Direct lines to the CTA

October 31, 2011|By Tracy Swartz, RedEye

Typically, the CTA asks for your attention (please), but now you've got theirs.

Hearings about the 2012 CTA budget—which calls for management reductions but no service cuts or fare hikes to close a $277 million shortfall—start this week.

Riders will be able to voice their concerns about any transit issues to the CTA board on Wednesday at Westinghouse High School, 3223 W. Franklin Blvd. Two budget meetings are scheduled for next week.

When fare hikes and service cuts are on the table, riders pack these meetings and protesters bang drums outside CTA headquarters on the Near West Side.

But when the CTA isn't contemplating changing fares or service, as was the case last year, only a handful of riders show up to these meetings and an opportunity to voice concerns is wasted.

The hearings are extended versions of the comments period at the beginning of each monthly transit board meeting. Riders have a few minutes to talk about any issues to the board, which sets CTA policy.

One rider recently pushed to include pregnant women in the priority seating designation for the elderly and people with disabilities. Another rider successfully lobbied for attaching Harold Washington's name to the Library-State/Van Buren stop.

In most cases, only a few riders show up at the board meetings to address the board.

In addition to the budget hearing this week, there will be hearings Monday at CTA headquarters, 567 W. Lake St; and Nov. 10 at Kennedy-King College, 740 W. 63rd St. All hearings will be held at 6 p.m.

If you can't make the meetings, there's a new way you can reach the CTA. Today the transit agency is expected to launch a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, @CTA.

The CTA has had no official social media presence. If riders want CTA breaking news alerts about their trains, some turn to @ctatweet and transit line feeds created by Chicago technologists Daniel X. O'Neil and Harper Reed.

More than a year ago, the duo used data posted by the CTA on its Web site to create an automatic feed to individual transit Twitter handles.

When a CTA worker was injured Monday at the Grand Red Line stop, which rerouted subway trains to elevated tracks, the Red Line feed, @ctared, tweeted about the incident. O'Neil said riders often tweet him service information before the CTA posts anything on its site.

"We're actively thinking about more things we can do given the CTA's [Twitter] move," said O'Neil, 44, of Bucktown. "I'm looking forward to finding out what they're going to do with [the account]."

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This is it

Today is the day when heat lamps are supposed to be turned on at CTA stations. Today is also the day parking fees change at some CTA park-and-ride lots. Go to transitchicago.com for more information.

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RIDER'S BLOCK

My pledge to ride every CTA bus line continues. I rode the No. 90N-Harlem last week and boiled my review down to a tweet.

@tracyswartz 12 min from Harlem Blue Line to Touhy/Overhill Ave. Goes through Niles. Number of seniors make it the Matlock Exp. Runs about every 20 mins.

131 routes down, 8 to go!

Next up: No. 63-West-63rd.

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