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Could 'design flaw' blamed for Yellow Line accident be a broader problem on the CTA?

Concerns about safety on trains after crash on CTA Yellow Line
Concerns about safety on trains after crash on CTA Yellow Line 02:27

EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) -- The CTA Yellow Line remained out of service Monday – four days after a train crashed into a snowplow locomotive on the tracks, leaving 38 people hurt.

As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported, there was still no word Monday on when Yellow Line, or Skokie Swift, trains will be in service again. But we did learn Monday that it will likely be two or three weeks before we even see a preliminary report with more details on how and why it happened.

"You have 38 people that were injured, and then you don't want to minimize that incident by any stretch of the imagination," said Dr. P.S. Sriraj, director of the Urban Transportation Center at the University of Illinois Chicago. "You want to give it the importance that it needs."

Sriraj said he is not surprised to see service has yet to be resumed on the city's Yellow Line after the accident this past Thursday.

The view from Chopper 2 Monday showed the smashed-up train car is no longer resting in the spot just where an inbound Yellow Line train collided with the snow fighter locomotive.

The accident happened around 10:30 a.m. this past Thursday, at the site where the Yellow Line proceeds from a trench that runs through southern Evanston to an open section of track that runs through the Howard rail yard – ahead of the Howard terminal in Rogers Park.

Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board have been in Chicago since Thursday's crash. At this point, investigators believe it was a the result of a "design flaw."

The NTSB says that flaw has to do with the automatic braking system. Jennifer Homendy, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, said the investigation team determined the design problem made it so the braking distance the train had was 1,780 feet, about 1,000 feet shorter than newer systems.

The NTSB said the CTA was operating on out-of-date information with regard to stopping lengths.

CTA Yellow Line still out of service after crash 02:17

The CTA was aware of the snow equipment on the tracks when the train slammed into it.

In all, 38 people - 31 passengers and seven CTA employees – were on the train were hurt.

The real question is whether the design flaw that has been blamed for the accident is limited to the Yellow Line, or if other parts of the Chicago Transit Authority system might be operating under the old design.

On Saturday, the NTSB said it was "unclear." On Monday, a spokesperson said they have no update for us at this time.

We asked the CTA that question, too, but we were told "the CTA is currently unable to discuss the specifics of the ongoing investigation."

"Now the question is, how do we move forward from that point on?" said Sriraj, "and how do we fix it?"

Sriraj said it is unlikely that other lines have the same sort of braking flaw, because we probably would be hearing about these types of incidents more often.

"At that frequency - at that rate of exposure - it would have led to numerous other incidents or close incidents," he said.

Sriraj said riders should take some relief in that fact.

While service is down on the Yellow Line, a shuttle bus service continues to be available between the Howard and Dempster/Skokie, serving all affected stations during normal hours of operation. There is only one stop between the two terminals on the Yellow Line, at Oakton/Skokie.

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