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The CTA Regrets Another Inconvenience

By Scott Smith in News on Dec 20, 2006 4:30PM

The Orange and Green line trains are "back to normal" this morning. With yet another crisis is behind them, the CTA needs to start demonstrating that it’s acting in the best interest of its riders.

A day after CTA President Frank Kruesi was interviewed by CBS-2 about recent problems on the Red Line, an Orange Line train derailed at 14th and State. The cause is still under investigation, but the agency is focusing on the actions of two employees in a switching house as well as the switching equipment itself. Credit, of course, is due to the hard-working CTA employees who repaired the section of the damaged third rail and other rail ties in time for the morning rush.

2006_12_ctabelmont.jpgThere’s been an ongoing argument here in the Chicagoist offices over how one should judge the CTA: by its day-to-day ability to get several million riders to and from their destinations with minimal interruptions, or by its actions during and after moments of crisis. Reasonable people could argue this point, but in the last couple of weeks, the CTA’s been having problems in both areas.

Whether it’s fair or not, the CTA is dealing with a problem of perception. In the last week, the agency has been under fire for its capital budget priorities, poor management skills and a handful of delays and incidents along its rail lines. While it’s unfair to blame the CTA directly for some of the incidents, they do illustrate the need for additional attention to already existing communication systems and infrastructure maintenance.

Yesterday we read that former gubernatorial candidate and Illinois state treasurer Judy Baar Topinka was named to the RTA board. With a powerful advocate on its side, we hope the RTA will be able to work with Springfield to direct more money where it’s needed. To be sure, the CTA does need financial assistance from the state to improve its service, but it also needs to demonstrate that it can responsibly spend it.

Tomorrow night, CTA President Frank Kruesi is scheduled to appear on "Chicago Tonight" at 7 p.m. We imagine he’ll have to field some tough questions about the issues raised in the media over the past couple of weeks. But he could go a long way toward undercutting criticism of the agency by outlining his priorities for maintenance and improvements should the state deliver on the $6 billion he says it needs.

Of course, we’ve got a few ideas, but we’d like to see what he comes up with first.

Image: CTA Holiday Train via thirdrail.