CTA Apologizes For Delays As Commuters Crowd Trains

Updated 02/03/11 – 2:29 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Transit Authority President Rich Rodriguez apologized Thursday after many CTA trains were delayed or crowded to capacity when commuters began returning to work in the wake of this week’s blizzard.

As Chicagoans who stayed home during the blizzard began returning to work on Thursday, many of them struggled to get onto crowded CTA trains or in some cases, were forced to wait as overcrowded trains bypassed some stations.

Along some of the CTA’s rail lines, angry commuters were left stranded Thursday morning, as jam-packed ‘L’ trains passed them by during the morning rush.

While commuters who drive to work were relieved that Lake Shore Drive was back open, those who use the Chicago Transit Authority discovered that many trains were so packed that they couldn’t get on.

Train after crowded train went past several stops without stopping, leaving hundreds of commuters on outdoor platforms in bitter single-digit or subzero cold.

CTA President Rich Rodriguez said Thursday morning that the problems were the result of large crowds of commuters using the CTA’s busiest rail lines, rather than driving.

As side streets went unplowed until early Thursday, many commuters had no other option but public transit.

“Operators on the Red, Brown and Blue Lines saw heavy rush hour loads for first time since the snowstorm while ridership on the other rail lines remains light to moderate,” Rodriguez said.

One commuter said he witnessed muttering, swearing and kicking snow, as he gave up on the Blue Line. Several other would-be passengers at the Damen Blue Line stop in Wicker Park had equally frustrating experiences.

“Nobody’s talking, and everyone’s sighing when a train comes by,” commuter Gina Biel said. “It’s bad. Nobody’s going anywhere.”

“I’m headed to 600 W. Chicago, and I went to get on the train. They said it was going to be 40 minutes. So I turned back around and I tried to find a cab, and I can’t find a cab, so now I’m walking back to the train just to wait,” commuter Emily Dolin said.

“I’m going to take my chances with the bus this morning and see what happens,” commuter Kristin Kaza said.

Rodriguez said the problems on the Blue Line stemmed from an equipment problem one one train that resulted in delays for other trains behind it.

“On the Blue Line, we experienced a 20-minute delay this morning due to an equipment problem and it resulted in some very crowded trains and some long waits for riders. We apologize for that,” Rodriguez said. “The trains on the Blue Line are our oldest and the cars average over 40 years old. So in this weather they are more prone to problems than newer equipment. We’re working hard to keep everything moving and very much looking forward to the new rail cars we’ll be receiving in the near future.”

The Score-670 AM webmaster Matt Mencarini took the Red Line to work Thursday morning, and experienced a far more difficult commute than usual.

Mencarini said he arrived on the inbound platform for the Sheridan stop at 7:50 a.m., to find it packed. One Red Line train bypassed the station without stopping, while another was too packed to board. Mencarini ended up boarding a northbound train, getting off at Wilson, and doubling back south.

During the blizzard Tuesday and Wednesday, CTA service had to be suspended on some lines. The Yellow Line-Skokie Swift was shut down altogether, since much of it runs on grade level and thus was easily hampered by blowing and drifting snow. The Pink Line was also shut down between Pulaski and 54/Cermak, and the Brown Line was briefly suspended Wednesday morning between Western and Kimball due to a power problem.

But all ‘L’ lines were running on their complete routes by Thursday morning.

Rodriguez said that 200 CTA executives and administrative workers have been helping to clear snow from CTA bus stops and train stations on Thursday.

CTA service has been an issue previously during major blizzards.

When a blizzard dumped 18.8 inches of snow on top of an existing 7 to 10 inches in January 1979, the CTA took significant heat for bypassing African-American neighborhoods on the West Side as they made runs from downtown to Oak Park.

The CTA service after the blizzard was one of several frustrations that turned Chicagoans against Mayor Michael Bilandic, and led to his defeat by Jane Byrne in February.

CBS 2 Web Producer Adam Harrington contributed to this report.

  • Bob

    Ok seriously, does someone really expect a jammed train to stop? I ride the train from time to time and I can’t beleive they still stop and let people in the crowded cars-and that’s during normal times!

    Do people really expect no inconvience after a huge storm?

    With more people taking the train and things going slower due to the weather is it not apparent that wait times will increase?

    What we need is a distraction story concerning Blago or something so the herd of media nit wits can flock to something besides weather delays.

  • Wendy

    I left 15 minutes early and took the 36 bus to the red line at Granville. Everything ran fine and I actually got to work in River North half an hour early.

  • http://topsy.com/chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/02/03/l-trains-bypass-stops-commuters-furious/?utm_source=pingback&utm_campaign=L2 Tweets that mention ‘L’ Trains Bypass Stops; Commuters Furious « CBS Chicago -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by TopGearJeep, Jim Kerr and chinewsnetwork, Kristen Sutherland. Kristen Sutherland said: at least i'm not the only one who's frustrated! http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/02/03/l-trains-bypass-stops-commuters-furious/ […]

  • FR

    Don’t forget that our country put men on the moon, Trouble-free public transportation should be a no-brainer. Buy more trains made in illinois to also solve our unemployment problem.

    • JD

      Can you tell us a company in Illinois that makes trains?

  • madbear

    umm what about the poor people on the train that needed to get OFF the train at those stops that were passed by??

  • unknown

    chicagoans can be very spolied at times…why is this even news?

  • Daryl

    Oh to be an American! Everything is at our disposal and the slightest inconveineace merits our utmost rage. the Mass transit was affected by the same blizzard as was our private transportation. It was weather effected, there is was nothing that the Mayor, Governor or the President for that matter could do. maybe this should happen four to five times a year so that we will learn to just get over it. I know there are those who HAVE to be at a certain place at a certain time, but how about a little understanding for those who are trying to insure that we can at least get there at all. If it is that importaant maybe I should try to get there when everybody else is.

  • Cathy

    That Chicagoans would expect to go anywhere so shortly after such a major storm is a testament to their spirit and great infrastructure. Most other towns would be affected harder and longer by such an event. My town (in MD) was hit hard last year by 2 back to back huge snowstorms. I went out the day after one of them – and caught the bus (which was running, but should not have been). The roads were still bad, and snow piles made it very hard to see traffic.

    I hope that employers and everyone else does not underestimate the seriousness of this event, at the expense of health and safety.

    Good Luck

  • Charles Ian Ezaki

    The internet has made us all dumb. Most people expect everything instantly now thanks to the wide spreed use of the internet. If they have to wait longer then normal its such a big inconvenience. Especially when something breaks, can people not understand that things with many moving parts can break down? Also after a major storm like this one there may be more people on the trains? We have become a push button society, you push a button, and bam you got a move on your computer. Or you just push a button and you ordered your food, and the list goes on and on. People just need to realize that some times when you push the button you wont get instant results.

    Another thing about the CTA they are doing the best they can with what they got. Yes a lot of stuff on the CTA needs fixing, but they need the money to fix it. If they had an endless supply of cash to fix what needs to be fixed everything would be fine. Yes we do pay a lot to right the L and bus, but that money only goes so far as to pay for the employees salary and basic upkeep. To out fit the entire system with new tracks and trains and buses all the time, would cost hundreds of millions of dollars or more. Until they can get all the money they need all the time we will have to deal with breakdowns every now and then.

  • http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/02/04/public-transit-getting-back-to-normal-friday/ Public Transit Getting Back To Normal Friday « CBS Chicago

    […] Problems also arose on the ‘L’ during the morning rush. On the Blue Line, there was a 20-minute delay due to an equipment problem, which resulted in extremely crowded trains and long waits for riders, CTA President Richard Rodriguez said Thursday. […]

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