© 2012 Timmy Tamisiea. All rights reserved. See how many stops there are on the north side Red Line alone?  Now look at the South Side Red Line.  And trust me, those proximity of those stations on the map are not accurate.  The South Side stations are very far from each other while the ones on the North Side are too close.

93/365 – 7 CTA Annoyances

As Megan and I discuss our options of moving from Chicago, it’s hard not to look at this city and how it’s changed.  Megan has been here for about 8 years.  I’ve been here for almost 11.  When I moved here form New York, I was 24 and I had grown very accustomed to New York living in just under 2 years.  Imagine how accustomed I’ve gotten to Chicago living in 11 years!  Still, when I did move here, I was intrigued by the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority).  I thought the New York MTA was awesome.  It’s buses were always on time, the train were frequent and there were plenty of them.  There are some problems that the MTA had that are not unique to the MTA – most public trasit systems share those probelms.  A writer from Cracked.com wrote a pretty acurate article on these annoyances.

Like this guy. He's on every train in every city in the world. And his music still sucks.

But the CTA is unique in both it’s annoyances and it’s positives.  When I moved here, I found its recorded voice messages, it’s “ding dong – doors closing” voice over, its completely unique seating layout and the fact that 80% of it is above ground allowing you to roll feet away from buildings to be fascinating.  In 11 years, this Chicago landmark, however, has started to lose it’s charm.

Crappy. Transit. Something or other.

Simply put, the CTA is unique when compared to other city transit.  Some very good things have appeared while I lived here.  Bus and Train Tracker have allowed us all to schedule when we leave our homes as opposed to needlessly waiting in the freezing cold for a bus that MAY come.  The renovation  of the brown line and the addition of the pink line have given us more access.  But, there are just some things that never seem to get better.  Here’s five of them.

1) An Immediate Follower

See. There's an immediate follower. It's right there. No! Right there. You must be blind.

No one – and I mean absolutely no Chicagoan – ever wants to hear this phrase, “Ladies and gentlemen, there is an immediate follower.”  It’s like acid in the ears of every educated, non-educated, woman, man, child – every Chicagoan, damn-it.  Unless you’re a tourist or some rich prick who usually drives but decided to slum it and take public transit, we all know what “There’s an immedate follower,” means.  What the CTA wants you to hear is, “Ladies and gentlemen, the current train is pretty full.  BUT, I have good news!  There’s a train right behind us.  Maybe a stop or two.  So, don’t fret, you’ll get on that train.  Have a happy day.  Wink.”  However, we all hear the truth which is, “Listen, people, we’re off schedule.  Again.  We always are.  You should know this by now.  So, maybe if I tell you there’s a train immediately behind you’ll calm down and not get mad at us.”  Listen, CTA, stop lying.  There’s NEVER an immediate follower.  Never has been.  Never will.  When you utter that damnable phrase, it does quite the opposite of calming us down.  It just makes us more aggravated.

2) Lack of Communication

The conductor is not telling you what the problem is because he's sleeping . . . and he's 6 years old.

When I was in New York, if the train had to stop in between two stations, the conductor inevitably announced what the problem was and what they were doing about it.  While it didn’t make things easier for those of us trying to get form point A to point B, it was appreciated that the conductor thought to inform us.  The CTA?  There’s two ways they communicate.  An automated message that says, “Attention passengers.  Theie is a mechanical problelm with the train and the operator is working to solve the problem.  We will be away shortly.”  Or they do nothing.  This is pretty rare, though.  Especially today.    Years ago, though, this was a huge problem.  You would sit in a tunnel and no one will tell you why.  Was the operator killed by an angry passenger who can stop hearing, “There’s an immediate follower.”?   Was the operator taken away to God and we’ve been left behind in the rapture?  What happened.

The only time I could understand that the operator didn’t announce that there was a problem was a few years back.  I was in the 2nd to last car.  We were on the elevated tracks around the loop (the downtown area where the train makes a circle).  The train stopped for a short moment and then started taking the turn to head north out of the loop . . . without us.  The last two cars had somehow been detached from the entire train.  We just sat there.  Waiting.   For 15 minutes.  Then a CTA employee was racing down the tracks towards the train.  He got in and took us to the next station where the next big CTA problem happened . . .

3) A Train Becomes Express For No Apparent Reason

You ever hear of the Hotel California. Yeah, there's a Platform California as well. And it sucks too.

The CTA is never on time.  This is why they got rid of the train schedules at all stations.  They used to spell out the exact minute each train would arrive.  Never ever was it followed.  So they just got rid of them.  So you will more than likely wait an excessive amount of time for a train.  When you finally board one, it’s like mana from the transit gods.  Especially during the winter when your nipples are falling off.  Literally.  I have a collection of spare nipples at home . . . we got a Cuisinart Nipple Maker as a Wedding gift.  Anyway.  When you get on that train, it feels good . . . until they decide to make the train express.  So you have to get off the train and wait for another.  Maybe it’s just me, but this happens way too often and always when you just want to get home.  Especially when you’ve been waiting over 30 minutes for a train.  Then the train is so crowded that you’d think the conductor would want to get everyone to their destination.  Nope.  They always choose some random station that a minority of people are heading to.  How do I know this?  Because when this happens, 90% of the train gets off to wait for a new one.  It just makes no sense.  It may be the whole engineering aspect of train scheduling – but no one cares.  We shouldn’t have had to wait in the first place, and now we have to wait even longer.

