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Messy rush hour caused by unattended package

What a mess rush hour was last night on CTA rail lines.

An unattended package forced evacuation of a Red Line train at Roosevelt at about 4:45 pm. Passengers were herded off the train and then led to the elevated tracks in the Loop, where Red Line trains were sitting above ground taking on delayed passengers.

And when the Red Line joins the Purple and Brown Line trains on the same track, you can bet on long delays. Some folks sat in trains at one spot for 30 minutes or so.

The CTA was its usual reticent self. Though it did post this terse announcement on it Web site.

Comments

Briefly? Sure didn't seem brief to those of us at the State/Lake green/purple/brown station who were left to wonder why these red line trains kept stopping at our station. There was never any announcement -- not even from the red line driver who kept sayign "this is a red line train this is a red line train" but never said why he was there

The past few hoaxes and suspicious packages have really shown that the CTA has a serious communication problem.

I couldn't tell what the f*** was going on last eve -- when I asked the CTA attendent at Foster (I could hear a garbled system-wide announcement while I was walking to the station) he said "Are you taking a Red Line train? No? You don't have to worry."

Well, I did have to worry. Had I known the Red Line was being rerouted like that, I would have taken the bus home.

Luckily I was never stuck in a train, only on the Fullerton platform, waiting for a Brown LIne.

unless you were a tourist, color blind and illiterate, you knew that the big red HOWARD sign was for the red line. The Clark/lake stop was HORRIBLE! There was an announcement, but with the CTA state of the art speakers, I couldn't hear why the red line was on the tracks. Also, I'm glad that the red line runs on a different set of tracks because yesterday's mess of people trying to catch the green/brown/purple/orange/red lines was worst than rush hour on any chicago expressway. The CTA said the trains were back to normal by 5:26pm, but at 5:50pm 2 red line trains stopped at clark/lake and I saw another one go around the loop.

Of all the nights I have to decide to take the purple line to evanston so that I could get groceries at the People's Market instead of taking the 147 bus home as usual....why last night?!?

It seems like the CTA had better put a more workable system into place for dealing with these situations, which aren't going away. Do they not trust us to act like civilized and reasonable citizens if they tell us the truth? A lot of last night's congestion would have been reduced if people had just been informed what was going on so they could have made alternate arrangements.

Duh, CTA...Duh!

maybe this is a stupid question, but what is the point of rerouting the red line trains if it is going to cause the entire system to screech to a halt? the red line trains don't even fit into the brown line stations! all i know is that it took me at least 45 minutes (not including the time spent waiting on the platform) to get from the loop to Sedgwick on the brown line and when we finally pulled into Sedgwick i was so frustrated/claustraphobic/sweaty that i had to get off the train (like many others) and take a cab the rest of the way home. when all was said and done, yesterday's commute cost me $14 and almost 2 hours of my evening. seems like it would have made much more sense to at least keep the brown and purple lines running normally so that SOME people could get out of the loop. instead, every person travelling north from the loop during rush hour got completely screwed. perhaps shuttle buses would have been a more effective way for red line riders to get where they needed to go? that's just my 2 cents.

At 5:10 p.m. I walked right past a CTA employee, put my card in, went through the turnstile, and went down the stairs at the Monroe Red Line stop. Only when I went down there and saw no one around did I go back up and ask if something was wrong. Then the CTA employee told me the Red Line wasn't running underground. When I pointed out that she should have told me that when she saw me walk past, she said, "I'll make an announcement soon." It's just unbelievable to me that a CTA employee would let someone walk down there when there's concern that there might be some kind of terrorist activity going on.

But to those who say they wish they had taken the bus, trust me, the buses were just as bad. I got on a bus after I left the Monroe station and it was so crowded that I barely squeezed on. Then at the next stop the driver wouldn't let anyone else on, prompting an old lady to start banging on the windows and screaming at people to make room. Her pleas went unanswered.

I was stuck on on purple line train. When we finally started moving we were informed that the purple line had turned into a red line train. It took me about an extra 30 minutes to get home.

Since it would seem like this is going to be a regular event on the CTA trains from now on, I drove my car today. I'd rather sit in traffic in the comfort of my own car rather than a packed train with minimal ac.

It is disgraceful that one unattended package can bring the entire elevated rail system to a standstill.

I was at the Jackson stop at about 4:50 and wondered what was going on. No trains, no announcement, nothing. Finally, the performer on the platform used his PA to announce what was going on. Why does it take a street performer to get the word out? Where were the employees? Weak sauce.

