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If you could ask Huberman one question . . .

. . . What would it be?

I invite CTA Tattler readers to contribute *thoughtful* questions to pose to new CTA President Ron Huberman.

I'm going to try to get an interview with him. Not sure whether I can, but there's no harm trying. And I want to say I represent the riding public by representing YOU!

So fire away, but only one question per comment. (But more than one comment is allowed per person!) Keep 'em sharp, smart and reasonable.


How do you plan to secure sufficient funding from city, state and federal sources in order to complete all necessary CTA improvement projects, and ensure that the CTA remains a viable transit entity that isnt constantly facing one "doomsday" scenario after another?

What measures are you going to implement in order to change the corporate culture of the CTA, and foster an environment where employees must realize that customer service is priority #1?

What steps does the CTA need to take in order to be considered a "world class" transit system, since its viewed by many as second class or worse?

This is not a question but a proposal. Why not turn the CTA Headquarters parking into a pay lot to raise money.

What is your vision for the CTA 2 years from now? 5 years from now? 10 years from now?

What is the timeline to improve the blue line northwest branch, with special regard to the planned O'Hare express, slow-zone trackage or decrepit/non-ADA-compliant stations? Can we expect a future two-year plan similar to the green line modifications and shutdown of the early 90s or the current three-tracking/brown line improvement situation?

What changes, temporary or permanent, will be necessitated if Chicago becomes the Olympics host city as hoped -- and where will the money come from?

When, exactly, do you plan on addressing the slow zones between Howard and Wilson?

When is the last time your engineering staff did a safety evaluation on the hollywood el overpass? What were the results?

Just a point of information, CTA headquarters on Lake/Jefferson does not have any parking to rent.

This was posted last week (http://transportation1.org/employmentopps/?lid=1254 - now taken down). Does anyone at Huberman's CTA need transportation experience?

Chicago Department of Transportation

Chief Engineer, Chief of Operations, Director of Planning, Chief Procurement Officer, Director of Customer Service

The Chicago Transit Authority is looking to build a pipeline of high performing staff, at both the managerial and executive levels, in the following functional areas:

Customer service
Transportation Planning
Project management

Successful candidates will be part of the CTA Executive Director’s senior management team, and will help to run the day-to-day operations of the country’s second large public transportation system. Candidates must have a history of building strong teams, managing complex processes, and driving change. Experience in the transportation industry is not required. People of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds encouraged to apply.

Please contact Adrienne Hiegel at adrienne.hiegel@gmail.com or send your resume directly to transitjobs@yahoo.com

Posted on: Friday, May 04, 2007
This listing expires on: Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Jim: The lot just east of CTA HQ is used by employees and others; IIRC, they own it.

My question: Why doesn't the CTA stop competing with Metra and, instead, pay them to build and run some rapid transit over their rails -- and allow free transfers to the L?

I do not know how I might phrase this into a question, but it's a minor issue you might want to bring up: there is such a large amount of recorded commentary from the loudspeakers nowadays that riders now tend to filter everything out. There are consistent public service nags about every aspect of "rider courtesy," and there are the entirely superfluous and yet repeating announcements regarding the fact that the subway car has stopped and will start moving again soon (realllllly?). Even the verbiage can be cut down: we don't need to know where the doors open, we've been riding these lines forever.

"Lawrence. Next stop, Wilson." Not "This is Lawrence. The next stop is Wilson. Doors open on the left at Wilson. Out of courtesy to other riders, please take your bag off the seat next to you. CTA construction is continuing over the next few years. We've stopped; we'll move again shortly. We've stopped; we'll move again shortly. We've stopped; we'll move again shortly. We've stopped; we'll move again shortly. We've stopped; we'll move again shortly. We've stopped; we'll move again shortly. Please don't eat or drink on the CTA, despite the fact that we rent space to Dunkin' Donuts and probably a good hundred freelance concession stands. And so on and so on, for the next 14 minutes."

Why is the advertising on the CTA always in such a decrepit state? I’ve seen expired ads, defaced billboards, CTA notices tacked up over paid ads, and just general sloppiness. I have trouble believing that this source of revenue has been used to its fullest potential when I see the sorry state of things.

Not that I'm eager to see another L car transformed into a giant cell phone ad, but if increasing ad revenues means they can afford another guy to hose the filth out of the trains and busses, I'll deal.

What other public transit systems have you ridden enough to become familiar with? If any, what do they do well that you'd like to see done here?

