Back in 2018, Curious City talked with former Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) rail operators and learned the ins and outs of a day on the job.
While the logistics of being a rail operator have largely stayed the same, a lot has changed since the COVID pandemic began.
Like other transit agencies in the U.S., the CTA is facing a labor shortage, which has had cascading effects on service. Previously, bus and rail operators could only be hired from the CTA’s existing part-time or contingent workforce. The most recent union contract negotiation, in February 2022, changed that for bus operators, who can now be hired full-time. But critics say the path to becoming a rail operator remains too long.
This week, we hear from former Chicago rail operators about what’s changed about the job — and check in with CTA and union leadership about recent efforts to recruit more operators.
Hannah Edgar is a writer, editor and audio producer based in Chicago.