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CTA President Dorval Carter receives 33% raise — to $350K

The CTA board said Carter has been a “rockstar” leading the agency during the pandemic and said the raise also reflects the enormity of challenges ahead.

CTA President Dorval Carter | Sun-Times file photo
CTA President Dorval Carter. The CTA board approved a 33% pay raise for Carter at its meeting Wednesday. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

President Dorval R. Carter Jr. will receive a 33% pay raise for his “rockstar” leadership both before and during the pandemic, the CTA board unanimously voted Wednesday.

Starting Jan. 1, Carter will be paid $350,000 annually, up from the current $262,731, according to CTA spokesperson Brian Steele.

Overseeing a major transit agency is a “Herculean” task under ordinary circumstances, Board Chair Lester Barclay said prior to the vote Wednesday. To do so during a pandemic, Barclay said, is “nothing short of remarkable.”

“There are a number of transit agencies who would do whatever they could to have a leader of [Carter’s] caliber,” Barclay said. “In order to retain top talent, you have to compensate them appropriately.”

Carter has overseen the CTA since May 2015. Marking his time in charge includes the Red and Purple Modernization project, an aim for an all-electric bus fleet by 2040 and plans to extend the Red Line south to 130th Street.

The salary raise reflects the “enormity of challenges ahead,” Barclay said, as the city emerges from the pandemic and undertakes massive transportation projects.

That includes getting more people to take CTA again. Prior to the pandemic, daily ridership often hit 1.4 or 1.5 million, but that plunged to as low as about 110,000 people utilizing trains and buses on May 31, 2020, according to the city’s data portal. Barclay credited Carter with regaining 50% of “pre-pandemic ridership” — this July, the number of riders hovered around 600,000 to 700,000 a day.

The pay bump also brings Carter’s salary into alignment with other transit agencies in Chicago and nationally, Barclay said. Metra President Jim Derwinski is slated to earn $314,200 next year, and the head of Washington D.C.’s transit agency received a raise in 2018 to earn $435,000 a year, the Associated Press reported.

The pay raise is “long overdue” and well-deserved,” said Rev. Johnny Miller, a board member.

Carter and the CTA each earned awards for outstanding performance from the American Public Transportation Association, the first time the same agency won both top awards.

But for Carter, it’s all a team effort, he said in the meeting.

“In many ways, my job is made a lot easier by the work [CTA employees] do every day, moving people and keeping the economy rolling,” Carter said.