Monday, January 15, 2007

Can't Move Beyond Those Suburban Sensibilities

Today's Chicago Tribune has a delicious item entitled "Head of RTA Apologizes for Video that Missed Bus: Promo Showed CTA but no Metra, Pace." Apparently, the suburban powers that be are suspicious that the Moving Beyond Congestion effort is in their best interests. Here's the article in its entirety:

By Richard Wronski
Tribune staff reporter

January 15, 2007

For years, the Regional Transportation Authority has tried to walk a fine line, carefully balancing the interests of the three public transit agencies it oversees, lest critics accuse it of favoring Chicago over suburban needs.

So RTA officials found themselves having to apologize last week for a potential slight to the board of directors of Metra, the commuter rail agency.

During a briefing Friday for Metra officials on the status of the RTA's multimillion-dollar Moving Beyond Congestion campaign, top RTA officials showed an agency-commissioned video intended to enlist public support for billions of dollars in state transportation funding.

The video featured several Chicago Transit Authority riders, but no commuter rail users or Pace suburban bus riders.

Afterward, RTA chief Steve Schlickman quickly apologized for bringing the "wrong version" of the video. The correct version features Metra and Pace riders commenting on the importance of public transportation in their lives, Schlickman said.

Schlickman explained that he had accidentally grabbed a hastily produced version of the video, which was unveiled in November.

Metra board members seemed satisfied with Schlickman's apology. But Jack Schaffer, an outspoken former legislator who represents Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will Counties, couldn't resist taking a dig at Schlickman.

"The updated version of the video--was the film crew able to get outside the city limits?" Schaffer said.

"Absolutely," Schlickman said. "The initial cut was done in very short order . . . and [the crew was] in the process of going throughout the region [for subjects]. I'm sorry we didn't have that for you."

The RTA uses the video to recruit governmental agencies and organizations to urge legislators this spring for more operating and capital funding. Nearly 400 groups have signed on to the project, Schlickman said.

The RTA's 2007 budget calls for $226 million in additional state funding, including $110 million more for the CTA; $105 million more for Pace, including $82 million to fund paratransit service; and $11 million for Metra.

All told, the RTA said it needs $57 billion to maintain and improve transportation projects over the next 30 years.

The $30,000 video was produced by PB Consult, a subsidiary of Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc., an international engineering, planning and construction management firm retained by the RTA to develop the Moving Beyond Congestion campaign.

In the good news department, CTA ridership was up 0.5 percent in 2006. It looks like 2006 will be a good year for Metra as well. These ridership gains will certainly help the Moving Beyond Congestion effort get traction in the General Assembly.

No comments: