Friday, March 30, 2007

News Flash: Kane County Not Mad At The CTA

The Aurora Beacon News reports that:

Kane County officials want it understood they are not against more state funding for the Chicago Transit Authority.

They just want it to be fair.

Great news. I can almost hear a sigh of relief from the CTA and the many people who depend on the CTA that Kane County isn't mad at the CTA. Who wants to be on Kane County's bad side after all?

There are many legitimate issues that folks in the collar counties have with the current public transit system. Some counties appear to be addressing these issues thoughtfully. Others, like Kane and McHenry, seem caught between the old Chicago baiting days and the present day emphasis on regionalism. The tension between their nativistic emotions and their need to put on a positive, regionalist face along with their more populous neighbors in Lake and DuPage counties is putting a strain on these folks. It shows in their veering from attacks on the Moving Beyond Congestion project to going public with a "we don't hate the CTA" message.

Kane County, after all, is in the proverbial glass house when it complains about "fairness" in transit funding. Kane County contributes less than 2.2% of the regional sales tax revenue to the RTA. Yet, it is served by multiple Metra lines as well as some Pace service. One of the rail lines was recently extended to Elburn in the heart of Kane County at a cost of several hundred million dollars.

In light of this level of public transit serving Kane County, the County would be hard pressed to show that its relatively measly $15 million annual contribution (pg. 144 of 146) to the RTA system covers the cost of that service. Indeed, if we applied the same farebox recovery ratio and per trip subsidy levels that the CTA and Metra must meet, then bus service and likely some of the Metra rail service would disappear in the County.

The article has one interesting tidbit. It reports that the Kane County officials were predicting that increased funding for the CTA "could include another penny on the sales tax in suburban parts of the RTA." The article did not indicate any opposition to that prospect. Given Kane County's interest in reviving bus service that Pace no doubt abandoned as uneconomical because of poor ridership, it is heartening that Kane County appears resigned to that increase.

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