What Claypool's top priorities should be for his first 100 days at the CTA helm

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New CTA President Forrest Claypool

Welcome to the CTA, President Forrest Claypool. Congrats to you too, Mayor Emanuel. I wish you both the best.

There's plenty for Claypool to do at the CTA, and his first order of business is to get to know his management team and understand CTA's day-to-day and long-term financial picture, all the while delivering transit service that is safe, clean, on-time, courteous and efficient.

Here are my ideas for Claypool's 100-day plan to get off to a good start at the CTA:

1. Ride the CTA trains and buses. Talk to your customers. Get a feel for what are our top-of-mind concerns and wishes for our transit system.
2. Reach out to all CTA unions. Listen to them and the worker perspective about what's good and bad at the CTA. They will have some good ideas.
3. Start laying the groundwork for the 2012 budget. This promises to
be Claypool's biggest challenge in his first 100 days and just beyond.
In less than five months - 150 days - he will have to present his
budget. And part of that task is renegotiating union contracts. That
gives some flexibility in cutting employees costs with more cost-sharing
on benefits, for instance.
4. Throw us riders a bone. Introduce some new initiative to make our
commutes a little easier. Maybe it's better, more frequent cleanings of
trains and buses. Whatever. But you could easily get your customers on your side
with a "quick win" initiative.

Running such a large transit agency is not an easy job. The tough decisions you make will affect millions. Have at it.

OK readers, what thoughts do you have for Claypool on his first day on the job?

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  • #2. I'm not so sure that the answer is listening to the unions to get the workers' perspective. The leaders are two faced; take Jefferson backing up his guys for no concessions, then commiserating in the press with workers who have been unemployed for over a year, when they wouldn't have been if the other 80% had agreed to the concessions.

    What I hear from other sources is that it is too bad that Claypool doesn't have any experience, but the least he could do is, say, walk thorough the bus washer shop or go to the transportation office in the garages and talk to the people who really do the work. Talk to the street supervisors and ask them why, with BusTracker on their laptops, they can't do anything about bus bunching, and see if they possibly have an idea.

    4. Throw riders a bone? Seriously? During the Huberman administration, the least that was expected was that the vehicles would be clean. Instead of overpromising and overdesigning, as the McCarron piece indicated; patting himself on the back for other people's initiatives, like Rodriguez; saying "we can't do anything without a tax hike;" or fooling people with consultants' meetings that result in nothing, come up with something necessary and realistic, such as "this is how we fix the Red/Purple, and where we get the money to do it." Maybe Emanuel can lobby his former congressional colleagues to get the money.

    I'll add: Emanuel said that we can't keep blowing money like we have, and while he said it in connection with fighting the Shakman Decree for 40 years (at least his transition site said that he appointed a new Corporation Counsel), so we will institute real budget and financial controls at the CTA. No more "Moving Beyond Congestion" campaigns to raise taxes, at least before doing that. No more "we budgeted diesel at $4.50 and it was $4.69, so that's o.k." Instead, CTA will have sufficient controls so that, say blowing $101 million on defective buses doesn't happen again. We'll even show Metra how that's done. If Claypool is such a business whiz, that should be easy.

    I'll finally add: Actually do something about the Auditor General's report and service coordination. Don't be like Carole Brown, who exhibited no knowledge of Pace, especially. Cut back the overlaps in Evanston and on the Cermak corridor. Establish a workable transfer policy. And don't have your consultants try to cram something down Evanston's and Skokie's craws, because you know their residents won't take it.

  • 1. Bring the Red Line slows zones up to a 30MPH minimum speed. I believe that the current 15MPH slow zones are total bullshit due to the fact that I've been on expressed trains that went through those slow zones at 30MPH, but regular trains don't.
    2. Reconfigure bus routes that haven't been changed in 70 or more years. The best example of this is Fullerton, which doesn't go east to Clark.
    3. End the use of that idiotic warning by the motormen that the doors are closing. This wouldn't be necessary if the motormen followed the rules & hit the warning chime button just before they're actually closing the doors. not only do they use the chime as soon as the doors open, I was on one train a couple of weeks ago where the chime was sounded WHILE THE DOORS WERE STILL NOT FULLY OPEN!
    4. Put an end to the peddlers, preachers & beggars on the Red & Green Lines south of Roosevelt. No one should be a captive audience to this.
    5. Cancel the sideways seating on the 5000 series cars. This will prove to be a failure & the seating will have to be replaced with the current 3200 configuration at a huge cost. Save the money & change it before production.
    6. Fire Noelle Gaffney. All she does is lie! She couldn't tell the truth if she got a brain transplant from Diogenes!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Only the ones I can comment on:
    2. Reconfigure, I agree, but not necessarily running Fullerton east of Clark (in fact, it only runs to Halsted-Lincoln) because Fullerton Pkwy is too narrow, especially east of Halsted. I know they once had the 74L Lephant bus, but that was a smaller vehicle.

