Federal lawmakers want the CTA to improve safety— or else

A letter to the agency is a reminder of what’s at stake: billions in federal funds. Frankly, we’d rather see more resources spent on CTA safety and cleanliness than on gas-and-transit-card giveaways.

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A police car is parked near a CTA train station along North Kedzie Avenue. Feb. 11, 2022.

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Chicago) remind CTA that the agency must address safety issues as a condition of receiving federal infrastructure funds.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

The CTA is a lifeline that connects hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans each day to jobs, schools, entertainment and more.

Something so vital should also be safe. But that hasn’t been the case lately, as crime on the city’s buses and trains is up 17% over this time last year.

We all see it. And so do Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and U.S. Rep Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Chicago).

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The two lawmakers sent a letter to CTA President Dorval Carter this week, reminding him that the agency is required to address safety issues as a condition of receiving funds under the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that became law last November.

“While we appreciate the efforts that both the CTA and the Chicago Police Department have recently made to increase passenger and employee safety on trains and buses … more needs to be done to protect the CTA’s frontline workers and passengers given the alarming increase in crime on the CTA system,” they wrote.

To their credit, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, police Supt. David Brown and Carter have attempted to make the system safer by increasing security personnel and beefing up police patrols.

But the efficacy of these acts are overshadowed by the almost daily reports of shootings, thefts and other misdeeds on the system.

Billions at stake

The Infrastructure Act is poised to send billions of dollars to the CTA over the next few years, helping fund everything from station improvements to a $2.5 billion plan to extend the Red Line from 95th Street to 130th Street.

In their letter, Durbin and Garcia remind the CTA that in order to receive those funds under the infrastructure act, transit agencies must create safety committees by July 31.

The committees, made up of management and frontline workers, would be charged with identifying and fixing safety issues.

The lawmakers’ message is clear: With that much money on the line, the city and the CTA would do well to hurry up and get their house in order when it comes to transit safety.

Frankly, we’d rather see more of the city’s resources poured into CTA safety and cleanliness rather than it being frittered away in Lightfoot’s $12 million gas-and-transit card giveaway.

And no doubt there is work to be done, given that an activist announced this week that volunteer teams of security officers and martial artists would begin riding the Red Line starting Friday, keeping an eye out for crime.

Meanwhile, Durbin and Garcia are right: When it comes to CTA safety, more must be done. And now.

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