Articles Posted in Public Transit

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Our team of lawyers is dedicated to keeping Chicago a safe place for the members of our community, and part of that job is alerting our readers to recent events, safety concerns, and local area legal knowledge. One important issue that should be consistently on all of our minds is public transportation safety. Chicagoans, and those who live in the surrounding suburban greater metropolitan area, rely on Chicago public transportation a great deal.

Every day in the Windy City, thousands of people utilize public transportation, including our CTA buses and el system, and Metra commuter trains. When riding Chicago public transportation, riders should be able to trust that they are on a vehicle that is safe, in fully operational and functioning condition, and that they are in the hands of a fully capable and competent driver. Riders should not have to distrust the public transportation system or fear that their safety may be compromised.

Not only should riders feel comfortable on the city’s public transportation system, but employees should be kept safe as well. For instance, according to a recent article by CBS Chicago, a CTA Yellow Line derailed. The train was southbound and derailed close to the Dempster-Skokie station in the evening time. Service was not restored until the next day’s morning. The worst part about this instance though, is not the loss of service, but that two CTA employees required medical attention for injuries. Not only are passengers owed a legal duty of care while riding public transportation, but the city of Chicago and the management of CTA owe a legal duty to their employees to keep them safe in their line of work and while on duty. Employees are legally required to provide their employees with a safe working environment, warn them of known dangers, and to prevent dangerous situations from occurring.
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Chicago area public transportation has made the news quite often recently, unfortunately not in praise, but in notoriety. From train accidents during the polar vortex and to the derailing of the CTA blue line at the O’Hare stops, Chicagoans have voiced their concern about the string of accidents with both the Metra and CTA trains. Unfortunately, this week another accident occurred again on the CTA blue line rail.

According to an article by the Chicago Tribune, a Blue Line train derailed at the Cicero stop. The train was headed toward Forest Park, but derailed after it hit a truck tire that was on the tracks. One of the train car’s wheels derailed upon hitting the tire, which officials say came from a semi-truck on the Eisenhower expressway. Following the derailment, it took two hours to get the trains back onto the tracks. Six ambulances were called to the scene, but thankfully no one on the train suffered personal injuries.

One witness spoke on her account of situation. She said that as the train departed the Cicero stop a large spark flew into the air, and the first cars appeared to “jump off the track.” After the train derailed, passengers were provided with a step ladder to get back onto the platform, but many were nervous about crossing over third rail (the one that is electric). Emergency responders helped people off the ladder and onto the platform.

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Last week we informed our readers of the news of a Chicago Blue Line CTA train derailing at the O’Hare Airport stop. As investigations continue, news has unfolded regarding how this accident that injured over 30 people could have taken place. In efforts to keep our readers up to date on safety issues regarding Chicago public transportation, we wish to bring you the latest updates as well.

According to one news story by ABC, it appears that the driver of the Blue Line train that derailed and crashed onto the platform and escalator of the stop may have been fatigued and fallen asleep while operating the train. Reports have revealed that the operator of this train worked on a schedule called an “extra board.” This means that her shift and assignments change every day.

Prior to the accident, she had worked about 69 hours in the seven days prior, which is allegedly typical for the extra board shifts. However, CTA argues that the driver had worked only 55 hours in the previous seven days. They also say that she had been off for 18 hour before her shift during which this accident occurred. They also elaborate that the operator had requested additional hours, which were two shifts that added up to 13.6 hours, and due to a Union agreement, they were required to provide the operator with those requested additional hours. Investigations are still continuing.

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News of an accident on one of Chicago’s most traveled CTA lines shocked many and flooded local media outlets. According to an article by CBS News, a CTA blue line train derailed at the O’Hare Airport stop and traveled onto the platform and up the escalator. Security footage showed the train going much too fast for arriving at its stop and didn’t stop at the bumping post absorber at the end of the tracks. As a result, 32 people on board suffered personal injuries. Thankfully, no one suffered any life-threatening injuries.

