Statements and Responses

Letter of Support for Western Bus Rapid Transit

https://x.com/Andrefor40th/status/1793314790451884065


May 23, 2024


Commuters Take Actions is thankful for the leadership of Alderman Vasquez and Alderman Martin in calling for Bus Rapid Transit on Western Ave. The fact 17 of the 18 Alders that serve Western Ave signed on, shows support for BRT on Western across the city. Bus Rapid Transit has numerous benefits including faster and more reliable service, and works towards goals of mode shift and sustainability. BRT on Western Avenue would particularly be beneficial because it connects numerous communities that do not have direct access to rail, and directly connects riders to 5 different CTA stations, including orange, pink, blue, and brown line stops, as well as three Metra stations and numerous east/west bus routes. Commuters Take Action is working with other advocates and advocacy groups to build and show support for Western BRT down the corridor. We look forward to a brighter future for transit in Chicago.

City Council Resolution for New CTA Leadership

May 13, 2024


At Commuters Take Action, we support the resolution calling for a new president at the CTA, introduced and sponsored by Ald. Andre Vasquez, with ongoing support of at least 19 Chicago alders. This resolution joins the ever increasing number of voices that are calling for new leadership at the agency. We are frustrated by Mayor Johnson’s inaction and avoidance of the topic. For a city to flourish, its transit needs to work. And ours doesn’t.


In the CTA’s response that we saw on Twitter/X, the agency has responded defensively, casting doubt on the facts presented in the resolution. Having had the chance to read the resolution ourselves, we are confident that the presented facts and statistics represent an accurate picture of the agency, and invite the CTA to provide the data to back their own claims.


Despite recent service additions on several bus lines and (only) the O’Hare branch of the blue line, many routes continue to experience significant service cuts. The line-by-line statistics can be seen at ctaction.org/service-cuts. We have asked the CTA many times to present their own statistics on how scheduled service has been affected since 2019, but the agency has repeatedly avoided the topic and not provided this information. This information is also missing from the CTA Performance Dashboard at transitchicago.com/performance.


Along with the level of scheduled service, the consistency of delivered service has not seen any measurable improvement. As seen on page 7 of the CTA Performance Dashboard, the number of rail delays of 10 minutes or more has not been trending downwards in the past 13 months. Page 8 of the report (Double/Triple Headways) cannot be read without the context of CTA’s service cuts. The number of double and triple headways has only decreased when CTA decreased its schedules - moving the goalpost of what a double/triple headway is. Looking at Brandon McFadden’s On-Time Performance chart at brandonmcfadden.com/cta-reliability, we also see that service reliability has not seen any improvements.


We recognize the everyday accomplishments of thousands of the CTA frontline employees who work tirelessly to keep the city moving, despite their limited resources and support from CTA top brass. Many of the bus and rail operators we have talked to have also expressed their dissatisfaction with CTA leadership and deserve better. It's past time for this change, and we thank the City Council for calling for the new leadership the CTA — and all of Chicago — deserves.

Transit Governance Reform

April 30, 2024


At Commuters Take Action, we believe that transit governance reform is desperately needed to improve transit in the entire Chicagoland region. Under the current law, the CTA doesn’t fall under the governance of the city nor the state, resulting in its current state of limbo where it's missing both oversight and accountability. 


Many people, ourselves included, criticize the current Chicago Transit Board's appointment process for lacking transparency and producing members without the experience or qualifications they need to be effective in the role. This is a big part of what has allowed the CTA to continue to decline without course correction. To make matters worse, the board is supposed to hold the CTA's president, Dorval Carter, accountable. Instead, they've rubber-stamped his decisions and failed to challenge his rosy reports about the CTA's performance — and awarded him sizable salary increases despite his lack of a contract or performance review process.


Chicagoans deserve a well-governed transit agency built on a foundation of trust, transparency, and clear accountability to the citizens it serves. While the proposed bill serves as a starting point, we hope lawmakers are eventually able to come together on legislation that will improve transit equally and equitably in both Chicago and its surrounding regions, connecting the entire area with fast, frequent, and reliable service. We look forward to seeing a proposal for meeting the upcoming challenge of the fiscal cliff — transit has been underfunded for too long in favor of damaging and hostile road and highway infrastructure, and now is a time to look for creative and innovative ways to build up a public good that can serve millions of Illinoisans from all walks of life.


A consolidated transit agency represents an opportunity for transit advocates and elected leaders to dream big about what connecting our communities with public transportation can truly mean, especially as many of us look to combat climate change with more sustainable transit options. We're excited to see where this bill goes, and hope to take part in conversations to help shape it over the coming months.

