Lipinski urges panel to include public in transit reforms
By Richard Wronski
Chicago Tribune reporter
Public comment should be allowed as the task force named by Gov. Pat Quinn develops reforms for the Chicago area's mass transit system, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski said Monday.
The 15-member panel that Quinn appointed should hold several public forums so transit users and taxpayers can participate in the process, the Western Springs Democrat said in a letter to the panel's co-chairmen.
"The panel needs to reach out to the public," Lipinski told the Tribune in releasing the letter. "We have a crisis of confidence to some extent with Metra now."
The letter urged that the task force "consider all viable options" to improve the efficiency of the transit agencies, including consolidation or elimination of the CTA, Metra, Pace and the Regional Transportation Authority, which oversees those boards.
"While management has had issues, the existing transit board system is itself problematic," Lipinski said in the letter. "There is redundancy, waste, lack of cooperation and too often little or indirect accountability. The time for change locally is now."
In announcing the members last week, Quinn directed the panel to recommend ways to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse and streamline operations of the transit agencies.
The co-chairmen are Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider and George Ranney Jr., president and CEO of the civic group Metropolis Strategies. Former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald also is a panelist.
Schneider said that the task force would include public input.
Lipinski said a lack of leadership at the agencies could have "potentially disastrous consequences" as Congress attempts next year to reauthorize the federal transportation law, if some Republican legislators are successful in reducing federal funding for mass transit.
The federal government is providing about $450 million to the three transit agencies in 2013, Lipinski said.
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