What is extremely shocking about this incident is that it is unlike typical accidents we have heard of occurring on the CTA trains and buses. This wasn’t a mere stalling or malfunction. Instead, the train plowed off of the rails and onto the platform, crashing into the escalator. Not only does the CTA transport thousands of individuals per day, but this crash occurred at one of the busiest stops: an international airport.

This accident could have been much worse than it was, only due to timing. Had this same act of negligence occurred at a different time of the day, instead of 2:50 a.m., there easily could have been many more injuries. As one of the nation’s busiest airports, O’Hare is always packed with travelers making their way to and from the airport via the Blue Line train. Most of our lawyers have used this stop and know how congested it can be, especially during rush hours. Had this occurred at another time, the crash could have caused many more injuries, or even fatalities.

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Passengers and pedestrians should feel free from danger when travelling on and around public transportation, such as the Chicago CTA or Metra, even in the face of accidents, as safety precautions and infrastructure should be in place to protect them. The same should go for the cars we drive, and passengers and drivers trust that their cars will keep them from serious personal injuries or death, even upon a collision. However, that was not the case for three victims of a New Year’s Day car accident on Lake Street in Chicago.

According to the Chicago Tribune, two individuals died and one other was critically injured when a car crashed into the steel “L” support column. The accident occurred in the West Garfield Park neighborhood off of Lake Street. The car of the two deceased victims crashed into the steel support column and burst into flames. The victims became trapped in the front seats of the car, unable to escape, and died on the scene of the accident. Early reports did not indicate what factors may have caused the accident.

Motor vehicles contain flammable liquids for fuel, such as gas and oil. Fuels that leak in motor vehicle accidents are combustible and can easily ignite. According to the United States Fire Administration, from 2008-2010, one in seven fires responded to by fire departments across the nation is a highway vehicle fire. 61% of these fires occurred in passenger vehicles, like the one in the above mentioned accident. The leading factor, 44%, of vehicle fires was a mechanical failure.

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This past fall, the Chicago Transit Authority (also commonly known as the CTA), experienced a bizarre incident, caused by employee negligence, on the blue line, which many are now labeling as the “ghost train.” According to the Chicago Tribune, this driver-less train breached multiple safeguards and traveled for almost a full mile before colliding with another blue line train on the morning of September 30th.

According to reports, this was unlike any incident seen previously by city rail workers. The train continued through several stops and curves at the Forest Park station and even passed by two track switches, either which should have stopped the train from continuing. The train even continued uphill near the Eisenhower Expressway and then actually accelerated to 20 mph before ramming into a stopped train picking up passengers at the Harlem stop.

This strange accident, and act of negligence, sent over 30 individuals to local hospitals to be treated for injuries. The impact at Harlem occurred with 40 people on board the stopped train. Due to such injuries and a strange occurrence of events, authorities such as the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Joint Terrorism Task Force became involved in investigation.

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Investigations are underway as to what led two CTA blue line trains to crash into each other earlier this morning. The transit accident occurred in the Forest Park neighborhood shortly before eight o’clock this morning. The accident involved one train that was in operation and one train that was out of service and which had been parked for repairs. At this point it appears that somehow the out of service train rolled out of the station and collided directly with the train that was in operation, and which had about forty passengers onboard.

Part of the reason for all the confusion is that there are certain procedures and safety measures in place to assure that nothing like this happens. The train had to have somehow passed through two stopping points/switches for the accident to occur. This early in the investigation, it is unclear whether the switches malfunctioned or if there may have been foul play involved. Investigators did state for the record that there was no evidence of broken windows, pried open doors or other vandalism at this time. In addition to the safety switches and the locks in place to keep a train from moving when parked, there is an alarm that goes off when the train is traveling too fast and if the operator does not reduce speed in two seconds from the alarm beginning to sound, the system is supposed to automatically brake.

