May 04, 2009

Bus ads may cause a double-take, but not an express ride

The bus ads for Gameloft's Block Breaker Deluxe 2 certainly are tempting:

BlockBreaker "Beat the first level in under a minute to make this bus express! Text block to 82174."

Who wouldn't want the bus to go express? But hey, it's just another sales ploy. And the CTA is OK with that, says a spokesperson.

"The ads use humor and are not intended to be taken literally. The ad you noted implies that time flies when you play the game. One of the others is: 'Play a perfect hand and someone has to give you their seat.' The CTA does not consider them to violate truth in advertising guidelines."

Fair enough. Most regular riders know a bus is not about to go express in the middle of the route. Let's just hope those tourists don't fall for it.

May 01, 2009

Daley: Don't avoid public transit because of flu, despite what Biden says

One expert at saying one thing and meaning another was correcting his counterpart Thursday on whether public transit customers should avoid trains for fear of contracting swine flu.

Yes, it was Mayor Daley calling "balderdash" on Vice President Joe Biden's assertion that people should stay away from subways: "I would not be at this point, if they had another way of transportation, suggesting they ride the subway."

The White House insists Biden meant that sick people should avoid the subways. But Daley wanted to make sure we use common sense -- and the subway:

"We all have to get to work. I mean, we’d be staying out of our cars. We’d be staying out of subways, out of elevators – how about elevators? No, no, no. You have to remember – we have to … use some common sense.”

Priceless.

Blue and Red Line weekend subway work: The CTA warns of track work in both subways this weekend.

"CTA will suspend rail service in the Blue Line Dearborn subway from Clark/Lake to Western/Milwaukee starting at 10 p.m. Friday, May 1 until 4 a.m. Monday, May 4 due to track replacement work. Bus shuttles will operate as a substitute for rail service making stops at Western/Milwaukee, Damen, Division, Chicago, Grand and Clark/Lake.

Red Line trains will be rerouted from the subway to the elevated structure in one direction only on Friday night and again on Saturday night this weekend. 

Convoluted details here. And check it out if you're planning any nighttime jaunts on either line.

May Day parade Friday to cause intermittent delays. The CTA also is warning that a number of bus lines could experience inermittent delays. "The rally will step-off at 11 a.m. from Union Park at the intersection of Washington/Ashland and will disband at the Dirksen Federal Plaza on Dearborn at Jackson.  The following routes are expected to be detoured to adjacent streets:"

Continue reading "Daley: Don't avoid public transit because of flu, despite what Biden says" È

April 30, 2009

Bino White riffs eloquently on the CTA experience

A new rap video about the CTA articulates all the thoughts many of us have about our transit experience.

Bino White, aka, comedian Joe Hanson, has many good lines in the video, including:

"You can ride the El, you can ride the bus, if you don't mind the smell."

"There's no reason for you to be bored. You can read the graffitti." That line features a photo originally shown in CTA Tattler.

"Just don't touch the pole. Why? It's full of germs." Good advice during the swine flu hysteria?

"When the train is packed, it's great. It's the closest I've ever come to getting laid" -- accompanied by a photo of seriously crowded train car.

"Don't wonder what's faster. All you gotta do is check on Bus Tracker."

And in the end, he warns bus drivers: "I don't have to pay no more! I promoted you in a song. You look at me and you smile and you let me pass."

Good luck with that.

Hat tip to Gapers Block.

April 29, 2009

Keeping the information flowing during emergencies

A Red Line delay on the morning commute last week showed some real improvements in passenger communications. That's a topic I've been harping on for years, and one for which the CTA has been showing some improvement.

First, I noticed all the station turnstyles were out of order and the gate to the platform was open. Then I encountered a semi-crowded platform at Morse -- a rare sight around 7:15 am. Both were good clues something was amiss.

Within a minute or so, the station attendant announced the delay was caused by a sick passenger at Loyola. She also said that those who entered for free could take alternate routes, and those who paid would get a voucher from her.

About two minutes later she announced the emergency was over, and trains would resume shortly. Our southbound train pulled into the station a minute later.

But with all the backed-up trains, delays continued. Fortunately, our motorwoman took the time to thoroughly explain what was happening.

She told us about the medical emergency. Then she mentioned that a Red Line that had been diverted to Track 1 earlier to bypass Loyola now had to move back to Track 2. And another train had door problems to further foul things up.

She also said that anyone who needed late slips should report that Run 815 had a medical emergency and subsequent door problems at Addison and Belmont.

