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RTA chief details problems with 3 transit agencies

Published: Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013 11:25 p.m. CST

CHICAGO – The chairman of the Regional Transportation Authority has called for more reforms at the three Chicago area public transportation agencies it oversees, pointing out problems with efficiency and purchasing.

RTA chairman John Gates wrote a letter to elected officials detailing the problems at Metra, Pace and the Chicago Transit Authority, according to news reports Sunday. The letter, addressed to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel among others, comes as Metra has been plagued by a hiring scandal and Gov. Pat Quinn has formed a task force to suggest reforms.

“The service boards operate in silos and are unaware of what the others are currently purchasing,” Gates wrote in the letter dated Saturday.

He detailed issues with procurement and said the agencies should do more joint purchasing, which would save money. His other suggestions included letting RTA keep a website that lists upcoming contracts and a vendor database for procurement.

However, several agency officials disagreed.

“We’re disappointed and frustrated that once again, Chairman Gates has issued a memo that mischaracterizes events,” Pace spokesman Patrick Wilmot said in an email.

CTA spokesman Brian Steele said the agency does participate in bulk purchasing with Chicago and its sister agencies.

The call for reforms follow scandal at Metra. The commuter rail agency has been criticized for a hefty buyout of former CEO Alex Clifford’s contract. Clifford says he was pushed out for resisting pressure on hiring and salary issues from politicians. A state inspector general and a legislative ethics panel are investigating the allegations.

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