    Instead, CTA should have enough GPS information that they should be able to reconfigure routes based on actual demand. However (1) they foul that up, by, for instance, announcing surveys from 79th to 159th, well outside their territory, and (2) word is that aldercreatures fight efforts to restructure service in outlying parts of the city.

    6. I think Sheila Gregory has to go first. We discussed a couple of weeks ago what kind of communications office CTA really needs.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    The one thing the CTA can do that really shouldn't cost much is learn how to really, truly communicate with riders.

  • People talk a lot about "bus only lanes" but there's a problem, we already have several of them in downtown Chicago, nobody knows it though, because they are widely recognized as "cab drivers do what ever the hell they please lanes"

  • How about finding a few extra $$ somewhere to keep the rolling stock from descending further into rolling crap heap status. If we're going to have to spend extra time on the train due to the aforementioned slow zones, can we at least not have to ride a train that smells like a wet dog? The Dirty Red rides again!!

  • Change the standard stop spacing from 1/8 of a mile to 1/4 mile. This will speed up travel times, which will then either increase frequency or reduce the number of buses needed to maintain the same frequency (lower costs). It will also reduce fuel and maintenance costs and I think quite possibly increase ridership.

  • Honestly I think removal of slow zones should be the #1 priority. I'll handle a somewhat dirty red line car to fly down the tracks any day.

    As well some ideas for new rail lines, not just extensions would be nice. Follow-Through! Line connections out side the loop! I know there is no money, but this is the future we're talking about. Lets at least start to discuss and explore. Lets act now.

  • In reply to thrulateevening:

    It depends what you mean, with regard to connections outside the Loop.

    If you look at the CTA Circle Line AA page and click into the Stage 3 Materials, it looks like the consultants took 3 years to:

    1. Kill the Midcity Line proposal, even though Mayor Daley seemed in favor of it.

    2. Restrict the Circle Line to essentially the bridge from the Orange Line at Archer and Paulina to the Pink Line at 21st and Paulina, suggesting a few more stations, but essentially punting on the subway from Lake and Paulina to North and Clybourn.

    Both actions indicate that neither of the above will win some sort of competitive funding process.

    As far as no money, I implied in my first post agreement with Ed's post that the first priority is to get the Red Line fixed, not wait for something that Ed properly suggests would take 15 years to fund and complete.

  • In reply to thrulateevening:

    Great ideas for Claypool's 100-day plan to get off to a good start at the CTA:

    1. Ride the CTA trains and buses.

    Good start. Be visible. Open your eyes and ears to what the prior administrations have missed. Talk not only to mid-level mangers, but operating employees and support staff. Some of your best insights will come from the "little people" who have to do the dirty work. Tour the garages and terminals and the shops. ASK QUESTIONS! The only dumb question is the one you fail to ask.
    Next...

    2. Reach out to all CTA unions.

    Another good call! Last count, there were either 17 or 19 different unions at CTA. have an open sitdown on a regular basis and listen to them and get the worker perspective about what's good and bad at the CTA. They will have some good ideas. they were there before you, and Rome wasn't rebuilt in a day.

    3. Start laying the groundwork for the 2012 budget.

    Kevin said, "This promises to be Claypool's biggest challenge in his first 100 days and just beyond. In less than five months - 150 days - he will have to present his budget." True. Also, get on the horn and start networking with other transit systems that are in the same deep doo doo we are here in Chicago; maybe New York, L.A., San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver...share your ideas. Get some insight that crunching the budget is not just a CTA problem.

    4. Throw us riders a bone.

    Communicate with your public more. CTA has its own media and communication staff. Put your face out there, and let the people know you care. Ask for the public's help with keeping trains and buses and platforms clean. Let folks know you give a damn.

    My funky two cents.
    Thanks, Kevin.

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