However, since so many safety precautions appear to have failed simultaneously, the investigation will also include a look into if the accident may have related to human error. While it is believed that the train was entirely empty, investigators will not yet rule out the possibility that there could have been someone on some part of the four-car train when the accident occurred. Unlike on airplanes, CTA trains do not have a recording device (similar to a “black box”), so there is no recording of what was happening on the empty train at the time of the accident, which makes the investigation more difficult since there are also no eyewitnesses to the accident known at the current time.

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A Chicago bus accident occurred at approximately 5:30am this morning, injuring eight people on the West Side of Chicago. The bus involved was a Chicago Transport Authority bus, referred to as the Chicago Avenue No. 66 bus, and was at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Pulaski Road in Humboldt Park when the accident occurred. The bus accident occurred when two motor vehicles crashed into the bus as it was traveling on the bus’ route down Chicago Avenue. While it is unclear at this time what led to the accident, it is known that one car crashed into the area around the left front tire and another car crashed near the left rear of the bus.

According to the Chicago Tribune, of the eight people that suffered some type of personal injury in the accident, five of the people were passengers on the bus, one person was the bus driver and the other two people were passengers of the cars that were involved in the accident. The injured people were taken to multiple hospitals around the area and all of those injured were listed in fair to serious medical condition.

Bus accidents can often be very serious and damaging, because of the sizes of the buses in comparison to the sizes of the cars that are involved in the accidents. Luckily, in the accident mentioned above the injuries do not appear to be life threatening even though much smaller cars collided into the bus. Given the severity of many bus accidents, bus drivers should always be extra cautious and aware when operating such large vehicles. All bus drivers should make sure to never drive when too tired, always stay alert and aware of their surroundings when on the road and not let passengers distract them from their driving.

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During yesterday morning’s commute, a serious collision occurred between the Metra Union Pacific Northwest Line and a trailer truck in the Mount Prospect neighborhood. The Union Pacific Northwest Line (UPNW) runs from Harvard to downtown Chicago and already makes several stops before reaching Mount Prospect. The collision between the truck and the train killed the truck driver and caused the front train car of the Metra train to derail. All of the train cars remained upright, but a few dozen passengers received personal injuries from the train accident and were taken to area hospitals or treated on the scene. None of the personal injuries received by the train passengers were believed to be life-threatening.

The derailment of the train car was caused by the impact from the trailer of the truck, which landed to the side of the intersection. The train came to a stop after clearing the crossing. However, the second car of the train was blackened from soot because the truck had caught fire. Passengers reported that the cars filled up with smoke; passengers popped out windows on the upper level of the train to exit. Many passengers apparently feared that the accident was a terrorist attack, but Mount Prospect Police Commander dismissed those fears, stating that the situation appears to be “a driver in a hurry.” One passenger noted that the impact was like an explosion.
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A rail crossing that is infamous for Chicago railroad car crashes is set to be rebuilt this month in order to improve safety before high school classes resume for students who cross the path over the railroad to get to school. Additionally, the Illinois Commerce Commission has urged that the city of Chicago increase traffic enforcement to reduce Chicago train-vehicle crashes at the congested Nagle Avenue crossing on the Union Pacific Railroad corridor.

According to a Chicago Tribune report, vehicles can be stopped on the tracks at Nagle and many other dangerous Chicago railroad crossings on a daily basis, which is seriously dangerous. Drivers routinely take those risks and despite knowledge of the consistent law breaking, most of the hundreds of tickets issued to drivers at the Chicago railroad crossing for failing to yield to trains or for stopping on the tracks were issued by Union Pacific police, not Chicago police officers. Planned changes to increase safety are planned for between August 23 and September 3 and include new signs, better pavement markings, and new concrete crossing panels. City of Chicago traffic engineers are also evaluating whether changes in the timing of signals would keep the rail crossing clear of vehicles when the traffic lights change from green to red.

More information about the fixes for the dangerous Chicago railroad crossing is available at the Chicago Tribune.