I was in a hurry to get to the Sox game so I had to run out of the station to the Adams-Wabash stop and grab the Green Line. Crisis averted, game attended.

I guess I lucked out on my commute last night. I went to the Grand Red Line station at about 5:05 and noticed Chicago police officers stationed at all four entrances with swarms of angry commuters shouting at them. I asked one of the officers if it was only the Grand stop that was closed or if it was the entire Red Line. He just shouted "I can't tell you what I don't know!" Nothing about the Red Line being rerouted, no CTA employees directing us to alternatives, we were just left hanging there.

I figured, based on the past couple weeks, that there was probably a bomb threat. Another guy actually tried to run around the officer and down the steps. When the officer stopped him, the guy said, "but it's rush hour, the train has to be running!" Some people are so stupid.

I walked over to Michigan avenue and caught a 147 bus (even got a seat!) and was home (near Loyola) 10 minutes later than normal.

i went through the turnstiles at the chicago brown line at 5:05. no passengers seemed to know they'd be facing delays; no CTA staff seemed interested in letting us know. i waited through 4 red line trains (one of which did not open the doors at all--it just stopped and sat for a couple of minutes), 4 purple line trains, and 2 brown line trains before i elbowed my way on to the 3rd brown line train at...6:05. twenty minutes later, we arrived at sedgwick. twenty minutes after our two-minute stop there, we reached armitage. things cleared a bit after that, but it was still slow, crowded, uninformed going after that, until i reached western at 7:05. a friend of mine left the chicago platform at about 5:45 and raced me home via the chicago-->western bus plan. we tied. i kept thinking "if i was on my bike, i would have been home an hour-and-a-damn-half ago."

seeing as how this kind of mayonnaise is going to be par for the future course of Big City Living, one would think that the employees of the CTA might find it, i dunno, kind if not prudent to inform passengers before they commit to an hour's wait on the platform that, you know, there might be some kind of wait on the platform.

As is the custom for the CTA yesterday, there were no announcements whatsoever at Clark/Lake about this problem. Or if there were, they were inaudible - - announcements at this station are impossible to hear. And that would have only made sense, giving people other options. Nope, and the ladies downstairs were hanging out, chatting it up as usual, waving people into the station.

It was only after going a few stops that the operator of my train told us what was up. And as we stood stopped between Sedgwick and Armitage, he told us fifteen more times what was up, in case anyone had boarded the train by repelling off a stunning condo building, or dropping in by helicopter. These very helpful announcements were bookended of course by the very informative BOOP BOOP BOOP announcements.

And at Belmont, the dangerously crowded platforms coupled with the 1 1/2-hour commute made me seriously wonder why we should even bother caring about suspicious packages at all. After 9/11, there was that guacamole incident ... anybody remember that?

And, as usual, there is an article on the Trib site that is so brief it makes this whole thing sound like a minor hiccup ... and I can't find any mention of this on the Sun Times site. Guess they all drive to work.

Unaware of what was going on, I arrived at a Loop Red Line stop at 5:40 p.m. last night. There were no CTA personnel or authorities keeping people away from the station. There were no announcements made. Nobody knew what was going on, or that we might want to consider an alternate route home. The first train in the subway arrived at 6:35 p.m. Of course, it wasn't going Express (god forbid we do that in this city!), despite two close followers.

I have no issue with the CTA taking all the necessary precautions to a perceived threat, including shutting down stations/lines. I very much DO have an issue with them re-routing the entire Red Line without telling at least entire station full of hundreds of passengers about it (especially now that it's clear that they had plenty of time to cut off access to the station prior to arrival of hundreds of people), leaving us down there, twiddling our thumbs for an hour when there were alternate options easily available (to say nothing of leaving us as potential sitting ducks if the threat happened to be real).

I've come to terms with some of the more annoying consequences of the CTA's blatant mismanagement over the years. This type of stuff, where people's safety could be at stake -- is inexcusable, however. The CTA better get its proverbial crap together in a hurry in regards to these types of situations and start communicating with its riders better.

Yes--one of my all-time favorite Daley quotes: "Guacamole isn't dangerous--it's good for you!"

I think part of the reason the major newspapers don't spend too much effort on reporting these types of incidents is that it would encourage sickos who crave attention to leave packages in stations, call in bomb threats, etc.

I am very pissed that the CTA doesn't have better communications in place. How hard would it be to radio all CTA personnel and police to tell us that we need to find alternative transportation? One of the nice things about the CTA is that there is almost always an alternate way to get to your destination. It may not be as convenient, but at least we wouldn't have to sit in a station for over an hour wondering what was going on.

