Crime on public transit is a social crisis

If we do not act, I am worried our city will become a place where political corruption, social instability, inequality and governmental incompetence lead to privatization of the most basic public services.

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Chicago police investigate in the first block of East Washington Avenue in the Loop, where a CTA bus driver was physically attacked and then shot, Saturday night, Sept. 4, 2021.

Chicago police investigate on a block of East Washington Street in the Loop, where a CTA bus driver was physically attacked and then shot in 2021.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

I wholeheartedly agree with Laura Washington’s recent column on the state of the CTA. While she highlights the system’s indeed disturbing rates of violent crime, we should remember that safety issues are impacting public transit’s reliability as a whole. It’s increasingly obvious that CTA drivers are probably quitting the agency in droves, leading to widespread delays and service cuts that are rendering the L and bus networks unusable.

I live near the Cottage Grove Green Line terminus, from which Loop-bound trains ostensibly leave every 20 minutes on weekdays. While such infrequent service already requires you to plan your trip in advance, a “ghost train” here kills any chance that you’ll make it anywhere on time. As ghost trains became common in the fall, I had to reroute my commute along the Red Line instead.

Now, however, such delays have seemingly infected the entire system.

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Today, for example, I spent 25 minutes waiting for a train near the northern end of the Brown Line. Four scheduled trains — in a row — failed to show up, and myself and several other passengers eventually left the station, opting to figure out other ways to get to our respective destinations. As I walked out, the on-site CTA employee told me that trains were running with 35 minute headways — 35 minute headways in a city of 2 million people!

The buses aren’t doing much better. I face ghost buses almost every time I travel. Some routes, like the #2 near my apartment, seem to have been effectively wiped off the map and now see only a few buses a day.

The CTA blames these service-related issues on COVID, but I suspect that safety concerns leading to a mass exodus of employees is the real and main reason. This isn’t a made-up media narrative. I have overheard bus drivers talk about fearing for their personal safety. I have seen bus drivers threatened for driving too slowly or for waiting at bus stops to stay on schedule.

Chicagoans need to see this for the social crisis that it is. Reliable, safe transportation cannot become a privilege for the few.

If we do not act, I am worried our city will become a place where political corruption, social instability, economic and racial inequality, and governmental incompetence lead to the evisceration of public goods and the privatization of the most basic public services, like law enforcement, electricity, and water.

Chicagoans demand and deserve better.

Kristóf Z. Oltvai, Woodlawn 

Admiring Chicago street art

One of my favorite sections of the Chicago Sun-Times appears in the Sunday edition: “Murals and Mosaics.

It has provided a wonderful activity for my husband and me. We have visited many of these beautiful pieces of art, and by doing so have not only enjoyed seeing them but have gotten to see many neighborhoods. I take pictures and post them on Facebook and my “friends” also seem to enjoy the art. So thank you, Sun-Times and thank you talented artists.

Please keep painting.

Judy Pfeifer, Evanston

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