Quinn: Metra task force will help public transportation

September 3, 2013 4:57:17 PM PDT
Gov. Pat Quinn says scandals may have prompted a task force to look at Metra, but it's a chance to improve public transportation in northeastern Illinois.

The 15-member panel of the Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force has their work cut out for them. They have been charged by Quinn to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse at transit agencies. They met Tuesday for the first time, assembled last month in the wake of the controversy at Metra over the more than $800,000 severance package awarded to ousted CEO Alex Clifford.

"There's a lack of oversight, lack of accountability, an inability to remove directors when needed," said Quinn.

Quinn said he wants the transit system, which is the third largest in the nation, to be the envy of the world, goals that were echoed by the panel co-chair.

"We want to make sure the system is accessible, safe, respects the environment, advances quality of life and provides equal access to opportunity for all residents in the region," said Ann Schneider, task force co-chair.

Task force members say they have an aggressive agenda to deal with reforming the transit system and will divide the panel into four committees dealing with ethics, system performance, finance and governance. Former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is on the task force and has an interest in ethics.

"There's certainly a very strong appearance that if I were a rider or taxpayer, I would not have confidence that people are doing things with the interest of riders and taxpayers coming first always," said Fitzgerald.

Task force members say transit system ridership has stagnated in recent years and that improving the system from the top down can lure customers back.

"Northeastern Illinois residents and visitors deserve a transit system that efficiently meets public needs and holds leadership accountable," said Schneider.


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