The Tribune reported this morning on a memo circulated by a high-ranking CTA official that said trains should not linger at stations waiting for riders to board. The CTA has since discredited the memo, which was written after CTA President Forrest Claypool complained that an operator closed and opened his doors "several" times at the Sedgwick Brown Line stop before departing.
Though CTA officials rejected the memo, it presents a good opportunity to talk about rush-hour boarding of trains. Boarding times are slowed during rush hour as a crush of riders try to squeeze on and off trains at high-capacity stations such as Belmont and Fullerton.
Much of this lag can be blamed on the riders who refuse to get out of the doorway when the train doors open--causing riders to have to try to squeeze through a tighter space at the doorway. Also, if riders aren't paying attention and it's their stop, they try to leave the train late as others are getting on, which slows down the boarding process.
I think it's OK for trains to linger outside of rush hour when train service isn't as frequent, but I don't think trains should wait for riders during rush hour. The wait times are long enough as people exit and enter, and often, doors open and shut multiple times because some riders don't realize they are standing at the door's edge.
Sometimes riders will force themselves onto the train even though there's no room because they don't trust that there's a train behind the current train. The CTA could help mitigate this problem by putting digital train trackers in each of its stations, especially in the subways, where cell service may be spotty for those checking the online Train Tracker.
The new rail cars with the aisle-facing seats may also help. The aisle is wider, which should allow riders to move closer to the door. Also, riders don't have to ask their seatmates to move so they can get up and exit. The new rail cars are currently on the Green and the Pink Lines. The Red Line won't see these cars until at least next fall after the CTA's five-month renovation of the southern portion of the Red Line.
Meanwhile, the CTA is examining its ridership systemwide. There are times, especially during Cubs games, where one or two full trains will arrive at stations, leaving long lines at the station to board the next available train. Train capacity needs to be beefed up in certain areas--then maybe there would be fewer boarding problems.
Let's send that memo to the CTA.