Alderpersons turn up the heat on CTA to explain how the agency will fix service gaps

Catching a #9 Ashland bus in Pilsen. Photo: John Greenfield
Catching a #9 Ashland bus in Pilsen. Photo: John Greenfield

If there’s one thing most Chicagoans can agree on nowadays, it’s that CTA service has become unacceptably unreliable, with frequent gaps in scheduled service due to COVID-19-related labor shortages, especially at night and on weekends. The problem has been exacerbated by the infuriating ghost train and bus problem, where customers told on the Bus and Train Tracker that runs are approaching, only to have them disappear off the screen before they arrive.

Streetsblog Chicago will be running a full op-ed on the subject tomorrow. In the meantime, it was great to hear at today’s City Council meeting that alderpersons are making some noise on this issue. Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35th) introduced a resolution signed by 34 alders calling for a public hearing on CTA service. Here’s the full list of signees:

Ramirez-Rosa, Carlos, Curtis, Derrick G., Quinn, Marty, Moore, David H., Burnett, Jr., Walter, Cappleman, James, Smith, Michele, Hopkins, Brian , Maldonado, Roberto, Reilly, Brendan, Reboyras, Ariel, Napolitano, Anthony V., Austin, Carrie M., Lopez, Raymond A., La Spata, Daniel , Rodriguez, Michael D., Rodriguez Sanchez, Rossana , Martin, Matthew J. , Hairston, Leslie A., Tunney, Thomas, Sadlowski Garza, Susan, Sawyer, Roderick T., Coleman, Stephanie D. , Vasquez, Jr., Andre, Harris, Michelle A., Hadden, Maria E. , Brookins, Jr., Howard, Taylor, Jeanette B. , Osterman, Harry, King, Sophia D., Cardona, Jr., Felix , Waguespack, Scott, Nugent, Samantha , Silverstein, Debra L., Ervin, Jason C.

The resolution, signed by dozens of alderpersons. Photo via Carlos Ramirez-Rosa
The resolution, signed by dozens of alderpersons. Photo via Carlos Ramirez-Rosa

“Chicago residents have reported less Chicago Transit Authority 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,” the document states. “When delays occur, residents report that CTA train cars and buses are packed with riders and it is impossible to socially distance themselves from others.”

The resolution notes that train and bus delays cause Chicagoans to be late for work, school, and appointments. “Hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans depend on the CTA on a daily basis and they need our transit system to be a reliable means of transportation, especially with the current rise in gasoline prices and the need to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, ” it states. “It is imperative that CTA address the issues with delays and unreliable service.”

The alderpersons called on CTA president Dorval Carter Jr. and other agency leaders to give a presentation on the CTA’s plans to address these problems in the near future at a public meeting of the Council’s Committee on Transportation and Public Way, and take questions from committee members.

“Chicagoans need and deserve reliable CTA service,” Ramirez-Rosa told Streetsblog. “I have heard from many of my constituents regarding ongoing issues with CTA service, and I have experienced these issues firsthand. I hope a public hearing before the Council’s Committee on Transportation will help address these issues.”

Ramirez-Rosa noted that the CTA is sister agency of the city of Chicago with its own budget and board, so alderpersons don’t have direct control of the the CTA. However, he argued, “The Chicago City Council has a responsibility to ensure this vital city service works for the working people of Chicago.”

A customer alert about CTA delays at an ‘L’ station. Photo: Ruth Rosas
A customer alert about CTA delays at an ‘L’ station. Photo: Ruth Rosas

Currently the party line at the CTA seems to be, “We haven’t cut any service, but unfortunately we sometimes don’t have enough labor to staff all our runs, so occasionally there are service gaps – please bear with us.” While that was somewhat understandable during the depths of the pandemic, that’s no longer an acceptable excuse, so it’s good to see alders lighting a fire under the agency to take action.

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