Appointment of Michael Eaddy to Chicago Transit Board

April 19th, 2024


At Commuters Take Action, we are disappointed that Mayor Johnson has appointed Michael Eaddy to the CTA Board. Eaddy is now yet another board member who doesn’t appear to have any transportation background, knowledge, or expertise. We’re equally disappointed that the Committee on Transportation and Public Way recommended that Eaddy’s appointment be approved, and that the City Council approved it.


During Eaddy’s hearing before the Committee on Transportation and Public Way, he was asked if he uses the CTA. His answer was that he doesn’t, but he plans to start now. That means that Eaddy doesn’t have the same experience with public transportation as the millions of Chicagoans who rely on it every day. He doesn’t know what it’s like to be ghosted by a bus or train that arrives late—or doesn’t show up at all. He doesn’t know what it’s like to be late to work or an appointment because of unreliable transit schedules. He doesn’t know what it’s like to spend long headways waiting in rain, snow, and freezing temperatures, wondering when a bus or train will arrive.


This is yet another indication that no one with the power to do so takes it seriously that there is no accountability for the CTA or its leadership, even as the system continues to fail. As riders continue to grapple with 22% cuts to rail service and 7% cuts to bus service, this appointment will have far-reaching consequences: It will ensure the CTA board continues to lack the skills and experience needed to properly oversee Chicago transit for at least four more years.


CTAction Responds - Death Behind The Wheel: How The CTA Failed A Driver In Crisis

April 18th, 2024

https://blockclubchicago.org/2024/04/17/death-behind-the-wheel-how-the-cta-failed-a-driver-in-crisis/


At Commuters Take Action, we are disturbed by the events described in the recent article by Manny Ramos of Block Club Chicago’s Investigative Team. His findings regarding the CTA’s safety track record are not just alarming but downright infuriating. Over the past several years, the agency's commitment to safety has come under scrutiny, and for good reason. Recent incidents include a CTA customer service assistant struck by a train in July 2022, the July 2023 incident investigated by Block Club and the Yellow line crash with a snow fighter in November 2023. These incidents display an unmistakable pattern of negligence and disregard for safety.


The investigative report by Ramos only begins to scratch the surface of the issues plaguing the CTA. It especially sheds light on the lack of empathy displayed by the agency's front-office toward its frontline staff. The CTA's refusal to answer questions about its procedures during medical emergencies raises questions about whether it has adequate measures in place to ensure the safety of its staff and customers—and the tragic accidents we've witnessed only seem to be cause for further alarm. 


The current CTA board's incompetence and the agency's emotionless, truth-obscuring statements have only made matters worse. Ramos writes four different times in the piece about being stonewalled by the agency when asking questions about the events or procedural documentation — something we are quite familiar with. The Board’s failure to address these critical issues has resulted in increasing uncertainty and fear among both riders and workers alike.


It remains clear that immediate action is needed before further lives are needlessly lost. We continue to call upon Mayor Johnson to intervene and end this madness. The safety and wellbeing of Chicago's transit riders and CTA employees must be a top priority. We cannot afford to wait for another tragedy like Antia's to spur action; the time to act is now.

CTA Announces New, Dynamic Rail Service Schedules to Start Spring ‘24

April 6th, 2024

https://www.transitchicago.com/cta-announces-new-dynamic-rail-service-schedules-to-start-spring-24/ 

At Commuters Take Action, we are disappointed in the CTA rail schedule reductions published for spring 2024. These even further reduced schedules come just one week after the announcement of increases in bus service. According to data released by the CTA, the schedules effective April 7th were reduced by 3% compared to fall 2023, and 22% compared to 2019. While the CTA has stated that these further reductions are temporary and that service will gradually return to pre-pandemic levels as operators are added to the fleet, there are notable concerns with both how the schedule is laid out and the lack of a concrete plan for increasing service in the future.

To see a detailed map and chart with details of service changes to each route, visit ctaction.org/service-cuts.

We appreciate the CTA's effort to finally publish schedules that reflect the current availability of operators, but it is asinine that gaps exceeding one hour have been built into scheduled service. For example, Englewood branch will experience a 96-minute gap in service every weekday evening. The lack of effort to balance service intervals on branches of the Green line or the Forest Park branch of the Blue line highlights the incompetence of management at the agency. 

What is more concerning is that rail schedules can now be adjusted from day to day. If an extra trip is fulfilled via overtime or extra board operators, it will not be shown in schedules. Because of this, riders near terminals will never know that an unscheduled train may depart sooner than scheduled due to limitations in CTA’s Train Tracking services.

For an agency that is “making equity and inclusion a factor in every decision [they] make”, these updated rail schedules are far from equitable or inclusive for every Chicagoan who relies on the CTA to get to the places they need. We are tired of seeing the CTA go backwards with nearly every schedule change. It’s time for the CTA to get new leadership that prioritizes transit access for all.

