Statements and Responses
Forest Park Branch Rebuild Phase 1 Nearing Completion
September 22, 2023
Commuters Take Action is looking forward to the end of this project and increased speeds throughout the corridor. However, we remain concerned about the post-project service intervals. There has been little communication from the CTA about the October 8th schedule changes.This date is also when we anticipate the release of updated systemwide schedules. Even with only 8 trains per hour scheduled during the peak period now, the CTA misses the mark nearly every day. The average for the branch is 6 trains per hour in each direction compounded with severely inconsistent headways. Commuters Take Action has heard from riders on both ends of the rail closure and on nearby lines about transit conditions. Riders regularly report crowded trains and extensive waits during the morning and evening peak periods. With schedule cuts looming, we can’t see how this could get anything but worse. Chicagoans rely on the CTA to get them to work, school, appointments, and more. This lack of reliability dissuades them from using the system, resulting in further degradation of service. The most vulnerable riders, those with few or no other transportation options, are then left with little to rely on.
It is also disheartening to hear that the accessible path for transfers at Jackson requires riders to navigate the pedway to State Street and then return to Dearborn for shuttle buses. As the closures next week were anticipated, the CTA should have made more effort to ensure a safer and more directly accessible route. This added transfer time will cause riders requiring an accessible path to miss the shuttle buses that depart after the train arrives.
Throughout the closure, the digital Train Tracker has not provided estimates for trains traveling between Jackson and UIC. This leaves riders to guess whether a train is coming. We hope the final stages of the project go smoother than the earlier ones. During the first transition, the trackers were inconsistent on which destination was shown. When service was extended to UIC a few weeks back, Train Tracker still showed that trains would terminate at LaSalle. Riders rely on the train tracker and trip planning services to navigate the system. When it is inconsistent or outright wrong, riders bear the burden.
One Year Since CTA's Meeting the Moment Plan
Forest Park Blue Line Branch Rebuild Project On Time; CTA Alerts Riders to Part-B Service Changes Beginning Monday
August 16, 2023
At Commuters Take Action, we are excited by the progress on the Forest Park Rebuild project. We commend the CTA for being able to resume service to the UIC-Halstead station just in time for fall semester to start at UIC, and we're looking forward to full completion of the first phase of the project to give riders more reliable service.
We are disappointed to continue seeing little information on project impact to riders on the opened sections of the blue line. There was sparse communication about blue line service being reduced between LaSalle and O'Hare in part A, and as of 8/16 there is no information on how often blue line service will run between UIC and O'Hare after 8/20. In part A of the project, the CTA cut blue line service by 14%, and we're unsure whether the service reduction will continue in part B. Given the overcrowding in rush hour with only 7.5 minute intervals at best, more frequent trains would ease the pain for thousands of riders. Since 7/23, rush hour intervals of 10 to 15 minutes have been all too common. Re-opening of the turn-around track at UIC station should allow CTA to run trains more frequently, and we'd like to see trains every 6 minutes at the very least (which was the scheduled interval before the FP Rebuild project. Pre-covid, blue line trains would run every 3 minutes in rush hour).
We urge the CTA to better inform riders of scheduled service changes. It's embarrassing that station schedules and those at https://www.transitchicago.com/blueline/ have no mention of service changes. If a rider needs to use the replacement shuttle bus, it's near impossible to plan out the travel time needed - once again the CTA has shared very little in terms of shuttle travel times and frequency. We would also like to see pre-recorded service change announcements on trains, instead of relying on train operators to make these announcements themselves every single time. Digital signage on trains and at stations should have also been updated.
Update: From our observations, it appears that the UIC/Morgan turnaround track will likely not be finished by 8/20. If that's the case, we are worried about the CTA being able to reliably dispatch trains all the way to UIC with the nearest crossover being just East of the LaSalle station. We are hoping that the CTA has a solid plan for operations and would be interested to hear more details about it.
CTA’s Top Leaders Rarely Used Public Transit, Records Show. Now, Officials Call For President To Be Fired
July 14, 2023
At Commuters Take Action, we are disappointed, but not surprised, that most of the leadership of the CTA used their company issued Ventra cards fewer than 100 times in the past two years. This data shows that almost no one currently leading the CTA actually uses the system enough to understand its day-to-day challenges. For comparison, Commuters Take Action organizers use their Ventra cards between 3 to 4 days a week. Anyone leading the CTA should be using the system at least that much. How can leaders claim to know what’s happening on their system when they don’t ride it? It’s no wonder we haven’t seen more improvement, even as city leaders and the public have put more pressure on CTA leadership—they simply don’t have skin in the game. That’s why we’re calling on the Johnson administration to replace CTA executives who don’t regularly ride the CTA. Regularly using the system they represent should be a minimum job requirement. CTA riders deserve leaders that are truly invested in public transit—and show it by using it themselves.
