May 13, 2024 - News

Alders push to oust CTA chief Carter

Photo of a man talking into a microphone

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

A group of nearly 20 alders led by Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) will introduce a resolution next week to oust embattled Chicago Transit Authority president Dorval Carter, as first reported by Block Club.

Why it matters: The move comes after others — including Ald. Matt Martin, Ald. Scott Waguespack, Gov. JB Pritzker, commuter groups and editorial boards — have made similar calls, and after failed CTA promises to restore post-COVID service.

  • With so many alders on board, the resolution could provide the critical mass necessary to shift policy on a question the city has grappled with for months.

What they're saying: "You have citizens on the ground asking us for change, the number [of alders] wanting change is growing by the day in the City Council, and issues aren't getting properly addressed," Vasquez told Block Club.

Reality check: Only Mayor Brandon Johnson — who has resisted previous calls to oust Carter — and the Transit Board, to which Johnson appoints most seats, have the power to fire a CTA president.

The other side: "Bus and rail services have been added, ridership is trending upward, crime rates are decreasing, and service is more reliable — all evidence that CTA's recent efforts are working," a CTA spokesperson told Axios on Monday in response to the proposed resolution.

  • "Judge me on what I do this year, because this is the year where you are going to see everything come back," Carter said during a Transportation Committee meeting earlier this year.

Catch up quick: Carter was appointed to lead the CTA by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2015. He remained largely under the radar until the pandemic when ghost buses, dirty trains and smoking riders inspired a commuter backlash.

Between the lines: Resolution co-signers include staunch Johnson allies including Alds. Maria Hadden, Daniel LaSpata, Jessie Fuentes, Rosanna Rodriguez-Sanchez and Byron Sigcho-Lopez, as well as mayoral critics, Axios has learned.

  • "But this shouldn't be a political issue, it should be a service issue," co-signer Ald. Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth (48th) tells Axios. "The fact that so many voices are contributing to the conversation is telling."
  • The proposed resolution arrives at a time when state lawmakers are considering a new regional transportation governance structure that could strip CTA of some power.

By the numbers: CTA ridership totaled 279 million in 2023, compared with 455 million in 2019.

  • Yes but: Ridership rose by 12% from last March to this March.
  • In March, about 5% of buses had a wait time of more than 15 minutes.

What we're watching: The regional transportation system faces a $730 million fiscal cliff when federal pandemic dollars run out in 2026.

What's next: Vasquez says he's not sure when the full council might vote on the measure.

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