CTA disputes that it's ranked No. 1 in bus collisions

CTA disputes that it's ranked No. 1 in bus collisions

After an eye-opening Tribune column earlier this month stating that “CTA buses rank No. 1 in collisions,” the CTA has fired back in a letter to the Trib, claiming that head was misleading.

The Trib reported Aug. 16:

“CTA buses have been involved in more collisions [271] annually since 2008 than buses operated by the nine other largest public bus systems in the United States, according to records compiled for the Tribune by the Federal Transit Administration. The accident rate reflects a bus incident occurring almost every day on average.”

On Sunday, CTA President Richard Rodriguez wrote in a letter to the editor:

Of those 271 collisions that involved CTA buses, more than two-thirds (or 67 percent) were instances in which CTA buses were struck by another vehicle. Being struck by another vehicle is more often than not outside of the control of a bus operator.”

To me, these are nuances. Bottom line is that the CTA ranks No. 1 in collisions. No doubt that the No. 2 ranking agency also has a high percentage of incidents where the bus was struck by another vehicle.

The good news here is that the frequency between collisions is higher. Rodriguez says: “In the past four years, the number of bus trips between collisions has increased. CTA had a total of 9,367,593 bus trips/runs in 2009, or one collision for every 34,566 trips made — an 8.8 percent improvement over 2008.”

Let’s make sure the numbers keep trending that way with the continued use of bus-simulator training and the focus on defensive-driving training.


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  • Maybe Rodriguez can let us know how many of those "instances in which CTA buses were struck by another vehicle" were because the bus driver had run a red light or otherwise committed a moving violation.

  • There was that wonderful little incident at the Clark/Arthur terminal a couple of years ago.
    The driver of a bus, drove it all the way across Clark, up the curb & went about 50' into the plaza of the police station & managed to destroy one bench & a light fixture.
    Never did figure out out that clown did that one!
    And I'm betting that the collision numbers don't even include ones that occur in the bus garages.

  • Throughout hundreds of bus rides, sometimes five or more a day, over the past three years, I have been involved in one accident. It was clearly the other driver's fault. He swerved into the oncoming lane to avoid a double parked car and assumed the bus should and could stop for him.

  • I had mentioned on another forum that the statistics originally published by the Tribune were ambiguous, in that they didn't indicate how many were the fault of the bus or other driver.

    However, the graphic in the Tribune indicated that CTA had about 167% of the reported incidents compared to New York, and 4 times the rate per unlinked trip. I doubt that NY's method of reporting was different than CTA's, so one has to conclude that NY (a) has more careful bus drivers, (b) more careful drivers of other vehicles, or (c) fewer opportunities for interaction between buses and other traffic (including buildings running out into the street).

  • To avoid further CTA spin, the state needs to run query for us to determine the number of CTA at-fault accidents where a citation was issued (vs. non). I agree that it's all a bit of a nuance. An accident happened, period, CTA has to deal with preventing them, what do other agencies do in the US? Try to bury the problem too?

    It's pathetic that the CTA can't (or simply won't?) provide the hard dollars associated to accidents. What is wrong with providing this information to the public? Everyone would know what part of the budget is forked over due to accident settlement instead of speculating ... 10M 20M? Hiding the expense won't reduce it. The bottom line is that w/ reduced accidents, CTA could use the money for system improvements.

    I know they are not, but if CTA was serious about customer service and safety, they would tie collective bargaining to reducing CTA- operator-at-fault-accidents (regardless of damage cost). Non-union CTA folks should take a hit in their compensation too when there is an equipment failure that causes an accident because poor oversight at the maintenance level for the equipment is pretty important to keep in check. Maybe CTA should wave that carrot in front of the transit worker leadership instead of agreeing to hire back convicted DUI folks. Money spent on property damage could go instead to the operators.

    Combine that with jacking the fines way up for a driver who causes an accident with transit (since potential for loss of life is higher and there is precedent with higher fines for road construction zones), and we could continue to see quality improvement unheard of in the industry.

