O’Hare train accident part II: Examining the CTA’s safety record

Earlier this week, we began a discussion about the O’Hare Airport train crash that injured approximately 32 people. Although operator fatigue appears to be the primary cause of the train accident, the transit union alleges that fatigue is just one of many safety problems associated with working for the Chicago Transit Authority.

Late last week, the local NBC News affiliate reported on the CTA’s safety record over the past decade, and the report was not flattering. According to “NBC 5 Investigates,” The CTA had the highest number of train derailments, collisions and transit fatalities in the nation.

With an average of 15 collisions per year, the CTA had higher collision rates than cities like New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The years 2009 and 2010 each saw 21 collisions.

There were five CTA derailments just last year. Over the last 10 years, the CTA also led in this metric. Since 2004, the CTA has also averaged six rail fatalities each year; the highest in the nation. It is unclear how many of these deaths were suicides.

Officials for the CTA have said that the Chicago Transit Authority stands by its safety record, noting that the trains carry some 500 million riders each year. Still, it is hard to explain away the fact that the CTA has higher fatality/collision/derailment rates than New York, which has the nation’s largest transit system.

One thing is clear: this train crash did not need to happen and could have been prevented. As with other CTA accidents over the past year, injured passengers will likely be filing lawsuits very soon.

Source: NBC Chicago, “Data Shows CTA Ranks Near Bottom For Safety,” March 28, 2014