Can We Send Frank Kruesi Home Now?

This month, the CTA finally released a new Night Owl Service brochure, detailing Chicago’s overnight L and bus services. Though a long time in coming, as you can imagine, it’s a slim read. Now to be fair, the agency couldn’t exactly have printed the brochure before it decided whether to dump overnight service entirely, as it considered doing during last year’s budget crisis. But that doesn’t explain why the brochure had already been nonexistent for three years. Or why you can’t find it on the CTA’s website. Ah, the sweet smell of organizational coordination under CTA President Frank Kruesi.

During the past three years, the CTA’s brochure download page kept promising the Night Owl Service brochure was “coming soon”. When I moved to Chicago in 2003, the brochure was already listed as “coming soon”. Three years of “coming soon”.

Finally, last year, in my anal-retentiveness, I sat down with a regular CTA map and traced out the all-night service for myself. It was a shock to see how much of the city loses service overnight, and I wondered whether I had traced things out incorrectly.

Um, no, according to the new Night Owl brochure. In an impressive feat of chutzpah, the brochure’s cover calls CTA’s overnight service “convenient”. And if you live south of Chicago, east of Western, or north of 95th, I suppose it is. However, if you live in the other half of the city, your butt better live near an overnight Red of Blue Line station, or you’ll be dragging it a mile or three just to find a bus stop with service. But that’s not the point.

Given that thousands of overnight service workers (and too-drunk-to-drive DePaul students) rely on late-night CTA service to shuttle across the city, and with last year’s significant ridership increases, it’s good that the brochure’s finally here. But it will come as no surprise to regular CTA riders that in addition to finally getting around to reprinting it, the CTA also chose last month to remove the Night Owl Service brochure information from the CTA website. How hard is it for a marketing department to coordinate with a webmaster anyway? Maybe they just don’t want the word to get out about how stinky overnight service really is.

Speaking of stinky, this is the same Homer-Simpson style of managerial coordination that led the CTA to outlaw bleach. According to the CTA Tattler, it seems one day a CTA employee decided that he could get the platforms extra shiny if he mixed bleach with ammonia. The resulting toxic cloud, instead of leading to the retraining of the employee, led to the banning of bleach. You know bleach? Safe enough for food service and underpants but too dangerous for the CTA? Ever wonder why the system stinks like lime-scented urine much of the time? Because Pine-Sol can’t clean pee.

And just exactly how much letterhead, signage, and public money does it waste to change your agency logo two times in three years?

As reported in the January 20th Chicago Reader (PDF article) but pretty widely known to anyone who’s ever read a Greg Hinz Crain’s column, this fish stinks from the head: none other than Daley pal Frank Kruesi, CTA President since 1997. The Reader really nails Kruesi’s management style, reporting in detail how he withheld information from his own Board of Directors and improperly made a multi-million dollar policy decision without Board knowledge or consent. If you think it was the CTA Board that rejected Citgo’s offer of millions of dollars in free Venezuelan fuel oil last year, think again. Acoording to the Reader, they read about it in the paper like everyone else.

Long post, short point: under Frank Kruesi, if the right hand ever again knows what the left hand is doing at the CTA, it’ll be a miracle. But we’ll still get that shiny Block 37 airport-express L station that will cost $200 million so that 10,000 people a year can save 8 minutes on a trip to O’Hare while the agency can’t find the money to keep Brown Line stations used by 66,000 people a day open during renovation. The man’s salary comes from your tax dollars, folks. Do you really want to fund the purchase of another tacky 1980s windbreaker?

Where’s Larry Reuter when you need him?

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