Clearing the air under the CTA’s June subway fire probe

A pedestrian captured the June 20 incident using his camera phone (gsxr907/YouTube)

The safety and security of passengers should be the CTA’s top priority.

So it was encouraging to see the transit agency produce a hard-hitting and scathing internal report delving into the circumstances of a scary subway fire and train evacuation that occurred June 20 on the system’s northbound red line between the Chicago and Clark/Division stations.

Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt.

Unfortunately, CTA riders and taxpayers might never have known of this confidential report if it had not been obtained by the Better Government Association, which collaborated on an investigative story with Fox’s WFLD/Channel 32 News.

While one of the BGA’s missions is to disclose such government reports, it’s really the CTA’s responsibility to come clean. The agency should have gone public with its findings, posted its warts-and-all report online and then made its leaders available to media and public scrutiny.

By taking the route of full disclosure, the CTA would have sent the vitally important message that passenger safety and security is Job One and when things go wrong they get fixed.

In addition, the CTA could have used this occasion to draw attention to the stepped-up safety measures now being taken. Many of those efforts are already outlined on the CTA website along with a seven-minute video (see below) highlighting the proper safety and evacuation procedures for exiting a subway during an emergency.

Yet even these measures risk going unnoticed. Finding the safety and security section on the CTA website is a challenge, and the agency’s overall public outreach could be better. To save you a few steps here’s the safety and security section: http://www.transitchicago.com/safety/default.aspx.

Maybe the CTA should also develop an emergency subway evacuation application for mobile phones? Or email a link of its video to passengers who buy a Chicago Card?

Whatever the approach, the CTA must realize that an informed and engaged public is the transit agency’s best traveling companion.

If you agree, let the CTA know about it by sending your comments to the Office of the Inspector General:

Phone: (773) 282-8463
E-mail: hotline@ctaoig.net
In writing:
P.O. Box 641075
Chicago, IL 60664-1075
In person:
567 West Lake Street
8th Floor
Chicago, IL 60661

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