April 21, 2008

Transit Officials Review Performance in Last Week's Blue Line Emergency

Mayor Richard M. Daley today challenged leaders of the Chicago Transit Authority to strengthen their focus on providing quality services to the riders of the system, particularly including emergency response procedures which did not work as well as possible during a stalled train emergency April 15 in the Blue Line subway.

"It was a stressful situation for everyone involved especially the passengers. And to those CTA riders who were on the affected trains, I want to say thank you for your patience and cooperation. The situation was also stressful for police, fire and CTA personnel," Daley said in a City Hall news conference with CTA President Ron Huberman held at CTA headquarters, 567 W. Lake St.

"After learning more about the circumstances surrounding the incident, I directed CTA and other emergency personnel to do an assessment and report their findings to me. The bottom line is we did some things well, but others not as well," the Mayor said.

During the morning rush hour April 15, a CTA Blue Line train broke down in the subway near the Clark and Lake station. That made it necessary for the CTA to stop the trains behind the disabled train and some passengers on some of those trains were not evacuated for some hours.

"This is the kind of emergency situation we train for and plan for and we need to handle it as smoothly as possible every time," Daley said.

He pointed out that two months ago, at a news conference to talk about next steps for the CTA after its funding crisis had been averted, he raised several points pertinent to last week's incident.

Those points included:

  • CTA management needs to build on its commitment to a quality system that is on time, that quickly gets people to their destination and that is safe.
  • When there are delays, which are sometimes unavoidable, the CTA needs to do a better job making sure that riders are informed of it.
  • People want a system where they are respected by CTA employees at every level ? from bus and train operators to the customer assistants in the station. The CTA needs to assure that anyone in the system who deals with the public is trained to do so.

"We were not at our best in some of these areas last week. Today I again want to challenge the CTA and its leaders to strengthen their focus on providing quality services to the riders of the system," Daley said.

"Every day hundreds of thousands of seniors, working people, students and many others benefit from having a system that provides quality and reliable service. Far more important, for many people who don't have access to any other form of transportation, it is their lifeline to work, to school, to family and to a good life. We must have a system of public transportation that works for our people.

"And that means strengthening the parts of our emergency response procedures that need to be strengthened," he said.

"The CTA has been working hard to win back our customers' confidence in the organization and we realize that we must continue to improve and perform significantly better in events such as the Blue Line evacuation to win our customers' confidence," said CTA President Ron Huberman. "Although everyone was safely evacuated, our performance was not acceptable in several areas and we are committed to improving. There are a number of improvements we have already made to both subway safety and our emergency communications ability, but we recognize there is much more we need to do."

In addition to major long term initiatives that the CTA has previously announced, such as subway track replacement, an audio and visual announcement system on new rail cars and a digital advertising and communications network, Huberman said that the CTA has identified additional steps that can be implemented quickly. They include creating a mandatory 1-day training program for rail employees that focuses specifically on emergency communications; adding cell phones to standard subway operating equipment to increase communications options; and updating emergency materials for customers.

"We sincerely regret the problems experienced by our Blue Line riders last week and pledge to continue our efforts to make incidents of this nature a thing of the past," he said.


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Subway Infrastructure/ Safety

Accomplished 2007-2008

    • Replacement of 10,000 half-ties underway in Red Line subway.
    • Replaced wood ties with concrete in subways.
    • Increased subway lighting
      • All CTA subways now have new brighter lighting along all pathways and exits.
    • Reorganized Track Department and expanded training.
      • New structure includes additional auditing and separation of maintenance from inspection functions.
    • Upgraded safety oversight
      • Added handheld units to improve record keeping.


      • Improved subway signage
      • Added handheld units to improve record keeping
      • Emergency exit signs replaced with reflective signs


      • Markers added to identify locations.



    • Upgraded emergency preparedness and response
      • Updated subway maps with locations of exits, fans, etc.
      • Conducted multiple drills with Chicago Fire Department. 
      • Worked with CFD to develop their subway tunnel apparatus. 
      • Continued emergency evacuation drills with CTA staff.
    In progress
    • Announced in February. Begins Spring 2008
    • Install escape path lighting
    • Replace stairwells
    • Improve drainage
    • Replace emergency phones
    • Apply reflective paint to handrails.


    • $14 million in improvements to emergency exits.

    Emergency Communications

    • Screens at turnstiles and on platforms can display emergency messages quickly and simultaneously. 
    • Installation to begin in 2008


    In progress
    • New digital advertising and communications network
    • New rail cars have critical technology enhancements
      • Cellular modems will allow the CTA's Control Center to communicate directly with customers in real-time via audio and text messages using speakers and six visual displays in each car. 
      • Wireless connectivity will allow train operators to view live video from any railcar when the passenger intercom unit is activated. This will help operators provide better information to first responders more quickly than today. 
      • Delivery scheduled for 2010.

    New Initiatives


    • Provides back-up communications capability when radio traffic is heavy. 


    • Add cell phones as standard equipment for subway operators.
    • Develop optimal work station configuration in Control Center.
      • Review best practices at 9-1-1 Center.



    • Increase employee training.
      • Create 1-day certification training for all rail operators and supervisors with focus on emergency communications and evacuations.



    • Update customer information.
      • Develop and produce emergency procedures brochure.
      • Update emergency procedures video.


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    • Ability to receive verbal or text messages.

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