Thursday, November 1, 2007

SB 572 Amendments: O'McHenry Has To Go

I've argued before that McHenry County (and possibly Kane County) should be booted from the RTA family for chronic whining and ingratitude. Representative Jack Franks, a suburban Democrat representing McHenry County who voted against SB 572, has introduced two amendments to SB 572 that help make my case that McHenry County should be granted its wish to leave the RTA.

Amendment No. 8 exempts McHenry County from the increase in the collar country RTA sales tax from 0.25% to 0.50%.

Amendment No. 9 provides that individual counties can block tax increases adopted by the RTA Board pursuant to SB 572.

Let's just take McHenry County out of the RTA. Its contribution of sales tax revenue is relatively small. Due to the County's embrace of sprawl-type development the cost of providing transit service in the area is very high. If McHenry County wants transit service, let it contract with Metra or Pace for such service or figure out a way to provide it on its own. The County's incessant digs at the RTA beg for (a) calling the County's bluff by threatening to cast it out of the RTA family or (b) casting it out and letting the County pay for whatever level of public transit service it deems fit for itself.

Isn't it time to focus public transit on counties that have a commitment to fund such service and who embrace land use policies that support the kinds of densities required for a viable public transit system? Let McHenry County go. Let's make Cal Skinner's day. He is a McHenry County figure who was a major opponent of the RTA in 1983. In this post he reports that George Ranney, one of the key supporters of the RTA back then (and now), stated during the run-up to the referendum that led to the creation of the RTA that it was a mistake to include McHenry County in the RTA. Someone please use SB 572 to fix that mistake.


Anonymous said...

As said in the comments to the other post, this is fair. Contractual arrangements exist between Metra and Kenosha, Metra and NICTD, and Pace and Oswego, and are proposed for the line between Kenosha and Milwaukee. McHenry basically only benefits from the UP-NW line, which it could separately subsidize. Pace service there is basically limited to 3 fixed routes run with paratransit equipment, DAR, and ADA. Apparently McHenry has a few full-size buses that fill in when the paratransits are not available (Skinner got a picture of one), but it is not a place that can sustain bus service. A few other arrangements may be necessary, such as dealing with Elgin buses that poke into Carpentersville and the Pace garage in McHenry, but those could be worked out, just as Metra works with NICTD over the Hegewisch station.

Anonymous said...

Lets just replace McHenry with Kendall. Oswego has "future south suburb" written all over it given its current demos and trends. Kendall also probably contributes major ridership to the BNSF and the Ri/HC Joliet lines. BTW Carpentersville is in Kane County; Crystal Lake would probably be the northern terminus of any Elgin-centric Pace suburb.

Rick Powell said...

There is still far more existing and potential RTA activity inside McHenry than there is in Kendall. McHenry currently has 3 times the population as Kendall, and although development is not ideal for transit density and ridership, is a lot farther along. Recent 2030 projections for Kendall still put it at 2/3 of McHenry's current population, and by that time McHenry is projected to have nearly half a million, as Kane does today.

Kendall has a Pace feeder route from the Mill Street/Orchard Road park n ride to the Aurora Transportation Center, and a study to extend the BNSF line from ATC to the same park n ride location. The BNSF extension will be an extremely expensive proposition since the end of line at Aurora is in a hole, off the mainline, and the track arrangement at ATC and downtown Aurora will need to be completely redone to make it work efficiently. Long range, the line could be extended to Sandwich along US 34, but this appears to be a 20 or 30 year future project at this point. I am not certain what level of public bus route support would be there, other than for the park n rides.

Both counties could probably incorporate "pay as you go" plans to subsidize the service inside their counties, minus the fares collected at stops inside their counties. Kendall County voters have supported additional taxes for transportation before, as evidenced by their approval of a 1/2 c county-wide sales tax for County Highway improvements last spring.

Anonymous said...

After consulting my map, Bolz Road is still in Kane, so strike my Carpentersville remark.

Jennifer said...

If Kane and McHenry Cos. contracted separately with Metra, wouldn't that result in a really crazy fare structure? (Assuming the lines went all the way--I can't find numbers right now, but somehow I don't see the Fox River communities in Kane itching for their Metra service to be gone.)

Moderator said...


That's my point. If McHenry and Kane had to seriously contemplate contracting for the transit services they want, such as the Metra lines serving their counties, plus bearing the associated capital costs, they might not be so quick to complain about the RTA sales tax that they have to pay.

For example, the cost of building the Elburn extension on the Metra Line in Kane County alone accounts for a decade or more of RTA sales tax revenue from Kane County.

If these counties think that the RTA sales tax is too high, let them keep that tax revenue and see what they can do. It will be fun in a few years to see the anti-RTA public officials facing local voters asking for an increased county tax for transit/transportation purposes.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer-NICTD charges Metra rates to Hegewisch (in accordance with the subsidy contract), and its own fares into Indiana. The only linkage is that it raised its Indiana fares when Metra last raised its, so that the passenger load would not be shifted between the Hegewisch and Hammond stations.

Anonymous said...

See this Daily Herald article:

Anonymous said...

Here it is split up:

Rick Powell said...


Re: the Elburn line and UP west renovations-

This is similar to the "jurisdictional transfers" that IDOT does with counties and municipalities to peel off a road they no longer wish to maintain. The local agency usually insists on a new project to bring everything up to snuff before they will accept the transfer. In Kane's case, the Elburn extension is already a sunk cost for Metra, and the UP West improvements will occur largely outside the county. It wouldn't be such a bad deal for them to pick Metra up as pay-as-you-go at this point...until such time as another transit extension or major capital project is needed, when they'd be on the hook for it minus any state or federal aid they could muster up.

Davey said...

Excellent idea, Moderator. What would it take to kick 'em out? We'd be much better off without them. The only downside is that their SUVs would do even more polluting of the civilized counties.

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