Another Dropped Ball by CTA Communications Staff

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Sure seems that way. Four weeks ago — and four weekends ago — I emailed the CTA to suggest that the hyper-useful “Events Affecting CTA Weekend Service” press release be published on the Customer Alerts page of the CTA website. That would be the page where most customers look first to learn about service diversions. Up until then, the CTA only posted the press release in question to the Press Releases page of their website. The page that you’re more likely to browse to read a vendor announcement or, more recently, the CTA’s official rebuttal to an arbitrator’s contract ruling.

Realizing that if given a choice between a page called “Customer Alerts” and a page called “Press Releases”, as they are on the front page of the CTA website, customers would naturally head to the former to seek out service-disruption information, CTA communications vice-president Noelle Gaffney sent me a personal email thanking me for the publishing suggestion and announcing that she had already instructed the communications staff to begin posting the weekend diversion press release on the “Customer Alerts” page. I even received a follow-up email from the communications staff, itself, telling me that the new publishing policy had already begun. In fact, I received two of them. All within hours of emailing my original suggestion.

Trouble is, although I was informed specifically by a CTA vice-president about the new publishing policy, they haven’t actually bothered to do it. Twice in the past four weeks since the email I received from Noelle Gaffney, CTA communications staff haven’t bothered to post the “Events Affecting CTA Weekend Service” alert before the weekend. Two weeks ago, the press release appeared on the “Customer Alerts” page Saturday afternoon, 24 hours after it would have had any real use for customers. This weekend, it hasn’t appeared at all. Also in the past two weeks, I’ve emailed Noelle Gaffney twice about the emails I received from her and her staff promising to put the new publishing policy into action. As you may have guessed, I’ve received no response.

Admittedly, the CTA has been a bit busy this week, what with making 1,000 riders think that they were about to die from terrorism because a motorman didn’t have the good sense to use a public-address system to inform them what was going on after a Blue Line train derailment (now apparently due to shoddy CTA track maintenance work). But let’s be real. Posting a pre-written snippet of text on a webpage takes, perhaps, all of 15 seconds.

The moral of this story, if there is one, is that perhaps the voices lambasting CTA’s ability to communicate with riders, especially when pesky subjects are involved like, say, the truth or current events, are correct. Maybe CTA vice-president Noelle Gaffney didn’t tell me the truth. Maybe her staff is simply too inept to actually follow her orders. Whatever the reason for CTA’s repeated inability to stand behind its word to riders, the question I keep getting led back to here is if you can’t trust the word of a member of CTA senior management, who can you trust? Perhaps, simply, the riders, pitchforks and spears in hand, calling for the head of the CTA.

Mismanagement, indeed.

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