The Chicago Transit Authority board approved an expansion of Amazon delivery lockers at CTA train stations during its July board meeting on Wednesday.
At the same meeting, agency leaders also outlined the CTA’s relatively stable financial position — and its embattled president’s hopes to transform Chicago’s transit system into one that will rival major world cities known for superior service.
The Amazon deal follows a pilot program that was initially approved in 2020 and extended multiple times. The e-commerce giant currently has delivery lockers at the 95th and Thorndale stations on the Red Line, the Cicero station on the Green Line and the Pulaski station on the Orange Line. Amazon is authorized to place an additional locker at the Cumberland Blue Line station.
Wednesday’s measure will allow Amazon to expand its footprint of lockers by mutual agreement between the company and CTA staff. Under the terms of the deal, the agency said Amazon will pay $50 per month for each location and be solely responsible for the costs of installation and upkeep.
The CTA touted the lockers as a convenience for customers and a way to reduce congestion and pollution from Amazon’s ubiquitous delivery trucks and vans. The program is a three-year deal, with two options to extend it by a year.
Wednesday’s meeting also brought some positive news about the beleaguered transit agency’s financial picture. The CTA’s chief financial officer said total revenue through May was $10.1 million higher than expected and $23.2 million above the same time period last year. The CTA also said it has managed to hold down operating costs this year, coming in $47.2 million under budget through May.
Another piece of good news came with agency leaders touting that May was the CTA’s busiest month of ridership since the pandemic began, with bus trips hitting 67% of May 2019 levels and rail hitting 53%. Several special events — including Taylor Swift and Dead & Company concerts, as well as multiple summer festivals — also boosted the CTA’s ridership for the week of June 4-10 to 5.63 million, the highest weekly level the agency said it’s seen since COVID-19 struck.
According to the CTA’s newly overhauled performance metrics scorecard, the agency’s employee shortfall has remained relatively steady, with recent hiring outpacing attrition. Another in-person job fair is scheduled for Malcolm X College on Friday, August 25.
But as the agency works to boost sagging ridership and fill staffing gaps, it continues to rely on federal relief funding. With about $1.16 billion of COVID-19 stopgap money left in CTA coffers, the agency’s chief financial officer said the CTA hopes to make its relief cash last through late 2025 or early 2026.
CTA President Dorval Carter told the board his agency is working with Metra, Pace, the Regional Transportation Authority and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning on how to address the fiscal cliff facing the Chicago area’s transit agencies. CMAP has been charged by the Illinois General Assembly with drafting an action plan, which Carter said that agency plans to present to the CTA board in the near future.
Carter also said recovering from the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic can be a transformational opportunity to go beyond the status quo.
“We have the ability to … have a conversation about what we need to actually continue to improve our transportation system to really make it on par with … Madrid, London, Paris, Hong Kong,” Carter said. “Those are considered, in my industry, world-class transit systems in that they provide a level of service, a frequency of service, a quality of service that ultimately is driving not only increased ridership on their system, but also increased economic development and growth.”