    And yes, I know it's not all CTA drivers. I know when I'm out in my car, it often occurs to me how aggressive (idiotic) cars and cyclists are around the buses when they start up/slow down to get/drop off people. Higher fines might help discourage bad behavior or at least make more $ for the CTA (a hidden tax on bad drivers who cross the CTA). Even in my beast of a car, I never assume the bus driver can see me so I just let them go in front of me. Those things must be like driving a brick on wheels.

  • In reply to eflam201:

    At least Pace advertises that it has a Million Mile Award, indicating that the driver drove that many miles without a "preventable accident."

    However, the definition of "preventable accident" is not the same as who was ultimately at fault, according to some drivers. Obviously, a car rear ending a bus properly stopped at a bus stop was not preventable, from the bus driver's perspective. However, the bus drivers are expected to prevent consequences of foreseeable negligence of others. For instance, I don't know whether the bus that swerved to avoid an oncoming car, and then hit the school on West Chicago Ave. was in a "preventable accident."

    The rhubarbs about the Fox Chicago report on bus drivers running red lights downtown, and over whether CTA should pay the red light camera fines indicates that bad driver behavior is not sufficiently disincentivised (is that a word?) as Ed recommends.

  • Kevin, I like your columns, but you don't have any clue what the "bus simulator" is. To put it simple, the bus simulator is a humongous waste of money. You sit in a chair, and basically play a very poorly designed video game. It handles nothing like a bus, gives conditions that are in no way anything like Chicago traffic, nor what it's like to deal with the cab drivers in this town, and for many people, it causes painful motion sickness.

    As far as how you just blow off the fact that many of the accidents are caused by other drivers, it's absolutely true that the #2 city also has to deal with that, but it is a fact that I feel was glanced over by the original article. Ignoring this fact only furthers the idea that all bus operators are reckless cab drivers, we're not. Sure on occasion something could go wrong, but we try hard to make it a nice smooth ride for everyone, even the whiny, annoying jerks.

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    Hey CGT. First, thanks for taking the time to write. I know you are a bus driver and have much better perspective on some issues than I do.

    Good point about the simulator. I actually was kinda wondering myself how useful they are. But I guess it beats doing nothing about collisions, right?

    And I don't think I'm blowing off the fact that many of the accidents are caused by other drivers. All I'm saying is regardless, the CTA is still No. 1 in accidents. And that's not good. But good point -- that doesn't mean all operators are reckless. And I never said they were.

  • In reply to KevinO’Neil:

    I'd say that since 67% of the accidents are not the CTA's fault then I'd conclude that Chicago drivers rank as the worst in the country.

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    I should have read the entire article when it came out but since when is 271 or even 303 (2008 reportable accidents) even close to averaging one collision per day. If you want to average, it is close to a collision on 75 percent of the days (2009) and 80 percent of the days in 2008. It is over one collision per week day but just looking at the headline, I was thinking the CTA had something close to 365 collisions per year.

    Granted that does not take away that the CTA is number one in reportable accidents but I feel like it is a headline designed to mislead and sensationalize.

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    Didn't CTA rehire a group of bus drivers who were charged with drunk driving? :-)

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    Maybe coincidentally, a TribLocal story, Witnesses say woman talking on phone hit by bus, shows the quandry.

    Did the bus driver cut the corner short, or was the (expletive deleted) woman on the cell phone inattentive and walked into the bus's path? She was "alert at the hospital" but maybe not while walking.

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    I am astounded with the amount of driver, cyclist, pedestrian stupidity that bus drivers have to deal with on a regular basis. I am eternally grateful that there are people who drive buses so I don't have to drive. I couldn't deal with the bs driving 5 miles up and down Western Ave once a day. I can't imagine driving a bus from Berwyn to 79th (95th when the express was running) multiple times daily.

    This article is another example of Hilkevitch's fine "reporting" featuring sloppy data analysis either intentionally or by accident. It's almost as if the editors said, "John, go do a negative article on CTA or you'll lose your job."

  • In reply to marthat3:

    No, no, no. But you're close. The memo reads, "Jon, our automobile dealer advertisers want another anti-transit column." ;=})

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