Comment of the day: What is the role of a regional transportation authority?


Photo of a Metra Electric train at Millennium Station by Jim Watkins. Mike Payne has proposed using the Metra Electric system as the Gray Line, run in “rapid transit” fashion by the CTA.

We posted on Tuesday about Metra’s online survey and open houses to gather public input which will help the commuter rail agency develop its strategic plan.

Randy Neufeld commented on that post:

This is an example of what is broken. Metra should not do a strategic plan. Metra, CTA, and PACE should do a strategic plan together. What’s next, competing in Congress and Springfield to fund competing strategic plans? RTA and CMAP should require a unifed transit plan for the region. Transit funding is in crisis. This is no time for Metra to plan solo.

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) has existed since 1974 and has its own strategic plan (“The Way Forward”). From its mission statement: “The RTA’s primary responsibilities became [in a 1983 reorganization] financial and budget oversight of CTA, Metra and Pace, and regional transit planning issues”.

The three service boards operate in a well-defined geographic and economic region, serving the same customers, the same communities, connect with each other at the same stations, and even have similar routes. They should be “acting regionally”.

6 thoughts on “Comment of the day: What is the role of a regional transportation authority?”

  1. Perfect comment, exactly describes the problem with our transit agencies. Well, the fact it is plural instead of “agency” sums up the issue perfectly as well. I’m always reminded of just how frustrating it is every time I travel to a European city – I buy a ticket for the number of zones I need and then I take the metro, train, bus in any combo I need. And the metro and commuter trains have actual combined stations to make seamless transfers, usually without having to go all the way downtown to the central depot.

  2. Spot on. Makes the most and common sense to work out a collectively and logical strategic plan by planning openly and together.

  3. Not only is it a problem with transit, it’s a government problem all around. I would love to see some municipality consolidation.

  4. I will be at both the Metra Strategic Plan meeting on Tuesday July 10th, 2012, at Metra Headquarters, 547 W. Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL – 4pm to 7pm – 13th Floor Boardroom.

    And the CTA Red Line Rehab Open House on Saturday July 14th, 2012 at the National Teachers Academy, 55W. Cermak Rd., Chicago, IL – 10am to Noon; to distribute Gray Line literature, and answer questions or comments.

    You can contact me directly for information at:

    Mike Payne — CTA Gray Line Project:

  5. I agree whole-heartedly with Steven and Randy as far as it goes.

    This criticism should include the planning in isolation carried on by CTA, Pace, and local governments as well. One of the more egregious is the $1.4b Red Line extension to an area with underused Metra rail services. Metra was brought into the $1b or more Suburban Transit Access Route proposals because of the suburban turf issue. To its credit, the CDOT stepped in and headed the South Lakefront Corridor Study when South Side leaders championed competing train and bus plans; but where was the RTA?
    Proposals developed by these agencies may have laudable goals but ignore the bigger picture, adding to the Region’s cost of building and operating competing services. This reduces the RTA’s ability to extend transit to the many areas currently without service and to provide regional circumferential routes connecting with the existing radial express rail and expanded local bus services. Offering more destination opportunities would attract more transit usage, improving overall system relevance and effectiveness.

    1. the $1.4b Red Line extension to an area with underused Metra rail services

      The underused Metra service is one of those “chicken or the egg” dilemmas shared by the smaller Metra lines and branches. Is it underused because the trains don’t run very often most of the time (every 1-2 hours most hours of the day, ending in early evening) or because there really isn’t much demand there? I suspect it’s the former rather than the latter, but Metra off-peak service is infrequent even where there is higher demand.

      The fact that they’re trying to do an independent strategic plan at this point in time is ridiculous and wasteful. This is exactly the point in time when the agencies should be uniting in their planning process to coordinate services and resources.

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