The RTA is Chicago and the suburbs’ authority to distribute funding (and also to coordinate service and expansion efforts) for the CTA, Pace, and Metra. The RTA is funded by sales tax in the six-county metro area. The sales tax formula was created in 1983.
Now, 24 years later, the funding formula has proven itself multiple times to be insufficient. For the past several years, all RTA agencies have been involved in major cost cutting and the CTA has had to transfer funds from a the capital budget to the operations budget, not something it looks forward to doing…ever. When the state legislature devised the funding formulate, they themselves admitted it would not last for more than two years and expected the future legislators to make a new law to fund the RTA.
Recently, to avoid a major service cut on September 16th, 2007, the CTA accepted a band-aid in the form of a cash advance from the state, taken from next year’s state funding. This has only served to delay the CTA’s service cuts to mid-November – but accepted under the guise that it would give the state assembly more time to vote on a new funding plan.
What I just explained is a very commonly misunderstood, and often ignored, element of transit doomsday scenarios. People become vocal about how the CTA is discriminating against a certain group of customers, or that it’s run by morons, or that it might as well be dismantled.
A state audit proved that the CTA is in fact well run, and not corrupt. There are many things that were overlooked, but the new president, Ron Huberman is already showing that he’s committed to making the CTA deservedly respectable.
Any blame for the “doomsday” service cuts should be placed squarely on the shoulders of Illinois’ state senators and representatives. They are the ones who are not agreeing on solutions or taking too long to vote, or not ready to override the governor’s promised veto if sales taxes are to be increased.