CHICAGO — The CTA recently spent nearly $19 million dollars in federal funding on new high tech security and armed everything with cameras from CTA buses to stations.
So what happened? For all the high-tech bluster, a low-tech criminal embarrassed them.
Late at night on September 9th, a man wearing a CTA uniform walked into a blind spot in one of the CTA bus barns which didn't have a fancy new camera. He drove off in one of their buses and more than a month later, the man is still on the run and no one at the CTA or Chicago Police want to talk about it.
An investigation by WGNTV and the Better Government Association found the thief's wild ride exposed all sorts of security lapses.
"There seems to be a comedy of errors," says Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association. "The police seem to have dropped the ball on this. The CTA apparently had a lack of a sense of urgency."
It starts with a missing uniform. The problem was no one at the bus barn on 103rd St knew it was missing. The CTA confesses, there is no "master list that tracks lost items." So which uniforms are lost, stolen or legit? Who knows.
That is how an imposter was able to waltz in to the garage, start up a bus and take it on a four hour jaunt up and down Chicago streets. He returned around 1 a.m., hit another bus and then ran off into the night.
"He was very very familiar with exactly how to do this," CTA President Richard Rodriquez. "How to actually come in and how to log into the vehicle and how to actually move the vehicle — so and taking it down the route so we just want to better to understand why he attempted to do something like this."
What the CTA President didn't tell the public is that they didn't know about the joy ride for four days. No one from the 103rd St garage called in to report it.
And that's where this story takes yet another strange twist.
Because after taking the bus, the imposter , still in the stolen uniform, showed up the next morning at the Blue Line at O'Hare. This time he was talking to customers at the turnstile.
What happened next depends on who you talk to.
The CTA says its employees pointed out the strange man and the police let him go.
The Chicago Police say an officer stopped him, talked to him, and later contacted the CTA.
Whichever story — one thing is clear, no one in charge had the information they needed and the imposter slipped away once again.
"We are at a time when this country is concerned about terrorism on the rise," says Shaw. "Transit is a big target. Trains and buses are giant targets. Bus barns are targets. No one should get into a bus barn anymore easily than get on an airplane or a tarmac in an airport."