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No joke: CTA has had some fool days lately

  • The new CTA Morgan Station (at Lake and Morgan Streets) on Thursday, May 24, 2012 in Chicago. (Chuck Berman/Chicago Tribune)
The new CTA Morgan Station (at Lake and Morgan Streets) on Thursday, May…
March 31, 2014|By Tracy Swartz, @tracyswartz | RedEye

Forget April Fools' Day. It feels like the CTA is in the middle of April Fools' Year.

The agency has made some eyebrow-raising headlines over the last six months.

In September, there was the so-called "ghost train," an unoccupied train that traveled nearly a mile before crashing into a Blue Line train filled with riders, none of whom suffered life-threatening injuries. Two CTA workers were fired and two were suspended after investigators found the train had been left in storage in powered-up mode.

Then last week, a Blue Line train derailed and climbed an escalator at the O'Hare stop. The train operator admitted she dozed off before the crash, which injured more than 30 riders. The station reopened to riders Sunday.

Meanwhile, the CTA botched its initial transition to Ventra, its new fare payment system. The cards caused some riders to be locked into turnstiles while others reported negative balances. Some riders received hundreds of cards while others didn't receive any.

And call wait times to deal with these issues were a joke. The CTA said Ventra vendor Cubic Transportation Systems has fixed the glitches, and the agency will complete full Ventra transition on July 1.

None of these events has been laughing matters. Riders shouldn't have to fear for their safety or worry that the fare card they paid for won't allow them to get on a train on a bus.

The CTA has to build confidence back among its ridership, which was down about 3 percent last year compared to 2012. The agency needs wins like the recent southern Red Line overhaul project as it heads into the final stretch of Ventra transition and the opening of construction season, which has already brought headaches for riders of the Red, Brown and Blue lines.

If not, the CTA could lose ground to new-ish competitors such as the city's Divvy bike loan program or ride-sharing services. If that happens, the joke will be on them.

'L'GBT stories

"El Stories," a play that re-enacts real-life CTA stories, will focus on gay-themed tales for its next edition, which begins Saturday. The performance runs Saturdays at 11 p.m. through June 14 at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets are $20 at greenhousetheater.org.

Stationary

A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note

This week: Western Pink Line

Monarch butterflies are the artwork at this Lower West Side station, which is still shedding its past roots. Until eight years ago, the Pink Line was the system's Douglas Branch, a form of Blue Line service. There are still remnants of the Blue Line at this stop. There are Blue Line placards near heat lamps on the platform and one of the main platform signs has blue paint peeking through pink paint. As for non-station painting, the platform gives a good view to various street art displays.

Next up: Paulina Brown Line

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