Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Regional Transportation Authority
Regional Transportation Authority

Regional Transportation Authority

Metra North Western Station, 1988
The Regional Transportation Authority was created amid controversy in 1973–74 to regulate, operate, and provide subsidies to public transportation systems in the six-county Chicago metropolitan area. Because of a decline in transit riding after World War II and high inflation during the Vietnam War, many of the systems were running deficits and were threatened with abandonment or service reductions.

The RTA's divisions include the older Chicago Transit Authority, created in 1945, as well as the commuter railroad system ( Metra ), and the suburban bus network ( Pace ), both of which date from 1983. Prior to the RTA, the region's mass transit systems received no local tax subsidies and had operated entirely from the fare box revenues for 116 years.

The agency was narrowly approved by the voters in a referendum in 1974. A strong plurality in Chicago overcame opposition in the suburbs.

The RTA was able to stabilize the transit systems. By the end of 1997, the RTA oversaw one of the largest transit systems in the world, including a 769-mile rail system with 205 million passenger trips a year and a 363-route bus system handling 326 million passenger trips annually. RTA subsidiaries operated 2,100 assorted railcars and 2,894 buses.

Allen, John G. “From Centralization to Decentralization: The Politics of Transit in Chicagoland.” Ph.D. diss., Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1996.
Tecson, Joseph A. “The Regional Transportation Authority in Northeastern Illinois.“ Chicago Bar Record, May–June and July–Aug., 1975.
Young, David M. Chicago Transit: An Illustrated History. 1998.