Notes from coffee with Ron: Major bus initiatives
As I noted last week, CTA President Ron Huberman asked me to pull together a small group of CTA Tattler readers to sit down with him over coffee and talk about CTA initiatives and hear their concerns. We did that on March 22. Here's the first of a series of reports, this one on bus initiatives.
Huberman said a current project to tackle the bus bunching problem is to measure the “big gaps” between buses and reduce them. A “big gap” would be double the interval time if it’s supposed to be five minutes. But if the interval is supposed to be 15 minutes, a big gap would be more than 15 minutes.
He said the CTA started on the 15 worst routes on the system. He identified four major problems impacting the bunching/gapping problem.
- Garage-related. Not pulling out on time or equipment-related problems. Currently getting rid of the worst buses, and not just by model and year. Huberman noted that bus breakdowns have dropped dramatically in the last few months.
- Discipline-related. Drivers not leaving on time. GPS systems in each bus measure departure times. Garage general managers are held accountable for on-time performance. In fact, Huberman said he has terminated three of eight general managers since he came on board in May 2007. The other factor is operator behavior. The CTA has begun ranking drivers’ on-time performance relative to their peers, and are looking for ways to reward the top performers. Already there’s a healthy competition among drivers.
- Street conditions. There may be trucks blocking a street, causing delays. Or there might be more stops for disabled riders to board.
- Scheduling problems. The current schedule may not make sense. For instance, if a bus consistently arrives back at the garage 15 minutes past scheduled time, the CTA would look at and revise the schedule.
Huberman also mentioned the CTA is ramping up hiring to improve bus cleaning efforts. And it’s using innovative methods to hire the 200 people they need.
For instance, this summer it will hire high school kids, as well as ex-offenders. Huberman noted that we wouldn’t truly see the results of stepped-up bus cleaning efforts until the summer.
Finally, the CTA president said by Thanksgiving, the CTA will have retired all of the 4400 and 5300 series buses first put into service in 1991.
Special note: Some of you wondered how you could be invited to this coffee. First, I apologize that I couldn't invite everyone. Obviously, that would be a logistical nightmare. So I first invited a few people I knew personally, and then a few others who comment often here and whose email addresses I have.
Many of you comment here with fake email addresses. That's fine, but I can't contact you personally in case I want to follow up on something. And remember, only I can see the email addresses -- no one else can.
Ron promised he would meet with us at least twice a year. If you'd like to be invited to the next chat with Huberman, please email me and I'll add you to the list.