March 2024 Bus Schedules

https://www.transitchicago.com/more-cta-bus-service-coming-soon/

March 26th, 2024

At Commuters Take Action, we are excited about additional bus service coming to the CTA. Restoring at least pre-pandemic service should be the agency’s top priority. With the agency being at 95% of their target bus operator headcount, we now see bus service at 93% of pre-pandemic levels. Nonetheless, there are still 22 bus routes left that remain cut by 20% or more. We wish to see the CTA provide an update for riders on these routes to tell them when (if ever) they can expect increased service. We also find it quite disingenuous to claim increased service on the 77/Belmont route, while the service on this route was only increased by about 2% - and remains down 21% compared to 2019. We also hope that the CTA will be able to actually fulfill these schedules with service that’s reliable and consistent. Ghost buses and bus bunching remains an issue plaguing riders every day.


The press release also mentions increased rail service coming soon. We are equally as excited about this, but recent rail operator attrition (losing 19 operators in first two months of 2024) and continuing misses in service delivery (March 2024 has had many days with service delivery of 75-80%), we are not sure how the CTA will be able to add more reliable service in the new rail schedules which will come in effect in the first half of April.


To see a detailed map and chart with details of service changes to each route, visit ctaction.org/service-cuts  


Here are highlights of service level changes compared to 2019 (positive is more service, negative is less service)

Ask CTA Video Series

https://www.transitchicago.com/new-ask-cta-video-series-addressing-rider-questions-set-to-launch/

March 14th, 2024

At Commuters Take Action, we are excited to see increased communication with riders from the CTA. Over the past few years, riders have felt their concerns were left unanswered. Before Meeting the Moment was announced in summer of 2022, the agency kept claiming it was running full service, while the reality was starkly different. Riders had no way to get answers about this from the CTA, and we hope to never see a communication void like this again. This series will be a good addition to increasing the agency’s transparency.


We hope the agency will not shy away from answering some of the harder questions that riders may have. In the past, the agency has not admitted to the extent of its (temporary?) post-pandemic service cuts. So if a rider asks about this, we hope not to see the tired unclear message of “service optimizations”, but instead provide a clear answer of how much a rider’s line was impacted. Similarly, when asking about the ghost bus issue, we hope to see the agency not only explain the reason behind this frustrating issue, but also what the CTA is doing to resolve this issue - we believe this to be a solvable problem.


Missing from the press release is a mention of how riders will be able to submit their questions for this series. Surely, a lot of riders with specific questions would love to know how they can get involved in this series.

Refresh & Renew 2024

https://www.transitchicago.com/refresh-renew/

March 13th, 2024

At Commuters Take Action, we welcome any initiative to keep CTA stations clean. Riders deserve transit spaces where they can feel comfortable. We feel that this announcement is not particularly newsworthy, as work like this should be part of routine maintenance. Tasks like power washing of stations should be done so often that riders don’t even have a chance to notice their stations getting dirty. It seems like the agency is hungry for positive news about the system - we’d welcome any news of increased service, and we hope to see those soon. 

Commuter advocates: The CTA vows to double rail operator trainees this year. Its data shows that’s impossible.

https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/commentary/ct-opinion-chicago-cta-impossible-train-rail-operators-20240111-i3c55dfisbbqjerqfua566pnl4-story.html

January 11th, 2024

When the CTA announced its plan to hire 200 additional flaggers this year to bolster the rail operator recruitment pipeline and work toward returning rail service to pre-pandemic levels, Commuters Take Action initially took a cautiously optimistic stance. Unfortunately, data analysis done using CTA employment data — alongside the CTA's lack of urgency in posting or advertising open flagger positions nearly two weeks into 2024 — now leads us to believe the promise to train 200 rail operators this year was nothing more than a PR stunt to placate a ridership that's rightfully frustrated at the CTA's continued decline and lack of progress toward restoring service.

In our latest op-ed published in today’s Chicago Tribune, we use the CTA’s own data to show that it's mathematically impossible for the CTA to fill 200 rail operator training slots this year due to its flagger staffing levels — and that the agency isn't hiring enough flaggers fast enough to fill training classes while maintaining enough flaggers for day-to-day operations. The CTA's well-documented attrition issues have been a challenge for its flagger workforce as well — the agency lost more flaggers than it hired in 2023. It's long past time for the CTA to address the root causes of its staffing and attrition crises — starting from the top, by replacing its dysfunctional leadership. Only then can we count on the CTA to stop making promises it cannot keep.

We are tired of our advocacy work — and the work of others — being met with silence from public officials. We once again call on Mayor Brandon Johnson and Governor J.B. Pritzker to replace CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. and the Transit Board with leaders who are qualified and capable of restoring CTA service to levels benefitting the system's status as a civic treasure and a vital public good for all Chicagoans.


