Chicagoland Transit Agencies on Track for Gov’t-Approved Watchdog

Amid the confusion and chaos of this week’s legislative session in Springfield, the House and Senate passed a groundbreaking bill targeting the fraud, waste and corruption that plagues the Chicago area’s mass transit systems.

The bill’s supporters expect the Governor to approve the measure.

The Better Government Association has been working with Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest), good-government advocates and the RTA to craft legislation that creates an independent inspector general for the transit agency that oversees the RTA, Metra, PACE and CTA.

The resulting bill, Senate Bill 3964, was co-sponsored by Sen. Garret and Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock), and creates an independent inspector general to oversee the boards and employees at RTA, Metra, PACE, and CTA.

The inspector general will be housed in the Office of the Executive Inspector General, which already oversees the activities of the Governor’s office and its agencies.

Sen. Garrett has been working on the legislation with leaders at the transit agencies since last spring when news reports emerged detailing how Metra’s Executive Director Phil Pagano gave himself unapproved payouts on future vacation time. The unauthorized payout of $56,000 came on top of his salary of more than $250,000.

Ultimately, questions surrounding Pagano’s actions lead to his suspension. In May 2010, Pagano, 60, was found dead of an apparent suicide.

The BGA is committed to eliminating fraud, waste, and abuse of public resources. This legislation is an important step toward making the Chicago area’s mass transit systems more open and accountable.

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1 Comment

Filed under CTA, Inspector General, Legislative Update, Metra, Pace, RTA

One response to “Chicagoland Transit Agencies on Track for Gov’t-Approved Watchdog

  1. There are many reasons besides just “who holds the power to appoint Board Members” involved in this situation.

    Directly because of no real oversight by the RTA over it’s Operating Agencies (CTA, Metra, and Pace); the Agencies are allowed WASTE Millions of Operating Dollars by directly WASTEFULLY duplicating and competing with each others services in multiple locations throughout the Chicago area.

    Not to say that having Board members appointed by the Governor would completely solve the problem, but at least they would all be mostly on one (Regional) page; and if the present Agency Boards could find a way to ACTUALLY work together toward more Regional goals, maybe there wouldn’t be such a demand for changing the system.

    And while Metra does mostly run on Fares and Suburban Tax Revenues; it competes directly with the other Operating Agencies in seeking Federal Funding for Capital Projects.

    Some of the Projects submitted by the Agencies either seek scarce Federal Funding to CONSTRUCT money wasting DUPLICATE FACILITIES and SERVICES; or directly interfere with another Agencies planning, and the location and/or construction of a Project

    They also create Inferior Facilities for the Communities involved because of
    NON-COOPERATION, COMPETITION, and LACK OF OVERSIGHT.

    Examples:

    + The cost estimates for the CTA Circle Line DO NOT include the costs to METRA for constructing complementary Metra stations at places where the CTA Circle Line and Metra Lines would intersect.

    + Some of the proposed CTA Circle Line Station locations would be extremely difficult at specific locations because of Metra ROW physical space constraints, to construct matching Metra Stations:

    At 16th & Paulina all the BNSF tracks are side-by-side on a narrow ROW with NO ROOM to construct a Metra Station at less than GREAT cost (Google Earth it and see for yourself); and a Metra Station here would be one short mile from both the Metra BNSF Halsted St. and Western Ave. Stations (too many close together stops).

    At North & Elston the narrow UP ROW and lack of adjacent real estate would make a Metra Station very difficult and costly to construct; and it would be 1 Short Mile from the existing UP Clybourn Station; a SINGLE Planning Organization would have routed the Circle Line subway beneath the Clybourn Station.

    + CTA, Metra, and Pace WASTED Millions in Planning Dept. Manpower and Hours creating DUPLICATE Plans for providing Public Transit past O’Hare to Schaumburg or Elgin (Pace BRT, CTA Blue Line, or Metra STAR Line); a SINGLE Planning Dept. would have decided Mode FIRST, and then gone on with further planning from there.

    + CTA’s Red Line Extension would cost and ENORMOUS 1.4 BILLION DOLLARS for ONLY 6 Miles of New Service with 4 Stations; when cooperation between Metra and CTA could Create a New 37 Station CTA ‘L’ System on Chicago’s South Side at a FRACTION of the Red Line Extension’s Cost: http://bit.ly/GrayLineInfo

    + On CTA’s Red Line Extension it is difficult to contain both the Extension, and Metra’s New Southeast Service on the narrow CN ROW between I-57 and 116th St. Safety concerns by the rail line who owns the ROW means that CTA is required to build an Aerial Structure (like the Orange Line at 18th & State).

    + At MANY locations, CTA and Pace Duplicate and/or overlap each others services; wasting Driver labor costs, and fuel and vehicle usage.

    These are but a few examples, and in the next few weeks I will be illuminating many more; please contact me with any questions or comments you might have.

    I do plan to attend the Mayoral Forum at 7pm on January 19th at the Marriott at 540 N. Michigan, hope to see you there.

    Mike Payne

    CTA Gray Line Project

    (773) 787-8078

    grayline15@yahoo.com

    http://bit.ly/GrayLineInfo

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