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Civic Federation recommends consolidation of Chicago-area transit agencies

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(The Center Square) – The Civic Federation of Chicago is recommending the consolidation of Northeastern Illinois mass transit agencies.

The CTA, RTA, Metra and Pace are facing an estimated $730 million deficit in 2026. According to Civic Federation President Joe Ferguson, full consolidation into a single agency is more complicated than other options and may cost taxpayers more up front, but it is the only way to ensure the optimal use of taxpayer dollars.

“It is the one that realizes the greatest amount of improvement in efficacy, from accountability mechanisms, from transparency standards, but also efficiencies from the reduction of layers of paralleling bureaucracies,” Ferguson said.

The Civic Federation proposed linking governance reform with funding, and consolidating the CTA, RTA, Metra and Pace into a single agency.

Ferguson said Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s latest budget proposal does not address the major fiscal cliff that is coming for regional transit.

“The budget took care of business right now and left the business for a year out in the future to a year out in the future, right, which means the fiscal cliff is all still there,” Ferguson said.

State Sen. Donald DeWitte, R-St. Charles, said the proposed integrated agency could have control over the entire revenue stream and while the revenue model won’t really change for suburbanites compared to people who live in Chicago, where that money goes and how it’s appropriated could change.

“Frankly, that’s creating most of the heartburn that I am hearing from my mayors and county chairman out in the suburbs about what this reorganization is attempting to do,” said DeWitte, who is a member of the Senate Transportation Committee.

With the impending $730 million deficit, Ferguson said this is a generational opportunity, even if there is political resistance.

“This is why the reference to the fiscal cliff and why we refer to it as a generational moment. This is a crisis,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson added that the next step is for a diverse coalition of interests to come together to help draft legislation.