Daley calls on CTA to improve

With the recent threat of doomsday service reductions averted, Mayor Richard M. Daley called on the Chicago Transit Authority today to improve safety, reliability and communication with its customers.

"The question is what happens next, now that the CTA has the operating funding it needs to provide ongoing service at a reasonable price," Daley said in a press release.

Daley's challenge came at a press conference at CTA headquarters where the transit agency announced that it is marshaling $200 million in federal funds to improve service and ensure safety for the city's commuters.

Daley used the occasion to detail a laundry list of recommendations ranging from enhanced station amenities to stronger safety inspections and improved customer service.

"Now that there is stability in funding for the system for a while," said Daley, "They need to stay focused on improving services and building a quality system for our riders."

Among his suggestions:

*Keep the public informed about its plans for improving the system.

* Further cut spending so that funds can be reinvested in improving service.

*Form financial partnerships with the private sector to make station improvements, which might include retail services and additional vendor machines that accept credit and debit cards.

*Continue to install GPS technology to eliminate bunching and reliably track buses and trains.

*Improve communication with riders about delays and real-time arrival through electronic signs and email alerts.

*Ensure that CTA employees are trained to deal with the public.

*Invest in system safety through such means as: installing safety cameras on buses, trains, stations and stops; improving inspections of brakes and doors and procedures for monitoring tracks.

*Replace or update the 1,000 buses and trains that are over 25 years old.

Daley also focused on Springfield's responsibility to provide for funding for capital improvements.

While the agency has secured $200 million in federal funds to reduce slow zones this year and next, the state has not been forthcoming with similar construction help.

Putting the CTA in "a good state of repair" will require $6.3 billion, Daley said.

A CTA spokeswoman said the agency could not immediately provide a response to Daley's suggestions, or produce further information about $200 million in federal money would be spent.