• Erin Hegarty
    SEP 14, 2022

    Aldermen to grill CTA leadership on ‘unreliable service’ and ‘inconsistent train schedules’ during committee hearing

    CTA President Dorval Carter speaks during a City Club event in August.

    CTA officials are set on Wednesday to undergo questioning from aldermen about “inconsistent” bus and train service and delays on public transit.

    The City Council Committee on Transportation and Public Way will hold the subject matter hearing during its 1 p.m. meeting. Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35) called for the hearing in a resolution (R2022-688) he filed in June with the support of more than 30 other aldermen. 

    A group of commuters called Commuters Take Action is also planning an “I’m Late” protest ahead of Wednesday’s CTA board meeting at 8:30 a.m. at CTA Headquarters to “let President Dorval know how late you arrived due to the inaccurate CTA tracker and lack of reliable service.” 

    Ramirez-Rosa used the “whereas” section of the resolution to say “Chicago residents have reported less Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) train and bus service, inconsistent train schedules, and regular delays that often leave them stranded on a train or platform for thirty-plus minutes at a time.” 

    As Chicagoans rely on CTA buses and trains on a daily basis, delays cause residents to be late for work, school and appointments and buses and trains to be packed with transit riders, the resolution points out.  

    “It is imperative that CTA address the issues with delays and unreliable service,” the resolution says.  

    Ramirez-Rosa called for CTA President Dorval Carter and other agency leaders to come before aldermen during the hearing to answer their questions and address the issues. 

    The Tribune reported in December that CTA was running fewer trains and buses during the pandemic, leading to longer wait times. 

    Carter, during an August address to the City Club of Chicago, attempted to ease riders’ concerns about inconsistent schedules and transit delays by announcing a plan to hire more workers and better align schedules. 

    Related: Carter vows to hire more workers, tweak CTA schedules to ensure predictability for riders 

    “This is truly an action-packed initiative with multiple customer focused investments designed to immediately respond to our most pressing challenges,” Carter said during his August address.   

    The plan includes five pillars: delivering reliable and consistent service, enhancing safety and security for riders, improving customer experience, upgrading tools to improve rider communication and investing in CTA employees.  

    Carter acknowledged the staffing shortage and said the CTA has “upgraded” its hiring process to be more efficient. The agency has also embarked on a recruitment campaign in hopes of drawing in more bus and train operators.   

    Carter also acknowledged a lack of consistency in bus and train scheduling and said CTA is going to “optimize our schedules to better align bus and rail service with our current available workforce.”  

    The new schedules, set to be rolled out in the coming months, will be “grounded in transit equity and existing ridership patterns while also being reflective of the service we can reliably deliver,” Carter said, adding that the change isn’t a service cut and won’t lead to any layoffs.   

    Tweaks to schedules will ensure that service schedules accurately reflect how frequently trains and buses are running.   

    “The schedule changes will mean customers will have more consistent wait times that may be marginally longer,” Carter said. “Most importantly, customers will see fewer instances of inconsistent wait times and fewer occurrences of big gaps in service.” 

    Aldermen in January held up a normally routine remittance of property tax transfer revenue to the CTA when Carter could not appear before aldermen during council committee to answer their questions about how the $76 million would be spent. 

    Related: Procedural budget amendment hits snag as aldermen demand CTA president answer questions on spending 

    Aldermen during the committee meeting dug into CTA leadership for not showing up to answer questions from committee members about how the transit agency plans to spend the money. 

    During the January committee meeting, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5) took a shot at city budget officials saying that after overseeing multiple years of the city’s budget process, including dozens of departmental hearings, the budget director should have known aldermen would want to ask questions of CTA.   

    “Wouldn't somebody that has appeared before the budget committee over a number of years think it prudent to have someone who is going to be spending those dollars appear before the council during the budget committee hearing?" Hairston said.   

    Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10) piled on in January, saying CTA is "poor on communications. They don't call me back either." 

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