Monday, August 6, 2007

SB 572: More On Who Gets What

Despite a recent suggestion to the contrary from DuPage County Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom, SB 572 does not appear to represent mark a major shift in the allocation of operating subsidies among the three service boards.

Per the Auditor General's Report (pg. 319 of 450) the allocation of operating subsidies among the three service boards in 2005 was as follows:

CTA -- $442.5 million (58%)
Metra -- $241.7 million (31%)
Pace -- $84.4 million (11%)

These allocations include both the distributions of RTA sales tax revenue according to the statutory formula and the RTA's distribution of its discretionary operating funds, over 90 percent of which go to the CTA.

The proposed modifications to Amendment No. 2 to SB 572 provide for an increase in the RTA sales tax rate across the six-county region (to 0.50 percent in the collar counties and 1.25 percent in Cook County). This will generate $280 million. The proposal also assumes that the State will contribute its Public Transportation Fund match and and continue its $54.3 million contribution to paratransit service, generating a total of $125 million.

Of this grand total of $405 million in new regional transit operating subsidies, $130 million will be spent on paratransit ($100 million), a Pace-administered Suburban Community Mobility Fund ($20 million), and a new RTA Transit Innovation, Coordination and Enhancement Fund ($10 million).

This leaves $275 million. The RTA will not be taking its 15% off the top for its discretionary operating funds pot, leaving the full amount to be allocated as follows:

CTA -- $132 million (48%)
Metra -- $107.3% (39%)
Pace -- $35.7% (13%)

The funding story does not end here, however. If the City of Chicago enacts the real estate transfer tax then the CTA will get all $100 million in new tax revenue plus the $25 million Public Transportation Fund match of this new tax from the State. When the Chicago real estate transfer tax money is taken into account and Pace is credited for the $20 million it will get for the Suburban Community Mobility Fund, the allocation of new operating subsidies will be as follows:

CTA -- $257 million (61.2%)
Metra -- $107.3 million (25.5%)
Pace -- $55.7 million (13.3%)

If anything, these numbers indicate that CTA and Pace are getting a larger share of the new money than they get under the current system while Metra gets less.

When the new money is included with the existing allocations it appears that not much will change:

CTA -- $699.5 million (58.9%)
Metra -- $349 million (29.4%)
Pace -- $140.1 (11.8%)

Compare these percentage shares with those listed at the beginning of this post. It looks like the CTA and Pace are doing a tiny bit better at Metra's expense as a result of the proposal.

The account of Schillerstrom's analysis is as follows:

Proponents of the legislation, including Schillerstrom, point out that for the first time since the RTA was created the collar counties will not be sending money into Chicago to help the CTA. Also for the first time, tax money will be coming out of Chicago to help the suburbs. . . .

These assertions appear to be incorrect. Chicago will generate only about $65 million in additional sales tax revenue as a result of the increase in the RTA sales tax rate. Yet, the CTA's share of the new sales tax revenue is twice as much--$132 million. So somebody in the suburbs is sending new sales tax money into the Chicago to help fund the CTA.

Perhaps when he says "Chicago" Schillerstrom means "Cook County." It appears that under the proposed new RTA funding structure suburban Cook County will continue its role as the deep pocket for the region's public transit system. We will look at this in another post.

Of course, it is quite possible that Mr. Schillerstrom's comments came after the suburbs and their allies drove a better bargain for Metra and perhaps Pace at the expense of the CTA. Only time will tell.

As of the time of this post, SB 572 has not been further amended. All of the message signs at Ogilvie station this evening had those Orweillan scrolling messages urging us to pressure our legislators to support SB 572. Thus, it appears that SB 572 continues to be the vehicle for transit funding and RTA "reform." Where is Jenny Holzer when we need her?


Anonymous said...

You're right about the Orwellian part...perfect word for these Strange Days. No?

But deal Ice Miller Bob--in.

He needs a sizable chunk of that RTA/County transfer payment/tax windfall for his little project on Thorndale Ave because the locals are getting restless and as Achebe said, Things Fall Apart.

