Alderman want to bring back conductors mostly for safety reasons. Some even cite the issue of terrorism. The reason to eliminate subway conductors were thanks to technology improvements as cameras, improved communications, etc. The main reason why the conductors jobs were eliminated was to save money. Here's some quotes...
"I've never seen a camera carry anybody off a train. If someone needs assistance, can a camera grab somebody by the arm and assist that woman and assist that senior off the train? If the train is on fire ... how does a camera help you tell somebody that it's time to go in this direction?" said Ald. Issac Carothers (29th).Also mentioned is the derailment that occurred on the CTA Blue Line on July 11th. The article claimed they would miss conductors on this day...
"Just tell the truth and say CTA doesn't want to pay for them and leave it at that rather than try to snow us and tell us how technology can take care of it."
Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th) sponsored a resolution urging the CTA to use Homeland Security funds to restore subway conductors. She pointed to the 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people as evidence that Chicago should err on the side of caution.
"People are out here in this world willing to strap bombs on their bodies and blow themselves up in the name of their beliefs. ... We're supposed to plan for the worst case and, then, work backwards and pray it never happens," Lyle said.
The CTA eliminated 300 to 400 conductors in a 1997 cost-cutting move, but retained 25 of them on subways. They got on at Fullerton, rode until Cermark, and turned around and did it again. Two years later, the subway conductors were eliminated, too, and absorbed into other jobs.
CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney said eliminating conductors back then saved $13 million. Bringing them back just on the subway system today would cost $24 million because the trains run 24 hours. If conductors were returned throughout the system, it would cost $45 million, she said.
The union called Gaffney's figures "highball" and said it would cost $1.5 million to $2 million to restore 25 conductors on the subways.
A CTA Blue Line train derailed just west of the Clark and Lake subway station at the height of the afternoon rush. Passengers complained they were left to find their own way through a dark and smoky tunnel because they didn't hear any announcements from the train's motorman. Instead of using the train's PA system, the motorman went car-to-car with a flashlight instructing passengers to head to an emergency exit 400 feet away from the front of the train.And read this article about a retired CTA conductor. He seems to be for brining back the job. We'll see if this will work though.
But the motorman didn't make it to every car. Among those he missed was the eighth and final car, which caught fire after both sets of wheels jumped the tracks.