RTA of Northeastern Illinois Board of Directors adopt “Transit is the Answer” strategic plan

Feb. 17, 2023
The plan outlines 14 key areas of advocacy and action that were co-created with stakeholders to guide priorities in areas like funding, safety, speed and reliability.

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) of Northeastern Illinois Board of Directors voted to adopt “Transit is the Answer,” the 2023 regional transit strategic plan that has been in development for more than a year.

The plan’s vision is “Safe, reliable, accessible public transportation that connects people to opportunity, advances equity and combats climate change.” The plan outlines 14 key areas of advocacy and action that were co-created with stakeholders to guide priorities in areas like funding, safety, speed and reliability. In addition, it identifies several actions the RTA, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra and Pace Suburban Bus will work together on this year, including pursuing additional funding for operations, convening a safety and security summit, exploring an expanded regional free or reduced fare program for people experiencing low incomes and developing a regional transit climate action plan.

“The adoption of this plan represents a regionwide united front to meet the challenges facing transit head-on and to make crucial improvements to the system,” said RTA Board Chairman Kirk Dillard. “Our board comprises representatives from all six counties in Northeast Illinois. Representatives from the CTA, Metra and Pace spoke in support of the plan and have played an active role in its development. Our team co-created the plan with more than 100 riders and stakeholders and heard from thousands about their priorities. The result is one of the strongest strategic plans the agency has ever seen, which matches the urgency of this moment for our transit system.”

“We are at a critical moment for our industry and our region and there’s value in partnering to strategize about how we can work together to meet the demands of the future,” said CTA Chief of Staff Nora Leerhsen. “It is imperative that RTA execute the report’s plan to put in place sustainable, stable funding on which we can rely. We applaud the plan’s goal of collaborating with regional partners to identify funding options and revenue proposals and pursue a targeted legislative strategy.”

“This new strategic plan recognizes the changes and challenges for public transportation in the post-COVID world and gives us a roadmap for adapting that is practical and flexible,” said Metra CEO and Executive Director Jim Derwinski. “To survive and grow, public transportation will need support from our stakeholders and the public and this plan will help not only by showing our value to the region but our plan for moving forward.”

“Our regional transit system plays a critical role in driving our economy and supporting the residents of Northeastern Illinois and that is why I’m happy my colleagues at CTA, Metra and the RTA all agree on the key challenges we will face and need to address over the next five years,” said Pace Executive Directo Melinda Metzger. “The document’s introduction says it best: ‘It’s a time of great change and transit is ready.’ This is true of Pace and our sister agencies. We are ready and our riders and our region need us.”

To continue the strong engagement seen throughout plan development and to achieve transparency, the RTA announced quarterly Transit is the Answer Coalition meetings. Riders, stakeholders, advocates and representatives from the CTA, Metra, Pace and other government agencies will come together to pursue strategies for strengthening the transit system and making it more useful for all residents.

“None of the challenges facing our regional transit system can be solved by one agency alone,” said RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden. “‘Transit is the Answer’ offers a strong roadmap, but now we need to continue to work together to win sustainable funding and build a better system for everyone who relies on it. Joining the ‘Transit is the Answer’ coalition means staying informed on implementation and acting together to fight for our region’s future.”