This all resulted in a 35 minute delay on the Red Line south that morning. But at least we knew why.

Postscript: Some passengers complained the "CTA did not have a clear plan of what to do" during at the Blue Line Logan Square station. Clearly there's still work to be done on communications plans.

April 28, 2009

Catching up: No-no to NABI and safety concerns

I've been in New Orleans at the Jazz Festival for the last four days, and certainly missed a boatload of CTA news. So for the record, we're catching up on it today.

But first let me say that traveling by New Orleans trolley to the festivals grounds sure seems like the way to go. The cars are old and rickety, the windows are all open and people are practically hanging out with every limb.

But of course, if we had such a transit mode in Chicago, it would be vilified.

NABI buses - return to sender: it should come as no surprise that the CTA has determined the 225 60-foot articulated buses it had pulled from the road in February are unsafe for the road. The CTA already had been embroiled in a lawsuit with North American Bus Industries. (Chicagobus.org has some of the details on the issue here.) Now we'll have to see how this latest chapter in the saga plays out.

Crime jumps up on trains, buses: The Sun-Times reported last week that robberies increased by 77% on the CTA, when comparing 2008 with 2006.  The cops blames riders with iPods and laptops are not paying attention to what's happening around them. The cops have been harder at work in arrests. "Police made 4,933 arrests on the system last year, compared with 4,576 in 2007."

The CTA says there were more riders in 2008. And the police point out that there are still fewer crimes per capita on the CTA than in Chicago in general.

Regardless, it's still all a bit unnerving. 

Plastic shields for bus drivers. And speaking of transit safety, the CTA recently has equipped about a quarter of it buses with heavy plastic shields to protect bus drivers from unruly passengers, according to a Tribune column. Some drivers are not that happy about losing the close contact with riders. While some others like the fact that the barriers block the cold air - and passenger germs.

April 27, 2009

Male book readers this time outnumber the gals

The CTA reader guys have rallied and overtaken the women in the latest CTA Tattler UNscientific poll on who's reading what on their commute.

Last month, you may recall I reported seeing 21 El readers, and 17 of them were women. I encouraged guys to put down their RedEyes and Blackberry devices and show the women that they know how to read. And boy did they ever.

This time, 17 out of 29 people I observed reading in the last month were men. Here's what they all were reading:

A People's History of the United States - man in his early 30s
The Ball is Round; A Global History of Soccer - guy in his early 30s
The Bible - guy in his late 30s
Rabbit, Run - woman late 20s
Super Crunchers - woman in her late 50s
Identity Crisis - guy in his 30s (alternating reading with CTA map)
Crime and Punishment - guy in his 50s
The AA Blue Book - guy in his 20s
The Life of Elizabeth I - woman in her 30s
No title - guy in upper 20s
No title - woman in mid-20s
Sony Kindle Reader (no title) - guy in his mid-40s
No title - gal in her mid-20s
Twelfth Night - guy in his 30s
The Women - gal in her 30s, sitting next to guy in his 50s I mentioned last time reading the same book
No title - guy in his late 30s
Desire - woman in her 60s
Work and Love - woman in her early 30s
The Bible - guy in his mid-30s
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl - girl in late teens
The Collector - woman in her mid-20s
A Portrait of the Artist - guy in his early 30s
The Overlook - woman in her early 30s
The Savage Detectives - guy in his late 30s
The Shack - guy in his late 20s
Ghost Train to the Eastern Star - guy in his late 50s
A Year in Provence - woman early 30s
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - guy in late 20s
Engaging the Muslim World - guy in his upper 30s

April 24, 2009

Blue Line slow zone work; not a CTA sign

Weekend service alerts over the next few months certainly will contain these words:

"We are making track improvements to prevent slow zones and improve rail service along the Blue Line."

From 10 pm Friday till 4 am Monday, trains will operate on one track between Grand and Damen. Folks will board and exit on the Forest Park-bound side of the platform. The slow zone work is being funded by federal stimulus money. More on this here.

Lots of running, parades, and a helicopter. Buses are being rerouted around the Wrigley 5K Run, the Ravenswood 5K Run and the Chicago Día de Los Niños Parade. Plus, another exciting helicopter lift, this one at 2 N. Riverside Plaza. All the details are in the CTA Weekend Service alerts.

Not a CTA sign. But funny nonetheless. Courtesy of Pophangover. and hat tip to Erin.

Truth-subway

April 23, 2009

Motorman's entreaties to passengers pay off; and he really likes us!

