Transit Briefs: CTA, MARTA, MBTAWritten by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) signs agreement with U.S. Army as part of veteran recruitment efforts. Also, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) receives AAA credit rating from Standard & Poor’s (S&P); and Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey deploys independent team of experts to expedite CRRC’s (China Railway Rolling Stock Corp.) delivery of remaining train cars to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).
CTA on Feb. 15 signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Army to join the Partnership for Your Success (PaYS), a recruiting initiative that prepares Army soldiers for their future after honorably serving the country. This partnership, the agency says, is the latest in a series of initiatives the CTA has taken to recruit and support the veteran workforce.
The Army PaYs partnership will provide the CTA a new direct recruiting channel for veteran men and women of the U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserves, Army National Guard, and the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.–a vital asset as the agency works to “aggressively recruit and strengthen its workforce.”
According to the agency, CTA has a long history of welcoming veteran workers and is “committed to recruiting even more veterans whose skill sets and experiences gained through the military translate well and are a natural step into numerous CTA positions.”
To help increase veteran recruiting and better serve those who are currently employed by the CTA, several new initiatives have recently been implemented, including:
- Participation in multiple local and military-based job fairs.
- Partnering with organizations, such as Recruit Military to post positions and expand the veteran applicant pool.
- Building a CTA veteran resources website that includes a career transition assistance tool which matches Military Occupational Specialty codes to CTA-specific positions.
- Establishing Veteran Employee Resource Group – also known as VERG — an internal veterans’ committee called to expand the Veteran footprint at CTA and better serve veteran employees and their families, by providing them with information on available benefits, offers, discounts, and opportunities.
“CTA is committed to becoming an employer of choice for veterans because we recognize and value their unique experiences, skills, and knowledge,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “Through recruitment and partnership efforts, we strive to offer the support and resources our Veterans and their families need to succeed in our community and workforce.”
CTA says it has expanded recruitment and hiring efforts as part of the “Meeting the Moment” Action Plan, a multi-tiered effort to provide more reliable service and improve the customer experience. New operators and mechanics are critically needed in helping the CTA address an industry-wide worker shortage, the main contributing factor behind current service reliability challenges.
Operator and mechanic positions are often the first step in establishing a long, rewarding career within the diverse field of transportation, the agency said. Several of CTA’s executives and management began their careers at the CTA as mechanics and operators and have quickly risen through the ranks.
The CTA is currently offering a $1,000 hiring bonus, plus eligibility to earn retention bonuses through December 2023, based on hire date. In addition, the starting hourly rates for select union positions have recently been increased, including that of full-time Bus Operators (now $28.99, with a top pay rate of $38.66), and for Bus Mechanics (start at top rate now $40.59).
CTA says it remains focused on recruiting talent in 2023 with three additional events planned in the coming months. Over the past year, CTA held 13 in-person and virtual career fairs, with the most recent job fair held in January attracting nearly 700 hundred interested applicants.
MARTA on Feb. 16 announced that it has received an AAA credit rating, the highest rating issued from S&P and Knoll Bond Rating Agency. AAA-rated bonds, the agency says, have a high degree of creditworthiness and illustrate MARTA’s “ability to easily meet its financial commitment with the lowest risk of default.”
According to MARTA, in fiscal year 2022, the agency’s sales tax revenues reached an all-time high of $665 million, and sales tax revenues for the first six months of fiscal 2023 are up 9.1% year-over-year and forecasted to be $708.4 million. MARTA reported a $729 million reserve balance for fiscal year end 2022, and 10 consecutive years of operating surpluses.
“This exceptional credit rating from both S&P and Kroll reflects MARTA’s strong fiscal management and is further proof that sales tax revenue is expanding due to the growth in this region,” said MARTA General Manager and CEO Collie Greenwood. “An AAA rating underscores the strength of our long-term revenue growth, substantial and growing reserve balances, and shows we are well-positioned to increase our competitiveness for federal funding and meet the expansion commitments made to our jurisdictional partners.”
“The timing of these rating increases couldn’t be better as we are planning to refinance two bonds in coming months,” added MARTA Chief Financial Officer Raj Srinath. “The AAA credit rating will help lower our borrowing costs to potentially save even more than previously projected. At the end of the day, we expect the projects in our Capital Improvement Program to be fully funded while still maintaining a high debt-service coverage ratio.”
“An AAA bond rating places MARTA at the top of national transit agencies in terms of financial health,” said MARTA Board of Directors Chair Thomas Worthy. “That this perfect rating comes on the heels of a global pandemic that negatively impacted the transit industry speaks volumes about the strength of MARTA’s financial management and planning, and reassures our customers, investors, and partner jurisdictions that we can and will make good on our promises.”
Gov. Maura Healey announced on Feb. 15 that she has deployed an independent team of experts to “expedite CRRC’s delivery” of remaining Red and Orange Line train cars to the MBTA. The team has already started work and will have a “physical presence at the Springfield’s factory moving forward,” according to a Boston Herald report.
“In fact, our Secretary of Transportation was out there on the ground on Monday, and we are going to be all over this,” Gov. Healey said, according to the Boston Herald report. “Basically, right now there are operational issues that need to be addressed and problems are being corrected as they occur. The team will have a constant presence at the facility.”
According to the Boston Herald report, Gov. Healey “addressed this issue when asked to respond to a Boston Herald report that revealed a stunning number of defects that have plagued the new Orange and Red Line train cars, and repeated criticism by the MBTA that its Chinese contractor was taking a lackadaisical approach to resolving them.”
According to the Boston Herald report, a Gov. Healey spokesperson told the newspaper on Tuesday that the governor had “engaged three companies, Hatch, Wilmer Hale and Holland & Knight, for the independent working group, a cost that will be deducted from the project’s existing budget.”
Gov. Healey said Wednesday that this team of technical experts and engineers will “figure out how to retool things at the facility and how to operationalize that so we can expedite the production and the delivery of these cars as quickly as possible,” the Boston Herald reported.
According to a Boston Herald report from January, only 78 of new Orange Line cars out of 152 and 12 of 404 Red Line cars have been delivered.