Moving Beyond Congestion ? that was the theme for a precedent-setting coalition of over 100 diverse partners representing Northeast Illinois that gathered today at Union Station to announce a new project to improve and expand transit throughout the region. Moving Beyond Congestion was launched with a collaboration of leaders from government, business, labor, education, tourism, cultural institutions and community organizations.
Road congestion is a severe and growing threat to economic prosperity in Illinois, costing residents more than $4.2 billion each year. This averages out to a $976 per rush hour traveler ?congestion tax? resulting in wasted work hours and fuel consumption. "The proven solution to reducing the cost of road congestion is transit, as the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) system currently saves the region $1.6 billion annually.
But unfortunately, current transit resources are not growing fast enough to keep pace with ridership demands," said Jim Reilly, RTA Chairman who hosted today's press conference and facilitated a Partners for Transit meeting immediately afterward. He explained that all three service boards have used capital funds for operating expenses to make ends meet. "This practice is not sustainable and certainly not a recipe for growth," he warned.
Moving Beyond Congestion is a joint project of the RTA, CTA, Metra and Pace. The RTA provides funding, planning and fiscal oversight for the transit service boards with combined capital assets of $27 billion. The public transit service region includes Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will Counties.
The priorities for Moving Beyond Congestion are to solve the current transit funding challenge, ensure financial viability and accountability and to meet the region's growing and changing transportation needs. DuPage County Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom said, "How we approach, develop, govern and fund public transit will define our region's economic future for decades to come. It is vital that we make the right choices."
Commenting about how road congestion impacts the region's infrastructure, Suzi Schmidt, Lake County Board Chairman said, "Traffic congestion continues to be the top factor affecting the quality of life for businesses and residents. We need to provide commuting options that help reduce congestion by giving people viable alternatives to driving."
RTA Chairman Reilly echoed Schmidt's comments and emphasized the importance of a strong partnership. "Virtually everyone understands that a strong, well-coordinated public transit system is good for people, good for the environment and good for business. It is equally clear that any approach that pits part of the region against others in a battle for resources is doomed to failure. Rather than argue about our differences, we must come together and focus on a shared vision and strategy for transit across the region, as evidenced by today's gathering," he said.
As a strategic planning initiative, Moving Beyond Congestion will involve all of the partners that convened today along with the general public. The project aims to build a bipartisan, region-wide consensus for transit expansion. The vision as originally conceived but may further evolve with public input states ?our vision is be a world class transportation system that is convenient, affordable, reliable and safe, and that is the keystone of the region's growing business opportunities, thriving job market, clean air and livable communities." Key initial steps in the strategic planning process are to assess the current system, analyze scenarios and then determine the appropriate resources that are needed to upgrade the system, said Reilly.
The vision and goals were based on the practical needs of those living in Northeast Illinois. "Our region's residents have been telling us that they want transit to do more to address congestion problems," said Metra Executive Director Phil Pagano. ?As new residential and commercial centers continue to develop across our region, we want to work with the real estate and business community to plan and create transit services that meet their needs and reduce travel times."
To make the point that an expanded transit network isn?t just for transit commuters, Pace Executive T.J. Ross said, "People need to realize that public transit saves them money even if they don?t use it. Just imagine what the roads would look like without us."
All of the transit service boards agreed that the future of the region's economy will continue to rely on public transportation. "The economic strength of Northeast Illinois is built on our transportation network," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?We need to maintain and expand our world-class public transportation system to support good jobs and sustainable communities," he added.
The Moving Beyond Congestion project's website is www.movingbeyondcongestion.org. The website is also translated into Spanish. Both transit and driving commuters are urged to visit the website to learn more about Moving Beyond Congestion and to sign up as a Partner for Transit. To learn more about Moving Beyond Congestion, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call Dan Johnson-Weinberger at 312-913-3143.
Public officials or designees attending today's Moving Beyond Congestion press conference included:
- Senator Susan Garrett
- Representative Ken Dunkin
- Representative Robin Kelly
- Angie Lobo, Office of Representative Julie Hamos
- Representative Sidney Mathias
- Representative Karen May
- Representative Kathy Ryg
- Clint Sabin, Office of House Minority Leader Tom Cross
- Ken Kohler, Chairman, McHenry County Board
- Karen McConnaughay, Chairman, Kane County
- Robert Schillerstrom, Chairman, DuPage County Board
- Suzi Schmidt, Chairman, Lake County Board
- Tina Hill, Board Member, McHenry County Board
- David Taylor, Vice Chairman, Boone County Board
- Mayor Thomas Adams, Village of Green Oaks
- Mayor Gerald Bennett, City of Palos Hills
- Mayor Fred Brereton, City of Belvidere
- Mayor Mike Fortner, City of West Chicago
- Mayor Richard Hyde, City of Waukegan
- Mayor Al Larson, Village of Schaumburg
- Mayor Arlene Mulder, Village of Arlington Heights
- Mayor Leon Rockingham, Jr., City of North Chicago
- Mayor Jeffrey Schielke, Village of Batavia
- John Schmitt, President, Village of Algonquin
- Mayor Michael Smith, Village of New Lenox
- Mayor Ed Zabrocki, Village of Tinley Park