LOGAN SQUARE — Saying CTA service has “deteriorated” to unacceptable levels, alderpeople are calling on the agency to come up with a plan to get Chicago’s public buses and trains running more smoothly.
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) — who represents parts of Logan Square, Hermosa, Avondale, Irving Park and Albany Park — introduced a resolution Wednesday in City Council to ask for a public hearing with the CTA to “address the issues with delays and unreliable service.”
The resolution was created based on complaints from residents across the city and received resounding support from 34 alderpeople. Ramirez-Rosa said it was one of the “easiest” sells since he was elected in 2015.
“From every colleague I spoke with, there was a sense that something had to be done about the ongoing issues they’ve experienced or the issues their constituents have experienced,” Ramirez-Rosa said.
The CTA is running far fewer trains and buses during the pandemic in response to a sharp drop in ridership, and residents across Chicago are feeling the effects, Ramirez-Rosa said.
Trains and buses are perpetually delayed, often leaving riders stranded or stuck on a platform for 30 minutes or longer, according to the resolution.
“It’s having a real-world impact,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “People are late to work, people are late to appointments, people are no longer able to trust that this vital public service is going to get them where they need to go on time.”
As a frequent CTA rider, Ramirez-Rosa said he’s noticed a “deterioration” in CTA service during the pandemic. After talking to friends, family members and constituents, “it’s become clear that my experience is not unique,” he said.
“The primary impetus [for the resolution] was complaints from residents. If there’s smoke, there’s fire. I know that people who ride the CTA know there’s something wrong with the agency,” Ramirez-Rosa said.
Local software engineer and self-described “transit nerd” Fabio Göttlicher came to similar conclusions and began studying train intervals at the California Blue Line station in Logan Square in December using publicly available data. Göttlicher found the CTA is only running 50-55 percent of its scheduled trains.
“The Blue Line is supposed to come every six minutes. [Now,] it’s maybe every 20 minutes,” Göttlicher said. “This past Sunday, they only ran 29 percent of the scheduled trains.”
Göttlicher’s findings are consistent with a Tribune report revealing the CTA ran a much smaller number of trains and buses in 2021 than it did during the early days of the pandemic. Staffing shortages are causing a drop-off in service, according to the Tribune.
Ramirez-Rosa said he hopes the City Council hearing will lead to a productive conversation with the agency about how to improve CTA service. He said he’s in talks with Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), chair of the Transportation Committee, about scheduling the meeting.
“At the end of the day, we want improved service; we want improved reliability for the hundreds of thousands of people who ride the CTA every day, particularly in this moment of skyrocketing gas prices and climate change; we want to make sure the CTA is the most attractive option possible for people who need to get to where they need to go,” Ramirez-Rosa said.
Asked about the resolution, a CTA spokesperson directed a Block Club reporter to an online statement detailing the pandemic’s impact on service.
Employees are calling off because they’re sick or have been exposed to the virus, and job vacancies have reached “unprecedented” levels, according to the CTA.
“CTA will continue to communicate service updates to our customers. We apologize for any longer than expected wait times and other challenges customers may experience and appreciate your patience as we respond to the evolving workforce challenges,” the statement reads.
City Council members and residents have complained about public transit service and safety for months.
CTA has deployed unarmed security guards and added more cops to trains and buses in response to violence, smoking and other unruly behavior. A CTA spokesperson said 200 guards patrol the system daily with plans to add 100 as they complete training.
But many riders and employees have said they do not notice the added security and are not convinced it’s helping make the transit system safer.
As those issues swelled, council members blasted CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. for skipping budget hearings in January where alderpeople approved another $26.1 million in tax revenue for the agency. Officials, including Ramirez-Rosa, vowed at the time to bring CTA officials to City Hall for hearings about service and safety throughout the system.
“City Council shouldn’t have to go to the [CTA] board meeting when constituents are calling, asking us not only where all the money is going, but what is being done,” Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said in January. Waguespack was among the alderpeople signing onto Ramirez Rosa’s demand for a hearing. “The CTA needs to step up to the plate and have better communications with the elected officials in the city.”
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