Welcome back, Carter! For once, CTA prez doesn’t ghost his own City Council hearing
This post is partially based on a live-tweet thread about today’s transportation committee hearing by Luca Harsh of the transit advocacy organization Commuters Take Action. Since we were unable to access the City Clerk’s live stream, Luca kindly gave Streetsblog permission to use their work.
Waiting for the Committee on Transportation and the Public Way meeting to start like it’s a delayed bus
— Commuters Take Action (@ctaaction) November 10, 2022
CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. has been in the hot seat ever since a September 14, CTA president he ghosted a City Council transportation committee hearing meant to provide answers to alders on service unreliability (including the “ghost run” problem), safety concerns, and the bus and train operator shortage. On October 26 Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) introduced legislation that would require CTA officials to meet with the Council on a quarterly basis, which was supported by 42 other alders, but allies of Mayor Lori Lightfoot blocked the ordinance. Here’s how you can help get the stalled legislation moving again.
People got so annoyed with Carter, that Commuters Take Action actually called for his resignation earlier this month, citing a lack of transparency.
Finally today Carter agreed to sit down with the transportation committee members. Here’s what state rep and mayoral hopeful Kam Buckner had to say about the situation before the meeting.
Looking forward to hearing from the head of CTA today. It’s unfortunate it took this long.
If public transportation is a priority this should be the norm and not the exception. pic.twitter.com/cN7MuBZXRY
— Rep.Kam Buckner ✶ ✶ ✶ ✶ (@RepKamBuckner) November 10, 2022
We’re not sure whether or not Carter actually rode the CTA downtown this morning. But there was this reported sighting of him on the ‘L’.
— Chicago Bars (@chicagobars) November 10, 2022
While the hearing started late, the actual transit chief did show up and didn’t ghost the event. “I believe in everything you’ve said about the importance of transit,” he said.
After a question from an attendee about ghost trains, Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35th), who first proposed such a hearing, asked whether there might be a possibility of recruiting some personnel who are currently working as CTA security guards via $70 million in contracts for bus and train operator positions.
“This is a system you need to take seriously and take care of,” said Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th), to the approval of transit advocates present.
On the other hand, a request from downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) for more police officers in the system got a thumbs-down from police reform advocates, who would point out that adding more guns to the system would increase the potential for enforcement of minor infractions to escalate to violence. During this week’s midterm election the Treatment Not Trauma ballot initiative passed in the 6th, 20th and 33rd wards, which would send an EMT and mental health professionals, rather than police, to respond to mental health crises.
Ald. Derrick Curtis (18th) pushed back on the CTA’s proposal for a Transit Tax-Increment Financing district to help fund the south Red Line extension, arguing that none of his constituents ride the Red Line. Well, yes, that may be true since his Southwest Side ward is nowhere near the Red Line, but the project would benefit Far South Siders and the city as a whole.
Vasquez asked for better conditions for transit operators. “We’re not that good of a city if we’re not supporting [our workers.]”
“Appearing before the Council doesn’t have to be like going to the dentist,” 48th Ward alder Harry Osterman chided Carter. He argued that “People aren’t riding because the Red Line is unsafe,” but many transit advocates would argue that a bigger deterrent to ridership is the lack of reliability.
After the meeting, a CTA spokesperson told Streetsblog Carter felt the hearing was productive. “Council members asked thoughtful questions, and we hope that as a result of the conversation, there is now a more thorough understanding of the challenges facing the CTA – and what the agency are doing to address each of those challenges… The Council and CTA share the same goal of improving service for CTA customers.”
Vasquez, who was so frustrated with Carter’s disappearing act that he recently wore a CTA ghost costume to a Council meeting, simply told us, “It was good to see President Carter and we look forward to future meetings.”