CTA Publishes New “Performance” Scorecard, a Meeting the Moment Scorecard Replacement
CTA Announces Plans for Forest Park Blue Line Branch Rebuild
Does CTA Boss Dorval Carter Use Public Transit? Records Show He Swiped Pass Once In 2021
May 1, 2023
Commuters Take Action is disappointed to hear about CTA President Dorval Carter's low utilization of public transit; however, we're not surprised. The only way President Carter could stand in front of the CTA board and deliver positive Meeting the Moment updates month after month is if he truly doesn't understand the current state of the CTA—and his lack of usage makes it clear that he does not.
Commuters Take Action use Blue Line cameras to showcase need for more frequent service
April 17, 2023
During the morning rush hour on Monday, April 17th, 2023, Commuters Take Action (CTAction) took over CTA’s Blue Line live video feed to show the desperate need for more frequent service on Chicago’s crucial transit line. Since March 2023, CTA has been providing a video stream of the Logan Square, California, Western (O’Hare), Damen, Division and Chicago Blue Line stations on weekdays 7-10am to “[help] customers make decisions on when is the best time to ride.” Members of CTAction made signs with the message “RUN MORE TRAINS/COMMUTERS TAKE ACTION” and pointed them at the cameras at each of the six broadcasted stations.
CTA April 2023 Scorecard and Board Meeting
CTA 'L' Schedule Changes 3/26/2023
Illinois State Senate Transportation Committee Special Hearing 3/14/2023
My name is Morgan Madderom and I am an organizer with Commuters Take Action. We are a collective of frustrated Chicago transit riders calling for reliable service and transparency. Since the onset of the pandemic, the Chicago Transit Authority’s service has deteriorated significantly and thousands of commuters are victims to ghost buses and late rides every day. For a long time, the agency was quiet and pushed their message retaining full service, while the reality was far from that. Only after mounting public pressure from the press and organizations like ours did the CTA admit something was wrong with their “Meeting the Moment Plan”.
CTA March 2023 Scorecard
Commuters Take Action Response:
Commuters Take Action (CTAction) is once again disappointed in CTA's lack of contextualization in their "Meeting the Moment" updates. In these monthly press releases, CTA praises itself for the continued improvements it's been making. While the need for more accurate schedules has been a core ask of CTAction since its inception, the CTA also needs up to be upfront about how it's achieving better service reliability percentages - by cutting scheduled service. CTA highlights that in February, rail service went up from 80.6% to 82.6%. However, they fail to mention that as of February 1st, they quietly cut down the blue line schedule, which is now down 39% compared to pre-pandemic. We welcome more realistic schedules, but changes need to be communicated to riders. The service on all other lines (except for the pink) actually went down by a few percent in February, as can be seen CTA's own interactive scorecard. In total number of train trips run each day, there's been no upward trend between June 2022 and today; the 'L' continues to hover around 1100 trips on average (this can be seen at cta.brandonmcfadden.com). Nowhere in their press releases does CTA tell riders how much they've cut each bus or rail route, instead they insist on using the ambiguous term "optimizations". If CTA was committed to honest dialogue with riders, they wouldn't hide the fact that buses have been cut by 10% and 'L' by 17%. Instead, CTAction had to do their own analysis, which can be seen at ctaction.org/service-cuts. CTAction submitted a public comment at this month's Chicago Transit Board meeting, but unfortunately president Carter was quick to dismiss our observations and pressed on with his narrative where CTA is doing a stellar job of improving service. At this point, we'd consider it a miracle to hear the words "we cut service" from anyone at the CTA leadership.
CTA February 2023 Scorecard
Commuters Take Action Response:
Commuters Take Action welcomes the new additions to CTA's February "Meeting the Moment" scorecard. The increased detail of data in regards to service delivered on both bus and rail lines is a welcome step towards more transparency. Riders can now see the history of service on a route-by-route basis.
The bus service improvement from 83% to 93% is commendable, however it should be noted that this is as a result of new reduced schedules, not because more buses were dispatched. CTA's new bus scheduled overall cut service by 10%, with many busy routes seeing cuts of about 20% (see ctaction.org/service-cuts).
To CTAction, the most alarming change is the 2/1/2023 adjustment of blue line schedules. This was mentioned by president Carter during the February 8th CTA Board meeting but not publicized otherwise. This change results in blue line service being cut by 39% compared to pre-pandemic. Rush hour service is cut by more than 50% and weekend wait times have increased from 6 minutes to 15 minutes. The blue line now has the worst weekend interval (along with the yellow line), despite being the 2nd busiest and serving O'Hare International airport. Despite these major cuts, CTA still fails to follow this new schedule - for example, Monday February 6th only saw 84% of trains. We continue to receive daily reports of overcrowding on the blue line from our riders. We welcome a more realistic schedule, but we are disappointed by CTA's absolute lack of efforts to communicate this change. Lastly, we'd like to see a plan to return the blue line to full service by the CTA.
In regards to hiring updates, we wish the CTA best of luck with its ambitious 700 bus operator hiring goal for 2023. What's still missing from the scorecard is a glimpse into net operator gains/losses (i.e. attrition). Additionally, rail operator hiring updates are still missing from the presented statistics.
