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Rail News: Passenger Rail

CTA hits ground running in September


March may come in like a lion and out like a lamb, but Chicago Transit Authority entered September like a tiger — and shows no signs of turning into a lamb by month’s end.

CTA’s board Sept. 5 approved contracts, agreements and standards all geared toward improving customer service.

The bus and elevated rail service provider awarded Cubic Transportation Systems a $1.5 million contract that will increase the number of Smart Cards available to passengers from 3,500 to 300,000 beginning early next year.

The 3,500 cards distributed last summer on a trial basis enabled full-fare customers to use one card on CTA’s bus and rail operations, as well as on suburban Pace buses.

Eventually, CTA would like to expand the Smart Card program to enable riders to use the card to do ATM banking, pay for taxis, and purchase good and services at retail stores, gas stations and other transit outlets.

The board also approved a new collective bargaining agreement with Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 308, effective retroactively from Jan. 1, 2000 to Dec. 31, 2003. ATU Local 308 represents CTA rail operations employees.

The contract includes a 15 percent wage gain during the agreement’s term, and pension benefits and clothing allowance increases. The Rail Excel program for rail maintenance employees will reward workers for developing knowledge and skills beyond the basic responsibilities of car repairers.

Some work changes also will be introduced, including rostering, which is designed to provide CTA with greater scheduling flexibility.

Meanwhile, the board also adopted new service standards — the first change in 11 years’ operation — designed to provide guidelines for allocating resources in the buses’ and trains’ operation in response to shifts in Chicago-area population and employment.

Some of the changes include reducing from three-eighths of a mile to a quarter mile the walking distance to service during peak hours in the highest density areas; requiring that 46 "key" bus routes have a minimum of 16 service hours per day as opposed to having length of service on all routes justified by demand; and reducing the maximum scheduled passenger loads in peak periods on the busiest routes from 70 passengers per bus to 60.

"The service standards that we’re updating today reflect substantial progress in addressing the needs of CTA customers, and they’re the foundation for other improvements to come," said CTA President Frank Kruesi in a prepared statement. "Customers are definitely seeing a new day at the CTA."