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Old 05-09-2013, 10:31 PM
Mornac Mornac is offline
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Edgewater, Chicago
Posts: 175
What the heck was the RTA and what happened to it?

I’ve used the CTA all of my life and have rarely ventured into the peripheral public transit zones. There was something called the RTA in - I don’t know – the late 70’s, early 80’s? What exactly was it and where’d it go?
Old 05-09-2013, 11:04 PM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is offline
Chicago Savant
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Chicago
Posts: 2,306
RTA is still alive and well, thank you. I'm just about ready to send the new RTA System Map to the printer tomorrow.

RTA is the Regional Transportation Authority, created in 1974 to . . . oh, let's say amalgamate . . . transit operations in the six counties of Northeastern Illinois. It would somehow coördinate CTA, the various suburban bus operations, and the commuter rail services. Since it had regional tax revenues (from a gas tax at first, I think) it felt the need to serve the region broadly, and even ran some CountryBus services through Kane County for a few years that operated once a week.

As more of the commuter rail operations failed, Metra was created as the operating agency for those. The various suburban bus operators were consolidated into Pace. CTA continued to show wary independence.

A financial showdown in 1983 changed things. RTA lost its gas tax and instead a deal was brokered that gave city sales tax revenue to CTA and suburban sales tax revenue to Metra and Pace. Thus Metra now has little interest in coördinating service with CTA or giving better service to the stations in the city. Official history.

RTA does some basic demographic forecasting and planning, and officially approves the budgets of the three operating boards. And they publish a map of the region, the only one to show all the Pace bus routes, and offer the online RTATripPlanner.
Old 05-10-2013, 12:00 AM
Tim R. Mortiss Tim R. Mortiss is offline
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Lincoln Park, Chicago
Posts: 6,402
Thanks for the rundown, Mr. DT, but I'm even more confused after reading your explanation. Is there a way to create a simple Venn diagram for RTA, Metra, Pace, and CTA? Or is it more complicated than that?

PS - great question, Mornac.
Old 05-10-2013, 07:17 AM
MikeS MikeS is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: New London, CT
Posts: 3,800
Mr. Downtown can answer this more accurately, but my impression was that the RTA was effectively a trade association for Chicago-area transit organizations. I suppose that trade associations don't usually approve the budgets of their members, though.
Old 05-10-2013, 08:14 AM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is offline
Chicago Savant
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Chicago
Posts: 2,306
RTA is simply an oversight body for the three agencies—CTA, Pace, and Metra—that actually operate the buses and trains. It approves their budgets, does a little regional planning, and (through its maps and website) helps the public to find out about the services offered.

New York and the Bay Area have similar agencies (MTA and MTC).


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