Aug 29, 2023 - News

The CTA is getting safer and more reliable

Photo of a CTA bus

CTA leaders say they've improved services by adding starting bonuses and raising wages to attract more bus drivers. Photo: Tim Boyle/Getty Images

One year after unveiling a post-pandemic plan to improve transit services and safety, the head of the CTA says the agency is making progress.

Why it matters: The CTA is struggling to bounce back from low ridership during the height of the pandemic, which led to empty trains and buses being used as shelter for homeless people, along with an uptick in crime.

Driving the news: CTA president Dorval Carter on Friday trumpeted improvements in both train and bus service so far this year, compared with 2022, as well as a decrease in crime on the CTA.

The big picture: Fixing the CTA is a priority for Mayor Brandon Johnson, and his administration will be judged in part on how well the agency can serve the city over the next four years.

By the numbers: The CTA says it's run 96% of its scheduled buses so far this year, compared with about 82% in 2022. For trains, that number jumped to about 88% from 71%.

  • The CTA's new performance metric database reports that in July, the wait time between two buses was double what was scheduled β€” or more than 15 minutes β€” about 5% of the time. That's an improvement from about 13% last year.

Between the lines: The agency attributes these improvements to more staff, including elevating more part-time bus drivers to full time, and increasing starting pay for bus and train operators to about $30 an hour.

  • The CTA also altered schedules from before the pandemic in order to better match bus and train service with the number of operators available, the Tribune reports.
  • Carter says the installation of more security on buses and trains has led to a 21% decrease of violent crime from this time last year.

Yes, but: Ridership is still nowhere near pre-pandemic levels, given 2022's year-end total of 243.5 million rides, about half of 2019 ridership levels.

  • From this January to June, CTA counted about 132 million bus and train rides.

Meanwhile, Commuters Take Action, an advocacy group that pushes for better service, regularly shares complaints from riders who are still experiencing incredibly long waits for trains and buses, and passengers who were "ghosted" by buses or trains that never arrived.

  • The group runs a CTA reliability report that uses the agency's own data about when trains and buses actually arrive compared against when they're scheduled.

What's ahead: The CTA and other transit providers are facing a potential $730 million annual budget gap by 2026 as COVID relief money dries up.

  • The Regional Transit Authority β€” which oversees CTA, Metra and Pace β€”is expected in the coming weeks to release recommendations to help it avoid the financial cliff.

What you're saying: Reply to this email with your CTA experience. Have your trains and buses been arriving on time? What about your experience during your commute, are you seeing improvement?


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