CTA Insecurity a Boon for Joyriders?

CTA's 103rd Street garage (WGN-TV)

Let’s say there are a couple hundred buses at the CTA’s 103rd Street garage.

And let’s say each one of those buses is worth a few hundred thousand dollars.

So let’s figure, conservatively, there’s $60 million in vehicles at the site, plus millions more in parts, fuel and other materials – all owned by taxpayers of the Chicago area.

Sound like a place that might deserve a little security?

Apparently not to the CTA, which acknowledged to the BGA and WGN-TV that there are no surveillance cameras at the garage, except for some “older” models, mostly at the “vault area and storage rooms.”

Security cameras probably would have come in handy last month when a guy pretending to be a CTA bus driver showed up, stole a bus and drove a route, even picking up riders.

A CTA spokeswoman notes there are cameras aboard all buses, and there have been since 2003.

“We don’t have unlimited funding so we have to set priorities,” she said in an email.

And the “high priority” is to disperse cameras in areas frequented by customers, she said.

Lucky for our impostor, but not necessarily good government.

Of course, the CTA has beefed up security in the wake of that embarrassing joyride.

But not everybody is happy about it.

Bus drivers now are being required to make their IDs “visible” while they’re on the clock. Many are wearing them around their necks, like a necklace.

Sounds reasonable, right?

The trouble, according to Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241 chief Darrell Jefferson, is that may encourage rip and runs – in other words, thieves grabbing the IDs, knowing they allow free rides, and then running off.

“That’s definitely a worry for us,” Jefferson said.

But maybe this is good government.

While the guy who made off with the bus was pretty brazen, he certainly wasn’t the first person to steal one.

Jefferson recalled that back in the mid-1990s he was dispatched to the North Side to pick up a bus that had been swiped then abandoned.

That type of thing happens now and then — often because it’s late, there’s no service and someone simply needs “a ride home,” he said.

Don’t remember Ralph Kramden ever telling a story like that.

This blog entry was reported and written by Robert Herguth. Contact us with tips, suggestions and complaints at (312) 821-9030, or at rherguth@bettergov.org.


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