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Rides Mass Transit District CEO comments on Illinois transit funding issues

Rides Mass Transit District provides public transportation across 18 Illinois counties which have a combined population of 307,000 residents. RMTD provides over 680,000 trips each year and is an important part of the economic fabric of rural Illinois. The District employs 215 people and buys goods and services in every county.

Most important, however, is the benefit to people.

“For many, public transportation is a lifeline to necessary medical treatments such as dialysis or chemotherapy,” said RMTD CEO Bill Jung. “Many of our customers also access employment, college, shopping, recreation or other services which economically benefits both riders and the business community. These services allow seniors and persons with disabilities to continue to live independently and where they choose. For economically disadvantaged individuals, it is a bridge to safety.”

“Unfortunately, all of these citizens are at risk of having their lives turned upside down by a detached bureaucracy. The current situation regarding transit funding statewide is as much a timing and structural problem as it is a budget issue. The Illinois Department of Transportation’s inability to get viable contracts out on time, in compliance with the enabling legislation, is the problem. Last year, IDOT delayed payments and had to be forced by lawsuit to process them. This year, IDOT delayed payment due to development of new contracts under the Government Accountability and Transparency Act (GATA), a delay which was unnecessary given the GATA contract template was available in March. After five-plus months, IDOT’s process developed contracts that conflict with the

Downstate Transportation Act. Even if RMTD could sign these illegal agreements, the Department’s actions have taken us out of our normal funding priority in the Comptroller’s cash management plan that now will not allow transfers to our fund until December. Unfortunately, the Department delayed issuing Federal pass through contracts as well. Whether by inability or design, they have caused one or more transit systems to shut down. If the Department does not expedite the processing of the Federal agreements and meaningfully change State agreements to meet the requirements of the Downstate Transportation Act, we are all at risk of shutting down.

RMTD is assessing the IDOT response and will issue notice to the public if service will be affected by these unfortunate and unnecessary events.”