The clearest answer to that question comes from a one-page statement entitled "Collar County RTA Principles" signed by the Chairs of all five collar counties. The statement is divided into the following subject areas:
- Structure: Population and job growth in the collar counties "demand a re-evaluation of the powers of the RTA and the three service boards in order to spur a regional transit solution to the significant changes in travel patterns, the phenomenon of reverse commute, the expanding demand for paratransit services and the suburb to suburb commute need." The statement urges greater region-wide planning coordination, tighter budgetary oversight of the service boards and the use of consistent performance measures for the RTA and the service boards.
- Project Evaluation: All transit projects should be "similarly evaluated to ensure a process that is equitable, transparent, market driven and inclusive of local stakeholders." The RTA should play a "large role in the prioritization of funding for all projects."
- Paratransit: Paratransit service should be increased and funded equitably throughout the region.
- Funding: The RTA's funding formula "must be equitable to maintain not only current levels of service, but also targeted on unmet service needs, as indicated by market factors such as population and job growth." The CTA's pension problem should be addressed outside of the transit funding arena. While the collar counties pledge to work with the General Assembly on funding, "any transit solution must be linked to an equitable and comprehensive solution to our local roadway infrastructure needs."
One can envision allowing the collar counties to spend ("flex") some of the extra revenue from an increase in the RTA sales tax to support their highways. This would be a politically astute move to attract public support for such an increase.
Thankfully, the statement is not riddled with anti-Chicago rhetoric. Kudos to the leadership of the collar counties for putting together this statement of principles. If only the City of Chicago and Cook County would be so deliberate.