It is SO annoying when the people who work at the stations let you walk right past without saying, "Hey, you might be standing on the platform for 30 ridiculous minutes," or "Hey, you might be stuck on a train for 35 minutes, so you know, grab a snack before you get on the train." I realize that they probably have the crappiest jobs ever and I do have sympathy. But have a little sympathy for a hungry girl in uncomfortable shoes forced to stand for over an hour on the ride home!

This is the first I've heard about what happened. I watched all 5 9/10 pm news broadcasts and saw nothing, although it seemed CBS-2 did a tease right before 10, but I didn't see the actual story. I can't believe how fast these stories disappear! This is probably the WORST delay I've faced in 10 years of almost-daily CTA travel.

I was around 35th St. and thought it'd be faster to take the Red Line to North instead of the Halsted bus. (Of course it normally would be.) I got to the station at 4:52. A northbound train had just passed. They made an announcement about the subway being closed and the Red Line running on the el tracks. No explanation why. I boarded the next train around 4:55.

I got off at Fullerton at 6:25. In that hour and a half...The train went onto the elevated tracks and stopped at Roosevelt--same announcement on the platform, but NOT the train. I figured it'd be stopping at any corresponding Red/Brown Line stops--i.e. , Roosevelt, Van Buren, Chicago--and of course, wouldn't be able to stop at Harrison or Division. (Were Red Line passengers there told anything?)

And that's what happened through downtown. It stopped at the Brown Line stations, we heard the announcement again, but we weren't told anything. Of course people on the platform looked confused. I wondered if people were being redirected from the subway stations to the Brown Line. (Apparently they weren't?)

Everything was very slow--I saw a clock downtown reading 5:27. We got past Chicago, past Division...and stopped.

There was NEVER one of those canned messages about sitting on the tracks, train ahead, whatever. And still no announcement to passengers!

I don't know when we stopped just before North, but I checked my watch and it was 6:15. So, we were easily there 20 minutes or more.

The part that REALLY amazed me, is that aside from a few quiet murmurs on cell phones, NO ONE said anything! No one pressed the service button (I didn't want to give up my seat to find it, and I was too angry to formulate a polite question anyway). No one seemed to even care they were having to stand in a packed train for a half hour for no stated reason!

At the risk of stereotyping, I know there are neighborhoods and/or times of day when a motionless, unexplained half-hour CTA delay would pretty much incite rioting. And in this case, I would have preferred it to the bizarre apathy! I hadn't come from work, I wasn't starving, I didn't have kids to get home to, I wasn't in a hurry to get to an event--but a lot of those people must have been. And they didn't do anything! No one even raised their voice!

So we spent about a half-hour stalled less than a block from my stop (North/Sedgwick). I seriously considered asking if the windows opened so I could crawl out.

When the train started again, I eagerly leapt up--and the train DIDN'T STOP AT NORTH! (See above about corresponding Red/Brown Line stops.)

Again, we never got any announcement about 1) what happened with the subway tracks, 2) why everything was so slow, 3) what stops we'd stop at. Of course it didn't stop at Armitage either.

So we finally got to Fullerton. And after a 90-min ride that should have been 25 minutes, I had to take an extra bus. I was too angry about everything to ask CTA employees what happened.

Ironically, the only way this fiasco really inconvenienced me was that I missed the afternoon news...which would have reported what it was we were going through! And then, as if the inept/arrogrant CTA and meek/apathetic passengers weren't bad enough, the news media doesn't care enough to report it.

Okay, I know that was long. But I'm just so glad to finally learn what happened! How do I make a formal complaint about this?

Katherine--
I was stuck on a train forever, too, and no one said anything. But honestly what would you suggest we say? It just really bugs me when you call everyone meek and apathetic when complaining would only make the driver and all the other passengers more tense. I was totally pissed off last night, too, but there was nothing to be done.

I'm actually really glad that my commute was only delayed about 5 minutes (I take the green line and would have been waiting those 5 minutes for the bus when I got to my stop), but I would imagine pressing the blue call button to ask the driver exactly what the problem was would only compound the problem.

I also want to say THANK YOU KEVIN for telling us what happened. I looked on the news last night and didn't see a thing. All I could think about last night was looking on your blog because I knew that you, like many other times, would be more helpful than the CTA.

