Chief Operating Officer
Chicago Transit Authority
Operating the second-largest transit agency in a cost-efficient manner, while also providing quality service, is a challenge that requires dedicated and skilled employees.
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) serves the city of Chicago and 40 surrounding suburbs. There are 153 bus routes, eight rail lines and all of the facilities and infrastructure that is required to efficiently provide more than 1.7 million rides per day.
CTA has 10,500 employees. While the bus and rail staff are the public face of the agency, it requires each business unit working in conjunction to ensure CTA meets its goal of providing quality service.
It’s important for employees to be aware that the system requires the work of everyone — whether you operate a bus or train; respond to customers’ questions and concerns or work to ensure the stations, trains and buses are ready for service each morning.
To provide that service, it is important to maintain the appropriate work levels today and throughout the future.
CTA seeks to train and develop a young workforce and encourage succession planning so that you don’t lose institutional knowledge.
CTA has a long history of encouraging upward mobility. Most jobs are listed in-house before being made available to the public. CTA also has a tuition reimbursement program whereby employees who wish to learn new skills or to increase their knowledge in order to advance have an opportunity to do so.
Employment at CTA is a career — not just a job. By that I mean people who come to CTA see it as a long-term commitment; there isn’t a lot of turnover in operations.
I began my CTA career in 1975 as a security officer and am now chief operating officer. But I am not alone in years of longevity with CTA. Currently, there are more than 400 employees with 30 or more years of service at CTA; more than 1,500 with 20-29 years of employment; and more than 3,800 with 10-19 years of service time with CTA.
Many of them have transitioned from operator jobs to management positions. For example, both the vice president’s of bus operations and the VP of rail operations started at CTA as bus and rail operators respectively.
CTA provides on-the-job training to new employees. The training incorporates classroom work, simulator training and on-the-road training techniques to ensure new employees are prepared. Training also provides on-going education services so that employees can continue to refresh existing qualifications and obtain new skills.
Still, the knowledge gathered from years of experience is equally as valuable as classroom instructions. That is one reason the agency believes it is beneficial to pair veterans with new hires.
CTA is mindful of the number of employees nearing retirement and works diligently to project the number of individuals who will be needed to fill those positions so that the new employees are introduced to the agency before the veterans leave. That way, the agency is able to partner less experienced employees with veterans of the CTA. This allows the agency to mitigate the so-called “brain drain” — the loss of institutional knowledge when seasoned employees retire.
The agency also operates an internship program that allows college students to work alongside CTA workers to give them insight on what it takes to operate a large system and introduces a career option they previously may not have considered.Students from Northwestern University, the University of Illinois, Northern Illinois University and the University of Wisconsin are among the interns working this summer at CTA.
The agency also collaborates with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois at Chicago to explore new initiatives to help support critical operations and capital investment decisions CTA faces. These collaborations also provides ongoing professional development for CTA employees and the introduction of young transit professionals to CTA employment opportunities.