ of the one regional agency, but would not have their own boards, as they do now, consultant Richard Mudge said.

However, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning currently does regional planning, so “The problem [of lack of regional planning] has been overblown,’’ Claypool said.

“What we have works pretty well if we manage it properly, fund it properly and have leadership that’s working together,’’ he said.

Claypool also said the CTA supports a plan to bring dedicated bus lanes to Ashland Avenue but is still seeking input on the best way to do it.

“We are behind it, but the devil is in the details,’’ Claypool said. “We are not saying, ‘This is the plan, darn it.’”

The CTA is still sounding out businesses and homeowners about its initial proposal to put a dedicated bus lane down the center of Ashland for 16 miles, from Irving Park to 95th Street, and only allow left turns immediately onto expressway ramps.

Businesses have complained that the limit on left turns would lead to decreasing customers and require vans and trucks to make three right turns through residential areas to reach some businesses on Ashland.

Claypool visited the Sun-Times Editorial Board to discuss the CTA’s 2014 fiscal year budget, which packs no service cuts and no fare increases.

Claypool said the spending plan represented a significant break with “doomsday” budgets of the past.

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