CTA executives pledge to fix unreliable service with more hiring and better tracking of trains and buses

CHICAGO — CTA executives said they are working “aggressively” to improve CTA service and restore Chicagoans’ confidence in the city’s transit system amid growing complaints about running trains. delay and missing buses.

At a board meeting on Wednesday and in a Tribune column published this week, CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. acknowledged that transit service had fallen to “unacceptable” levels during the pandemic.

Trains and buses are perpetually delayed, often leaving passengers stranded or stuck on a platform or bus stop for 30 minutes or more. The issue has recently prompted calls for a city council hearing.

“I hear what our customers are saying, and I also understand that the level of service we are currently providing does not meet the standard that CTA has set for itself,” Carter said at the board meeting. of Wednesday.

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

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A rain from the CTA Red Line arrives at Belmont CTA station on April 7, 2022.

Carter said the CTA has a “comprehensive plan” to improve service, and will address ongoing issues including staff shortages and unreliable train and bus trackers. The plan will be released next month, he said.

“We will solve this problem. We will make improvements,” Carter said. “We will also be transparent to our customers in what we do, and we will seek feedback from our customers on how we can continue to improve our service.”

The CTA saw a sharp drop in ridership at the start of the pandemic when the stay-at-home order went into effect and many Chicagoans abruptly stopped coming to work.

The transit system has grown from 1.4 million passengers a day to a low of 225,000 passengers a day, Carter said. As a result, the CTA ran far fewer trains and buses, although agency officials denied that any service had been cut.

Ridership has rebounded since the early days of the pandemic: the CTA now serves approximately 800,000 users per day. But the rebound in ridership has “brought to light new challenges,” Carter said.

Carter said CTA has been hit hard by a nationwide staffing shortage. To combat this, the agency is working “aggressively” to hire more train and bus operators, he said. A slew of CTA workers are being trained and will enter service soon, Carter said.

“The labor market has changed significantly during the pandemic, becoming increasingly competitive, even as short-term workers leave relatively new jobs for new opportunities. CTA has felt the effects of this, particularly within the ranks of our bus and train operators,” Carter said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. attends a press conference on May 20, 2022.

Another issue affecting service quality is the unreliability of train and bus trackers, Carter said. CTA is updating its digital trackers on the train platforms and on the bus app to “provide clarity on scheduled versus real-time service,” according to the agency’s website.

“The trackers use a combination of real-time information and schedule information, and we’re exploring new and better ways to use the data – and present it visually – to make it more user-friendly and, more importantly, , more useful for runners,” Carter wrote in the Tribune.

In making the fixes, CTA’s overall goal is to restore service to pre-pandemic levels and ensure Chicagoans can rely on the public transit system to get them where they need to go, a Carter said.

“I understand that… to meet our needs financially, our goodwill has to come back. Our traffic won’t come back if the service isn’t reliable and that’s something they can understand and depend on,” Carter said.

The CTA is rolling out a plan as townspeople – and elected officials – complain about poor service.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A CTA Green Line train crosses 63rd Street in Woodlawn on March 3, 2022.

Aldus. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) – who represents parts of Logan Square, Hermosa, Avondale, Irving Park and Albany Park – presented a resolution last month to city council, calling for a hearing with the CTA to remedy a “deterioration in service.

The resolution received the support of 34 other aldermen.

“It has real-world impact,” Ramirez-Rosa previously said. “People are late for work, people are late for appointments, people can no longer believe that this vital public service is going to get them where they need to be on time.”

A group of neighbors were so fed up with being “ghosted” by the CTA that they created their own tracking device, the Commuters Take Action group.

Ravenswood resident Micah Fiedler’s frustrations with the CTA came to a head earlier this summer as he waited for the No. 50 bus on Foster and Damen Avenues, heading south toward the Triangle Ranch, Fiedler said. .

The Ventra app told Fiedler the bus was two minutes away, but when he looked down the street, he saw the bus idling with a driver inside, he said.

“He just stays there for 15 minutes. … What I learn from the operator is that the bus is technically active, but since the operator has reached his limit of working hours, he needs someone else to replace him, and nobody showed up yet,” Fiedler said.

Fiedler and other neighbors logged on Instagram about their frustrations with the unreliable service of the CTA formed Commuters Take Action to document bus and train delays, he said.

“One of the biggest issues with CTA that we’ve seen is that it doesn’t necessarily respond well to its customers. They don’t make their full data publicly available,” Fiedler said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Passengers wait for a Montrose CTA bus in Irving Park on April 4, 2022.

The group displayed stickers with a QR code and an image of a ghost nicknamed “Repot” around CTA stops this summer, encouraging commuters to report service delays for trains and buses.

Since May, the neighbour-led group has recorded 44 train delays and 86 bus delays. A Blue Line commuter said he waited over 22 minutes for a train earlier this month.

“The trains arrive at random times. Very different times each day, especially many ghost trains. I take the blue line (Chicago to Clark/Lake) 5 nights a week. Unable to predict arrival times. The Ventra app doesn’t help much because of all the ghost trains,” the commuter wrote.

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