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Oops! Sorry DePaul students! CTA mistakenly kills 5,000 U-Passes

A mistake by a CTA employee this week led to the cancellation of U-Pass privileges for about 5,000 DePaul students -- a third of the student population. But quick teamwork by the CTA and DePaul helped minimize the pain for students.

Here's what happened, according to Noelle Gaffney, CTA spokesperson:

The U-Pass card vendor sent DePaul its list of current students. DePaul updated the list with those who had left. The vendor then started working with the CTA to deactivate the list of students no longer attending DePaul. The problem came when a CTA staffer copied on an email mistook the original list with all student names for the edited listed of those who left, and proceeded to deactivate ALL the cards.

"It was human error and the employee faces disciplinary action," said Gaffney.

OK, mistake made, now what?

"We were in touch with DePaul immediately and they have been very helpful," said Gaffney. "They immediately sent emails to all students notifying them. We have informational signs at stations heavily used by DePaul riders and have notified the staff at stations that DePaul students who show a U-Pass card should be allowed entry. They don’t need to dip the card. We expect to have the cards reactivated by the weekend."

DePaul spokesman John Holden agrees: "After the initial incident, the CTA worked pretty expeditiously to get the problem resolved and by mid-morning they had gotten word out to all bus drivers and station agents that the passes were to be honored. It seems like it only created a minor headache for students - some of whom may have been forced to pay a cash fare for their morning ride."

Hopefully, for all students' sake, this will never happen again. And the CTA thinks it won't, juding from experience: "There are 45 schools that participate in U-Pass and the CTA goes through this verification process with each of them multiple times a year. The program started in 1998. This type of error has never happened before."

Comments

This hasn't been a very good week for the CTA PR wise. It will no doubt get much worse if, as there is some reason to think, the CTA is about to replace a large amount of railroad ties than it just installed a year or so ago.

Oops. Meant "that they just installed" not "than".

Just yet another CTA employee goof!

One question: why would any one employee have the authority to do this? Shouldn't updates be approved by a chain of command...eventually hitting someone with a brain? Oh wait, it's the CTA.

(cue sad trombone music)

One question: why would any one employee have the authority to do this? Shouldn't updates be approved by a chain of command...eventually hitting someone with a brain? Oh wait, it's the CTA.


Thanks. I'll remember that next time I see you in the crosswalk.

"It was human error and the employee faces disciplinary action," said Gaffney.

Not if said employee hires the same lawyer the Bemont guy had represent him.

[One question: why would any one employee have the authority to do this? Shouldn't updates be approved by a chain of command...eventually hitting someone with a brain? Oh wait, it's the CTA.]

Maybe it has something to do with how everyone is always screaming for the heads of employees at public agencies as a "cost-cutting" measure everytime the budget gets lean, which is always since no one gives a crap about funding until obvious problems arise, at which point we start screaming about how said public agency has no brains because they're not resolving these problems by taking funding from some other underfunded area, causing the same problems all over again.

Or maybe not. I'm just spitballing here.

As a DePaul student, I wasn't terribly inconvenienced. The CTA did a fine job of getting the word out to their employees and I didn't have to pay even one of the 5+ I took a train or bus that day.

In the it could always be worse category: when my father was at Northwestern Law the school neglected to forward the student's scholastic status to their draft boards, which changed the draft status of most students, subjecting them to being called up. Northwestern was also very quick to rectify the situation, of course if they hadn't been they would've lost most of the student body to the military.

This is not the first incident like this. In Summer 2004, more than 1,000 UIC students had their passes accidentally deactivated. According to the UIC student newspaper: "A routine transmission of the names of eligible students by UIC to the CTA was mistaken as a list of ineligible
students, causing the deactivation of the student's passes around July 1" (http://media.www.chicagoflame.com/media/storage/paper519/news/2004/07/13/News/UPass.Problems.Resolved.By.Cta-692752.shtml)

It seems like whatever system they are using for deactivating U-Passes is fragile and error prone. My own U-Pass was recently deactivated with no explanation. My school confirmed I didn't drop below full time and did not transmit my name to CTA for deactivation but the CTA says my pass has been turned off. Unfortunately, instead of a quick resolution like the UIC and DePaul students got, I have to wait 5-7 days for a new pass to be issued. I also had to make in-person trips to the student ID office, the CTA headquarters, and back in person to the ID office to pick up the replacement. F-ing ridiculous. How come they can't just turn it back on?

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