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Commuter agencies fire back at RTA over claims of waste, duplication

Joseph Costello executive director RTA.

Joseph Costello, the executive director of the RTA.

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Updated: July 6, 2012 9:13AM

Most public transit commuters just want to get to work on time.

But the bosses who run the Chicago area’s bus and train services are having a little difficulty travelling in the same direction.

Five days after the Regional Transit Authority’s chairman wrote a memo accusing Pace, Metra and the CTA of wasteful management and duplication of services, the transit agencies returned the favor Wednesday.

Their message to John Gates and the RTA board: Right back at ya.

CTA president Forrest Claypool, Metra executive director Alex Clifford and Pace executive director T.J. Ross escalated the war of words in a letter to the RTA Wednesday. They wrote that Gates’ claim that the agencies weren’t doing enough to work together to cut costs was “mistaken,” and pointed to what they alleged were a number of ways that the RTA created “duplicate layers of bureaucracy.”

Gates wrote last week that the agencies could save $150 million a year with measures including removing duplicate routes, consolidating services and contracts, sharing maintenance facilities and buying fuel together.

Claypool, Clifford and Ross say they’re already doing many of those things, pointing to the Link-Up Pass, which can be used on all three services, as a way the agencies are working together.

They in turn charge that the RTA “increases construction costs by millions of dollars” by duplicating the work of the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

RTA executive director Joseph Costello moved to downplay the spat later Wednesday, describing the agency bosses’ letter as “a little bit of an overreaction” and saying all sides were committed to cutting costs.

Costello said he’d hate the public to think that “sending each other letters is all we do.”

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