For immediate release
October 18, 2013
Active Transportation Alliance
Metra and Pace votes clear way for $1 billion Illiana Expressway:
Votes further demonstrate political influence on transit agency boards
Chicago, IL—In another sign that Metra is run by politics and not dedication to better transit, the agency voted yesterday at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to support the Illiana Expressway and to spend at least another $80 million more in public money on the project. Pace voted similarly. The vote in support of the Illiana passed 11 to 8 and would have failed if Metra and Pace voted No.
“Our region’s transit system is undermined by transit agency board members whose main allegiance is to the people who appoint them and not to creating better transit,” said Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance. “Yesterday’s vote is another example of that fact. The Illiana Expressway is a train wreck for transit, and Metra and Pace voted for it anyway.”
The Illiana would be funded by state transportation dollars and tolls, and is planned as a highway bypass around the region in southern Will County, miles from all but a few transit routes. It would tap into a very limited pool of regional transportation funds, leaving less money for transit repairs, the CTA Red Line extension, Union Station modernization and other crucial transit projects.
“CTA and Metra can’t afford to properly maintain their trains and buses, and most people in the Chicago region don’t use transit because it doesn’t get them where they need to go,” said Burke. “There is no excuse for Metra and Pace giving money away to the Illiana, which will serve fewer people than the CTA’s Ashland bus route. The public’s trust in Metra and Pace is further shaken, and it’s more clear than ever that reforms are needed.”
More than 500 transit riders contacted Metra and Pace urging them to oppose the Illiana ahead of yesterday’s vote.
Burke noted that yesterday’s Illiana vote adds to a growing list of scandals and missteps that demonstrate political influence on transit boards, including Metra CEO Alex Clifford’s resignation, charges of political pressure on transit hiring decisions, and at least seven transit board members resigning amid allegations of double-dipping (collecting two government paychecks), dodging court-ordered repayments, misrepresenting home addresses and covering up misdeeds.
“Calls for reform are already echoing across the region to eliminate political influence on transit boards and prevent future scandals,” said Burke. “Metra and Pace had a chance yesterday to restore public’s trust in transit leadership. Instead their votes ought to make those calls louder.”
“In the coming days, the Active Transportation Alliance and our Riders for Better Transit network will advocate for reforms to ensure that transit agencies are represented by board members who put transit first and aren’t mere puppets for the people who appoint them,” said Burke.
Active Trans also called upon the governor and Illinois Department of Transportation to spend more time and money on fixing and expanding regional transit — the only sustainable way to reduce roadway congestion, along with more walking and biking — and less time championing sprawl-inducing highway expansions.
Riders for Better Transit is an Active Transportation Alliance campaign that serves as a voice for riders to help boost transit funding and encourage transit-related projects that will benefit their communities.
The Active Transportation Alliance is a non-profit, member-based advocacy organization that works to make bicycling, walking and public transit so safe, convenient and fun that we will achieve a significant shift from environmentally harmful, sedentary travel to clean, active travel. The organization builds a movement around active transportation, encourages physical activity, increases safety and builds a world-class transportation network. The Active Transportation Alliance is North America’s largest transportation advocacy organization, supported by more than 7,000 members, 1,000 volunteers and 40 full-time staff. For more information on the Active Transportation Alliance, visit www.activetrans.org or call 312.427.3325.