Not “meeting the moment”: CTA pledges security and shorter wait times in 2023


Quentin Blais

A Green Line train bound for Ashland/63rd pulls into the Adams & Wabash St. stop.

As Chicago continues out of the Covid-19 pandemic, one vital service continues to operate at a level that does not serve Chicagoans to the standard pre-pandemic. Due to staffing shortages, CTA has not been able to adequately meet the demands of riders. 

In August 2022, CTA announced its “Meeting the Moment” action plan. This plan outlined the five main areas of focus they are working to improve in 2023. 

The plan’s pillars are to “deliver reliable and consistent service; enhance safety and security for riders; improve the customer experience at CTA facilities; upgrade digital tools to improve rider communication; and invest in employees,” CTA said in a press release.

While CTA continuity touts the advancements they have made in hiring more bus and train operators as well as security, riders are not seeing these improvements reflected in their experiences on the CTA.  

“2022 was a year focused on establishing the foundation for a better transit experience in 2023 & beyond,” CTA said on Twitter.

But riders are not convinced that the service is getting better.

“I have noticed a dip in the quality of service over the past couple of months,” freshman Marco Au said. 

It isn’t just a feeling, CTA’s “Meeting the Moment” scorecard shows declining reliability from November to December.

Service reliability decreased from 79.5% to 75.4% for rail services, and bus service reliability remained stagnant. 

In addition to the reliability, the headway leaves a lot to be desired for riders. 

“There was a 15-minute break in between trains at 8:30 in the morning,” Lincoln Park resident Molly Fleck said. “I know they changed the schedule around, but I just don’t understand why there’s still such large gaps happening.” 

One line in particular, is bearing the brunt of diminished service. 

“The blue line is at its worst since [Commuters Take Action] started collecting data in December 2021,” said Luca Harsh, an organizer for Commuters Take Action.  

In a statement to The DePaulia, CTA stands strong in its position that the challenges are due to complications from the pandemic. In addition, they included that its new bus schedule maximizes service reliability to pre-pandemic levels. 

“CTA, like transit agencies and companies around the county, is grappling with unprecedented workforce challenges,” a CTA spokesperson said. “Initial data is already showing that the optimized bus schedules are resulting in substantial improvements — data on service reliability is on par with what we were providing pre-pandemic and before the workforce shortage began impacting the industry.”  

For some, these “optimized schedules” are a misnomer for what are essentially service cuts. 

“CTA leadership seems to be allergic to calling service cuts what they are,” Harsh said. “They’re just like, ‘oh, it’s an optimized schedule.’ The speculation on the street is that they do this because admitting the service cuts would put their money in jeopardy.” 

 In the same statement, CTA lauded their success in hiring 452 bus operators in 2022, but little has been said regarding train operators. 

“[CTA’s January scorecard] also didn’t say anything about the train operator stats,” Harsh said. “That is the more complicated hiring process, but just leaving out altogether is not a good look.”

CTA has also hired security staff to improve the safety of riders. They have implemented 50 K-9 security crews over their stations over the past months. Despite added security measures, riders still feel unsafe riding the CTA. 

“I personally feel a little bit safer when there is some security on the lines, however, I don’t think that the CTA trains themselves are safer,” DePaul freshman Allyn Gordon said. “You never know who’s going to get on the train and security can only monitor what they see in the stations.”

Riders who have seen security teams on the trains are also unsure what their role is. 

“We just see all of the security guards with the dogs just bunching up together at the front of the screen,” Harsh said. “You really just see them standing around on their phones while things are happening.”

While CTA officials are appointed, for community members who want to see improvement in their transportation, students are left with a call to action. 

“We have elections coming up for new aldermen in the 43rd Ward,” Fleck said. “There’s events coming up where you can meet the aldermen and you can ask them questions, and if transportation is important to you, I highly recommend that you ask those questions and vote accordingly.”