The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) announced that in the year since president Dorval R. Carter, Jr. unveiled the “Meeting the Moment: Transforming CTA’s Post-Pandemic Future” Action Plan, measurable progress has been made in each of the five guiding pillars outlined in the plan.
“Since I announced our ‘Meeting the Moment’ plan last year, we’ve made noticeable improvements to virtually every aspect of our riders’ experience,” Carter said. “And while we are encouraged by the progress we’ve seen since implementing a variety of new initiatives, we know there’s still more work to be done.”
Nearly every measure outlined for each of the five guiding pillars in the Meeting the Moment plan has been implemented, helping drive positive results for both CTA riders and employees.
Deliver Reliable and Consistent Service
CTA is providing a higher percentage of rail and bus service since implementing optimized schedules, which also allowed the agency to provide more consistent service with the available workforce.
- Average rail service delivered in July 2023: 88.4%, compared to August 2022: 71.8%--a 22% improvement.
- Average bus service delivered in July 2023: 96.4%, compared to August 2022: 81.8%--a 17% improvement.
The CTA now offers an improved, expanded, and interactive tool to track the agency’s performance.
The new Performance Metrics report, which is updated monthly, is an interactive dashboard that measures multiple areas of performance–from ridership numbers to operator headcount, elevator and escalator up-time, and availability of bus and rail fleet for service.
Steps have also been taken to strengthen the workforce, including:
- Transitioning more than 300 part-time bus operators to full-time positions in 2022;
- Offering new hiring and retention incentives;
- Hosting nearly a dozen in-person and virtual job fairs, resulting in the addition of more than 600 new bus operators since the start of 2023;
- Employing retired rail instructors to assist with the training of the more than 40 new rail operators hired so far in 2023;
- Increasing the starting wages for bus and rail operators and mechanics.
- Partnering with Olive-Harvey College to offer a free preparatory course to assist candidates in meeting the hiring requirement of obtaining a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP).
Enhance Safety and Security for Riders
Safety and security initiatives implemented as part of the “Meeting the Moment” plan include:
- Deployment of 50 two-person teams with K-9 units to complement efforts by the Chicago Police Department (CPD), which provides law enforcement for CTA.
- Installation of video monitors in the station Customer Assistant Booth(s) providing real-time views of station cameras;
- Invested $2 million to expand social service engagement efforts for those seeking shelter on the system and/or struggling with mental health or substance abuse.
According to the latest statistics released by CPD, crimes decreased across the board during the month of July:
- Overall transit crime was down 9% year to date, and 21% compared to July 2022,
- Violent crime was down 13% year to date and 21% versus July 2022
Improve Customer Experience at CTA Facilities
CTA’s cleaning protocols were further enhanced as part of the Action Plan, and other improvements were made across CTA facilities to improve the customer experience, including:
- Completing Refresh & Renew station improvements at 28 locations across all rail lines in 2022, with plans to complete work at 29 stations in 2023.
- Adding 50 additional personnel as part of the 2023 “Goodbye Grime” campaign featuring stepped-up station cleaning measures that include power washing, scrubbing of surfaces, debris clean-up, and more.
- Power washing all 145 rail stations at least once a month between spring and fall months (such work cannot be performed during the winter due to freezing).
- Introducing new electric buses on the #66 Chicago and #63 63rd routes, and securing funding to further advance efforts to convert to an all-electric bus fleet.
- Coordination with the Chicago Department of Aviation to modernize the traveler experience at O’Hare Blue Line station with new and enhanced signage and wayfinding.
- Testing and introducing the newest generation of railcars – the 7000-Series; more than 40 railcars have been added to the fleet.
Under “Meeting the Moment,” the CTA continued to improve and invest in bus and rail infrastructure to bring the system to a state of good repair, speed up buses and trains, and elevate customer experience including:
- Launching the Forest Park Branch Rebuild-- a multi-phased, multi-year program to make service along the entire branch faster, safer, more reliable, and accessible for riders.
- As part of Phase 1 work which is underway through early October, crews have been working around the clock to replace the Blue Line tracks between LaSalle and Illinois Medical District and are completely rebuilding the Racine station to make it wheelchair accessible.
- Advancing the “All Stations Accessibility Program” to make all CTA rail stations accessible by the year 2038. So far, funding has been secured for 14 of the remaining 42 inaccessible stations – all of which are in various stages of planning.
- Upgrading bus stop signs for visually impaired customers at more than 2,000 stops across the system
- Partnering with the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) to implement bus priority zones or bus lane infrastructure on 79th Street, as well as Western and Chicago avenues.
Upgrade Digital Tools to Improve Rider Communication
Efforts are also underway to improve and upgrade the tools provided for CTA's riders so that they are better informed and have the latest and more reliable service information.
Among the measures taken so far to improve the customer digital information tools are:
- Unveiling of a fully redesigned CTA Bus Tracker website to provide riders with a responsive, modern-designed website with improved access to bus arrival predictions.
- Lowering instances of “ghost” buses and trains through ongoing enhancements to CTA Bus and Train Tracker feeds and schedule optimization efforts.
- Offering a new live streaming tool that provides real-time information on platform crowding conditions during the AM commute for Blue Line riders using select stations on the O’Hare branch.
Investing in Employees
CTA said it is committed to investing in its existing workforce and attracting new employees.
As part of the “Meeting the Moment” plan, CTA leadership worked with the union leadership to advance competitive hiring and retention strategies including:
- All new bus operators, bus mechanics, and rail car repairers hired in 2022 and 2023 will receive or have received a $1,000 hiring bonus.
- Eligible employees represented by the ATU Locals began receiving retention incentive payments after every six-month period worked, starting July 1, 2022, through December 2023. The incentive is equal to 3% of their hourly rate for actual hours worked, up to a maximum of 1,250 hours per six-month period.
- Provided CSAs with video screens to better monitor station activities.
- Expanded employee recognition programs.
- Installed new, sturdier driver shields to better protect bus operators.
- Improved the SAFELINE anonymous internal reporting system for employees to report potential workplace hazards.