Rating Rodriguez: How the outgoing prez ranks on key values

CTA chief Richard Rodriguez today probably will participate in his final CTA board meeting as president.

Chicago Card Plus.jpg

Monday, Rahm Emanuel will be sworn in as Chicago's new mayor, and the
mayor-elect already has selected his entire "cabinet," including Forrest
Claypool as the CTA president. Claypool still needs to be approved by
the CTA board and city council, but those are mere formalities.
we bid adieu formally today to Rodriguez by rating his "star turn" at
the CTA. On a scale of 1 to 5 stars, with 5 being celestial, here's how
Rich ranks on those key mission values printed on every Chicago Card and
Chicago Card Plus: Safe - Clean - On-Time - Courteous - Efficient.
Safe: 3 stars
The bad news: Thefts and robberies were up dramatically in 2010 vs. 2009. Plus, a woman was
murdered at the Fullerton station earlier this year, pushed to her death
by a fleeing iPhone thief.

The good news: Rodriguez used
Homeland Security funds
to equip every train station with at least one
camera. Thus, the middling score.
Clean: 2 stars
I was thisclose to giving Rodriguez just one star on this score. His predecessor Ron Huberman had five key performance indicators to gauge
how the agency was scoring on cleanliness, including days between rail
and bus cleans.  Now, all five have been replaced by Rodriguez by just two indicators - exterior and interior rail and bus "clean inspection score."
put aside the competing KPIs. The bottom line is that these days rail
cars and buses are just plain dirtier. And I won't even mention the
persistent stench of urine at many stations. That's a favorite tweet for
CTA complainers. Much improvement is needed here.

Rodriguez 062309.JPG

On-time: 3 stars
might have done himself a favor on this one when a giant budget hole
forced him to cut bus and rail service in 2010. Fewer vehicles mean
fewer opportunities for vehicles to go off schedule.

But I do
think by using Bus and Train Tracker technology, there have been some
3+improvements to bus bunching and train headways. Plus, folks with
smartphones or other Internet access can be "on time" to their stops
using the tracker technology.

Of course, that doesn't help those
who don't enjoy that technology access. But completing rolling out Train
Tracker and using the technologies push a 2.5 stars score to a 3.
Courteous: 2 stars

are plenty of good, helpful and courteous CTA employees, including rail
motorman and customer assistants, and bus operators. I think they just
need more training on when we need them most: during bus and rail

We recently covered the problems during the April 19
non-derailment of a Brown Line north train north of Belmont.
Unfortunately, the customer communication problems are systemic and
long-standing. And they go to the heart of courtesy, in my estimation.
They must be fixed.

Efficient: 4 stars

Former CTA President Ron Huberman had brought in many new top
management staffers, leading to job bloat and inefficiencies. For the
most part, Rodriguez has weeded them out - partly because his own
personnel budget has shrunk due to lower tax revenues.

also has found other efficiencies and made budget cuts. He has required
that all non-union personnel take furlough days off. And the CTA still
seems to run just fine.

He identified $54 million in "management efficiencies" in September 2010, Rodriguez also  also leveraged capital investments that reduced operating costs.

Overall: 2.8 stars
Certainly there is plenty of room for Claypool to make
some improvements. But honestly, I think Rodriguez did about the best he
could do given the economic conditions he ruled under. I wish him luck in future endeavors, and thank him for his service.


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  • There is nothing on time about the Red Line.
    Most of the Dan Ryan portion is under slow zones & it's a couple of long slow zones from Lawrence north to Morse.
    And nothing is being done about this!
    A few years ago, Huberman went & got the entire O'Hare line brought up to full speed.
    But then, the Red Line is the CTA's redheaded stepchild, it just carries ordinary Chicagoans, unlike the O'Hare run which the CTA always goes out of its way to keep running fast because some out of towners & foreigners ride it!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    They certainly didn't "go out of their way" in keeping the blue line running fast a few years ago when it took like 75 minutes to get from the loop to O'Hare.

  • In reply to Nirvana911:

    It was that incompetent Kreusi that let the entire rail system deteriorate & when Huberman took over, fixing the O'Hare Line was his first major change from Kreusi.
    Before Kreusi, the O'Hare Line was always the first to get back to speed if something happened, like a major snow or heavy rain that flooded it out.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I assume you are using your own rating system, as opposed to the PowerPoint slide introduced by Huberman, in which, suddenly, only 1 red box remained.

    But how does "fewer vehicles mean fewer opportunities to go off schedule?" If vehicles are so crammed, how can they stay on schedule? The only logic behind this one is that all 1900 buses that used to be on the street were off schedule, and now that there are probably 1600 on the road (taking spares and wrecks into account), well that's 300 fewer off schedule.

