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Internal CTA report gives poor marks for train cleaning as city prepares to move to Phase 3 reopening

CHICAGO (WLS) — A Chicago Transit Authority report obtained by the ABC7 I-Team paints a dismal picture of cleanliness on city train lines as the agency prepares for an increase in passengers when the state moves to Phase 3 of the reopening process.

The internal report, which the CTA told the I-Team was preliminary, documented the unsatisfactory results from covert inspections conducted last week on train car cleaning at three stations – one on the Blue Line and two on the Red Line.

In their May 18 inspection at the Blue Line O’Hare station, the CTA’s undercover safety team checked how cleaners worked on the cars after the last passengers disembarked and before the car returned to service. Each cleaner “appeared to have a different method,” the report said, and “none wiped down the high touch surfaces…there were homeless passengers that remained in the car…there definitely was not enough time to do a thorough cleaning.”

Test swabs revealed organic material still on most handrails after cleaning, the report stated.

During the May 19 inspection at the Howard Red Line station, the safety team report “a thorough cleaning was not being done…cleaning only consisted of the sweeping of each rail car. High touch areas were not addressed…no disinfectants present.” Photos included with the report showed dirty mop water and used towels. The report also said homeless people would not exit the train at the end of the line, further limiting proper cleaning.

On May 20, the safety team observed similar problems at the 95th street Red Line station. The report explained how one worker “sprayed foam cleaner on a few seats and wiped it off with the same towel.” Inspectors also noted “broom/dustpans, and mop/dirty water. No other chemicals were present… None of the servicers wiped down the high touch surfaces.”

The Transit Authority confirmed the document as part of a new audit effort.

In a statement to the I-Team, CTA officials said the inspections were part of a new audit effort they initiated: “It is a preliminary report, and the results and observations have not been verified.

“It includes information from a first-ever CTA test of a new piece of equipment used to gauge cleaning effectiveness. It’s the first time CTA has used the equipment, and we want to ensure it was used correctly and the results properly recorded,” the CTA said in the statement.

The contents of the report were described by one CTA official as “unacceptable” if accurate. But, the CTA cautioned that the report was a snapshot of a few trains and the information was intended for discussion aimed at making things better.

The agency also pointed to handout video of what they call one of the most rigorous cleaning regimens in the U.S. and their use of new electro-sprayers, misters, power washers and UV technology aimed at deeper cleans.

Click here to read the full CTA report

FULL CTA STATEMENT

CTA takes cleaning seriously, and uses industry-standard practices, materials and equipment to ensure the cleanest environment possible for customers and employees.

During the pandemic, CTA has continually reevaluated and updated our cleaning practices, which is why we have already undertaken a number of steps that will further enhance our cleaning protocols. CTA recently introduced two new technologies to expand our cleaning efforts, including electrostatic sprayers, which produce a mist of cleaner/disinfectant to clean the entire interior of railcars and buses, and an antimicrobial surface coating designed to prevent viruses from attaching to surfaces. We will soon introduce dedicated CTA CleanTeams at our rail terminals, who will clean trains at the end of the line, dedicating more manpower to that effort than ever before. We will also soon deploy mobile power-washing teams that will be deployed across the system to clean 50-75 rail stations per week.


CTA recently created an internal audit system to review our cleaning efforts and identify any possible gaps, or areas that need improvement.

The document provided to you is part of that audit effort-it is a preliminary report, and the results and observations have not been verified. It includes information from a first-ever CTA test of a new piece of equipment used to gauge cleaning effectiveness. It’s the first time CTA has used the equipment, and we want to ensure it was used correctly and the results properly recorded.

While the audit is a snapshot of one part of CTA’s cleaning efforts, it doesn’t reflect the comprehensive cleaning regimen we have in place.

Cleaning Regimen

CTA has one of the most rigorous cleaning regimens of any US transit agency:

Cleaning BEFORE service: Every rail car and bus is cleaned before it leaves for daily service-this includes wiping down seats, stanchions, grab handles and surfaces with disinfectant, as well as sweeping and trash removal.

Cleaning WHILE IN service: Workers disinfect the high-touch surfaces of rail cars at all terminals after they finish a run and before they turn around for another run. Workers have also been stationed at the Navy Pier, Jefferson Park, Howard and Midway bus terminals to use a disinfectant/cleaning spray to wipe down high-touch surfaces of buses serving 30 different routes.

Routine deep cleans: In addition to the daily cleanings, all vehicles undergo a routine “deep clean”, which entails intensive cleanings of the interior surfaces from the top of windows to the floor. Each night of the week, approx. 300 vehicles — 150 rail cars and 150 buses — are deep cleaned. As part of this process, crews use a 3-in-1 product that cleans, disinfects and deodorizes all surfaces of the vehicles, including:

NEW cleaning efforts CTA is implementing:

NEW: Electro-sprayers for deeper cleans
CTA’s new eMist devices apply cleaning solution as a mist, providing for more thorough coverage. Machines will supplement our existing deep-cleaning measures and allow us to clean vehicles more efficiently and thoroughly

NEW: anti-microbial surface coating


Currently testing new products on the interior of our vehicles that prevent certain materials (e.g. bacteria, viruses, liquids, etc.) from sticking to treated surfaces for an extended period of time.

NEW: Investigating UV light cleaning
MTA is the first agency in country to test UV light cleaning, to disinfect trains, buses and stations.
CTA is closely monitoring and in regular communications with MTA to discuss their findings.

Additional Background:

MTA is deploying 230 mobile “Far Ultra Violet C” units into NYC’s subway system early next week.

MTA is gauging the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the UV light technology in joint collaboration with Columbia University.

NEW: Mobile cleaning SWAT teams will be power-washing stations
Ten 4-5 member mobile power-washing teams will be deployed across the system. The crews are expected to power-wash 50-75 rail stations per week.

NEW: CleanTeams at terminals to enhance end-of-line cleaning
Hygiene crews will soon be deployed at all CTA rail terminals and at some of our busiest stations. These crews will clean trains at the end of the line, dedicating more manpower to that effort than ever before. Some crew members will be detailed to clean high-touch areas at stations.

NEW: Potential one-time distribution of hand sanitizer in travel-size bottles

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Source: ABC7 Chicago

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