The Chicago Transit Authority holds a job event to recruit workers. (WTTW News)

Hiring bonuses, retention bonuses and a raise for new employees are all part of the CTA’s plan to attract and keep bus and train operators and mechanics as the agency claws its way out of a huge staffing shortfall.

(WTTW News)

A WTTW News analysis of CTA bus and train operator work records from 2015 to 2021 shows a growing number of employees paid for long average workweeks, which experts say raises questions about worker and passenger safety and the agency’s bottom line.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a news conference after the Nov. 16, 2022, City Council meeting. (WTTW News)
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Lightfoot formally introduced a proposal on Wednesday to the Chicago City Council to create a new tax-increment financing district along the southern branch of the CTA Red Line to fund the extension of the train line first envisioned by former Mayor Richard J. Daley in the 1950s. 

Chicago City Hall. (Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

Mayor Lori Lightfoot initially opposed efforts by members of the City Council to require the heads of the city’s sister agencies to answer questions from the City Council but dropped her objections Wednesday. 

(WTTW News)

The CTA’s Board of Directors approved a $1.8 billion operating budget for 2023, a plan that doesn’t include fare increases for passengers. But with ridership still down from pre-pandemic levels, the budget relies on nearly $400 million in federal stimulus money to make up for lost fare revenue. 

CTA President Dorval Carter addresses the Chicago City Council’s Transportation Committee on Nov. 10, 2022. (WTTW News)

The transit agency’s leader talked about what the CTA is doing to address staff shortages, homelessness, crime and more. And alderpeople told him what they’re hearing from constituents and seeing for themselves: long waits, angry riders and a tough road back to regular service.

This file photo shows a southbound CTA Red Line train in Chicago. (WTTW News)

“It is not a good look for him to have the oxygen and audacity not to show up,” Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th Ward) said.

This file photo shows a southbound CTA Red Line train in Chicago. (WTTW News)

CTA President Dorval Carter on Thursday outlined a strategic plan to overhaul the transit agency’s service and bolster its role in the Chicago area’s transportation network. The CTA’s new “Meeting the Moment” initiative is aimed at moving the much-used and much-critiqued transit service into a “post-pandemic” future.

CTA President Norval Carter appears on “Chicago Tonight” on Aug. 3, 2022. (WTTW News)
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In an appearance on “Chicago Tonight,” CTA President Dorval Carter said the agency is working closely with the Chicago Police Department to deploy additional resources to address crime concerns. Recruitment efforts are also underway to help with a worker shortage. 

This file photo shows a southbound CTA Red Line train in Chicago. (WTTW News)

Amid a double-digit uptick in violent crime along Chicago Transit Authority train and bus lines this year, city officials say they’ll be adding additional officers and security guards on trains and buses around the city.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg speaks at the 95th/Dan Ryan Red Line CTA station on July 16, 2021. (WTTW News)
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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says he’s confident the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill will pass Congress, touting on Friday its bipartisan support and saying both the president and the public are impatient to see the deal finalized.

The CTA is among the agencies hoping for a windfall from a proposed infrastructure spending bill. (WTTW News)

With $2 trillion up for grabs in President Biden’s proposed infrastructure bill, Chicago’s transportation leaders are making a case for urgent repair needs and forward-thinking programs — all requiring the type of major funding infusion only the federal government can supply.

CTA electric bus, at a charging station. (Courtesy of Chicago Transit Authority)

If the trial is successful, CTA will order 17 more buses, bringing the transit agency “one step closer to its goal of having a 100% electric fleet by the year 2040,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter.

A passenger wearing a face mask boards a CTA bus in Chicago. (WTTW News)

The Chicago Transit Authority’s Board of Directors approved the agency’s 2021 operating budget of $1.645 billion on Wednesday, but CTA staff warned of drastic service cuts without another infusion of cash from Congress.

A passenger wearing a face mask boards a CTA bus in Chicago. (WTTW News)

Ridership across CTA trains and buses, Metra commuter trains and Pace buses are down about 70% compared to this time last year. With that dramatic decline in ridership comes lower revenue and strains on operational funding.

A passenger wearing a face mask boards a CTA bus in Chicago. (WTTW News)

Keeping buses and trains running is costly, but public transit agencies in Chicago have yet to see money from the federal stimulus package that passed in late March.