CHICAGO — A coalition of CTA bus drivers and train operators is demanding stricter safety precautions in the face of more frequent attacks on transit workers, highlighted after someone pushed a train operator onto the Red Line tracks in Edgewater this week.
Members of the Chicago Transit Justice Coalition said front-line transit workers are not getting enough help from the CTA when they are threatened or assaulted on the job. They want the CTA to require two-person crews so workers are better protected.
The coalition held a protest Saturday on the South Side, involving current and retired CTA workers.
“All of us here have been assaulted or threatened with assault,” Eric Basir, organizer with the Chicago Transit Justice Coalition, said at the protest. “The trauma we endure is wearing away at our souls. … Our safety is neglected by the CTA.”
A man that operates CTA Red Line trains was pushed onto the tracks around 8:30 p.m. Monday at the Granville station. The worker was attacked after responding to a customer who said their phone had fallen onto the tracks, according to police.
The operator did not make contact with the electrified third rail. He was taken to St. Francis Hospital with soreness and released Monday night, according to CTA. No arrests have been made in the case as officials continue to investigate.
“What happened with this operator is a total breakdown of society,” one organizer with the transit group said. They declined to be named, citing potential retaliation. “We, as transit workers are their care takers, but we are not equipped for that. He was being courteous. He was trying to help the riders.”
Complaints about bad behavior have climbed since the start of the pandemic, a trend impacting transit systems around the country as ridership dropped by 50 percent, CTA officials said.
Among the increase in unruly behavior is violence and threats of violence against transit workers.
A bus driver in West Pullman was shot at last year after telling someone to wear a mask. A booth worker at a CTA ‘L” station previously told Block Club he is threatened at least twice a week on the job.
“They say, ‘I’m going to kill you,’ ‘I’m going to shoot you,’ ‘I’m going to stab you.’ All the time,” said the employee, who has been with the CTA for over 20 years. “I’m leaving in a few years, but the way things are set up right now, I don’t know if I will get out of here alive. That’s just how bad it is.”
In December, CTA bus drivers and train operators shut down Michigan Avenue as they protested the increase in violence and threats.
Last month, CTA officials announced they would double the number of security guards on buses and trains. It’s unclear whether these guards have been deployed. The CTA issued the following statement in response to Block Club’s inquiry:
“The safety and security of our employees is our top priority, and we work very closely with CPD to ensure the safest environment possible,” CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. said in a statement. “The CTA has invested significantly in equipment and systems to keep employees safe, and we’re always working with the leadership and members of ATU [Amalgamated Transit Union] to enhance those efforts.”