Apr 23, 2024 - News

CTA chief Dorval Carter faces mounting calls for his termination


CTA President Dorval Carter speaks at a City Council on CTA services in February. Photo: Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Dorval Carter Jr. is facing growing calls to step down as head of the CTA.

Why it matters: Some, including Gov. JB Pritzker, have recently suggested a leadership shakeup is needed as the agency nears a major fiscal cliff and safety and reliability problems persist.

Catch up quick: Last week, a Block Club investigation into the death of a CTA bus driver, who passed out on the job and wasn't found for nearly an hour, drew renewed attention around worker safety at the agency.

  • In response to the report, Pritzker said there "needs to be an evolution of leadership" at the CTA, though he wouldn't go so far as to call for Carter's termination.
  • Mayor Brandon Johnson declined to comment on the matter on Friday, saying he doesn't "discuss personnel details in public." But Johnson clapped back at Pritzker, telling a reporter that if the governor wants to determine CTA management "he should run for mayor."
  • Carter didn't return Axios' request for comment.

Meanwhile, Ald. Matt Martin (47th) called for Carter and the CTA Board to be replaced, and said the Brown Line, which runs through his North Side ward, has decreased service by 30% since 2019.

  • The Tribune reported that a large majority of City Council's Transportation Committee wanted Carter ousted.
  • Both the Tribune and Crain's published editorials calling for Carter's firing last week.

Between the lines: Pritzker appoints three members to the CTA's board, and Johnson appoints four, including one last week who has no transit experience, Block Club reported.

  • The Board did not respond to Axios' request for comment.

Context: Carter was appointed president in 2015 by former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and before coming to Chicago he worked at the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration.

By the numbers: The CTA reported more than 450 million bus and rail rides in 2019, compared to 279 million in 2023.

  • Average weekday ridership was nearly 1.5 million in 2019, and just 760,000 in 2022.
  • Over the last year, the average wait time between trains was nearly 10 minutes.
  • As of this March, the CTA has roughly 3,700 bus drivers, down from 3,800 in 2019. The agency often points to short staffing as the reason for delays and slow service.

What they're saying: CTA did not answer directly about calls for Carter's ouster, but it sent Axios a statement lauding the agency under his leadership, including for restoring bus service to near pre-pandemic levels.

  • "The Chicago Transit Authority has worked diligently to attract customers back to public transit ... the upward ridership trends, decreasing crime rates and improved service reliability that CTA is experiencing are evidence that our efforts have been productive."

The other side: Advocacy organization Commuters Take Action said in a statement after the Block Club investigation: "We continue to call upon Mayor Johnson to intervene and end this madness. The safety and wellbeing of Chicago's transit riders and CTA employees must be a top priority."

What's next: There's a public transportation town hall this Saturday at the Logan Square Public Library.


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