The Red Line motorman starts to get chatty with instructions as we head south during the morning commute.

Between North Avenue and Clark and Division, he implores standing passengers to move into the middle of the cars and away from the doors. He warns that more people would be boarding soon. He also asks people to step off the train to let people more quickly exit at their stops. "Don't worry, I'll wait for you to get back on board."

Between Chicago and Grand, he is quite pleased with our compliance:

"Aw, nice job you guys. I knew you could do it. I really like CTA passengers. You are the best."

It's usually good to like your customers.

April 22, 2009

Orange, Yellow line extension meetings set; Cubs night game commuting adventure begins

The CTA over the next week will complete the Alternatives Analysis phase of studies on the Orange and Yellow line extensions.

Riders can view preliminary findings and recommendations of the proposed Orange Line extension to Ford City Mall from 6 till 8 pm tonight (April 22) at Richard J. Daley College in the lobby adjacent to the auditorium, 700 S. Pulaski Rd.

And a Yellow Line meeting on the extension to a proposed new terminal near Old Orchard mall is set for 6 till 8 pm Thursday, April 30, at Niles North High School auditorium, 9800 N. Lawler Ave. in Skokie.

The CTA helpfully reminds us about the FTA's New Starts process:

"The Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New Starts program requires transit project proposals to proceed through a process of planning, design and construction. The FTA process consists of five formal steps: Alternatives Analysis, Environmental Impact Statement, Preliminary Engineering, Final Design and Construction. The Alternatives Analysis study is designed to examine all the transit options available and determine a locally preferred alternative."


Cubs night game fun begins. I'm a day late in reminding you that this season's night Cubs games has started, impacting the evening commutes of many North Siders. Correct me if I'm wrong South Siders, but the impact of night Sox games on the evening commute is just not as severe.

First, the Cubs fans go to the park earlier because there's plenty to eat and drink around Wrigley. And there are more clueless Cubs fan tourists. The Sox fans for the most part are locals who know their way around.

If you're going to Wrigley, there are plenty of CTA choices enumerated here, including the expanded Purple and Yellow line service for the night games.  A friend at work told me she writes the dates of the night games in her calendar so she can prepare for the masses. If you're like her, click on the continuation for the dates.

Continue reading "Orange, Yellow line extension meetings set; Cubs night game commuting adventure begins" È

April 21, 2009

CTA details $88 million in stimulus spending on Blue Line subway

Almost $88 million in federal stimulus funds will allow the CTA to repair all the slow zones in the Blue Line tunnel, from Clinton on the Forest Park branch to Division heading to O'Hare.

The CTA in March had announced a $56.6 million construction contract to repair the slow zones in the Dearborn tunnel. The announcement Monday shed more light on the whole project.

The CTA press release gives some details on how the work will be staged:

"The first leg of work [began] April 17 and [will] continue through August.  Work is scheduled for weekends only and will affect rail service at the Division, Chicago and Grand Blue Line stations.

"Demolition work began the weekend of April 17 and will continue the weekend of April 24, requiring single track operation of northbound Blue Line trains from Grand to Damen.

"Beginning in May, Blue Line rail service will be suspended between Western/Milwaukee and Clark/Lake on many weekends, but bus shuttles will operate as a substitute for Blue Line rail service.

"During the next phases of work crews will focus on the track from Clark/Lake to south of Grand, followed by work from Clark/Lake to Clinton."

The work will create a total of 400 local construction jobs.

Mayor Daley in the release answers the question some might have about the other tunnel work in the past:

"Last year, we did what we could afford to do and focused on the sections of track that were in the worst shape. This stimulus money allows us to go back in and replace everything that we didn’t get to replace last year,” Daley said.

Previously

05/20/09

"This is only a test!" Emergency exercise to shut Washington Blue Line stop, nearby bus routes

05/19/09

CTA I-Go smart card earns Chicago Fast Cities nod

05/18/09

CTA avoids fare hikes by using capital funds to balance budget

05/15/09

Weekend woes: Blue Line shut from Grand to Western

05/14/09

Wringing extra life from a dying Chicago Card/Plus

05/13/09

Celling that makes you cringe; hockey Overheard

05/12/09

Newest Bus Tracker features: email and text alerts

05/12/09

Bus Tracker rollout: Fini

05/11/09

CTA responds to Blue Line slow zone questions

05/ 8/09

Escalator work to shut Harrison entrance for months; other weekend work

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