CTA Boosts Safety Throughout Organization

November 21, 2014

CTA chosen as first U.S. Transit Agency to Participate in New Federal Safety Program

The Chicago Transit Authority today was chosen by Federal Transit Administration to participate in a first-of-its-kind safety program that will serve as a model for transit agencies throughout the country.

The program becomes the latest safety initiative the CTA has implemented in 2014—part of a yearlong focus to become an industry leader in all areas of safety.

In September 2014, the CTA formally asked to be considered as the first U.S. transit agency to partner with the FTA in the creation of the FTA’s Safety Management System (SMS), which will serve as a framework for transit safety across the United States.  The FTA today announced it had chosen CTA as the first participant in the creation of an SMS, which will develop uniform standards to upgrade and ensure safety for rail operations throughout the country.

The FTA’s SMS program is the result of the most recent federal surface transportation funding bill, MAP-21, which gave the FTA authority for the first time to establish a new safety regulatory framework and performance criteria for all modes of public transportation nationally.

“We are pleased the FTA has chosen the CTA to help develop a program to help improve safety across the country,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool.  “Moving nearly 1.7 million customers on an average weekday, safety has always been our highest priority.  Participating in the development of an SMS will allow us to explore new and different ways to improve existing policies and procedures, and ensure the safest possible environment of customers, employees and the general public.”

The CTA’s participation in the SMS program is just the latest step the CTA has taken since the beginning of 2014 to improve an already strong safety record.  In January 2014, Claypool began a number of efforts, including:

  • Nearly doubling the size of the safety department, adding 25 positions and recruiting top talent from across the United States.  The first new hire in February 2014 was Ralph McKinney, Chief Safety and Security Officer.  McKinney formerly served as safety administrator at the Utah Transit Authority, and has more than 25 years’ experience in safety, including work as a deputy fire marshal and service in the U.S. Air Force.  CTA has also added managers and staff with decades of experience in safety and emergency management at major corporations, the freight-rail industry, and other major U.S. transit agencies.
  • Using data analytics and performance management to better understand and address safety issues.  An interdisciplinary team of the CTA president and leaders of the Safety, Infrastructure, Transit Operations and Maintenance departments review these data measurements at a bi-monthly meeting, to analyze potential safety issues and adopt improvements if warranted..
  • Amending its corrective action guidelines to provide uniform and accelerated discipline for safety violations.
  • Developing a comprehensive in-house safety campaign, You Drive Safety, aimed at instilling a culture of safety at all levels of the agency.
  • Reviewing long-standing safety protocols, performing more rigorous field auditing and reviewing industry best practices.


A recent example of safety improvements relates to the proper berthing of trains at rail stations.  Performance and data reviews showed occasional issues with train operators not correctly stopping trains in the correct location along the platform, creating a potential safety issue.  The CTA initiated a comprehensive retraining program for train operators, and is awaiting bids on a new technology that will alert operators if the train has not stopped in the proper location.

The efforts to improve safety are similar to other efforts at the CTA under Claypool to improve other aspects of the organization, from reducing absenteeism and lowering costs related to supply-chain to improving bus and rail service.

“Like we’ve done elsewhere in the organization, we’re taking a top-to-bottom look at how we approach safety,” Claypool said.  “Our goal is to have one of the most comprehensive safety programs of any U.S. transit agency.


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