Also, given the short time frame and the CTA's resources, I do want to give credit to the CTA for their quick thinking. Yeah, they could have put a few extra buses on the 147 route, but how much would that have tied up traffic? Yeah, they could given us a little more info about the closings, and which station to go to, but we should be use to CTA employees giving us half answers. Just think about it....if you were in the CTA's shoes trying to help 1 million passengers get home during rush hour with a major line half way shut down, would you have been as successful? We all got home and made it to work today to type these postings, so I would call that successful.

I'm glad I biked to and from work yesterday!

This is the kind of thing I was harping on when we were on the subject of CTA emergency readiness a week or two ago.

I agree that if someone is determined enough, they can launch a successful attack on transit. However, survivability is the biggest issue once you accept that it's impossible to maintain an absolutely safe train system, no matter how competent the management. If there is an attack, the CTA needs to insure that as many people survive as possible.

The only way they can do that is by having a practiced, organized plan in the event of disaster. The number one component of that plan needs to be training. And one of the primary facets of that training HAS to be communication.

Unfortunately, poor communication at the CTA starts at the top. The example the "leadership" sets for the rank and file is appalling. The CTA would do well to learn the lesson that the CFD learned in the County Building fire a few years ago. Communication can often be THE factor that determines whether people live or die in an emergency.

If they don't do their job and put effective training measures in place, Kruesi and Co. might as well set the timers on the bombs themselves.

Please go post some of these comments on Carole Brown's blog. She'll probably blow them off, but so far her response to any complaints about yesterday have been "we run the red line on brown line tracks in an emergency" or "tell me what station you were at" when the station has already been mentioned.

ctachair.blogspot.com

"I'm sorry. I've forwarded your complaint to our Circular File Department. Rest assured, it will be addressed immediately upon receipt."

The amazing thing about this thread is that there is so much detailed, custom information in it that could have been useful yesterday but wasn't shared until it was too late/ not useful anymore.

It got me to thinking about how cool it would be if everyone here could have shared their info immediately-- from the platform or bus-- with other interested people. Delivering way better information than the garbled speakers and intransigent CTA employees.

So I started a new wireless notification group over here at UPOC:

http://www.upoc.com/group.jsp?group=ctaalerts

If you join it, you can send and receive text messages from your phone, PDA or email account to everyone else in the group-- sharing what you know when you know it.

Monday I got on a north bound brown line train at Randolph/Wabash at about 5:10pm but didn't get off at Armitage until 6 freaking PM!!! One automated announcement while we sat and simmered on the packed train. When I got off at Armitage (not even my stop but I couldn't stand on that train any longer) and asked the attendant what the delay was, he YELLED at me that he didn't know. Excuse me? That's it. I'm buying a Vespa just to stay off CTA.

Monday I got on a north bound brown line train at Randolph/Wabash at about 5:10pm but didn't get off at Armitage until 6 freaking PM!!! One automated announcement was the only thing we got while we sat and simmered on the packed train. When I got off at Armitage (not even my stop but I couldn't stand on that train any longer) and asked the attendant what the delay was, he YELLED at me that he didn't know. Excuse me? That's it. I'm buying a Vespa just to stay off CTA.

A week and a half ago I was on a train in the London underground. It's pretty amazing to see how a truely functioning train system (complete with clear, audible announcements, highly skilled security staff, and emergency evacuation procedures in place) deals with a real situation. Packages left on train platforms have been a fact of life in London for the last 25 or so years - underground transportation staff and the London Metropolitan Police know how to deal with them quickly and efficiently and well honestly....the people who ride the trains have come to accept the frustration of it all with some grace. It's pretty much drummed into their heads to not be stupid and leave packages unattended, reducing the number of station evacuations.

Having been lucky enough to be on the wrong (or right, depending on how you look at it) train 10 days ago and making it back to Chicago in one piece to experience last evenings' Red Line debacle gave me an interesting perspective.....

If a station is closed in London due to a 'situation' you can pretty easily make your way around the underground system to another station that leaves you not too far from where you want to go. No trains get re-routed to run tandem on another line so that everything gets slowed down. Too bad we don't have the infrastructure in Chicago to easily work around a station incident - I'm no train scheduler, but from my perspective running all the trains on the same tracks last night just seemed dumb.

London underground staff make clear announcements that give you the option of taking another train, bus, or walking to your destination - there are no 'gossipy' announcements with incomplete or unhelpful information about bombs or women in labor or whatever.

The London Metropolitan Police are highly skilled at dealing with security situations and basically London as a city hasn't shirked its responsibility for the safety of its citizens by contracting out to some rather chubby security guards taking dogs for a walk on the platform. (Can they smell explosives over the cologne the guards wear?)

