CTA looking into fairness, efficiency issues

January 16, 2012|By Tracy Swartz, RedEye

The CTA board approved a contract last week for consultants to evaluate the current set of CTA schedules to determine if the agency is operating as efficiently and fairly as it could be.

This could be the end of the whine for some CTA riders.

The CTA board approved contracts last week for consultants to evaluate the current set of CTA schedules to determine if the agency is operating as efficiently and fairly as it could be.

The CTA says it evaluates schedules throughout the year and makes changes based on seasonal trends. But CTA president Forrest Claypool said researchers with Northwestern and Navigant, a Chicago-based business consulting firm, will start from scratch in assessing transit operations. Their contracts are not to exceed $310,000.

Claypool said this move does not mean that service cuts are in the near future. Still, CTA management and the unions have to come to an agreement soon on proposed worker concessions or service cuts are a possibility for this year.

Claypool said the researchers will primarily crunch data to see where the CTA can improve efficiency.

Data is a good way to learn about problems associated with certain bus routes, such as the No. 66-Chicago buses, which suffer from overcrowding. An even better way is to take these buses in rush hour and see where the problems occur.

On Chicago Avenue, the No. 66 slows as it makes its way through downtown because of car traffic and foot traffic from riders transferring to and from the Red and Brown Lines. The frequent stopping by the No. 66 leads to bus bunching and gaps in service, making it one of the CTA's most problematic lines.

Other areas the researchers should evaluate, hopefully in-person and not just from a computer screen:

>> Train overcrowding: Every year the Cubs and Sox play baseball, and every year, the Red Line trains become unbearable before and after games. Surely there is a fix for this. Other hotspots for overcrowding: rush hour trains and Blue and Orange Line trains to the airports during the summer.

>> Return of express buses: A bus rapid transit pilot along Jeffery Boulevard is set to begin this year. These buses are supposed to have priority at traffic lights and bus-only lanes.

In the meantime, the researchers may want to look at how much it would cost to bring back some or all of the nine express bus routes shuttered during service cuts in 2010. It may help shift some of the crowding on the trains to the buses and end some of the whining.

CTA card giveaway

Follow me @tracyswartz on Tuesday. To celebrate riding all 139 CTA bus routes from end to end, I'll be giving away a CTA card worth $139 to the 139th person who tweets me their favorite bus route. Counting begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 11:59 p.m.

Card, credit union

Until Feb. 29, riders who sign up for a joint Chicago Card Plus I-Go card to use on the CTA and in I-GO car sharing vehicles will receive $50 in transit credit and a discounted I-GO membership. Go to igocars.org/how for more information.


A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note

This week: Harlem Blue Line stop on the Forest Park Branch

Missing candy since you got on that post-holiday diet? Indulge your sweet tooth, minus the temptation, at the Harlem stop. From the platform riders can see and smell Ferrara Pan, the Forest Park company that makes Lemonheads, Atomic Fireballs and Red Hots. Enjoy the scent of the sweetest CTA stop—minus the calories.

Next up: Davis Purple Line.

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