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Dozens of advocates show up in the rain to call for overhauling the CTA at Cut Carter Protest

Said CTAction cofounder Fabio Göttlicher of CTA President Dorval Carter Jr., "It’s perhaps time to realize you’re not ready for a marathon and retire from the race."

Photo: Michael McClean

This post is sponsored by the Active Transportation Alliance

Last Friday's Cut Carter Protest, organized by Commuters Take Action (CTAction), was a great example of the effectiveness of grassroots Chicago sustainable transportation advocacy. Despite rainy weather, dozens of people showed up for a rally after work outside the CTA headquarters, 567 W. Lake St., "to demand ample service and good labor practices from CTA President Carter and leadership," according to the invite.

The protest was inspired by new 'L' service cuts that launched on October 8, the same day as the reopening of the Blue Line Forest Park Branch tracks. "CTA ‘L’ service has been cut by 24 percent since 2020, bus service is down by 13 percent," the invite stated. 'Rail operator headcount has stagnated. Instead of cutting service, let’s cut the inept leadership!"

Attendees carried signs decrying poor CTA service. "Meeting the Moment: Delayed," said one. "Spooky ghosts, not ghost buses," said another. "CTA has ghosted me more than my ex," a third one joked.

Image: CTAaction

Commuters Take Action member Fabio Göttlicher argued that while the CTA leadership has portrayed the system's current infrequent, unreliable service as a national problem, that's no longer the case. "While it may have started this way, other agencies have found a way out of this," he said. "New York’s MTA, San Francisco’s BART and Washington DC’s WMATA are all adding more service, some running more service than ever before. I go to New York and see a station alert that Q train service has been reduced from 8 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile in Chicago, the CTA is doing everything it can to hide the fact that my service has been reduced by 35 percent."

"The leadership often says that fixing this is a marathon, not a sprint," Göttlicher added. "I’d say that if you haven’t made any progress for so long, it’s perhaps time to realize you’re not ready for a marathon and retire from the race."

A CTA worker and Chicago Transit Justice Coalition organizer Aundra Thompson. Photo via CTJC

CTAction's Luca Harsh stated that CTA management isn't putting in the work to maintain a world-class transit system. "If nothing is done to restore schedules, hire and retain workers, we could be looking at a death spiral," Harsh stated. "If the bus or train doesn't come, fewer people will want to ride, and less funding will come. This spiral will hit the most vulnerable of our city the hardest. South and West Side residents, low income residents, residents with disabilities. Not to mention, climate change is here. Do we really want more cars on the road?"

"Mayor Brandon Johnson has given him more than enough time to try to turn things around," argued Caroline Pavlecic, also of Commuters Take Action. "It’s time for CTA to have a president who regularly uses the system they lead, cares about its well-being, and is accountable to city leadership... First and foremost, Dorval Carter has got to go."

Great turnout despite gloomy weather. Photo: Brandon McFadden

"I'm pissed off," added Kyle Lucas from the advocacy group Better Streets Chicago at the rally. "Are you? I remember standing here a year ago with many of you, making the same demands. The call has been clear over and over. We want accountability from CTA. We want them to implement bold leadership that has a vision for the future of transportation in Chicago. We don't have that right now."

So if Carter was to go, who would Mayor Johnson replace him with? One name that's often been mentioned lately is Illinois State Representative Kam Buckner (D-26), a friendly competitor of Johnson's in the last mayoral race, who's been a vocal transit advocate. Time will tell...

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