Facing complaints about security and long wait times, the CTA plans to change schedules, increase security efforts and update its bus and train trackers.
The measures are part of a broad plan that CTA Chairman Dorval Carter unveiled Thursday at a luncheon for the city’s business and political elite, including efforts to address unpredictable wait times, crime and called ghost buses and trains, which appear in digital media. trackers but do not reach real life. Parts of the plan, including some of the increased security and hiring measures, they are not new.
“CTA service has been under immense pressure for nearly three years, and recent labor market and workforce challenges are compounding an already difficult time,” Carter said. “From ‘big quit’ market forces to a very competitive job market and unusually high attrition rates among bus and rail operators, our services fall short of our high expectations for reliability.”
The CTA has struggled with complaints about service, safety and conditions as ridership plummeted during the pandemic. In recent months, passenger numbers have been hovering around more than half of pre-pandemic levels.
Carter has said the shortage of bus and train operators is largely due to long wait times for buses and trains, as the agency faces challenges with hiring and attrition. The agency has more than 1,000 fewer union employees than before the pandemic, including about 890 bus operators.
Carter’s plan calls for changing hours to account for the limited number of operators, a move that could mean “slightly” longer wait times, he said. The changes will build on existing ridership patterns and are intended to make wait times more consistent and limit the number of large gaps between buses or trains at stations.
No changes will be made to hours of service, no routes will be eliminated, and no employees will be laid off, Carter said. Hours will continue to adjust as more operators are hired, he said.
More reliable schedules will help with inaccurate bus and train trackers, which rely on both scheduled and real-time service, Carter said, but more updates are also expected in the coming months that are meant to help with accuracy. They will also include the creation of a “chat bot” that will allow passengers to report problems such as dirty trains.
The plan includes hiring efforts already underway, including direct hiring of full-time operators, rather than new hires starting as part-time operators first, thanks to changes in an employment contract. The agency is asking retired bus and train operators to return to work part-time.
“It’s not a question of whether we can (hire),” Carter said. “It’s a question of how long it’s going to take.”
Carter said a key challenge is the number of employees retiring or leaving, and his plan also includes efforts to recruit and retain staff. Among the efforts is the installation of new protectors for drivers on buses, as unions representing bus and train operators have said. operator safety concern.
The CTA and Chicago Police recently announced Increased CTA Security Measures, including additional police officers and teams of K-9 security guards, after a man was shot and killed on the Red Line on Saturday. That ad goes on one in march that included more officers and supervisors to patrol the transit system, and more unarmed security guards.
“It’s not as simple as, I do this and the crime goes away,” Carter said. “I think you have to have as many tools as you can in the toolbox to do that.”
The CTA has previously used K-9, but in 2019 decided it would no longer use dogs to deter crime and canceled his contract with a security company that had trouble training its guards to handle dogs. Spokesman Brian Steele said the new K-9 security contract had not been awarded, but would go to another contractor and there would be better training.
The latest plan also includes monitors for customer service reps to see stations and increased use of security guards, even at night in some locations. Carter outlined a plan to boost outreach to people living in the CTA or experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis.
Requires taller ADA-compliant entry gates to prevent fare evasion. So far, 18 tall gates have been installed along the Red, Green, Orange and Blue lines, and the transit agency plans to install more than 100 more throughout the system, Steele said.
The CTA was unable to put a price tag on the plan or provide a cost estimate. In some cases, the details of the plan are still being worked out and other steps were already underway, Steele said. Other parts, including time changes, are not expected to cost anything. All funds will come from the agency’s budget.