But what's the issue? The other counties can use theirs to pay for Hastert Highway interchanges. And anyway, Transit gets some too.

What's the issue? Suburban Cook? So what's different there?

Anonymous said...

Moderator, I know you're good with numbers, but I have to correct your percentages and add some decimal points:

Current Public Funding (added decimal points)
CTA -- $442.5 million (57.6%)
Metra -- $241.7 million (31.5%)
Pace -- $84.4 million (11.0%)

After SB 572 (recalculated your percentages)
CTA -- $669.5 million (57.8%)
Metra -- $349.0 million (30.1%)
Pace -- $140.1 million (12.1%)

Hold on here. CTA barely nudges and, in fact, if anything Pace is taking from Metra (good, they should have a long time ago, since they've been feeding riders to Metra on the cheap for years, anyways, and Metra has never had to share the fiscal burden of complementary paratransit--ever).

The practical precision that CTA's overall share does NOT change, almost suggests that it was done on purpose, in order to avoid any debate over "what portion" of the region's transit impact is provided by CTA. (I don't want to rehash that dicussion right now, but it seems to me a joke that CTA is not far more significant that 57.8% of the region's transit influence.)

While Moderator is correct that over $60 million of CTA's new money comes from Suburban Cook sales tax, it is important that over 3/4rs of CTA's new money is coming from Chicago taxes.

But the question is still out there: both CTA and Pace are recognizably "cash-strapped," and most people at least understand where that money will end up going to (whether you agree with it or like or it not). Unfortunately, it's not going to go to a lot more service, just status quo, along with fare increases avoided. The CTA's pensions will be at least somewhat healthy, but employees are putting 6% of their paychecks into the pot, so you can't gripe that the new money is just going to the unions.

What is Metra going to do with its new money?

The RTA's 2007 budget book on page 25 lists the "New Transit Funding" they were asking for.

In 2008
CTA -- $169.5 million
Metra -- $6.5 million
Pace -- $26.2 million

In 2009
CTA -- $271.0 million
Metra -- $6.6 million
Pace -- $30.7 million

A couple of points: SB 572 is providing more than any of those figures, so what gives there? And even if the answer is partially due to the fact that we may be comparing different year-to-year figures, it should be pointed out that Metra is receiving over 16-times the amount they asked for. Depending on how you calculate it, CTA and Pace are only 1-2 times.

So I'll elaborate the question again:
What is Metra going to do with the new money that they didn't ask for?

It is my hope that someone from the Mayor's Office is seeing this and is trying to add something to SB 572 to force Metra to increase its service levels in the City.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the more important question is why it takes a reported $550 million in new taxes and state budget increases to take care of a purported $208 million shortfall?

HealthyCity said...

An excellent City idea for Metra is to pump some capital dollars into the Metra Electic stations, increase service levels to acceptable urban transit levels and sit-down with the City to knock-out a transfer agreement, so that CTA's 25 cent transfers are allowed to-n-from the Metra Electric.

This could so transform South Side neighborhoods. It also may allow CTA to pull-back on some of its South LSD express bus services, providing an operating savings for CTA.

CTA will gripe about "turf" and Metra will gripe it doesn't get any subsidy from the City (directly, that is), but it's huge for the City. Basically, a rail asset is being underutilized because of the 1983 RTA Act, and it looks like that's going to continue under RTA 2007. Yet we pay for this underutilization with tons of bus service running over congested streets. And neighborhoods don't get the investment that they could be getting if that rail asset was fully utilized.

I know I'm not the first one to propose this, but this is something the Mayor could be pushing for, now that Metra has $100mil they didn't ask for.

Anonymous said...

Wow, $100M more than they need. Sounds like a chance for Metra to launch service to Moline, Milwaukee, and Kankakee, and to fast-track that ever so useful STAR line for that lucrative Plainfield to Warrenville reverse-commute market.

Thanks to the Republicans, we're going to get a capital bill before the civics get a chance to wave the bloody I-35W "Fix It First" flag. Instead, they'll get their Hastert Highways and we'll get some more chewing gum to stick into the crumbling North Side Main retaining walls. I can't wait.