LINCOLN SQUARE — Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) showed up to Wednesday’s City Council meeting adorned with a cutout ghost and a CTA logo — a snarky reference to Chicago’s “ghost train” problem.
The Halloween costume is a reference to CTA trains and buses that show as incoming — but never actually existed, so they don’t arrive, often leaving commuters stranded or stuck on a platform or a bus stop for 30 minutes or longer.
A group of neighbors were so fed up with being “ghosted” by the CTA that they created their own tracking device, the Commuters Take Action group.
Aldermen sometimes dress up during City Council meetings near Halloween. Vasquez told Block Club he chose to wear the ghost cutout to raise awareness about the “ghost” buses and trains so many Chicagoans have complained about.
“I believe public transportation to be a public good and that the public deserves a reliable, safe CTA system and president that doesn’t ‘ghost’ them,” he said in a text message.
To this end, Vasquez introduced a measure Wednesday requiring quarterly hearings by the CTA where transit officials answer questions about service levels, operations and security.
Vasquez’s measure also aimed to block city funding and other intergovernmental agreements with the CTA if the transit authority officials don’t participate in the quarterly hearings.
About 27 alderpeople signed on as co-sponsors, but later Wednesday, Alds. Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Jason Ervin (28th) moved to send Vasquez’s measure to the rules committee, where legislation typically dies.
Vasquez called out the two alderman in a tweet, saying it’s a “shame” his colleagues thwarted the measure when Chicagoans are concerned about the safety and reliability of the CTA and demanding more accountability from transit officials.
During a September City Council meeting, aldermen grilled CTA leaders over commuter complaints that have mounted about unreliable service on the city’s public transportation system.
The CTA long has been short staffed, and agency officials previously said they’re struggling to hire more operators. Representatives also pledged to adjust the transit schedules to align with how many trains and buses are actually in service.
But many aldermen were unconvinced by the agency’s response and blasted CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. for not appearing at the September hearing. Council members similarly criticized the agency president for skipping a budget meeting for the agency in January.
“I don’t believe the solutions are easy, but I do believe we need accountability and constant improvement,” Vasquez said.
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