Q: When will the cleanliness of CTA trains, buses, and train-stops cease to be an embarrassment to riders and to the City of Chicago?

I have spoken to people who have used Public Transportation all over the world and they cannot believe how dirty and run-down the CTA facilities and vehicles are. Other organizations are less expensive to ride AND much cleaner. How is this possible? And why isn't it that way here? Unacceptable, especially since the CTA has been repeatedly bailed-out recently by the State Legislature.

Good luck! I hope that you get an interview!

Will you try to reorder CTA priorities? Specifically, will you use CTA's limited funds for desperately needed system-wide improvements in convenience, comfort, and reliablility, or will you waste that money on near-useless vanity projects like the OHare express and the over-the-top downtown station for it?

What priority will you place on completing the Circle Line prior to the Olympics?

(I hope it's high.)

Have you given any thought to redoing the contract with Securitas, given the awful quality of security guards employed by them? If not possible given the contract terms, when does the contract expire and will you make an effort to improve the security situation?
Many of their employees couldn't be trusted to secure a picnic from fireants, let alone an urban transit system with rules that are never enforced.

Can you explain why the Blue Marble foyer of the CTA HQ doesn't smell like the urine stained scuffed concrete at the Berwyn station?

I see old Red Eyes, spilled coffee, and chicken bones on the train. I wait 40 minutes for a bus, when I should only be waiting 15. There are 3 orange line trains to every pink. The bus driver yells at me when I ask her the bus number because it is not displayed. Another is on his cell phone, ignoring requested stops. When I complain to customer service, I am told to be patient, as they have no answer as to why this is happening.
What, specifically, is Huberman going to do to reclaim CTA's mission statement of "clean, on time, and friendly?"

I want to know what's going to be done with all the broken bus destination signs & why doesn't the CTA have something better than a handwritten sign taped to the front window when one is broken?

dbt: Almost all of the viaducts from Argyle north to Noyes in Evanston need to be replaced. They date to 1909-1910 & the concrete of that day wasn't up to modern standards or, this being Chicago, the concrete company screwed around with the mix to make a buck. Large steel plates have been bolted to the viaducts & the embankment walls to keep them from collapsing!
Plus track 1 at Wilson need to be replaced with a modern section of viaduct from Lawrence to Sunnyside.
Metra has the same problem on the C&NW Milwaukee Division as all of the steel viaducts were built by American Bridge in 1908 [some still have the Ambridge builders plate on them].

Whenever we hear of the CTA's budget woes, we also hear that it's the state that needs to provide funding to bail us out. The state supports regional transportation (Metra & Pace) as well as the CTA. What is the city's responsibility when it comes to funding the CTA and why do we keep asking for more state money while the city seems reluctant to put more than a tiny percentage of it's budget towards supporting the system?

Is the pink line his favorite? :)

You might as well not bother asking him any questions about operations. That would be a waste of time. You know more about operations than he does.

My question would be this: "How can you expect to lead an organization in an industry in which you have no experience?"

And don't forget to tell him, "You're doing a heck of a job, Hubey."

A few things related to posts here:
CTA does NOT own any parking lots by CTA HQ, it actually gave up parking spots when it moved from the Merchandise Mart.

Re: providing money, the city is providing money, in so much as goods purchased in the city are taxed at 1% by the RTA which then gives all of that money to CTA (the splits are different, and inequitable, in the suburbs). The state is the entity that grants taxing authority, so any increase in revenue would have to be approved by the GA, that's why this is always directed towards the state.

Regarding why other organizations are cheaper to ride and nicer, well....it would take a while to fully explain this with more historical context, but generally other cities have a better grasp of the quality AND quantity of transit service to expect based on the public subsidy it receives. Chicago expects high quality, frequent, and full coverage transit service while providing funding at rate that befits a much smaller system (at 1/4 the subsidy rate per capita as Paris, for example). You can't have a high-quality, high-quantity service and expect to pay nothing for it.

Just thought I'd share these to make the questions you all ask Huberman more informed...

Good luck with the interview.

How about making employees in admin/HQ/whatever you want to call it (not those actually driving) actually ride the CTA during rush hours? Then they might get a feel for why we complain.

What's he going to do to update the CTA for 2016? If the Olympics are to be held here, significant changes need to be made.

I would love to know when he is going to resign so we can get somebody with actual transit experience in that job.