Planned Expansion of Rail Operator Training Classes

January 6th, 2024

Commuters Take Action is pleased to hear about CTA's planned expansion of rail operator training classes and rail flagger hiring. While it will likely take time for schedules and reliability to return to pre-pandemic levels, this is a welcome first step to getting there. In the interim, our group will continue to monitor CTA's progress. We look forward to flagger positions being posted on the CTA job board in the coming days and encourage all interested individuals to apply. 

Resumption of Service on CTA Yellow Line

January 5th, 2024

Commuters Take Action is happy to see the Yellow line resume service after 50 days of closure and wish those affected by the crash a speedy recovery. However, we remain disappointed with the CTA's lack of communication throughout the closure. Additionally, service delivery for the Purple Line has again decreased following the opening of the Yellow line. From the release of the investigation site by the NTSB on November 20th, 2023 until the 49th day of closure, the CTA provided no updates on when service would resume. In one day, the CTA went from announcing that they had no reopening timetable to announcing that the line would reopen the next day. This is not the transparency that the CTA's Communications team insists that they provide. An agency that is silent about a major closure, repeatedly dodges FOIA requests, and has outright lied about service changes since the beginning of the pandemic is anything but transparent.

Better Streets for Buses - Not Much of a "Plan"

https://www.transitchicago.com/cta-and-cdot-release-first-ever-better-streets-for-buses-plan/

November 30, 2023

Commuters Take Action and transit riders everywhere have been in anticipation for the Better Streets for Buses to be released since its originally scheduled release date of August 2022. This document provides a comprehensive toolbox to improve bus service and infrastructure in Chicago. However, within this plan there are no plans to build out any of these improvements on a specific corridor, nor any firm commitments to implementing any bus improvements at all. This document put together public feedback and information on bus improvements, but does not take the final step of discussing how the feedback riders provided will directly lead to improvements being implemented on their commute. Especially given the length of time it took for the CTA and CDOT to put this document together, we would have hoped it would have come with a commitment and trackable plan to provide better streets for buses. However, we are optimistic that the publication of this document, along with the Invest in Cook funds that the CTA received earlier this year to complete a feasibility study of bus improvements on a few specific corridors, may lead to the implementation of bus rapid transit in the future. 

CTA increases service levels on the 'L'

https://www.transitchicago.com/cta-announces-more-scheduled-service-coming-to-several-rail-lines/

November 9, 2023

At Commuters Take Action, we are excited to see improvements to scheduled rail service on the L. Any increase in frequency is welcome, but we are still cautious about CTA’s ability to deliver on these improved schedules. In the past few weeks, there have been several days where a few  lines ran 100% of their scheduled service but there have not been any days where alI of the lines ran at least 90% of scheduled service. We feel that it’s important that CTA can actually consistently deliver 100% on the current schedule before they start increasing service. Otherwise, overambitious goals could stretch the current workforce too thin and cause burn out.

While more frequent service is great, it is still not enough. Service is still reduced considerably compared to 2019. Blue line frequencies of 6 minutes are insufficient during rush hour, especially when the CTA fails to deliver on these consistently - which is an everyday sight. We predict that riders will continue to face intermittent 15+ minute headways during the busiest times on all lines. This can only be fixed by comprehensive operational procedures overhaul and running a workforce that isn’t spread too thin.

We would like to provide a detailed analysis of the changes, but as of November 9th, the CTA has not published an updated GTFS dataset with new schedules. The agency hasn’t provided updated print-version schedules either. Unfortunately, this is very typical - the agency puts forth little to no effort to communicate service changes to riders. What worries us is that historically the agency does not update printed schedules at stations after out-of-cycle schedule updates like this one. It’s absurd that riders will likely be stuck with outdated schedules at stations until March of 2024.

UPDATE:

CTA has now published the new schedules in GTFS format and our latest up-to-date service cuts data is available at https://www.ctaction.org/service-cuts. We are disappointed by the CTA’s lies about blue line service - earlier, the agency stated that Blue line service would go back to pre-Forest Park Rebuild service levels in mid-November. However, the blue line has 13% less scheduled service now than it did in July 2023, and 35% less than 2019. The second busiest line on the system that connects to O’Hare airport continues to see inadequate levels of service, especially during rush hour periods. Other lines saw some modest improvements, but all service is still considerably below 2019 levels with a 21% reduction overall.


Here’s the summary of changes by line:


CTAction commends CTA safety campaign, but infrastructure improvements should come too

https://www.transitchicago.com/new-cta-campaign-highlights-dangers-of-going-on-tracks/

October 17, 2023

At Commuters Take Action, we commend the CTA for launching a new safety campaign. Entering the right of way by riders (unless instructed by authorized personnel) is never the right thing to do. We hope that the CTA’s campaign is successful in preventing injuries or even deaths.