4) Shift Changes

It looks like its moving, but the CTA just wants you to think that. Its an optical illusion called a "Shift Change."

I don’t know if this is unique to Chicago, but when buses have shift changes, a CTA driver is usually waiting at an appointed stop to trade places with the current driver.  This would seem to be a really smart and fast way to deal with shift changes.  Sign a few papers, get off and hand over the keys – one to two minutes max – off we go . . .

Wrong.  Insead, what we get is a bus just sitting at that stop for at least a half hour.  The driver will probably sit outside and have a smoke or plan his next murder – I don’t know and I don’t care.  Shouldn’t this bus, full of passengers, be moving towards a new destintaion?  Not according to the CTA.  All logic says that this waiting time is part of the schedule, and I’ll buy that . . .

You know what, I won’t buy that.  Example.  On a particularly cold, freezing, rainy day, I was waiting for the southbound Clark 22 bus at Aldine Street.  It was really a miserable day.  Awful.  About 5 blocks up the street, we saw the bus stop at Foster and Clark.  Right on time with the CTA bus tracker – an app for your smart phone that gives you arrival times for busses.  We were almost out of this crappy weather.  Almost?  Oh, I’m sorry, we were way off on getting that bus.  We weren’t anywhere near it.  We could make out a shift change happening from our stop.  Then the bus stood there.   The bus tracker just kept pushing its arrival back and back and back . . . For a half hour.  The worse part?  It was just far enough away that if we did start walking toward it and it started moving, it could easily pass us.  So we chose to wait.  In the cold.  Wet.  Fucking rain.

5) Just Walking Around

Platforms are just boys clubs for CTA workers. A place to lounge. Meet some friends. Waste tax payer money.

About 3 years ago, the CTA did a huge, year long renovation of the brown line.  It was inconvenient but, in the end, the train stations looked great and the train ran better.  During that time, the CTA had employees in orange vests walking the platforms – just in case anyone had a question.  Well, long after the renovation, those workers were still there.  Just sitting around, chatting with each other – doing nothing even remotely close to work.  Meanwhile, the CTA fare kept rising.  So, our extra fare dollars are paying for workers to sit around and chat?  Bull cocky.

This is still going on.  What’s more maddening is the fact that there are attendant at the turn-styles – that’s their job.  So, why do we need CTA employees just walking the platform.  If a passenger really has a question, don’t you think they’ll ask the guy in the booth downstairs?  Meanwhile,at that time, the New York MTA fare in New York was at 2 bucks, the trains there still ran better and we were stuck with a 2.25 fare in Chicago.  Where is this money going?  Oh, that’s right, platform “helpers.”  You know how you could really help us?  Lower our fare by eliminating needless employees.

6) Schedule Problems

Really, for all we know, THIS could be a CTA schedule.

I don’t want to get into this too much.  It’s pretty simple.  The CTA can’t keep its own schedule.  The buses have gotten much better with the invention of the CTA Bus Tracker.  The train, however – rarely on time.  Where’s our fare going to?  OH . . .

7) Fare Problems

We do have the Chicago Card + system - which is like a credit card. The Metrocard is still junky, flimsy plastic. Take that New York!

That’s right.  Fare problems.  The CTA has raised the fare from 1.5o in 2001 to 2.25 in 2009.  They keep claiming they’re going to raise it to 3 bucks.  That would be 6 dollars a day for anyone who commutes to work.  That would be 30 bucks a week.  120 bucks a month.  All for a system that refuses to upgrade.  The London Underground has had electronic signs in their stations that give estimated arrivals for YEARS.  Why don’t we?  The New York MTA has had a simple and effective fare machine in all it’s stations for YEARS.  Every one of them takes credit cards and you can buy any type of fare card you want – a refill card, a 1 day pass, a 7 day pass, a monthly pass (which is worth it compared to Chiacgo’s monthly pass).  Why don’t we have these machines?  Our trains are antiquated.  The busses are too.  Not every stop is handicap accessable.  It just seems like the fare increases are lining pockets as opposed to improving the system.  Yes, we had the brown line renovation.  Which allowed for more cars per station and better access.  That’s great. Why haven’t they built more Red line stations on the Southside.  Looking at a CTA map, you can see an infrastructure that promotes segregation:

See how many stops there are on the north side Red Line alone? Now look at the South Side Red Line. And trust me, those proximity of those stations on the map are not accurate. The South Side stations are very far from each other while the ones on the North Side are too close.

Why does the red line (probably the most used line in the system) have twice as many stops on the North side than on the south side?  All I’m saying if the CTA is going to keep increasing the fare, show us some results of the fare increase.  Build some more South Side stations to increase commercial traffic and regenerate those areas.  Update the cars.  Do something other than plastic make overs of the stations.  Please.  We’re paying for it.


  1. Posted 11 Jun ’12 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Hi! I know this is kinda off topic however I’d figured I’d ask. Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest writing a blog post or vice-versa? My blog addresses a lot of the same topics as yours and I believe we could greatly benefit from each other. If you happen to be interested feel free to shoot me an e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you! Superb blog by the way!

  2. Posted 6 Jun ’12 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    either youve removed my earlier comment or its got lost?? to the publisher… you’ve missed a few typos near the ending

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