The CTA provides more than 1.7 million rides each weekday, and for the most part, these rides go smoothly.
But occasionally they don't. Sometimes riders experience crimes, medical problems or equipment difficulties with their trains.
Some of these incidents have occurred more regularly lately. Thefts and robberies on the system are on the rise compared with two years ago but have seen some decline this year, according to a recent Tribune report.
Six riders died on CTA tracks by suicide or by accident in March and April alone—compared with nine of these deaths in all of 2011.
And in April, a CTA train chartered by railroad buffs derailed in the South Loop, forcing 40 riders to evacuate the train. Two months earlier, a derailment in the Red Line subway caused two to suffer minor smoke-related injuries.
In event of emergencies such as these, RedEye has created a list of scenarios that riders may encounter on the CTA—from medical problems to train evacuations. The CTA has provided tips for riders who find themselves having an "L" of a day.
What if I have to evacuate the train?
It was just six years ago that a Blue Line train derailed near the Clark/Lake stop, sparking a tunnel fire that resulted in 152 riders suffering injuries. Since then, the CTA said it has upgraded its emergency exits with new lighting, stairways and handrails.
If the train has an equipment failure that leads to evacuation:
>> The CTA says you should stay calm, wait for instruction and not open rail car doors or evacuate.
>> If the train is in the station, CTA workers would direct you to exit onto the platform through the side doors. If the train is partially in the station, you would use the end doors of the car to access the portion of the train that is in the station to exit onto the platform.
>> If the train is not by a station and there's a train behind on the same track, you would use the end doors to access the adjacent train. If there's a train on adjacent track, workers would direct you to a designated car so you can cross a temporary walkway to that train.
>> If there's no nearby train, the CTA would cut power to the track. You would then use the side doors to access an emergency walkway at track or platform level.
What if I fall on the tracks?
In March and April, six male riders died on CTA tracks. The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office ruled half of these incidents accidents, the other half suicides.
If you fall on the tracks:
>> If there are no CTA workers in the immediate vicinity to help, you should ask for help from other riders on the platform and ask them to call 911 to have power to the rails turned off.
>> If you are not injured or you feel you could move without risking further injury, you should try to return to the platform while making every effort to avoid touching or stepping on any rails.
>> If you are injured or unable to climb back onto the platform, you should try to move toward the platform and away from the third rail to avoid accidentally touching or brushing up against it. The third rail always will be the rail farthest from the platform at all stations and at most terminals.
What if there's a medical emergency?
Occasionally, trains are delayed because of rider medical emergencies. In May, there was a sick passenger on the Green Line near the 43rd Street station and a sick passenger on the Blue Line near Western Avenue, according to the CTA's Twitter feed, @cta, which alerts riders to the reasons behind delays.
If you have a medical emergency on the train or see a medical emergency on the train:
>> You should use the passenger intercom located on each rail car under the blue light to call the train operator, the agency said.
>> Rail operators are then supposed to inform the CTA's Control Center, which works in tandem with the City's 911 center.
>> The Control Center would give the rail operator instructions, which may include stopping the train between stations or proceeding to the another station to await assistance.
What about theft?
From 2009-11, CTA rail riders reported more than 3,000 incidents of theft, which rose 30 percent during that two-year period, a recent Tribune report found.
If you are a victim of a crime on a train or in a station:
>> You should not fight back or engage with an offender, the CTA said.
>> You should alert CTA workers or call 911 as soon as possible and provide as many details as possible about the offender such as the time, location, rail car number or run number and direction of travel.
>> Miguel Fuentes, head of the Chicago chapter of the Guardian Angels, the informal CTA patrol group, recommends noting the offender's unique characteristics such as facial hair, tattoos, missing or crooked teeth and jewelry. Also, take care to note the offender's shoes. It's easy to change shirts, Fuentes said, but it's more difficult to change shoes.
>> CTA stations have multiple cameras, which may help the police solve the crime. The CTA said it needs riders to report any crimes because information is used in investigations and reports allow the police and the CTA to keep track of these crimes to deploy additional resources as needed.
What about battery?
CTA train riders reported about 1,000 incidents of battery from 2009-11, the Tribune found.
If you see a weapon or a disturbance on a train:
>> The CTA has a "see something, say something" policy for its system that encourages riders to tell a CTA worker immediately if they see unattended packages, odd smells or smoke or someone acting suspiciously.
>> When notifying the CTA of a rider with a weapon, Fuentes recommends noting which station the rider exited and the time. Do not follow anyone who has a weapon.
>> If you see a disturbance on the train, you should use the passenger intercom to contact the train operator.
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