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CTA Insider on "where have all the janitors gone?"

Recently a CTA employee contacted me to say he would like to contribute anonymously to this blog about what happens behind the scenes on the CTA. He (though I'm not sure it's a he) only requests that I refer to him as the CTA Insider. Here is his first tidbit:

Where did all the Janitors go?

The janitorial department is down to a skeleton crew on the Brown Line. Workers are being assigned to clean five stations per janitor, meaning on the evening shift there may be just two people on an entire line.

Some lines on a Saturday or Sunday have one person to cover everything. Subway is the same way.

[Got a question for the CTA Insider on what happens behind the scenes at the CTA? Either email me or pose the question in Comments below.]


yes. i have a question. i will say that i was raised in a 'union' home, so i have no issue with the unions and paying people a good wage for their work.

however, i do think unions can be corrupt and misused.

that said, my question is: what exactly is the role of the 'customer assistants' that sit in the stations? is that considered a 'cush job' at the CTA? they sometimes are helpful, but a lot of times, they seem uninterested, lazy and uncooperative.

also: i haven't seen any security guards with dogs in awhile. even though the sight of the dogs in muzzles and being carted around makes me kind of sad, i'm just wondering what happened there.


yeah i agree on the cust. service agents! whats up with that!? they just sit in the booth at the station and seem to do absolutely nothing. sometimes i see them with other cta employees socializing. they should make them walk the station & platform to keep things in order! also have you noticed the booths on the subway platform with the mirrored security glass in the renovated stations? obviously they aren't being used. supposedly these are security stations. if you look closely inside, you can see small active tv screens from security cameras throughout the station. these booths sit empty with graffiti etched in the glass. its so sad that the cta doesn't have the $$ to staff its stations fully.

as for the security guards/dogs, i have to say that there has been an increase at my particular L station. (maybe that is where they are all at!) i use the wilson station and have noticed them nabbing people who try to sneak in without paying at the unattended south auxiliary entrance. great job!

Regarding the customer service agents - they do seem to do very little, but it definitely varies from station to station. At the Red line Addison stop, they often are standing outside of their cage blocking the handicap entrance (to stop school kids from going through without paying?) and also are often helping people with the fare machines (clueless Cubs fans?). At the Southport stop on the Brown line, the most popular activity for customer service people seems to be talking on their cell phones, although there is one guy who I swear empties the trash himself (could this be true?). Often at Southport they seem to be completely absent - not in their cage and not on the platforms and not outside.

Ditto on the customer service agents. I reported one of those schemes that people sometimes do on the El where one person has three cups and a ball and one or two accomplices planted in a car (the last time I'd actually seen it was at least 10 years ago). The head person gets a gullible passenger to put up $20 after they prove how "easy" it is to play, using their accomplices as fake "winners".

I watched them do it to some poor high school kids, and was going to warn him as I got off but fortunately he got wise. The schemers happened to get off on my stop, waiting for the train in the other direction. As I left the station I told the customer service agent about it, what the looked like, what they were doing, which direction they were going, that they were about to board the next train. She barely even acknowledged that I was talking to her, let alone that I was reporting illegal activity. No "thank you", no "I'll report it", nothing. Didn't even fake interest! I was seething.

Ironically it was only a few days later that I started hearing the speaker announcements in the train cars about no gambling, etc. Cripes.

If you witness shell games on the el, yell "no grifting on the train! No con games allowed on the CTA!" If they ignore you or get in your face, call 911. The station agents probably won't do anything. The police will respond to illegal activity. Even though the scammers probably won't get caught, if you call 911, the data goes in the books. In Chicago you are supposed to call 911 if you witness illegal activity, even scammers on the el.

is that true? (i think this is the first post of yours i've disagreed with, m...) does 911 really want to be informed of scams on the el? to me, this is NOT an emergency. maybe a 311 call? i hold the 911 thing pretty sacred, and it seems like it could cause clogging of an already precarious system.


I think that some of your suggestions are well-meaning, but not necessarily "street smart". Yes, there's lots of illegal activity that happen all around us but one must consider the possibility of immediately endangering their health, so be careful what you say to strangers.

Absolutely report activity in the smartest way. If a CTA employee is not responsive or professional, report them. Call 836-7000 (works in all local area codes) and file a formal complaint. Indicate time of day, badge number (if visible) or description of employee and where you were.

I've seen those people running the shell game on the Red Line. Be careful approaching them directly. There are other ways to warn gullible passengers about the scam without putting your health at risk.

And now, about CTA cleanliness (or the lack thereof!). The red and green lines have to be the least maintenainced in fleet and is appalling. Sure some people are absolutely filthy, but it seems as if they don't even clean the red line cars anymore.

It should be mandatory to soap and hose the whole interior of the car periodally. Don't tell me that it's done enough, because some of the unmentional residuals look as if it's been there for months or longer.

The CTA will HAVE TO improve customer service and experience with a fare increase. I dislike the unprofessional attitudes of some workers, but fair is fair.. a lot of the customers are equally ill-mannered and uncouth. It's a culural breakdown.

I will not argue with a rude or unprofessional employee. I will let them plainly see me gathering their badge number, run number and/or bus number. You'd be surprised how that can melt some ice. But i don't bluff. I will absolutely file the complaint, too.

I do also have sympathy for both the CTA and riders as this country is ignorant about supporting transit.

To answer Jocelyn's question about whether to call 911 or 311 when one sees gambling on the train -- Call 911. I'm involved in Chicago's community policing program, and we've always been told by police if you see some illegal activity happening NOW, call 911. Otherwise, it's a 311 call.

It is quite remarkable that anyone actually interacts with the Red Line shell game crew---the accomplices are so obvious, I have little sympathy for the poor patsys who get shafted.

That said, I guess there are some pretty stupid people in the world that must need help so they don't destroy themselves!

As to the 311 v. 911 debate, I have called 311 for non-emergency nuisance stuff. They said, if you want a cop, 911 is the place to call. Thus, things like noise, etc. that you would think would be 311 are 911, and 311 will actually transfer you to 911 if you call about these issues.

On the grifter issue, it is hard to believe that anyone falls for it, but on the other hand, part of getting street smart is sometimes getting played. Those high school kids will never fall for that again.

A shell game on the Red line? Unreal! It's like something out of Cons for Dummies. Are they teenagers?

But yet don't forget all the CAs who are/were unremarkable - it's human tendency to complain. but most are unoffensive, and unremarkable.

I'd just like to know why CTA has to eliminate 40% of its service to save 5% of its budget. It sounds fishy to me.

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