I'd definitely like my earlier question answered, but here's a metaquestion:

There's an extremely wide array of problems being reported by riders on nearly every single aspect of CTA service: cleanliness, timeliness, financial priorities, and so on. Yet despite the complaints now being so numerous as to be overwhelming, none can be ignored; all have already been ignored for so long they are all approaching danger levels. How do you plan to bring the CTA from its current incredibly poor and decrepit state to a state ready for the 2016 Olympics?

will you continue to make the circle line and airport express - expansion projects that primarily serve already well-served professionals - priorities over extending service to underserved areas, like the mid-city transitway and extensions of the red, orange, and yellow lines?

How do you plan to keep the entire fleet of train cars cleaner, inside and out.

Until that day, may my children live to see it, when the city has a rail network reaching into every neighborhood like London or Paris, a majority of the CTA's potential riders will have to do at least part of their traveling by bus. Where on your agenda is the restoration of the bus service that has been systematically removed from many of Chicago's neighborhoods?

Can I just "echo" the comment about the non stop, generally not needed, and overly loud taped messages. Can that be toned down a bit?

On the flip side, could the drivers tell us stuff once in a while? I was on an express bus aiming for Belmont when all the sudden I'm getting off on Irving (due to a water break or something in that weird Italian modernesque building at Belmont & LSD). The bus ended up going south on Halsted and doing close to what I needed. But some dialogue would have gone a long ways for all of the commuters.

Have to add, though I know it's not a question, please emphasize the importance of communication at all levels. I have spoken to employees (L agents & bus drivers in person, customer service over the phone) who genuinely don't know what's going on in regards to a reroute, a stall, or an accident. And so often, those who do know don't tell us, the riders. I appreciate that sometimes it may take a while to determine what exactly happened & what will be done, but some crumbs of info as they come in would be greatly appreciated. And if a driver is off schedule, we would like to know that's why we sat thru 3 green lights before moving.
Having worked with the public & been an impatient member of the same, I can assure you that open communication about problems as well as rules & regs can go a long way toward easing a stressful/aggravating situation.

Not really a question, but perhaps these four or five ideas could help with three-tracking as it progresses.

1) When the Diversey station is closed for reconstruction soon, it looks like the current northbound switches would support all Brown and Purple trains bypassing Diversey on track 3 before being switched back to track 4 for Wellington. Taking advantage of the existing switches would help the contractor move faster on the Northbound platform and provide additional safety. This would also give full access to REPAIR the track 4 slow zone between Fullerton and Diversey.

2) Also for the above, the 76 Diversey bus could be re-routed via Sheffield/Wellington/Halsted as Wellington is two blocks away and all 3 streets are wide enough for buses(Yes, no parking at turns and bus stops for one year) Unlike the Montrose and Addison closures, where passengers could ride further east to a Red line stop, there's no quick connect options to trains for Diversey riders going east here.

3) It seems that when Wellington is closed, let's say Summer 2008, all newly reopened/extended platforms on Brown will support 8 cars, and power upgrades will be complete. Running 8 car trains on Brown while the remaining closed stations(Damen, Irving Park, Paulina, Wellington) are being extended would be feasible. Even at a lesser frequency, more riders would be transported at once though the 3 track zone.

4) IF in Summer 2008, Diversey is re-opened with an 8 car platform, AND Wellington is closed, AND all Red/Brown/Purple trains are sharing a single track going SOUTHbound through the Belmont and Fullerton stations, then how about all southbound Red line trains also stopping at Diversey southbound only during the remainder of single tracking at Belmont and Fullerton(during normal station hours). This would:
A) Cut train switching in half, as once on the single track at Belmont, all 3 lines would continue the same path past the Fullerton construction where Brown/Purple and Red separate.
B) Get passengers at Diversey directly onto Red instead of transfering at Fullerton, thereby relieving SOME platform crowding at Fullerton. This ALSO gives southbound Red passengers the option of tranferring to southbound Brown/Purple at a station NOT under reconstruction(and remodeled at that), relieving SOME platform crowding at Belmont and Fullerton.
C) Allow uninterrupted time to REPAIR track 2 between the crossover south of Belmont and the crossover north of Fullerton.