CTA New Year's Eve Service
Commuters Take Action Response:
For 2022 New Year's Eve celebrations, CTA advertised increased service on red, blue and yellow lines. But just as a seasoned Chicago transit rider would expect, the actual delivered service was far worse than advertised. Shown above is blue line arrival data for the California station between midnight (12:00am) and 5:59am on 1/1/2023. The "Scheduled" column reflect the number of regularly scheduled trains on a Sunday early morning and doesn't even account for the advertised extra service. "Actual Arrivals" column show how many trains really showed up at the station for each 1-hour block. At least 42 trains should've showed up in total for both directions, but only 19 did in reality - with some gaps of over an hour between trains.
While we are somewhat sympathetic to the CTA's worker shortage; we are deeply disappointed at the continued inaccurate communications issued by CTA staff. The announcement that should have been issued that scheduled service will be significantly reduced. The CTA is continuing to post such misinformation on a regular basis, and at this point we must call it what it is - negligence and absolute disregard to CTA riders.
We have reached out to the CTA media department for a response, but were ghosted. However, Brian Steele gave a typical non-answer on the topic in a Chicago Streetsblog article.
December 2022 Meeting the Moment Scorecard
Commuters Take Action Response:
Commuters Take Action continues to monitor CTA's monthly "Meeting the Moment" scorecard updates. At the December 2022 Chicago Transit Board meeting, CTA president Carter once again gave an overly optimistic look at the state of CTA service. However, upon further look at the scorecard, there are two main aspects that continue to raise concerns:
Hiring updates - CTA gives us a metric of 450 target hires for bus operators in 2022. And they seem to be fairly well on track at 420 operators hired. However, this metric should be posted as an overall net gain/loss of operators to account for those who have left the CTA. As far as we know, even a net addition 450 bus operators would only fill about half of the gap towards target full employment. Additionally, there is no mention about the state of rail operator positions. These positions require a more complicated career progression, so we are skeptical that CTA has been able to make much progress. The first step towards a rail operator position is usually a part-time customer service assistant (i.e. station attendant) job at near minimum wage. If the CTA wants to attract more rail operators, the entry level job needs to be a better proposition. While we applaud CTA's recent hiring incentives (source), unfortunately customer service assistant position is not included in those.
Rail service - On 10/23/2022, new rail schedules went into effect, boasting that "New Rail Schedules Adjust Scheduled Service to Better Align with Available Workforce" (source). Unfortunately, the improvements are very marginal and riders continue to be haunted by ghost trains. You can read our analysis of the blue line on Streetsblog Chicago. In the scorecard, CTA claims an improvement of fulfilled rail service from 77.2% in October to 79.5% in November. First, this increase is already essentially a statistical error. But most importantly, November's metric is based on the new schedules, which actually reduced service about 12% overall. The overall number of trains dispatched in November is very consistent with previous months (one can see that on page 4 of Brandon McFadden's tracker: http://cta.brandonmcfadden.com/), i.e. there is no measurable increase in service so far this year. Looking at the previous scorecard, we see that between 10/23/22 and 11/07/22, weekday service was running at 81.5%. Comparing to the latest scorecard, we see that between 10/23/22 and 12/10/22, this weekday percentage is now at 79.5% - this shows us that after a small initial improvement with the new schedules, the trend has shifted downward in recent weeks. Weekend and owl service continues to be dismal - with some lines routinely operating about 50% of schedule. In short, CTA has failed to both increase service closer towards pre-pandemic levels, and to update schedules to be at least somewhat accurate.
While we welcome the scorecards as a step towards transparency from the CTA leadership, but we continue to be disappointed by the agency's careful crafting of statistics to hide the real problems and obfuscate the truth. Furthermore, we are frustrated by the Chicago Transit Board's continued, almost unequivocal praise of president Carter's leadership instead of asking pressing questions on the matter.
Chicago Avenue Bus Lanes
Commuters Take Action Response:
Commuters Take Action is excited to hear about the new dedicated bus lanes on Chicago Ave. The implementation of transit infrastructure to speed up service on one of Chicago's busiest bus routes is long overdue. While we are grateful for every improvement, we must note the slow progress on bus service improvements in our great city. Chicago is still (quite literally) miles behind other cities when it comes to implementing new bus lanes. On a busy route such as the #66, there is no reason that the entire route does not have a dedicated, speedy lane. Any Chicagoan who's experienced the delight of traveling on a bus in a dedicated lane knows how quickly these benefits can diminish when an unauthorized vehicle is blocking the way. We need legislature to call for automated bus lane enforcement, such as New York City has championed. We welcome 1st ward Aldersperson LaSpata's efforts to bring such legislation to Illinois. Let's not stop there, Chicago's busiest bus routes could be improved by being converted to light rail or bus rapid transit; the demand and ridership is certainly there. However, we can't forget that any infrastructure improvements are in vain without improved service reliability. Currently, around a quarter of #66 buses are ghosting riders. A few weeks ago one rider shared this typical experience with us: "66 bus west at Chicago and Orleans. Waited over 20 minutes. The bus was too packed to get on when it finally came and the next one wasn’t scheduled for 19 more minutes." We are wishing CTA buses many fast and unobstructed miles in these lanes, and hoping for more systematic improvements in the future.