CTA Motormen Tell All, Share Secrets of Chicago Transit System

To get an idea of what Chicago Transit Authority motormen deal with on a daily basis, NBC 5 Investigates assembled a group of veteran operators from Amalgamated Transit Union local 308. They spoke of the very unpredictable challenges they face.

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Many motormen report being attacked by a passenger on a train - one even threatened with a screw driver.
n"I reached to close the doors and he started coming closer. Eventually he pulled out what he had - a screwdriver - at me," Deborah Lane, who has been a motorman for 10 years, said. "His thing was, 'I'm going to find you, I'm going to kill you.' It took a mental toll on me and I had to take off work for like six months because I never had that done to me before."
n"This kid came up and hit me on the side of the head, with his open hand and before I realized what happened, another kid came up behind him and hit me with a bar or something and hit me so hard on this side of my head, it turned this eye black and blue too," Thomas Moore, a 29-year veteran with the CTA, said.
n"After she missed the train, she spit in my face, blaming me for her missing the Purple Line trains," Kenneth Franklin, who has been with the CTA for 15 years and been a motorman for 5 years, said.
n"He came through the window, kicked me in the side, and just was standing over me, beating me ," said 11-year CTA veteran Marcene Anderson.
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Not only do motormen report dealing with feces, urine and vomit - they report dealing with it frequently.
n"And we have to operate them with that smell, all the way for 50 minutes," said Deborah Lane.
nMore recently, many said they have encountered bed bugs.
n"This is like out of a horror story, where we've had individuals, homeless, so infested with bed bugs, that you can see the bugs activity on that person," Kenneth Franklin said.
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"On a daily basis I see a lot of homeless people who are covering up seats for people trying to sit, trying to cause confrontations," Thomas Moore said. "Once we get to Howard, I have to get the train in the yard, and one way or another, I have to get those homeless people off the train and most of the time there's confrontations with them."
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Bed bugs, motormen say, have become a growing problem on CTA trains.
n"When someone hits the intercom button, we have to go and assess that this person does have bugs on them, they have to let everyone off the train and on to another car, and we have to get that passenger off of the train and wait until they are escorted off the property. But at that point, that car is infested," Anthony Jones said.
nInformed of the motormen’s complaints, a CTA spokesman told NBC 5 Investigates that the presence of bedbugs is “very rare, in the context of the hundreds of thousands of rail trips CTA provides each year.”
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Of the six motormen interviewed by NBC 5, four said they've seen someone having sex on a train. In addition, others reported similar incidents on their trains.
n"The woman was sitting on top of the man, and they had their coats around them and she was just riding him," Marcene Anderson said. "And people were pushing the button, and before I could respond, I look through the window and I see what's going on- they are actually having sexual intercourse."n
n"Someone activated the button, then at the same time the control center called and said that a gentleman was exposing himself in one of the cars," said Anthony Jones. "And I walked back and he was sitting there with his hands in his jogging pants and said 'I didn't do anything.' I was like, 'Then why are your hands in your pants?' I'm like, 'You've got to get off the train.'"
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Not only do many motormen report seeing people shooting heroin on trains, they also find leftover needles.
n"I've seen them with the needle in the hand and once they came to the stop, they got off the train and left the needle in the crease," Marcene Anderson said.
n"If they're in the back car shooting the needle up and we reverse and go to the head car, we as an operator need to look in the crevasse before we open the door, because we find hydraulic needles right in our work area," Deborah Lane said, noting they are also found in the rim of windows when they are being opened.
n"We have to find a glove to remove that needle so we don't prick ourselves. So we can remove it and continue our operation," she added.
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Every motorman NBC 5 spoke with reported having people on the tracks in front of them at one point. One motorman even reported finding a person on the tracks between tunnels and having to bring that person onto the train to give them a ride the rest of the way. "He identified himself and he wasn't an employee," said Elwood Flowers, who worked for the CTA for 37 years.
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Motormen say they see people frequently walking the catwalk between stations, some even living in the tunnels.
n"Some people are not patient enough to wait for the trains so sometimes they get agitated and walk the catwalk," Deborah Lane said.
nLane said she once discovered someone not only living in the tunnel, but accessing the Chicago Transit Authority's electrical system to watch TV.
n"There was an actual guy that lived in the elevated part of the tunnel, and I didn’t even know that there was even a top part of the tunnel," she said. "He had a TV, mattress and everything connected to CTA's electrical system."
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Motormen can't see cameras in the cars of a train unless the train is stopped.
n"When you push the emergency buttons in one of those cars, I can hear audible sound, but I can't see what's going on," Thomas Moore said. "They have programmed those cameras to not turn on until the trains have stopped."
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Every motorman NBC 5 spoke to said they have had to put out a fire on a train.
n"As the motorman, we're the fireman, we're the policeman, we're the counselor. We're everything. We have multiple jobs to do," Deborah Lane said.
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