    Sort of related to this point is an entry on the Contract Opportunities page for Sale of Scrap Buses, which turns out to be about 120 6000s, to be sold only for scrap. I guess someone on the Rodriguez administration figured out that the cuts will not be restored, so get a little revenue.

    As far as Homeland Security, all I have heard lately was Rodriguez complaining at a Congressional hearing that someone cut his grants, so he can't put in as many cameras into existing L cars as he indicated, although, up until then, there wasn't any prior announcement that CTA intended to retrofit cameras into the L cars. In any event, this proves that the driving force was whoever issued the grants, and not Rich.

    I saw the agenda item on "To approve an ordinance appointing Forrest Claypool President of the Chicago Transit Authority" for the upcoming meeting, but again, no indication of what formality they will use to dump Rodriguez. Also, where did you get that THE CITY COUNCIL HAS A VOTE ON THIS? Post the link.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thank you Jack. You are correct. Council approval is not necessary.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    The reason I bring this up is that several posts seem to be based on the tacit assumption that CTA is a unit of city government, like Streets and Sanitation. That is, unless Carole Brown and Frank Kruesi say that the suburbs should pay for it.

    City people seem to go along with that, but, all the sudden, CTA officials or consultants are shocked when they take their road shows to places like Evanston and Skokie, and the local residents and government officials push back.

    Daley and Emanuel know that their constituents won't.

  • In reply to jack:

    Emanuel is not even mayor yet, so it's hard to say whether citizens will push back. He's made a lot of promises, and if he doesn't deliver, I do think there will be push-back.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    You are right about we'll still have to see about Emanuel. However, I doubt that Council Wars will return.

    And if there is to be any effective pushback, let's see if the CTA Board today votes down the resolution to crown Claypool and appoints a search committee.

    Won't happen. Also, there won't be any protest about that, either.

  • In reply to jack:

    ....all I have heard lately was Rodriguez complaining at a Congressional hearing that someone cut his grants, so he can't put in as many cameras into existing L cars as he indicated, although, up until then, there wasn't any prior announcement that CTA intended to retrofit cameras into the L cars.... - Jack

    You're slipping. And just because you don't know about retrofitting 'L' cars with cameras doesn't mean it wasn't announced.

    Here are just the first two results I found when searching:

    CTA press release - 5-21-10 (multiple news articles echoed that)

    Cameras on CTA Trains - Nov. 2010

    If someone else made a statement that could be easily refuted like this one, you would be all over him. Example - how you yelled at Kevin for making a mistake in your next paragraph. Maybe next time when you're posting about something that you really aren't well-informed on, and are too lazy to do the research as you exhort others to, you should preface your comment with "I don't recall..."

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    No, I am not slipping.

    The Press Release to which you linked was with regard to cameras in stations, and mentioned, only at the end, "Daley [apparently the head of the CTA] said that later this year CTA will launch a pilot program to see whether it

  • In reply to AlexanderRusso:

    Also, for District Reader 299's consumption: In Rich's last President's Report, page 5, he says "Staff is exploring ways to retrofit existing rail car fleet." So, the YouTube was propaganda, or, as usual CTA speaks with forked tongue.

    I also note that basically, the report didn't have any information about what happened in the last month, but Rich trying to make his own legacy. Apparently, he wasn't satisfied with what Kevin posted here.

  • On the north side, some of this has to do with the discussion we had with Scooter a while back about what "service life" means. The part on the embankment has hit 80 or 90 years, and outlived its service life, so it needs work. Way back (late 70s), it did get some work, like welded rail, even though the rest of the system didn't.

    On the other hand, the Dan Ryan portion appears never to have been properly built, and, also as discussed a few months ago, wasn't properly fixed in 2005-2007, even though the Kruesi apparatus said that the slow zones were eliminated.

    On a related North-Red-Purple point, I also saw that there is a Contract Opportunity for a Purple Line Viaduct Replacement and and Retaining Wall Rehabilitation project. I guess they didn't need "vision workshops" and the like to get the money for that.

  • In reply to jack:

    I'm baffled as to why the CTA's Red Line embankment is beyond it's service life, while the almost identical embankment that was built by the Chicago & Northwestern Ry along Kinzie St that's even older has no problems. The C&NW embankment also has carried far heavier loads over its life.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Maybe you should ask Sam Insull. Oh, I forgot, he died about 1938.

    Maybe the better question is why, after about 20 years, AAA always posts pictures of deteriorated concrete on highway viaduct supports, and, until about 5 years ago, the money suddenly appeared to reconstruct the highway. However, then the I-35 bridge collapsed, the Cline Ave. one was condemned, and suddenly the Tollway needs TRANSIT SUPPORT to rebuild the Northwest Tollway.

    At least the original North Main was built by private enterprise. And, if you bring up CN&W, Metra had to rebuild the NW line, and there is all the stink about rebuilding the N.

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