WEST GARFIELD PARK — Bus drivers are calling for better safety protocols on the CTA after a 17-year-old boy was shot and killed while riding the bus on the West Side.
The shooting happened about 1 p.m. Sunday in the 300 block of South Pulaski Road, police said. Two men got onto the bus, walked to the back and shot the teen and another passenger. The teen died, while the other passenger had a graze wound, police said.
The teen’s identity had not been released by the Cool County Medical Examiner’s office as of Tuesday morning.
Crime on the CTA has been a consistent problem for the last year, leading to officials adding more police and guards to popular routes and stations. Robberies and batteries are both up significantly from pre-pandemic levels on the CTA, according to a CBS Chicago data analysis.
But many bus drivers don’t feel safe coming to work as the risk of violence has “grown tremendously” for CTA workers and passengers, said Keith Hill, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241, which represents bus drivers.
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Dozens of riders were on the West Side bus at the time of the shooting and the relatively new driver was “very distraught” and “scarred” by the shooting, Hill said.
“If we don’t see something soon, we’re going to have to change our mindset about driving these routes. If a person don’t feel safe, why would they go to work?” Hill said.
Those concerns come as the CTA is already struggling with staffing, leading to many train and bus lines seeing service cuts.
And the concerns aren’t just affecting CTA workers, Hill said. Ridership has been recovering, but safety issues are likely a key concern stopping many commuters from choosing public transit, he said.
“If people don’t feel safe, they’re not going to get on the bus or the train in the first place,” he said.
A spokesperson for CTA declined to comment on the incident.
Drivers are looking to elected officials and law enforcement agencies to take action to keep buses and trains safe so CTA can live up to its reputation as a world-class transit system, Hill said.
The union is working with the CTA and the Mayor’s Office to evaluate options for making transit safer. The city has already taken some steps to keep drivers safer, such as fitting buses with an enclosure that keeps drivers separate from passengers, Hill said.
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Transit workers have long pushed for an internal police force that is separate from Chicago police, Hill said. All law enforcement agencies must also collaborate to address transit safety issues, he said.
But the city also has to invest in communities to keep transit safe, Hill said. Buses and trains are “the arteries of the city,” so when there are social issues in the broader community, they end up affecting public transit, Hill said.
Issues like the lack of affordable housing, the opioid crisis and a lack of youth programs weigh upon drivers and passengers, Hill said.
“The lack of social services, the lack of help for people — the public transit system has taken the brunt of that,” Hill said. “We are the net catcher for all the social problems in the city.”
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