Your NPR news source
Dorval Carter Jr. speaking behind podium

Chicago Transit Authority President Dorval Carter Jr.

Pat Nabong

CTA boss says Yellow Line crash conditions are isolated, not systemwide

The head of the Chicago Transit Authority on Wednesday said none of the system’s other train lines are subject to “the same design features” that are being investigated as the potential cause of the Yellow Line crash.

In his first public remarks since the crash Nov. 16, CTA President Dorval Carter brushed aside criticism that he has remained silent and said National Transportation Safety Board rules prohibit him from commenting on the investigation.

But he tried to allay speculation that conditions that led to the crash are a systemwide issue. The NTSB has said that residue on the tracks and miscalculated braking distances may be factors behind the crash.

“We have analyzed our entire system, and there are no other locations equivalent to this section of the Yellow Line,” Carter said at a CTA board meeting Wednesday. “Following the incident, we worked quickly to confirm that no other areas of the CTA rail system have the same design features as are indicated on the Yellow Line itself.”

“For this reason, as we await future visits and reviews by NTSB of certain important factors, we are focused on implementing mitigation efforts targeting on the Yellow Line and moving the investigation forward.”

The NTSB is probing why Yellow Line trains in that section of track were designed to stop in a certain distance but needed much more. The operator was signaled to apply the brakes 1,780 feet before the snowplow but needed 2,745 feet to stop, NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy has said.

Yellow Line service remains suspended more than three weeks after a commuter train collided with a piece of snowplow equipment, as NTSB investigators continue to gather information.

Carter said the line would reopen once that information gathering is complete, although he said the NTSB will continue to probe the site “in the coming days.” The CTA is assisting the NTSB in gathering that information, including details about the signal system, tracks and equipment, and performing tests along the line, he said.

The lengthy track suspension is worth the wait for safety’s sake, Carter said.

“As CTA president, the safety of CTA riders and employees is of absolute paramount importance to me. An incident like the one on Nov. 16 warrants intensive reviews of various aspects of Yellow Line operations,” he said.

A day after the NTSB released its preliminary report on the crash, Carter said it was notable that the report does not speculate on the cause of the incident. He said it remains under investigation.

In conjunction with the report’s release, the CTA revealed it will implement lower speed limits for Yellow Line trains and will clean tracks to address residue or debris that may have slowed braking. The CTA will also enhance communication about rail equipment on tracks.

“These are all steps the CTA will take out of an abundance of caution,” Carter said.

Carter said the CTA is implementing the changes by itself and had not been issued any safety directives by the NTSB.

It’s not unusual for equipment to use the same tracks as commuter trains, Homendy in an NTSB briefing Tuesday. “What’s important is that the system know it’s there,” she said.

The Latest