RTA system ranks highly nationally despite aging vehicles

Julia Jacobs, Assistant City Editor

Nearly one-third of the state’s northeastern region’s transportation vehicles under the Regional Transportation Authority had reached the end of their minimum useful life in 2013 but still ranked highly in the nation, the RTA announced Monday.

The RTA, with the support of state politicians, has been seeking increased federal funds for long-term projects that do not include daily operations, such as purchasing new vehicles. The Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace systems cannot afford to pay for the projects on their own, Metra spokesman Michael Gillis told The Daily.

The minimum useful life, defined by the the Federal Transit Administration, is 25 years for new rail cars and 12 years for new buses. While 30 percent of RTA vehicles – including buses, trains, vans and paratransit vehicles – have reached minimum useful life, they also ranked top three among comparable systems nationally for traveling the farthest distance between major mechanical failures, according to the RTA.

“Despite our region’s capital funding challenges, (the RTA) continues to achieve high marks, which shows the solid performance of the service boards and confirms their ability to successfully operate our region’s transit system safely and efficiently,” Leanne P. Redden, executive director of the RTA, said in a news release.

The RTA, which oversees the CTA, Metra and Pace, released its Peer Performance Measure Report for 2013 on April 13. The report compares RTA performance with transportation systems in other major cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Boston.

The RTA system, the second largest transit system in the country by passenger miles travelled, covers bus and railroad services in the state’s Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.

The report found RTA riders travelled more than 4 billion miles per year, behind only New York City, where riders travelled more than 18 billion miles. However, the Chicago transit region has less than half as much money in capital investments per resident compared to New York City. Although the RTA spends $100 per resident, the New York City transit systems spends $212 per resident.

The report also found Metra has the oldest vehicles in its peer group of five other transportation systems — nearly 11 years older than the peer average. However, Pace added 285 news vans in 2013, increasing Pace’s age ranking compared to peer cities by two.

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