CTA updating rail schedules, says goal is improving trackers, service

The CTA is adjusting its rail schedules to better fit with its current workforce, in hopes of addressing concerns over inconsistent service.

The new weekday and weekend schedules, which took effect Sunday, reflect "our efforts to provide consistent and more reliable service," CTA president Dorval Carter Jr was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the transit agency.

"To be clear, this is just a start: We recognize there is more work to do. But we are moving in the right direction and will continue to make additional adjustments to further improve service reliability and consistency," the statement continued.

This is the second time in as many months the CTA has adjusted its rail schedule, but the agency said this update is permanent — unlike the one announced last month.

CTA has been inundated with complaints from riders, elected officials and mayoral candidates over unreliable service. Some commuters have been left waiting on trains and buses for extended periods.


The situation has gotten so dire, one coalition of riders began to independently monitor trains on the Blue Line, checking actual arrivals against the CTA’s posted schedule. Buses and trains that show up on CTA trackers — but never actually arrive when the tracker indicates they should — have been dubbed "ghosts."

CTA’s online tracker relies on both the printed schedule information and real-time GPS data. With the adjusted schedules, the CTA said it expects fewer "ghost" trains.

The transit agency has argued the root of the problem is that it simply doesn’t have enough workers to operate the trains. The CTA said it is trying to overcome the "Great Resignation" — a term for the phenomenon that has hit many employers during the pandemic, as people reassess their jobs and their work-life balance.

Addressing the workforce problem is the only real long-term solution, according to the CTA.

Similar schedule changes were made in September on select routes, but those were temporary. Permanent schedule changes are negotiated between the CTA and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 — the union representing rail operators — twice a year. Once a new schedule is negotiated, the "pick" process begins, as operators choose the routes, days and hours they all work.

This new schedule doesn’t reduce total hours of service on any line, and overnight service will continue on the two lines where it is offered (Blue and Red).

Some rush periods and midday services will see longer wait times, according to the CTA, but the goal is "providing more consistent rail service throughout the day."

The Yellow Line, running from Howard Street to Skokie, is the only line that won’t see weekday schedule changes.

CTA will look at improving CTA bus services with similar schedule adjustments some time this winter, after negotiations and a "pick" process with union representing bus drivers.