Another task force that goes in circles won’t straighten out region’s transit.
Editorials September 3, 2013 6:10PM
Updated: October 5, 2013 6:21AM
The Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force, which met for the first time Tuesday, has two big jobs and too little time to complete them. But the panel’s 15 members should do all they can not to squander this chance to get things right.
One job is to upgrade oversight and ethical standards for the six-country transit system, especially at Metra, which has had a sorry string of scandals, lacks a permanent chief executive and has barely enough board members to function. The meltdown at Metra is what triggered revived interest in improving transit governance. The task force has its plate full, so officials with the power to appoint a new Metra board should do so immediately.
The task force’s other job is to recommend ways to restructure transit governance to give it a more regional focus and improve transit for as many people as possible. Chicago area public transit has been mired in squabbling over resources since the Regional Transportation Authority was created four decades ago, and creating separate boards in 1983 to run commuter trains and suburban buses didn’t help.
The task force’s deadline for initial recommendations is before the Oct. 22 fall Legislature’ session , with a final report due Jan. 31. Finding a politically viable solution that’s eluded us until now is tall order for a panel just beginning its work.
Reform proposals already are floating around. An RTA-commissioned study is due in October on new ways to divvy up transit dollars. RTA Chairman John S. Gates on Tuesday proposed consolidating the planning efforts of the RTA, the CTA, Metra and Pace into a single department. Meanwhile, others are supporting a bill to merge the RTA with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.
Clearly, four boards are more than we need, and the task force should consider merging Metra and Pace.
On Tuesday, Gov. Pat Quinn set a goal of creating “a world-class system that doesn’t have the scandals we are all tired of.”
The last thing we need is another task force that doesn’t amount to anything.