After the death of a 17-year-old boy on a CTA bus, the drivers’ union says the transit agency must act to keep workers and passengers safe

WEST GARFIELD PARK – Bus drivers are calling for better safety protocols on the CTA after a 17-year-old boy was shot and killed while driving the West Side bus.

The shooting happened around 1 p.m. Sunday in the 300 block of South Pulaski Road, police said. Two men boarded the bus, walked to the back and shot the teenager and another passenger. The teenager died, while the other passenger suffered a scrape, police said.

The teenager’s identity had not been released by the Cool County Medical Examiner’s Office on Tuesday morning.

Crime on the CTA has been an ongoing problem over the past year, leading officials to add more police and guards to popular routes and stations. Robberies and batteries have both increased significantly from pre-pandemic levels on the CTA, according to an analysis of data from CBS Chicago.

But many bus drivers don’t feel safe coming to work because the risk of violence has “significantly increased” for CTA workers and passengers, said Keith Hill, president of Amalgamated Local 241. Transit Union, which represents bus drivers.

RELATED: As complaints about late trains and missing buses mount, city officials seek hearing on ‘deteriorated’ CTA service

Dozens of passengers were on the West Side bus at the time of the shooting, and the relatively new driver was “very upset” and “scarred” by the shooting, Hill said.

“If we don’t see something soon, we’re going to have to change our mindset about driving these roads. If a person doesn’t feel safe, why would they go to work?” Hill said.

The concerns come as the CTA is already struggling with staff, which has led many train and bus lines to suffer service cuts.

And the concerns aren’t just for CTA workers, Hill said. Ridership has picked up, but safety issues are likely a major concern preventing many commuters from choosing public transit, he said.

“If people don’t feel safe, they won’t get on the bus or the train,” he said.

A CTA spokesperson declined to comment on the incident.

Drivers expect elected officials and law enforcement to take action to keep buses and trains safe so CTA can live up to its reputation as a world-class public transport system, a said Hill.

The union is working with the OTC and the mayor’s office to assess options to make public transit safer. The city has already taken some steps to keep drivers safe, such as equipping buses with an enclosure that separates drivers from passengers, Hill said.

RELATED: Smoking, urination and “unruly behavior” are on the rise on trains, say CTA passengers. But will private security solve the problems?

Transit workers have long called for an internal police force separate from the Chicago police, Hill said. All law enforcement agencies must also work together to address transit security issues, he said.

But the city must also invest in communities to keep public transit safe, Hill said. Buses and trains are “the arteries of the city,” so when there are social issues in the wider community, they end up affecting public transit, Hill said.

Issues like a lack of affordable housing, the opioid crisis and lack of youth programs weigh on drivers and passengers, Hill said.

“The lack of social services, the lack of help for people – the public transport system has taken the brunt of it,” Hill said. “We are the net catcher for all the social issues in town.”

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