CTA hires to boost on-time performance

The CTA plans to upgrade all rail stations with an elevator by 2040.

By Jenifer Goldsmith

A hiring blitz is underway at CTA. Officials presented updates on transit June 5, and EVA members learned about the offerings at the new Empanada Mama.

Pre-pandemic, ridership was steady with busier times during rush hour, According to Sam Smith, CTA vice president of legislative affairs, and Maria-Teresa Román, government and community relations officer. But Covid-19 hit the agency hard as ridership decreased and has since become unpredictable. Leadership focused on doing their best to maintain service during the pandemic, but it was negatively impacted by high turnover and staff shortages.

In the past, new CTA employees started part-time and advanced to full-time employment; however, in an effort to dramatically increase staff, full-time employment is available immediately to the right candidates. Currently, hiring is 43% to goal for buses with many more openings on the rail lines.

In the meantime, schedules have been adjusted to manpower in an effort to optimize service. Overall, improvements in service reliability are 89% for rail and 94% for buses. The Blue Line is slightly below average at 73.4% and increasing with a focus on incremental changes. The success of the first electric buses used for the Chicago Avenue (66) route means we can expect to see that program expand across the city.

There are also major improvements coming to the Blue Line along the Forest Park Branch. More specific information can be found on the CTA website.

Q&A followed the presentation, with queries about adding an elevator to and beautification of the Blue Line Division station, crime and cleanliness, and plans to expand service for the casino. Unfortunately, the CTA is either not involved in or has no power over some of these issues. The Polish Triangle at Division and Milwaukee is Chicago Department of Transportation property and requires collaboration, and funding is lacking. The plan is to upgrade all rail stations with an elevator by 2040.

Smith encouraged riders to report crime and cleanliness to feedback@transitchicago.com as this will help the CTA track and remedy situations as quickly as possible. Rail stations are currently being power washed on a bimonthly basis, which the CTA hopes to increase to daily as staffing increases. The final transit plans around the casino are to be determined through the mayor’s office.

Empanada Mama, SoNa Chicago

EVA welcomes Empanada Mama to 1703 W. Chicago Ave. Inez Melendez, who originally hails from Humboldt Park, started her company in 2018 as a food truck a few weeks before the pandemic and opened her brick and mortar location June 5. Empanada Mama is proud to make all dough and sauces on site and will be serving both deep- and air-fried empanadas with Puerto Rican and Caribbean influences. Alcohol is served tableside, and Inez is working on a zoning change to build a bar with seats. Service is 6am-3pm Monday-Saturday for breakfast and 5-10pm Wednesday-Sunday for dinner.

SoNa Chicago, a contemporary art gallery, opened in May at 1527 N. Ashland Avenue. The inaugural exhibition runs April 30-July 15. Our next meeting is 7pm July 10 at Roots. Please help us support our July charity, Chicago Animal Care and Control, with donations. The city's website has a list of needed items or visit their Amazon Wish List.

The EVA Block Party will take place on Saturday, Aug. 19.

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