The culprit isn’t always a horrible traffic jam when CTA customers wait 45 minutes for the next bus to arrive.
Such gaps in service are often due to an individual bus run, or even two runs in a row, being cancelled.
The No. 1 reason behind annulled runs? Manpower shortages, caused predominantly by runaway absenteeism, according to the CTA. Here's the story.
As the CTA ekes out 2011 without a fare increase or service cuts -- but with either or both being strong possibilities next year -- I wanted to drill down into CTA bus and train schedules to examine the number of runs held in and the reasons why.
With the help of Tribune data-analysis expert Brian Boyer, we found big problems, mostly related to chronic absenteeism, on the Blue and Red Lines as well as on numerous bus routes.
The No. 86 Narragansett/Ridgeland, No. 66 Chicago, No. 151 Sheridan, No. 82 Kimball/Homan and No. 22 Clark stood out as having the most missed runs, mainly due to bus drivers failing to show up for work, our Tribune investigation found.
Fridays and Mondays were the leading days for employee no-shows, evidence that many employees are bookending their weekends to extend their time away from work.
Still, the CTA manages to operate most of its published schedule -- at a huge cost. The transit agency expects to spend an additional $40 million this year paying overtime and hundreds of extra workers to come in every day just to cover for workers who call in sick.
The CTA projects that 355,000 days lost among about 7,800 employees will be logged in 2011, resulting in an average of two months lost for each worker.
A union leader said there was rampant absenteeism, but blamed most of it on poor morale among the rank-and-file spurred by inept CTA management.
CTA president Forrest Claypool told the Tribune that the abuse has probably gone on for many years, but that it will stop on his watch.
We’ll be watching.
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