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Mass Transit Readies For Long Drought

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Mass transit officials predict that without funding from Illinois this year, they could be in for a long financial drought. And the consequences, they say, would be very tough to reverse.

If the cash doesn’t come this year, it could be four years before the Regional Transportation Authority gets the money it needs. That’s according to RTA Chairman Jim Reilly.

He says at that point it’s no longer about stopgaps – it would mean fundamentally shrinking the system.

Executive Director Steve Schlickman says the consequences would be grave.

SCHLICKMAN: We are looking at challenging the economic vitality of this region. We certainly aren’t going forward as a world-class region, we are going to be a second-class or a third-class region after this is done.

Chairman Reilly says long-term reductions in the system could be even worse than the doomsday plans put forward by the CTA, Metra and Pace.

That’s because the transit boards are softening the blow by raiding their capital budgets to pay for operating expenses – something Reilly says the RTA won’t tolerate for much longer.

I’m Gabriel Spitzer, Chicago Public Radio.

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