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Another win for embattled CTA prez: Installation of new security monitors in stations is complete

Carter and a customer assistant with one of the new security camera monitors. Photo: CTA

Update 9/29, 3:15 PM: Shortly before the 9/14 City Council hearing on poor CTA service that Dorval Carter Jr. ditched, The Hill tweeted, "HAPPENING NOW: Carter joins The Hill infra convo." But a CTA spokesperson just told Streetsblog this afternoon that Carter's Hill appearance had been taped earlier that week. The agency still hasn't provided an explanation for why Carter didn't show up for his own hearing, a snub that predictably angered alders and advocates, other than asserting that the staffers who presented there were qualified to represent Carter. Here's the full statement from the CTA:

President Carter’s appearance on “The Hill” was pre-taped earlier that week; he was not appearing live on 9/14.

The CTA representatives at the Council Committee hearing noted that they were five senior members of CTA’s leadership team, representing key areas of the agency that are central to the “Meeting the Moment” Action Plan, and are responsible for many aspects behind the day-to-day operations of CTA and ensuring CTA delivers on what was outlined in the Action Plan. President Carter has set the vision and is committed to ensuring all these improvements move forward, and his direction has been clear:

  • Find ways to provide better, more reliable, more consistent service
  • Find ways to boost our recruitment and retention
  • Find ways to improve our customer tools, including Bus and Train Tracker

President Carter has regular, ongoing communications with Council members about a variety of issues, and will continue that dialogue.

It's definitely not a great time to be CTA president Dorval R. Carter Jr. Recently people have protested unreliable service and untrustworthy Transit Tracker screens outside of the agency's headquarters. Alderpersons excoriated Carter for skipping his own September 14 City Council hearing on poor service. And Streetsblog recently learned that the reason he blew off the meeting was because he had a more glamorous offer. While his subordinates were deflecting angry questions from alders about why Carter was a no-show, he was busy getting his closeup, talking about CTA infrastructure on a panel hosted by The Hill. As you can see below, Ald. Andre Vasquez, who grilled agency staffers about Carter's absence at the committee hearing, was not pleased by that revelation.

People have been wondering out loud if Carter will be able to hold onto his job in the wake of the backlash, and whether he deserves to.

On top of all that, the increase in violent crime on the CTA, which recently reached its highest level in a decade, is an ongoing concern. Here are some headlines from the past week:

So far the CTA has responded to the crime wave by working with the Chicago Police Department to deploy more officers in the system. The agency has also approved $71 million in contracts for unarmed security guards with limited training, plus another $30 million contract for more unarmed guards with attack dogs. Some local transit advocates have argued that the $101 million is security contracts is a waste of money that should instead be spent on hiring bus and train operators.

Streetsblog Chicago has advocated for better-trained, unarmed Transit Ambassadors. That approach has proved successful on Bay Area Rapid Transit, where the program is run by police.

One CTA strategy for deterring crime and holding offenders accountable that's relatively uncontroversial controversial, if not totally foolproof, is security cameras. Yesterday the CTA provided some good news in the form of a new pandemic-era ridership record, and today the agency provided another useful-for-Carter change of subject by announcing that 173 new security camera monitors have been installed in all 146 'L' stations.

Work to install these 21-inch monitors in every customer assistant booth in the rail system has already been completed, the CTA said in a news release. The monitors offer live feeds from the station’s security cameras, and the screens are set up so the CAs can keep an eye on the footage whether they're inside or outside the booth, carrying out their appointed duties.

CAs can keep an eye on the monitors while they're working outside of their booths. Photo: CTA
CAs can keep an eye on the monitors while they're working outside of their booths. Photo: CTA
CAs can keep an eye on the monitors while they're working outside of their booths. Photo: CTA

“This project is the latest investment we’ve made in support of our hardworking, front-line employees,” said the embattled agency president in a statement. “The ability to monitor station activity in real-time will help our employees better serve customers and help provide a safer travel environment for everyone.”

According to the agency, the second phase work on this project will include installing a new communication console inside the CA booths, with a touchscreen monitor that will allow staff to switch camera viewpoints, and have easy access to other station communication tools. Phase II is slated to launch next year.

The price tag for the monitor initiative is about $2 million. It's being bankrolled with CTA operations funds.

While the monitor project probably won't revolutionize CTA safety, it should give the CAs a better sense of what's happening in their stations, allowing them to respond to violent incidents and other emergencies more quickly. That's a positive talking point for Carter, who needs all the good news he can get right now.

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