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Non-Bus Driver Charged With Taking CTA Bus, Driving It Between Garages

Cori Martin

Cori Martin is charged with pretending to be a CTA bus driver as he stole a bus from one garage and drove it to another. (Credit: Chicago Police)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — A West Side man who is not a bus driver is in big trouble, after he allegedly stole a CTA bus from one garage and returned it to another across town for reasons unexplained.

The man did not make any stops or interact with customers. But he did have a fake Chicago Transit Authority ID and a real CTA radio with him.

Cori Martin, 33, of the 4800 block of West Rice Street, was charged this past Wednesday with two counts of unlawful possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of a fictitious or altered driver’s license, and criminal trespass to state land, according to Chicago Police.

CTA spokesman Brian Steele said Martin walked into the 77th Street Garage, at 79th Street and Wentworth Avenue., and got behind the wheel of a bus that had just been serviced.

Without stopping, Martin drove the bus all the way to the Kedzie Garage, at Kedzie Avenue and Van Buren Street, Steele said.

Officials have not said whether they know what route Martin took, or whether it corresponded to actual bus routes or involved streets on which buses do not belong. But officials did say he never made a stop.

At the Kedzie Avenue garage, CTA personnel questioned whether Martin was really a bus driver, Steele said. He was carrying a CTA radio and had what appeared to be a CTA ID, and he wore clothes that approximated the CTA uniform with a similar shirt, pants and vest, Steele said.

But it turned out that Martin was not a real bus driver. CTA staff detained him and called police, who arrested him on the spot.

Steele said Martin is not and never has been a CTA employee. But for some reason, Steele said, “It clearly appears the individual was familiar with CTA bus operations and procedures.”

Investigators have not verified reports that he may be related to a CTA driver, Steele said.

This is not not the first time a man has impersonated a bus driver and taken a bus for a ride.

In 2010, a man wearing what appeared to be a CTA uniform drove a bus out of the 103rd Street garage, at 103rd Street and Doty Avenue. But unlike Martin, that man did pick up passengers.

The bus that impostor was driving later slammed into another bus, and when a real CTA employee went to alert a supervisor, the man fled.

After Tuesday’s incident, the CTA immediately changed its driver sign-in process for buses going back into service, Steele said. There had been no established sign-in procedure at all.

“Immediately, we changed that process,” Steele said. There is now a sign-in and check-out process for buses. “Additionally, we have increased our security presence at CTA bus garages. We have an outside security force that we use (and) basically we increased the personnel.”

Also last month, the CTA “took a step that will help us prevent this from occurring again,” he said. “We approved a new timecard and payroll management system. Those systems are going to be able to track the assignment and movement of buses, and will add redundant layers of identification for drivers.”

“In a nutshell,” he said, “this new computer system records the bus number and driver ID number, and in order to operate the bus the driver will have to log on to an onboard terminal … using a code. So it’s an electronic system to track the assignment of buses and add those redundant layers of identity.”

That system will be put in place in 2013.

The CTA also — not in response to this incident, Steele said — has begun installing more surveillance cameras at garages.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)