September 14, 2007 | Mark Paradies

Will Discipline Fix the CTA’s Problems?

The main thrust of a comment by Mayor Daley in Chicago seems to be that if you punish enough people, future accidents will be prevented – or so an article in the Chicago Tribune implies…

At a news conference the paper quotes Major Daley saying:

“I don’t manage the CTA, [CTA President] Ron Huberman does. Any time you have an accident, you have an investigation. Then you have the proper penalties for the individual, and discipline, and that’s what they have done. They have allowed this to be thoroughly investigated, and they are not afraid of the outcome. The outcome shows there were deficiencies, and they have corrected it.”

The article states that Huberman, who appeared with Daley at a South Side news conference on an unrelated subject, said that heads rolled after the accident. He is quoted as saying:

“The director in charge of this group has been replaced. The manager in charge of this group has been replaced. The supervisor has been replaced. And the foreman has been replaced. Everyone was held ultimately accountable for this.”

The article says that the NTSB’s investigation concluded that the derailment in a stretch of Blue Line subway was caused by the CTA’s “ineffective management and oversight of its track inspection and maintenance program and its system safety program, which resulted in unsafe track conditions.” Bob Chipkevich, Director of the the NTSB’s office of railroad, pipeline and hazardous materials investigations, said the CTA’s track inspection and maintenance were the worst he had ever seen at a U.S. transit agency.

The article also mentioned that Huberman stated that:

“Significant changes have been put into place, new auditing functions have been put into place … and new technology has been put in place.”

He also said:

“You have a brand new team. This was the result of the 2006 derailment. … We have accelerated many changes, and they are in place today, making it a safe system.”

So what’s the answer? Replacing people or accelerating changes and new technology? Was it the people (who are now gone) or the politics that caused the problems? Was the poor maintenance, faked reports, and bad surveys caused by four bad people or was their a culture that caused poor performance? Did the culture change or did we just put new people into the old culture?

More stories about this accident are available at:,ntsb091107.article,1,3577989.story

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