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Bed Bug Scare On 'L' Prompts Train Car Cleaning, CTA Says

By Alisa Hauser | September 27, 2016 2:31pm | Updated on September 29, 2016 8:26am
 A CTA rider alleges that he encountered over 30 tiny bugs on a seat on the Red Line and is cautioning riders to look before they sit.
A CTA rider alleges that he encountered over 30 tiny bugs on a seat on the Red Line and is cautioning riders to look before they sit.
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CHICAGO — The CTA has removed at least one Red Line "L" train to be cleaned after a rider reported a bed bug sighting on a southbound train — and also posted a harrowing announcement about his experience on Reddit.

In a horror-tinged post to the Chicago section of Reddit, user UeSuRi posted a "PSA" to warn commuters of an apparent bed bug or lice infestation after spotting some small, white bugs on his seat and clothing.

Officials from the CTA say that they are "aware of the recent report and are taking steps to identify and address any issues."

In this specific case, "the rail car has been removed and treated for pests," Irene Ferradaz, a CTA public affairs spokeswoman, said.

Ferradaz said that when bed bug, lice, and other insect sightings occur, the transit line has a protocol in place to combat them. Once the CTA is notified of the presence of pests or becomes aware of any potential issues, the bus or rail car is "immediately removed from service for inspection and cleaning," she said.

"Our contract exterminator then determines if there is a pest problem and what kind. Even if nothing is found, the interior of the vehicle will still receive general preventative treatment by the exterminator and will then be scrubbed from top to bottom before being put back into service," Ferradaz said.

While deep, pest-focused cleanings are launched immediately when customers report an issue, Ferradaz said the transit line cleans its buses and trains "daily, both before and after each trip, and at the end of each day," and both buses and train cars "also receive thorough, deep cleanings on a regular basis."

The Reddit post described the sighting as "30+ small, white bugs crawling around a row of 6 seats." The user said the encounter occurred between 8:45 and 9 a.m. Monday on southbound Red Line train heading toward The Loop.

The rider, who was in the second car from the front, said he noticed the bugs at the Belmont stop after having been "excited to see an empty seat." 

"I sit down next to 3 other people on the long 6-seater section of the redline car. About a minute later, I notice a small, clear big crawling on me. I flick it off," he posted.

The CTA, which provides more than 1.6 million daily rides, "strives to ensure all riders have a clean and comfortable transit experience" and "maintains a regular cleaning regimen for all its rail cars," Ferradaz said.

After standing up from the seat, the Reddit poster wrote that he noticed that the seat was covered with bugs and there were several crawling on clothing, which he brushed off.

He announced the infestation to other commuters and then switched rail cars. He went home early from work to "exterminate" and found one bug on the inside of his undershirt and another when he went to the bathroom.

Though the bugs originally appeared white and clear, the rider said that the two he found later in the day that had fed on him were larger and brown.

"I have a feeling it may have been lice on the train and would like to add an edit to the post for discrepancy," UeSuRi later commented.

Ferradaz was not able to say what kind of bugs were spotted on the L by the rider. She said that the complaint is still under investigation.

After reviewing several photos of the bugs, Mike O'Connor, a technician for Rose Pest Control, said he cannot determine the type of bug based on the somewhat blurry photos.

However, if they are bed bugs, O'Connor says he's not surprised.

"That's how they get moved around, with hundreds of thousands of people moving daily, I'd be totally shocked if they never had a complaint of bed bugs before, especially on a bus or train," O'Connor said.

Ferradaz encourages riders to report bugs seen on the CTA.

"Should a pest be spotted, we ask riders to please alert the Bus Operator or Rail Customer Service Assistant or a Rail Customer Service Representative at the station. Passengers can also notify CTA by contacting Customer Service at 888-YOUR-CTA (888-968-7282) or e-mailing us at feedback@transitchicago.com.  Please be sure to include the date, time, 4-digit vehicle number and route," Ferradaz said.

O'Connor said that once it starts to cool off, bed bugs sightings are more common. 

"They don't seem to be as active in hot weather, there are more in fall, winter or spring," O'Connor said.

The Reddit user, who did not respond to requests for comment, ended his post with a general warning: "So, next time you ride the CTA, be cautious and look at your seat before sitting down. I just hope my fellow riders were also this thorough because the whole row was infested."


Bedbugs on the CTA Red Line

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