Recent Rail Service Schedule Optimization Providing More Consistent and Reliable Service

September 14, 2022

Changes have led to fewer instances of long waits between trains on Red and Blue Lines

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) today announced that it recently made temporary changes to its rail schedules on select routes intended to provide better, more reliable service throughout the day and throughout the week.

This schedule optimization aims to accomplish three goals:

  • Align scheduled service with available workforce
  • Provide more consistent intervals between trains during weekdays and weekends
  • Reduce instances of large or inconsistent gaps in services

These schedule changes will address one of the most frequent comments CTA has received from its customers: the unpredictability of wait times. The early results of the changes are showing success:

  • On the Blue Line during weekdays, instances of large gaps in service—more than triple the scheduled interval—dropped 64 percent, from 14 to five instances.
  • On the Red Line, large gaps dropped from 10 to six instances, or a 40 percent decrease.

Instances of intervals that are double the scheduled interval, during the morning and afternoon rush hours, have also dropped:

  • Blue Line AM: from 12 to 9.7 each day
  • Blue Line PM: from 14.9 to 6.5 each day
  • Red Line AM: from 11.8 to 6.1 each day
  • Red Line PM: from 9.8 to 7.1 each day

“These numbers show that trains are arriving on a more consistent, even basis—offering improved reliability, which is customers have asked for and what we promised,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “To be clear, this is just a start: We recognize there is more work to do. But we are moving in the right direction and will continue to make additional adjustments to continue to improve service. Our ultimate goal is to build back our workforce to provide all the transit service our customers deserve.”

The rail schedule optimizations, which took effect in mid-August, seek to align scheduled service with currently available workforce. Service hours—known as span of service—have not changed. What has changed is certain trips that were previously scheduled—but could not occur because of lack of staff--have been temporarily removed from the schedules and remaining trips have been re-spaced until more personnel are available. The changes were along the Red, Blue, Orange, Purple and Brown lines and aligns with the service that was being delivered.

Since implementation on select routes, scheduled rail service has had more even service throughout the day, which more closely aligns to the updated schedules.

A secondary and important benefit of these optimizations is improvement in Train Tracker accuracy, and it is anticipated that customers will see fewer instances of “ghost trains” on these optimized schedules. CTA continues to explore other improvements to Train Tracker to further enhance the reliability and accuracy of this critical tool. These changes are the latest in a series of initiatives introduced in the past month in support of the Meeting the Moment: Transforming CTA’s Post-Pandemic Future Action Plan, which was unveiled last month. The multifaceted plan focuses on responding to customers’ concerns and strengthening the foundations of the rider experience, while addressing the workforce challenges faced by the entire transportation industry.

Like transit agencies across the country, the CTA has experience staffing issues during the pandemic, due to both illness and position vacancies that have been challenging to fill. When there aren’t enough workers, CTA can’t run all the trains it has scheduled—which can lead to longer wait times between trains, and inconsistent service.

The CTA continues to pursue aggressive hiring strategies and other schedule changes to benefit both rail and bus customers. The agency will also continue to make nimble schedule adjustments to rail and bus networks in the coming months and improve customer experience.

To learn more about the changes, as well as plans for future improvements to service, infrastructure and technology, visit: www.transtichicago.com/meetingthemoment

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