Saturday, February 24, 2007

Overview of Rep. Hamos' RTA Act Bill

Representative Julie Hamos introduced a bill yesterday to revamp the RTA. The bill got some press coverage (here and here), but it has not yet been posted on the General Assembly's website. Here is a summary of the bill.

The bill amends section 1.02 of the RTA Act to provide that the powers and duties of the RTA "must be enhanced with respect to overall planning and coordination, the provision of an integrated regional transit system, improved customer service and efficiency, and improved systemwide performance."

The heart of the bill is a new section 2.01a of the RTA Act. Subsection (a) provides that the RTA "shall be responsible for the planning and coordination of an integrated regional transit system, by establishing regional goals, objectives, and performance standards for the Service Boards and all other public transportation services funded the the [RTA]." Subsection (a) goes on to list the measures for which the RTA shall develop such goals, objectives and performance standards:

(1) ridership increases, using 2006 boardings as the benchmark;
(2) coordinated fare and transfer policies, "including development of a universal fare instrument." (i.e., find the regional transit Holy Grail);
(3) "coordinated services and service interconnections to prevent duplication of service and promote transfers among transit services";
(4) capital and operating improvements intended to enhance ridership or customer service that can be implemented within a five-year period, including service enhancements for off-peak and reverse commute riders, new customer service technology, etc.;
(5) location and design of transit infrastructure that promotes transfer among transit services and transit oriented development; and
(6) "consolidated sales, marketing, and public information programs to promote all transit services within the region."

Subsection 2.01a(b) gives the RTA the following additional powers:

(1) & (2): Power to get ridership and financial information from the service boards "in whatever form, detail, intervals, or timetables deemed necessary by the Authority's Executive Director;"
(3) The RTA may require service boards to change their "fare and transfer charges, terms, conditions, or policies established by those Service Boards in order to promote the coordination of services and service interconnections, to prevent unnecessary duplication of services, and to promote transfers among transit services;"
(4) The RTA may intervene in and arbitrate disputes between the service boards over "services, routes or schedules and the "decision of the Authority shall be final;"
(5) The RTA "may, before approving projects for the planning and development of stations or station improvements for inclusion in the 5-Year Program, require a determination that the proposed project supports maximum transit use by promoting transfers among transit services or supports transit-oriented land development intended to generate ridership increases;"
(6) The RTA can conduct management, performance, compliance and financial audits of the service boards;
(7) The RTA "may conduct, for new transit lines or line extension, the analysis of all available alternatives and options, in conformance with regional plans, objectives, and performance standards, in order to identify the alternatives that should be considered for more formal assessments" and
(8) The RTA may create a "Regional Transit Innovations Fund," to invest in projects that further the goals of this bill.

Subsection 2.01a(c) requires the RTA to file an annual report on its progress in implementing its "regional goals, objectives and performance standards." Subsection 2.01a(d) is a sunset provision that repeals section 2.01a after 10 years.

The remainder of the bill amends sections 2.12, 4.13, and 5.01 of the RTA Act to provide for tighter integration between the RTA and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). Most notably, the RTA is to use CMAP's forecasts and plans as the basis for the RTA's capital plan and CMAP is to review and certify that the RTA annual capital plan "is consistent with regional plans and priorities."

An upcoming post will discuss a few key provisions of the bill in more detail.

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