We realize that infrastructure funding is hard to come by and the CTA has larger problems now, but we'd like to see comprehensive infrastructure improvements to improve safety on the CTA ‘L’. Human behavior is hard to change, but we can make it as hard as possible to get one into trouble with robust safety engineering.

First, many other rapid transit systems utilize a third rail design with a protective cover on top or sides. These kinds of covers help keep debris off the third rail and offer more protection in case of an accidental contact. Cities like New York City, Toronto, Washington D.C. and San Francisco have covers on their third rails. While this would surely require a lot of investment and changes to existing rolling stock, the added safety benefits would be well worth it.

We also hope to see the CTA evaluate a possibility of implementing platform screen doors (PSD) on the system. A physical barrier between the platform and the right of way (rail tracks) would virtually eliminate any possibility of unauthorized entry. We are disappointed to see that CTA’s recent station renovations (like the RPM or Racine on the Blue Line) seem to have no provisions for a PSD addition. Likewise, automatic train operation (ATO) technology, which is a de facto prerequisite for PSD, is missing from the newest 7000 series trains. The Chicago ‘L’ is an old, legacy system, but PSD retrofits have been done in similar systems like the Paris Metro.


CTA's Chronic Unwillingness to Address Opioid Overdoses

https://chicagoreader.com/news-politics/opioid-overdoses-on-the-cta/

October 6, 2023

The Chicago Reader’s article on opioid overdoses on the CTA by Katie Prout is an excellent piece of reporting. Not only does it bring to light a serious and complicated issue, but it exposes the CTA's lack of transparency and callous attitude towards preventable deaths on their property. 

Commuters Take Action is disappointed by the difficulty Prout had in getting responses from CTA about who, if anyone, carries Narcan and is trained in its use. We are also concerned that the CTA appears to forbid its staff from intervening in suspected overdose cases despite laws protecting those providing help from civil or criminal liability. In an overdose, every second counts.

We are especially disappointed in Brian Steele's (Vice President of Communications) comments and attitude about the issue. According to the piece, Steele was immediately combative and repeatedly accused Prout of "having an agenda." This is an unprofessional way to interact with the press. We take issue with his view that proper overdose response distracts from employees’ ability to “make the CTA run smoothly” and is a matter of liability.


Forest Park Branch Rebuild Phase 1 Nearing Completion

https://www.transitchicago.com/cta-announces-completion-date-for-forest-park-branch-rebuild-phase-1-track-work-alerts-riders-to-upcoming-temporary-changes-in-weekend-service/ 

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

https://www.transitchicago.com/cta-highlights-progress-one-year-after-meeting-the-moment-plan-launched/ 

August 29, 2023

At Commuters Take Action, we find it hard to believe it's been a full year since CTA's Meeting the Moment plan was unveiled because no real progress has been made toward improving service and experience for Chicago's transit riders. A year later, we still face ghost buses and trains and unpredictably long wait times.


The CTA points to its improved service delivery percentage as a success, but fails to mention that the higher percentages are only because service has been cut—by 21% on the L and 13% on buses. The total number of trains dispatched per day has not increased at all since August of 2022. The CTA continues to call this "schedule optimization," insulting the intelligence of riders who know that service has been cut. A year later, we would expect to be having conversations about restoring service, not worrying about further reductions.


Meeting the Moment continues to highlight the need to increase staffing for both rail and bus operations. President Carter and the CTA's press team continue to claim they're making huge strides toward hiring more operators, so why is that, a year later, the number of rail operators has dropped from 743 to 709, against a budgeted headcount of 839? We know how important it is to properly train employees for this demanding job, but the decrease over the last year seems to indicate that whatever strategies the CTA is implementing to reverse staffing trends simply are not working. Rail operator classes are too small and too infrequent, and the career path required to become a rail operator is not appealing to applicants. On top of that, attrition continues to be high. The CTA needs to do more to attract new operators and retain the ones it still has.


In Meeting the Moment, the CTA promised updating tracking tools to give riders more accurate arrival information. A year later, we're still waiting for that promised overhaul to the tracking technology, and in the meantime, "scheduled" services are still shown on trackers and schedule boards, despite rarely matching the actual bus and rail schedules. That means we're still getting ghosted by buses and trains, a year after Meeting the Moment.


We appreciate the CTA's new performance dashboard as an important step toward better transparency, but we're concerned that the CTA fails to contextualize some of the metrics it shows—like service delivery percentages not accounting for schedule reductions. 