5) Thanks for at least trying out Purple trains stopping at Sheridan in the afternoon/evening for Cubs games. Benefits of extending this for ALL Purple line trains from now through the remainder of 3 tracking would include:
A) Allowing southbound Red passengers the option of switching to Purple relieves SOME overcrowding on the southbound platform at Belmont. This does the same for those Purple line riders switching to Red to get to the State street subway reliving SOME overcrowding at the southbound Belmont platform.
B) Allowing northbound Purple line riders from the Loop the option of transferring to Red at Sheridan relieves SOME overcrowding on the northbound Fullerton and/or Belmont platforms. Some passengers are ALREADY doing this by keeping track of Cubs game days to modify their commute in this manner.

By the way, I'm a railfan who used to commute the Brown from Addison(via Bus first), and transfer to Red at Belmont to get to a job at Clark and Division(when I lived in Chicago). I have no vested interest in these recommendations, just would like to see others be able to make their way though three tracking as fast as possible.

Considering Mayor Daley's efforts to make Chicago a greener city, shouldn't more energy and funds go toward encouraging ridership on public transportation, rather than decreasing the quality and availability of public transportation, thereby encouraging more people to drive cars?

When will riders be able to access "universal" fare cards that would work with CTA, PACE and METRA?

Can you please approve to get some portable bathrooms placed in key CTA stations like Belmont and/or Fullerton during the construction delays for the next few years? I am am already running late and I don't want to have an accident also. Thank you.

When will the CTA open up the wireless access to carriers other than US Cellular?

"When will the CTA open up the wireless access to carriers other than US Cellular?"

It's available to any carrier who is willing to pay for the rights to use the service. So far, US Cellular seems to be the only taker.

Uptown's Wilson L (deemed the smelliest spot in Chicago by Chicago Magazine) is the same L that Ron Huberman takes to work. The empty storefronts along the west side of the 4600 block of N. Broadway are owned by CTA, and many of them have been vacant for almost a decade.

Any plans to be more aggressive about renting out the empty storefronts? CTA could use the cash, and Uptown could use the retail.

The Wilson L also has more arrests than all the L stops combined on the Northside (yes, ALL of them). Any plans to redesign this L stop so that people will be less afraid to take the L? The current design is such that it ends up promoting rather than deterring crime.

Ask him why the City of Chicago won't provide more funding for the CTA.

There's no special reason extra money has to come from the legislature and the RTA sales tax. While the state as a whole surely benefits from the CTA, there's no denying that Chicago benefits more and more directly. Yet the city contributes only a paltry $3M per year (and only does that because the RTA Act requires it).

Illinois is unusual in that municipalities can impose gas taxes. So why not impose a gas tax in Chicago and use it to fund the CTA? And/or tax downtown parking garages; unless you have a disability that makes riding the CTA infeasible, there is no reason to be driving into the loop on a daily basis; it should be taxed as the environmentally destructive luxury that it is, with exemptions for the disabled.

Guess I'm not up with this new math. Just paid $130 mil to buy new buses so that that they could shut down in December because of a $110 million shortfall. The CTA has cried wolf too much.

Does Ron think we are all stupid and that he can't cut more of the CTA budget without affecting service?

I know a certain luxurious building downtown that could be sold for a nice sum. They keep spending money like there is no end...like spending all that money to put the ability to use cell phones in the underground tunnels because they thought all the companies would pay to use that service. They got one company to pony up 2 years after they spent the money for it... How about getting contracts up front and only buying what you can afford? What is their return on investment on that?

I don't think we need 3 people standing around talking inside the booths at the stations. Also I'd ask, exactly how many times a year do you have to paint the addison station?

It all adds up...a couple mil here, a couple mil there...they could make the money they need by making the CTA what it should be...rapid, safe, economical transit.

I would love to ask Ron:

Would more advertising on the CTA trains help cover the shortfall?

I see lots of billboard space in each train that is either empty or several months old.

Over the past 15 years, has ridership increased, decreased, or stayed the same?

Wouldn't setting a goal to increase ridership assist alleviating the budget problems?

NYC's transit system operates on a lower fare system. What makes Chicago so much more expensive?

Has the newly implemented transit card system helped, or hurt CTA operations? How expensive has it been to install and how much does it cost now to operate?

High rise condo 'villages' have sprung up along Washington DC's Metro rail stops. Couldn't CTA take the initiative to work with city of Chicago planners in building rail systems around planned high density areas to increase revenue through more predictable ridership?

If you have driven on any highway especially the tollway you could find a major source of income by collecting fines for speeding and tailgaiting. This is not only a source of income but would provide safety to drivers.

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