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Kristina Labanauskas
Kristina Labanauskas
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RTA Finds CTA Rail Safety Needs Improvement

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A recent review of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) revealed that the CTA is safe enough to ride but is in vital need of upgrades. The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), which is responsible for overseeing local transportation operators in the Chicago area, conducted its Triennial review last August. It found that the CTA is doing a poor job of identifying dangerous conditions that lead to accidents and needs to be more vigilant in correcting such conditions. Also, the CTA needs to conduct more emergency-response drills and beef up construction safety.

From January until August 2007, the CTA experienced 13 train derailments and five train collisions in its rail yards.

During the review, the RTA observed trains being coupled, which the RTA advised should not be done in the platform area. The RTA also observed train operators violating the requirement that they keep their heads outside of control cabins while doors close, as it ensures passenger safety.

It is clear that the CTA has work to do. Improvements or not, however, the law regards theCTA as a common carrier, which means that the CTA is expected to exercise the highest degree of care for the safety of its passengers. When there is a deficiency in personnel or equipment, the law is likely to hold the CTA liable for injuries to its passengers.

But while the CTA is held to this highest standard, the law provides that the CTA is entitled to a special statutory notice from anyone making a claim for injuries against the CTA. This notice must be filed with the CTA within six months of the injury. And, after notice is filed, suit must be filed within one year of the injury. Not only is the timing critical, but the substance of the notice must be completed correctly or the case may be at risk for dismissal. So, even if an injured person has a meritorious claim, failure to comply with these technical requirements may result in a dismissal of the case.