In the Meeting the Moment update under “Enhance safety and security for riders”  section the CTA claims to have “Invested $2 million to expand social service engagement efforts for those seeking shelter on the system and/or struggling with mental health or substance abuse”. During a recent Committee on Housing and Real Estate meeting, the municipal, state, and federal funding that the Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) receives to provide Homeless Services in the City of Chicago funding was discussed. The committee provided a full list of this type of funding post meeting in which the $2,000,000 CTA is referring to in MtM was listed. That same report, released last week, states that only $136,000 of the $2,000,000 has been spent. However, the report states that the rest of the funding is set to be fully expended by the end of 2023. It is unfortunate that so little of the funding meant to provide social services to struggling Chicagoans, and a non violent and non criminalizing approach to safety on the CTA, has been utilized. We find it doubtful that if only 6% of funding has been used in the past year that the remaining funds will be used in the next four months. 


We hope that another year from today, we will all experience a much better CTA: one that provides frequent, reliable service, treats its workers well, and is transparent and honest. That is not the CTA of today.

Forest Park Blue Line Branch Rebuild Project On Time; CTA Alerts Riders to Part-B Service Changes Beginning Monday 

https://www.transitchicago.com/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

https://blockclubchicago.org/2023/07/14/ctas-top-leaders-rarely-swiped-onto-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

https://www.transitchicago.com/-cta-releases-next-generation-performance-dashboard-/

July 12, 2023


Commuters Take Action is excited about the newly published Performance Scorecard replacing the Meeting the Moment scorecard. It is great to see the CTA continuing to publish more comprehensive data. We’re also happy to see new metrics on ADA accessibility uptime on this new scorecard. 


However, this new scorecard still isn’t telling the whole story. The CTA continues to hide information regarding the service reductions that have been implemented since 2020. To date, the CTA has also not published any information regarding the plan to return service to those levels. Commuters Take Action has created ctaction.org/service-cuts which details the reductions that have been made across the CTA service network. 


Moreover, visuals like the Double/Triple headways chart provide no benchmarks to compare against. For example, is 1,000 occurrences a month a little or a lot? Commuters Take Action recently started calculating headway consistency. We have found that while headways double, or triple the scheduled interval have been reduced - daily operations are not running consistently between the long gaps. The data shows that trains may arrive within a few minutes of each other, a gap then occurs that may be just under double the scheduled headway, not being captured by that visual. 


Updated hiring data was made available with this scorecard. Bus Operator hiring continues to trend upward, which shows in Bus Service Delivery across the service area. Improvement is also noted in areas which were previously experiencing lower-than-average service delivery. However, Rail Operator headcount continues to trend downward, with May showing the lowest number of Rail Operators in available history. Commuters Take Action data shows that the Purple Line is suffering as a result.


Overall CTAction is excited about the CTA’s willingness to continue their expansion on transparency - and we look forward to continued progress towards the CTA’s goals of providing on-time, efficient, courteous, safe and clean service to all Chicagoans. 



CTA Announces Plans for Forest Park Blue Line Branch Rebuild

https://www.transitchicago.com/cta-announces-plans-for-forest-park-blue-line-branch-rebuild/

https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/transportation/ct-biz-blue-line-closing-lasalle-imd-20230628-pbq44tooirfunnkp3rmfvv2eb4-story.html

June 28, 2023


At Commuters Take Action, we welcome the upcoming improvements to the Forest Park branch of the blue line. Riders on the West side of Chicago deserve quality transit, something which they haven’t been able to enjoy in recent years due to the dismal state of repair on that part of the blue line.


Given the chaotic shuttle situation when the Kimball subway was repaired earlier this year, we are concerned about the execution of this project. The CTA urges riders to “plan ahead and allow for extra travel time”, but gives little information on how much extra travel time to account for. There could be a big difference between 5 and 50 extra minutes of travel time due to the replacement shuttle. The CTA should publish a full shuttle schedule, with intervals and travel times available to riders - so that they can actually plan ahead, not just guess ahead. We also wish the express shuttle would operate in both directions to ease the commutes of those working at IMD and beyond.


CTA’s spokesperson mentioned that “wait times along the rest of the (blue) line could be a ‘couple of minutes’ longer”. Does that mean that there will be fewer blue line trains along the rest of the line? If there is no reduction in the number of scheduled trains, then wait times shouldn’t be different. If CTA is planning to further reduce blue line service, they should inform riders by publishing updated schedules. However, we hope there won’t be any further reduction - rush hour blue line trains are already overcrowded (https://twitter.com/FabioG_CZ/status/1673688619788251136), leading to frustrating commutes and waiting for up to 30-45 minutes for a train that one can fit on.


Lastly we hope that the CTA will learn from mistakes of the past when they renovate the Racine station. Expressway median stations offer substandard rider experience - folks are exposed to high levels of noise and pollutants from the nearby heavy automobile traffic. To make riders’ experience more pleasant and healthier, the CTA should install protective barriers/walls between the platforms and the expressways.


