CTA Using Ride-Share Fees to Add 1,000 New Security Cams, Upgrade 3,800 More

A security camera on a CTA train. Photo: CTA
A security camera on a CTA train. Photo: CTA

Today the city of Chicago announced that the CTA will be using revenue from the recently passed new tax on ride-hailing trips to fund a $33 million initiative dubbed the “Safe and Secure” program, including thousands of new and upgraded security cameras.

The fee, approve by City Council in November, added a 15-cent surcharge to the existing city ride-hailing fee of 52 cents per trip, 67 cents total, this year. The surcharge, which affects Lyft, Uber, and smaller competitors, will be increased to 20 cents, to 72 cents total, in 2019. The city projects this fee will raise $16 million in 2018, and $21 million in 2019.

Earlier this month the city announced that the ride-hailing revenue will help pay for a $179 million multiyear, citywide rail, railroad tie, and power upgrade project dubbed “FastTracks.”

As part of this latest initiative, the CTA will install 1,000 new cameras and upgrade more than 3,800 older-model cameras throughout the system to high-definition video. In addition, the city says that new lighting, repairs and other improvements will enhance safety at all 146 CTA rail stations. Cameras will also be installed at more than 100 CTA bus turnarounds and video monitors will be added to all CTA rail stops to help staffers keep an eye on the station.

Emanuel with a Chicago Police Department rep, CTA president Dorval Carter Jr., and 24th Ward alderman Michael Scott Jr. Photo: CTA
Emanuel with a Chicago Police Department representative, CTA president Dorval Carter Jr., and 24th Ward alderman Michael Scott Jr. at today’s announcement at the Central Park Pink Line station. Photo: CTA

“In Chicago we are investing in a world-class public transportation system that provides a comfortable, safe and secure experience for transit riders,” Mayor Emanuel said in a statement. “Chicago is the first city in the nation to create a ride-hailing fee dedicated to transit, making it possible to continue to invest in the latest technology and improvements that enhance commuting and improve the quality of life in our city.”

According to the city, the CTA’s security camera network has doubled in size since 2011. The cams have been installed in every rail station and on every bus and train. The newest buses have 10-14 cameras per vehicle, depending on the size of the bus. Officials say that since June 2011, transit camera footage has led to more than 1,300 people being charged for violations on the CTA.

While one can debate the pros and cons of having nearly ubiquitous surveillance on the CTA, the cameras do seem to be resulting in more arrests for violent crimes on the system, while reducing the possibility of innocent people being charged due to mistaken identity. For example, yesterday police announced that they made three arrests for a string of recent Loop subway pedestrian tunnel robberies based on security footage. Using high-definition cameras that provide clearer footage will further reduce the potential for unjust arrests. But hopefully increased awareness of the fact that there are cameras everywhere on CTA property will serve as a deterrent, so that violent acts will be less likely to take place on the system in the first place.

Update 3/1/18, 1 PM: In response to a query about why the 1,000 new cameras are needed, CTA spokeswoman Irene Ferradaz provided the following statement. “To clarify, not all 1,000 cameras are going into rail stations. A good portion of these new cameras also will be installed at our approximately 120 CTA bus turnaround areas, which are where riders board and alight buses, and also where our some of our employees take their breaks. The cameras being added to rail stations are to help improve the areas of coverage at the facility in areas with limited angles/views, including some areas outside of station entrances.”

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