Wants Board Members Who Use Public Transit, Attend All Hearings, and Are Accessible
Transit Group Wants Improved Public Input to Boards
Citizens Taking Action, a public transit advocacy organization, at their monthly meeting on Monday came to their conclusion that a report issued last week by a special task force recommending proposed changes in transit boards will do nothing to improve getting feedback from the public, or getting a response to passenger concerns.
The group agreed that three (3) issues needed to be addressed:
The first (1st) one was that board members must be people who personally use public transit on a regular, ongoing basis.
The second (2nd) was that attendance by board members at all public hearings be required.
And third (3rd), that all board members must each be accessible to receiving and responding to planning and operating issues as they arise, and be willing to meet and discuss matters if necessary.
It was believed that some board members perhaps did not even use public transit themselves. One member, Chuck Metalitz maintained that “with modern fare-collection technology, it is pretty easy to track board members' actual transit use.”
An ongoing issue has been the way public hearings are called and conducted, randomly and often without adequate advanced notice. At present public testimony by a passenger is limited to three (3) minutes once a year at the budget hearings of each service boards and RTA. Outside of this, a written special request must be submitted to speak at a meeting, and a specified set of rules must be followed. Everyone is warned that “speakers who violate these rules may not be allowed to speak in the future.”
The members feel that board members have been appointed more due to their political connections, rather than their direct experience and interest in public transit. Public hearings are regularly scheduled at which not even one board member is present to personally hear and respond to testimony. And there is no opportunity for meetings or email exchange with any board member.
Charles Paidock, Secretary, said: “Right now the mountain is high, and the emperor is far away. On many occasion we go to public hearings, and we end up just sitting around talking with employees on the staff. There is no one who has decision making authority. There’s even one CTA Board member who came to the once a year budget meeting for a little while, and then just got up and left it altogether. I have personally never met with any of the board members, let alone discussed a passenger concern or possible service improvement. CTA President Claypool has a big security guard who stops anyone who tries to approach him. We work with the staff to get anything done.”
Kevin Peterson, a co-founder of the group, stated that: “We spend a lot of time in preparing public comments, and when you go to a hearing there either is no one there, or you end up speaking to someone who hasn’t the slightest idea or interest in what you are talking about. I have been to a hearing in which they didn’t even turn on all the lights since no one was in the board room. At the last budget hearing for Metra, for example, only one board member bothered to show up, and he got there late after the public comment period was almost over.”