By Tracy Swartz, RedEye
12:31 PM CDT, June 25, 2012
The Chicago Transit Board meets once a month to decide various CTA issues relating to the budget and infrastructure—yet some of the board members don't even ride the CTA that often.
Longtime board member Alejandro Silva rode the CTA zero times last year while board member Rev. Charles Robinson rode the system once, according to data gathered through a Freedom of Information Act request by Going Public.
CTA employees and board members can ride the system for free using their agency-issued pass. The data provided to GP tallies the number of times the board members used their free passes. It doesn't include any rides board members could have paid with their own money.
Board chairman Terry Peterson used his agency pass to ride the CTA 13 times last year—an improvement from when he became chairman of the board in 2009. In an interview with Going Public in 2010, six months into his tenure, he admitted he had not taken the CTA in two years.
"Using a CTA ID card for ridership is just one way board members are familiar with the system. Board members regularly receive reports from CTA operations, infrastructure and maintenance staff that monitor a wide range of CTA topics—everything from vehicle cleanliness and bus bunching, to [Americans with Disabilities Act] complaints and safety incidents, and more," Peterson said in a statement provided to GP. "Also, setting policy and making financial decisions for the agency depends on and draws from a wider range of information and data than is available simply by riding the system."
Silva, who was appointed by Mayor Daley, said through a CTA spokesman that he regularly uses the CTA but pays his own way. Robinson was unavailable for comment.
The CTA board is composed of seven members—four appointed by the mayor and three appointed by the governor. There has been some turnover on the board recently, and two new board members were appointed in the last six months.
Some of the longtime board members ride the system regularly. Jacquelyne Grimshaw, a board member for three years, rode the system 199 times last year while three-year board member John Bouman rode it 67 times.
Meanwhile, CTA president Forrest Claypool rode the CTA 166 times last year since he started the job in late May. Claypool told Going Public recently in a sit-down interview that he is on the system every week.
Last week, Claypool and Peterson hosted community meetings on the South Side about next year's proposed five-month shutdown of the southern portion of the Red Line for construction.
At a meeting Thursday in Englewood, some riders complained that the CTA doesn't understand how the shutdown would affect their commute and their daily lives.
Although there are CTA ridership and infrastructure reports to show why the agency needs to shut the Red Line next year, it would help if officials could see for themselves how much South Side riders depend on the Red Line. They don't even need to ride it daily—just at least once a month.
Going Public sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the CTA for information about how often CTA board members and officials rode the system last year. The CTA issues passes to its board members and employees to ride the system for free.
The data reflects the number of times the officials used this card. The data does not include any times the board members or officials paid a CTA fare with their own money.
The first page of the document shows how many times board members and CTA president Forrest Claypool rode the system last year.
The second and third pages of the document shows how many times CTA officials rode the system last year. A date next to the official's name indicates the official started that job on that date last year. View the document HERE.
Two CTA Red Line stations will see renovations starting this week. The Morse stop in Rogers Park will close Friday for up to six-weeks as the CTA improves the stationhouse and viaduct. The CTA recommends Morse riders board the Red Line at the Jarvis or Loyola stops, which are both about three quarters of a mile from the Morse stop.
Meanwhile, work is set to begin this weekend on the Clark/Division stop on the Near North Side. The station will remain open as workers build a new 6,300 square-foot mezzanine and install better signage, lighting and floors.
Talk to us
How often should CTA board members ride the system? Send an email to email@example.com. Please include your full name, age and neighborhood.
A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note
This week: Irving Park Brown Line
This North Center station is the epitome of what every CTA station should be—it is clean, accessible for riders with disabilities and has friendly customer service agents. Even the riders on the station's wall seem to enjoy the ride. Four years ago, artist Juan Carlos Macias created a glass mosaic of riders "in the course of their separate journeys" for the first floor of the stationhouse. If only everyone's destination could be the Irving Park Brown Line.
Next up: LaSalle Blue Line.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC