Union asks CTA to delay Ventra rollout; dream on!

Late last week the leader of the CTA's rail union called on the transit agency to delay the complete rollout of the Ventra card system until all the kinks are worked out.

The CTA said no way.

Robert Kelly, Local 308 president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, claimed that pissed off riders are venting to CTA employees about Ventra problems, and they are being verbally attacked by riders.

OK, now wait a minute. The average rail rider rarely encounters the motorman during the day. So I call BS on that. As for bus drivers, I've seen plenty just wave riders through when the farebox equipment doesn't work, so riders aren't getting too mad at them about that.

Certainly there have been myriad problems with the rollout. But I don't think an increase in threats to employees is one of them.

UPDATE: It turns out that Local 308 represents customer assistants. So no doubt Kelly is referring to alleged threats made to station customer assistant. My bad.

If it's true CTA riders are taking out frustrations on customers assistants, that's just plain wrong and must stop. But the Trib story reports "the CTA has no evidence of an increase in threats or violence against CTA workers in connection with Ventra."



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  • Maybe they are yelling at people who work in the stations. Personally I just roll my eyes at the bus drivers when my Ventra card doesn't work.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    That may be true Cheryl. But I highly doubt that any rail union member is catching much grief.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Since there was the announcement that as a result of the last contract negotiation, CTA was replacing Customer Assistants employed by security firms with CTA employees, undoubtedly they are members of ATU Local 308, so Kelly is obligated to speak up for them. So, Cheryl is correct.

    On the other hand, why hasn't Tammy Chase, who keeps giving B.S. to the media, been fired yet? Who is her clout? Read this article from Friday's Sun-Times where she again did nothing to resolve the situation. For that matter, Quinn CT Board appointee Grimshaw admitted to the Sun-Times for the second time that she has no idea what is going on at the CTA (the first time that they had canceled the Lincoln bus). The media was all over Metra--why do they buy the total misgovernance at the CTA?

    Finally, why not interview some bus drivers and CAs and see if they have been taking abuse? Or, is the job market still so bad that part of the job is to take the heat for incompetent management?

    Maybe another do nothing CT Board member, Rev. Charles E. Robinson, will again pray that it all works out. So far, his prayers have not been answered.

  • Well, it's nice of Kelly to stick up for anyone who is getting yelled at, union member or not. It's hardly the fault of those people that CTA management is doing such a bad job.

  • I noticed that when I swipe the pass this morning, there is a little delay and a screen pops up that says "Please wait, Processing" or something to that effect. I didn't notice that last week, so I wonder if they programmed some changes to allow for card swipes to work better.

  • In reply to chris:

    Yes, I noticed that for the first time, too. I assume that when they originally designed the system they figured that the verification would be almost instantaneous. After a few bad weeks, and numerous reports of multiple charges and delays, they probably figured they needed to alert the rider that the card was read, and the verification is processing.

    I've been using the card for several weeks now (~20 uses), and it's generally been smooth. I've only encountered one case (bus) where the card wouldn't read, and the driver waived me through. I've had one case at a station where the reader took ~10 seconds to clear. Otherwise, I've gotten the 'Go' in less than 2 seconds.

  • Robert Kelly is the best, most transparent president 308 has had in decades. Kevin, you have a history of of not respecting transit workers. Just a few years ago, when cta cut service and laid workers off, you advocated that the workers not accept a contractual raise, and not to mention that you are a yearly rider of that propoganda train train every year in December. A train which should not have operated the year the workers were laid off. I have inside information, there have been a lot of threats towards the customer assistants. Get your facts straight. Work in their shoes for a day.. I don't think you can handle it.

  • In reply to ibilldavis:

    ibill: I corrected my post above. I said if there are threats they should stop immediately. That's plain wrong. The union says there are threats, the CTA says there are not. He said - she said.

    Not sure who is right, but my main point is I agree with the CTA the rollout should not stop because of threats. Anyone who threatens a worker frankly should be prosecuted.

    We may disagree on some other things you note in your comment. But I do agree with your assertion that I probably could not handle the job of being a customer assistant. I respect what they do and no way I could do that.

  • In reply to ibilldavis:

    One of the reasons Kelly is up front is that ATU Local 241 (bus) was put into trusteeship due to financial problems, leaving Kelly the only union leader here.

    I'm surprised that ATU never merged its locals (there can't be strength in having 2 locals for CTA workers and a whole mess of small locals for Pace) and still relies on a structure from the 1940s, but considering that all Darrell Jefferson did was stand behind Huberman and said we'll go on strike if the state doesn't pass a tax increase, maybe it is better that Kelly is still around.

    I believe the harassing CAs point, although I don't know who to believe on the Blue Line crash, other than ATU has an obligation to represent its members in grievance proceedings.

  • The customer assistant in my L station is the one who explained to me that you need to touch the little broadcast-wave icon on the Ventra card to the same icon (now covered with a green dot) on the reader unit. That's why I never had any difficulty getting it to work. So I doubt he is getting any abuse.

    I wonder how he got this valuable nugget of information and why so many others did not.

    What ought to be demanded is that CTA management come clean about their communications failures. I have set a November 15 deadline for this.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    If it is as represented, I don't see what is accomplished by sending out someone to cover over maybe 2300 wave logos with green dots. Since it appears that the displays have been reprogrammed, maybe they should have been reprogrammed to "tap the [image of wave] below." The "tap here" implied on the screen.

    I certainly agree with your last sentence, but, to do so, they have to fire Tammy "there's nothing wrong here" Chase first. And that comment also applies to "there haven't been more reports of harassment" line, too.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    Actually what ought to happen is everyone at the CTA or in City Hall who had any input into this fiasco should be fired.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Emanuel was just reported on WGN9 news as that he said on the Morning News [apparently as head of the CTA] that he is going to put the heat on the Ventra contractor. (earlier story)

    So maybe everything isn't so great.

  • In reply to jack:

    No, I want him to tell us exactly how the Ventra contract came to be awarded. And then I want all the parties who actually made the poor management and communication decisions to be sentenced by the court of public opinion to spend a couple of hours in the stocks in Daley Plaza being pelted with soft vegetable matter by those who got the runaround, double charged, hung up on, lied to, etc. etc.. As a partial inducement to fess up, if Claypool beats my Nov 15 confession deadline he gets a cream pie of his choice instead. But everyone has to take their punishment. No buck-passing. No "We regret that the situation somehow messed itself up and that's as far as our idea of taking responsibility goes. (You peons have to pay the big bucks regardless, so we don't much care about that part.)"

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    As far as how the contract was awarded, you can make an Freedom of Information Act demand for that. You may eventually have to take it to court, but CTA seems less obstinate than most agencies in Illinois, recognizing that at least executed contracts have to be released. The Tribune got a copy when it was complaining about the debit card fees.

    Googling indicates that the request for proposals for an open fare system was issued in 2009, and still can be accessed. It was a 2 step process, apparently during the Rodriguez administration, when the CTA President still reported to the board.

    You probably won't be able to find out if Cubic did untoward lobbying at the second stage.

    Other than that, why would you want to inflict cruelty on a cream pie?

  • Someone just posted on a set of Tracy Swartz tweets that the premise in the headline is wrong. Similar was stated in a Hilkevitch article on both the Tribune and RedEye sites (in the last paragraph), and, somebody said, also reported on WGN.

    Since the Hilkevitch version has references to "City Hall spokesman," apparently Emanuel told Claypool to move his lips in a manner differing from what Tammy Chase was saying.

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