As CTA riders we're going to have learn to deal with these kinds of situations and live with the frustration. It's a fact of life since sadly terrorism is going away, and well....the CTA isn't likely to become efficient any time soon. The really scary thing is that we are in NO way prepared to deal with a situation such as what London did and the sooner everyone (riders, City Hall, and CTA) realizes it, the better.

"contracting out to some rather chubby security guards taking dogs for a walk on the platform. (Can they smell explosives over the cologne the guards wear?)"

Those dogs can't sniff explosives PERIOD. They are just there for show to make it look like something is being done!

I know this isn't an ideal information solution. Hop on down to Radio Shack, get the cheapest scanner possible and dump in the CTA frequencies. While you're at it dump in the frequencies of the police districts that run along the line you use most and just to cover your bases you might as well put the fire frequencies in.

All frequencies are easily found online and it is NOT illegal. When something like this happens again whip out the scanner and find out what's really going on. It wont help with the delay but at least you and the people around you will know the real deal.

I also entered the CTA "system" after 5PM yesterday and heard an unintelligible announcement being made on the "PA". I asked a CTA employee what had been announced and he informed me that the Red Line trains were runing on the elevated tracks instead of in the subway but he didn't know why. I aked if the Red Line would stop at Roosevelt Road (my destination. He said it would. Since my regular Orange Line train arrived soon after I took it. The motorman insisted on repeatedly screaming over the PA that "THIS IS AN ORANGE LINE TRAIN!" while the train was in between stations but said NOTHING when the train took on passengers at each station. When I de-trained (a Frank Kruesi term) at Roosevelt I found State Street had been cordoned off as a "crime scene" and mucho polizei walking about. Also some News cameras were present - but no body seemed to know what was actually going on. CTA is filled with people making very very comfortable salaries but none seem to know how to run a "railroad" I wonder how they got their jobs?

MDS, I wasn't far behind you. Fortunately I didn't have to ride last night, but as I turned onto State Street to get to Union, I saw the lady screaming at the driver and banging on the windows. And the only uniformed type person I saw at all was at the top of the stairs that are in front of Marshall Fields, holding a walkie talkie and telling someone "no I don't know what's going on, all I know is the train isn't running". It's possible he was Fields security and not CTA, but the way he was standing at the train makes me think that he was CTA.

It wont help with the delay but at least you and the people around you will know the real deal.

Great idea on the scanner, Radiodude. And what if you expand the concept of "the people around you" to include "the people who have chosen to be immediately notified of such things on their cellphone, pda, or email via text message".

One person sitting on a scanner could disseminate authoritative information to hundreds or thousands of people dispersed all across the transit system in seconds.

Then people could chime in with their own custom info, quickly expanding the knowledge base in an unfolding situation w/o bogus overhead speakers and useless clerks.

I took Radiodude's advice and whipped out my scanner this afternoon and, lo and behold, I was able to hear CTA personnel deal first hand with "an issue."

Apparently the Brown Line was down for about 15 minutes due to debris on the track somewhere between Francisco and Rockwell beginning around 5:00PM.

It would be pretty hard to do justice repeating the back and forth the clueless banter between "control", the carriage operators, and the work crew, but it was a real comedy of errors.

The funniest thing was when control was trying to figure out what the debris was:

Control: What was the debris?

Worker: A gate?

Control: The crossing gate?

Worker: Yes.

Control: Did the train hit the gate?

Worker: No, it's an extra gate.

Control: Where is the gate from?

A few minutes later....

Worker: One of our maintenance trucks hit the gate earlier.

COntrol: Ok, you should probably bring it back to the yard.

Someone could do a series of short plays based on this stuff...

Here's the URL with the scanner freqs:
http://www.chicagoscanningclub.com/CSCCTA.htm

Awesome info, Scanner Bob. Mundane, goofy, but true. And that's all people seem to want-- accurate info when they need it so they can make intelligent decisions.

I wrote the Tattler about this, too, because I didn't see it anywhere. I was caught on a Purple Line train going downtown, and then caught on a Green Line train going home while all this happened. It wasn't really just annoying and time-consuming, but not knowing what was going on - with warbled, poor announcements, was ridiculous.

It took me well over an hour to get from Evanston to Adams/Wabash (with a great 15/20 minute wait at Clark junction) and about 40 minutes plus to get from Adams/Wabash to Oak Park. That was awesome.

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