Regional leaders spotlight proposed solutions to northeastern Illinois’ transit funding crisis

Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning delivers ‘Plan of Action for Regional Transit’ to state legislators

Leaders from across the region — including state, county and local elected officials — along with regional business and civic leaders publicly praised the completion of the Plan of Action for Regional Transit (PART) and called on state lawmakers to take action on the legislative recommendations.

CMAP Executive Director Erin Aleman was joined by (from left to right) City of Chicago Chief Operating Officer John Roberson, Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart, Gerald Bennett, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, DuPage County Board Chair Deborah Conroy, Illinois State Senator Ram Villivalam, Illinois State Representative Eva-Dina Delgado, Metropolitan Planning Council President and CEO Darlene Hightower, and Civic Federation Acting President Sarah Wetmore.

PART responds to a state law directing the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) to work with regional partners and develop bold policy solutions to address the transit fiscal crisis. The plan outlines options for system improvements, funding, governance, and other proposed reforms to address the $730 million fiscal cliff facing our transit system in 2026 and strengthen service across northeastern Illinois.

The report emphasizes the value of transit to our region’s success, benefitting riders and non-riders alike, providing access to jobs, education, healthcare, community, and much more. Proposed solutions support a transit system that is safe, secure, and clean; that promotes better air quality and climate; and addresses accessibility and equity. The report outlines potential revenue sources including regionally coordinated fares, fare increases tied to inflation, a tax on services, and others.

A panel of speakers, including Illinois State Senator Ram Villivalam and Illinois State Representative Eva-Dina Delgado, the lawmakers who sponsored the legislation, spoke to a crowd of guests and media at a CMAP-sponsored event at the Old Post Office in Chicago on December 7.

“CMAP worked with transportation experts and developed a plan to produce an effective and sustainable transportation network for the region that includes meaningful changes to reliability, accessibility, environmental impact, and safety,” said State Senator Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago). “We want our transportation network to reflect an equitable plan that will bring much-needed improvements to communities that have faced barriers to affordable, accessible transit for far too long.”

“The PART report represents a crucial starting point in our journey towards a revitalized public transit system,” said State Representative Eva-Dina Delgado (D-Chicago). “It underscores the power of collaboration and sets the stage for bold actions that will redefine the future of transportation in our region. This is our opportunity to build a legacy of connectivity and inclusivity, ensuring that our transit network opens doors of opportunity for every resident of northeastern Illinois.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart, DuPage County Board Chair Deborah Conroy, City of Chicago Chief Operating Officer John Roberson, Civic Federation Acting President Sarah Wetmore, and the Metropolitan Planning Council President and CEO Darlene Hightower along with CMAP Executive Director Erin Aleman delivered additional remarks.

A long-standing transit advocate and supporter, President Preckwinkle called for key reforms to transit system governance while also noting the harm that would result from service cuts that are inevitable without additional funding.

“We have three separate transit agencies that do not work together as one regional system, and the basic formulas used to distribute transit funding haven’t changed since they were first designed 40 years ago,” said President Preckwinkle. “I look forward to working with the General Assembly to tackle these governance issues while also addressing the urgent need for new funding to prevent major fare hikes and service cuts that would harm the people for whom transit is a lifeline.”

With official approval last month by the CMAP Board and the Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee, which consists of the county board chairs and other regional stakeholders, PART will be transmitted to the Governor and Illinois General Assembly ahead of the prescribed legislative deadline of January 1, 2024.

Erin Aleman, State Senator Ram Villivalam, and State Representative Eva-Dina Delgado pose with copies of the PART report. Senator Villivalam and Representative Delgado sponsored the legislation tasking CMAP with creating the report.

CMAP’s Executive Director Aleman hand-delivered the report to the lawmakers in a symbolic gesture today.

“These 129 pages include proposed solutions built on sound policy, data, research, analysis, and consensus. Everything in this report is focused on strengthening our transit system for the people who call northeastern Illinois home. Now is the time to be bold — to chart a path for the next 50, 100 years of transit investments that lives up to the region’s economic, equity, and climate commitments,” Aleman said.

A video of the press conference is available on Cook County’s YouTube. Photos from the event can also be found on CMAP’s Flickr.