Does CTA Boss Dorval Carter Use Public Transit? Records Show He Swiped Pass Once In 2021

https://blockclubchicago.org/2023/05/01/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.


The average commuter takes public transit five days a week—both ways—which means that in just two weeks, they would average 20 trips. That’s already more than President Carter managed to use the CTA in two years. Chicagoans who rely on transit use it far more than that. They take buses and trains to grocery stores, schools, social events, and community gatherings. Public transit is a vital asset that gives our city freedom to work, move, and gather.


President Carter averaged just 8.5 trips per year over the last two years, a number that shows he is utterly out of touch with the reality of regular Chicagoans who rely on the CTA. While commuters have experienced endless schedule disruptions, late arrivals, and ghost buses and trains, President Carter has been presumably driving to work each day—while taking a 33% raise. Compare that to the countless Chicagoans who have lost wages or work because they don't have a reliable way to get around.


President Carter's disregard for the people he presumably serves is so blatant that it borders on contempt. In two years, he's claimed CTA service has improved while the number of buses and trains actually running has stayed flat. Riders have continued to have their jobs and lives disrupted by the system's unreliability—all while President Carter patted himself on the back in between his eight trips per year. 


President Carter's performance has already proven he's unfit for his role. And with the news that he doesn't even utilize the system he runs, we can't help but wonder: What will it take for the CTA board and Chicago's leadership to see that he needs to be replaced?


The CTA needs a competent leader who believes in public transit—who lives and breathes it. At the very least, the CTA needs a leader who actually uses public transit. 


We are calling for Dorval Carter to resign immediately, and for our city's leaders to only consider a replacement who fully understands the challenges and unreliability of the current system, and has a vision and a plan for increasing transit service and infrastructure. What an asset it could be to have a leader who cares. 


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.


Ever since March 2020, the quality of service on the CTA has been deteriorating. After not acknowledging any disruptions for more than two years, the CTA unveiled their “Meeting the Moment” plan to restore service in August of 2022. Although the CTA’s updated schedules moved us closer to the truth, they also made clear that scheduled service on the blue line has been decimated. The overall number of scheduled trains is down by 21%. The busiest period of rush hour service, between 8:00 and 9:00 am, has seen a reduction from 21 trains per hour to only 10 trains per hour (at California station towards downtown and Forest park). And despite these drastic cuts, the CTA hasn’t been able to consistently deliver even on this - between March 27th and April 14th, the Blue Line has only run the full scheduled 10 trains only 6 out of 15 weekdays. Dispatching trains at consistent intervals also isn’t CTA’s strong suit - despite scheduling trains every 6 minutes, waits of 15 minutes or more during rush hour aren’t uncommon. Even after changing the Blue Line schedule three times since last summer, we rarely see scheduled service delivery above 90%. Anything less than 100% is a failed transit system.


CTA service is essential to keeping the city moving and ensuring Chicagoans can get to work and their loved ones. Workers commuting during rush hour don’t have the luxury to go into work later or not at all if their trains are too crowded to board. Reliable transit options are especially important now given the extensive Kennedy Expressway construction. given While CTAction appreciates the CTA’s gesture, it doesn’t help to solve anything at all. If nothing else, these cameras enable anyone to stalk and track the public, posing a safety threat. Riders on platforms echo the message shown by CTAction - run more trains. Only more frequent and reliable service can make the blue line into the kind of rapid transit that the city can be proud of once again.


Here are some recent reports we received from riders about Blue Line service:


Find this statement at ctaction.org/statements, and keep up to date with Commuters Take Action at twitter.com/ctaaction. Riders can see CTA’s blue line stream at transitchicago.com/blue-line-video/.

CTA April 2023 Scorecard and Board Meeting

Commuters Take Action (CTAction) welcomes new additions to CTA’s “Meeting the Moment” scorecard. After months of lack of transparent updates on operator hiring, the CTA finally included statistics on the vital bus and rail operator staffing levels. However, being able to see these numbers doesn’t provide such an optimistic outlook. Compared to a year ago, the CTA has almost 10% less rail operators and virtually the same number of bus operators. Given the CTA’s inability to modernize the rail operator hiring and training process, we remain skeptical that this trend can be turned around. President Carter mentioned that the CTA is able to graduate rail operator classes of 20 students approximately every two months. With current attrition trends, these new operator additions would barely break even, but would not get the agency any closer to restoring full budgeted headcount.


For months, President Carter has been giving bullish updates on how service is improving thanks to aggressive hiring - however, it is now more than evident that any percentual service delivery improvements are almost entirely due to service cuts. Still missing from the report is a breakdown of how CTA’s so-called “service optimizations” have actually affected each route’s scheduled service frequency.


