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CTA Insider on role of the "customer assistant"

Here's another contribution from our anonymous "CTA Insider," telling us about the CTA's "customer assistants." (Email me or click comments below to post a question for him/her.)

The "CA" (customer assistant) position was made to cover the "ticket agent" position that was being phased out.

What happened was the ticket agent was a money-handling job. With the new fare machines being implemented, that was turned into a graveyard of employees who were picking that job and they were grandfathered into the position. As it is those employees hadn't been picking the RTO (rail transit operator) position in decades in some instances. They would need to be retrained as RTOs ... and these are not the people you want running your railroad. Age was a factor too.

So the union made a deal to save those jobs and leave them in jobs that they were most comfortable with -- though those jobs may not be the best for them. (Many times I've cringed at the CAs' responses to simple questions).

It is also a training position for new hires when no spots are open in RTO training.

About the dogs: The K9s were under outside contracts that I believe have run out and may be up for bid now or they feel they don't need them anymore. There were many customer complaints about the dogs' treatment and the handlers training was brought into question.

I got hit in the leg by the muzzle on one dog as he lunged at me and the handler thought it was funny (untrained dog + untrained handler = LAWSUITS!!!)

Now we have badly paid security guards with no weapons guarding equipment that no one can steal. (They are not there for the people.)


I used to be a k-9 security officer for the CTA about 10 years ago. Back then we were there for the people, to be a deterrence. The dogs are more of a deterrent than a security guard with a gun. Our goal was to keep the crazies in check and catch the taggers defacing the property. I have seen some weird stuff and now when I ride the rails and see these useless rent a cops sitting in the ticket agent booths yacking on their cell phones, I feel oh so not safe. These other guys with the dogs I only see downtown and all they do is stand around. They aren't even looking around at the platform, how can they be protecting anything, property or otherwise? I say bring back the transit cops and have them in plain clothes riding the rails, especially the red line.

I would try to understand that they were a deterent to crime, but I often would wonder too how the CTA could dismiss the health affects of having dogs in a closed in space. I few times I would have to pick up and move because my allergies would start up and I'd start sneezing uncontrollably. Dogs really make me sneeze. Some train rides would be unbearable for me esspecially during the warm summer rides on the Red Line in an car with no air conditioning smelling dog and sneezing up a storm. Talk about the looks you get on the train after about the tenth sneeze. :-)

I'm allergic to the stuff the CTA uses to clean the trains. Really. My allergist has told me if I get on a train that smells as if it's just been cleaned I have to get off. I'd rather have to wait for the next train than have them not clean them at all. I'd rather have trained guards with dogs looking out for us and you having to get off if there's a dog on board. Sorry.

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