CTA, Metra, Pace, leaders oppose legislation to merge them into single public transit agency

Tuesday, July 9, 2024 9:23PM
CTA, Metra, Pace leaders oppose proposal to merge them into 1 agency
CTA, Metra and Pace leaders oppose a plan to merge the 3 agencies into 1 public transit agency. The head of RTA says more state funding is needed.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There was major opposition to a plan to merge Metra, Pace and the CTA into one agency the first public hearing on the matter Tuesday.

Chicago area public transportation has had a bumpy ride over the last several years; while ridership is up on CTA, Metra and Pace, it still has not rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, and when it comes to service there is no shortage of complaints.

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Illinois lawmakers invited the heads of CTA, Metra, Pace and the Regional Transit Authority to a public hearing on the state of public transit. On the heels of a $730 million funding cliff and an effort to reform, there is now proposed legislation to combine all agencies into one big agency.

"If you are taking public transit, it should not be three or four hours of your life to get to your job," said Illinois State Senator Celina Villanueva (D-11th District).

"Our regional transit system has simply not been reliable, safe and clean enough to convince more residents to hop on train or bus," said Jack Lavin of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.

RELATED: Illinois lawmakers unveil plan to combine Metra, CTA and Pace into one

While the business community calls for reform, each transit agency and the RTA, which is the governing body that overseas CTA, Metra and Pace, are against the consolidation. They argue it will not make each organization better.

"To put us all under one board the needs of the suburban areas the far away areas will not be met as well they right now," said Pace Executive Director Melinda Metzger.

"I don't know where the savings would be with the combination of a bigger board," said Metra CEO James Derwinksi.

And some CTA employees said the consolidation would put their jobs into jeopardy.

CTA President Dorval Carter said all agencies already work together very closely.

"The model today set up for governance didn't come by accident; it was a hard-negotiated compromise between the need for accountability and need for local control," he said.

Under a consolidated system, proponents of the proposed legislation say riders would not pay multiple fares.

It could also mean that all three transit agencies would no longer compete for funds or duplicate services.

Transit agency leaders said ridership and service will only improve with more state funding.

"I was surprised when I got to the RTA on how little funding mass transit really has received throughout the decades in Illinois," said Kirk Dillard, RTA board chairman.

This was the first of four public hearings looking at the state of transit and reform. The next will be held in the south suburbs on July 24, with two more to follow in August and September.