CTAction has also been unimpressed with the new ‘L’ schedules that came into effect on 3/26. A few weeks into effect, every line except for the orange line has had multiple days with service delivery below 90%. Since this is the fourth time CTA has re-shuffled their schedules since last summer, and given (the now known) stagnant number of rail operators, there’s no reason for CTA to be unable to publish accurate schedules. Especially on the blue line, service delivery continues to be dreadful, with train headways becoming even more inconsistent than ever. The occurrences of two bunched trains and then nothing for over 20 minutes are all too common. To keep up to date with daily ‘L’ service stats, follow https://twitter.com/ctaaction or check out http://cta.brandonmcfadden.com


Lastly, we welcome the upcoming reinstatement of the Citizens Advisory Board (CAB). It is a crucial body to assure that rider feedback is heard by CTA leadership. As it is mandated by Illinois state law, we’re still unsure how it was ever allowed to lapse, and we believe accountability for this negligence needs to be taken. Chicagoans can submit their applications for the CAB by 4/28/2023 at https://transitchicago.com/citizens-advisory-board 


CTA 'L' Schedule Changes 3/26/2023

https://www.transitchicago.com/service-changes-designed-to-provide-better-service-along-blue-line-ohare-branch-/


Effective March 26th, 2023, the CTA is updating all of the rail L schedules, with the most drastic changes on the blue line. This is the 2nd large change to rail schedules in the past 6 months, and a 3rd one for the blue line. At Commuters Take Action, we hope that the CTA can consistently deliver close to 100% of this schedule on all L routes. If this cannot be achieved, these changes are practically pointless. Up until now, we've been seeing many routes’ daily percentages in the 70's.


Despite CTA president Carter making promises that L service is improving in his latest board meeting report, these schedules paint a different picture. The new schedules now represent an 18% reduction of service compared to early 2020 (scheduled service was 17% in February 2023 and 12% in January 2023 versions of the schedules). Not mentioned in the press release, red, purple and yellow lines all saw about a further 10% service cut compared to last month.


On the blue line, the scheduled service was increased on the O'Hare branch, but further cut on the Forest Park branch, resulting in 38% cut compared to early 2020. As customary, the CTA isn’t eager to share the news about cutting service in their press release. The CTA notes an addition of two extra AM rush hour trains, but looking at the crucial 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM hour at the California station for Loop bound trains, there's still only 10 of them scheduled. This same one hour block used to have 21 trains pre-pandemic. To see our complete analysis of these schedule changes, visit https://www.ctaction.org/service-cuts


Much about the publishing of these new schedules feels amateurish. The CTA unveiled these less than two days before their effective date. As of evening of 3/24/2023, there were no posted notices at L stations about these changes. Riders deserve better communication so that they can adjust their trip planning accordingly. Additionally, some of the new timetables denote train times as "every 20 minutes". With such miserable intervals for rapid transit, riders deserve to be informed of specific arrival times rather than a general 20 minute window. No other agency provides such ambiguous schedules as the CTA.


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”.


This plan promised honest communication with riders, accurate schedules and transparent communication with riders. Since then, the CTA has done little to eliminate ghost buses and trains, and pursued their strategy of “optimizing” schedules. Updated L and bus schedules are closer to reality, but the CTA has never acknowledged what everyone knows - that service has been cut. Overall, buses are scheduled with 10% less service than pre-pandemic. On the L, it’s 17%. Some of the worst hit lines are the Madison bus with 23% of service eliminated. 79th street bus is down by 17% and LaSalle bus by a staggering 38%. Last month, CTA decided to further cut the blue line service, and didn’t even bother to announce this change to riders. This crucial line to the airport is now down 39% compared to pre-pandemic.


Even after reducing scheduled trains the CTA is not even able to meet the demand of these schedules, with 3 out of every 10 red line trains getting canceled. We are sympathetic to CTA’s struggles to find bus and train operators, but the agency needs to inform their riders better about how much their essential transportation has been affected. Despite these drastic cuts, President Carter gives monthly updates praising the CTA’s improvements - but riders don’t see any improvements. 


In May, Commuters Take Action will have been organizing around poor CTA service for a year. We ask that the CTA provide fair work conditions to improve retention and hiring, publish accurate schedules and a working tracker, and provide transparency every step of the way.

CTA March 2023 Scorecard

https://www.transitchicago.com/-cta-continues-to-improve-schedules-for-more-reliable-service-in-february/ and https://www.transitchicago.com/assets/1/6/Meeting_the_Moment_March_2023.pdf 

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

https://www.transitchicago.com/meetingthemoment/scorecard/ and https://www.transitchicago.com/assets/1/6/Meeting_the_Moment_February_2023.pdf


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.


CTA Response:

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

https://www.transitchicago.com/meetingthemoment/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:

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

https://www.transitchicago.com/cdot-and-cta-announce-improved-dedicated-bus-only-lanes-along-chicago-avenue/

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.