RTA releases Framework for Transit Capital Investments for public comment

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) opened a public comment period for its new regional Framework for Transit Capital Investments.

Prepared by RTA staff in partnership with the CTA, Metra, and Pace, the draft framework is intended to improve transparency in how public transit projects are chosen and funded in Northeastern Illinois. The RTA Board of Directors passed an ordinance in December 2019 to create a Performance-Based Capital Allocation Process Committee to guide funds programmed in 2025 and beyond. The committee’s work over the last six months resulted in this document.

The draft framework unifies and illuminates existing regional programming processes, putting the RTA on a path to implement new activities that will focus on:

  • Improved clarity in the requirements and goals for the Five-Year Regional Capital Program.
  • Enhancements to the project data being collected and reported externally by the RTA.
  • Additional communications to regularly describe project activities and results.

These changes will feature frequent communication about the framework and greater promotion of opportunities for engagement in regional capital program development.

This framework is an important step for enhancing regional collaboration related to capital funding. We need to spend our limited funds in the best way possible, especially as the region continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Having set the priorities for this investment framework in RTA’s 2018 Invest in Transit strategic plan, we are embracing this opportunity to showcase the improvements being made to our transit infrastructure.

In 2019, the region’s transit agencies worked together to advocate for passage of Rebuild Illinois, a $45 billion capital bill that became the first passed in Illinois in a decade. The bill would provide the regional system with $2.6 billion over five years in state bond funding and an estimated $227 million annually in gas tax revenue, which nearly doubles the region’s previous five‐year transit capital program.

While a significant step forward, Rebuild Illinois alone is not enough to close the funding gap in transit capital needs and was passed before the COVID-19 pandemic put additional stress on the transit system’s current and future funding sources. Due to COVID-19’s many unknown impacts, which will likely continue beyond this fiscal year, having a solid investment framework is even more crucial so the RTA and transit agencies can continue to advocate in a unified manner for funding to support the region’s transit system, no matter what the future holds.

Now is the time to set solid policy priorities and not lose sight of our shared goal: to contribute to the region’s robust mobility network and to preserve the transit system as a resource for generations to come. Public comments on this framework document will provide insights on how those priorities can shape our investment portfolio.

The public comment period on the Investment Framework is open from July 15, 2020 to Friday, August 28, 2020, after which the RTA board will consider the new programming process for adoption at its September meeting. Comments can be submitted to Communications@RTAChicago.org.