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Advice for all you CTA "newbies"

Kyra Kyles, the Redeye's new Going Public columnist, today has some advice for all the newcomers who will be crowding trains and buses to get to the Taste of Chicago and other summer city events.

Know where you're going. Don't clump up in the cars. Step away from the doors. Hold onto the railings. Yours truly contributed his own expertise as well.

And you veteran riders out there -- be nice to the newbies. They were you, once upon a time.

So what's your advise?


another word of advice: only one person can insert money into the transit card machine at a time so the other 19 people in your group should stand out of the way of other passengers trying to enter the station and go through the turnstile.

I encountered a misguided tour group a few months ago on Michigan Ave. A group of about 12-15 people were on mich/grand and wanted to go to the water tower. The father asked the bus driver if she went to the water tower and she said yes. Half the group boarded and a few teenagers had attitudes and didn't want to board. The few that boarded were asking each other if they had money, ask the bus driver how much it cost, look at each other, then try to convince the teenagers to come on. After a few minutes of this, the bus driver yelled at them to either board or get off. When everybody boarded, gave the father the money to pay and the bus looked like it was about to leave, then the last few teenagers boarded. When I got off at Huron, the father was still loading money in the machine. The time and money it took for them to decide to bus it, they could have walked.

I think we need to make a distinction between newbies & tourists. Let's face it folks....some family from Iowa trying to brave it on the big city public transportation system is never going to "get it" -- it's a little adventure for them...just like navigating those crazy revolving doors (my own personal tourist pet peeve...but I digress). But they pump lots of money into our economy, so I tend to cut them a some slack, even when they add a little time to my commute on the 147. Plus, you get good karma points everytime one of them asks you for assistance getting to their next destination or you provide a restaurant recommendation.

Good point, Christine. There is a definite distinction to be made.

However, I think even tourists have no excuse to not, at a minimum, *take a gander* at the system maps that are prominently posted in all of the new bus stop shelters in River North and the Loop (or the ones available free at every hotel in the city or printed in just about every travel guide on Chicago) before delaying my commute for ten minutes while they ask the driver for personalized directions and figure out the fare box. It's basic prep for your vacation, IMO. The city is not a theme park, as much as some would like it to be.

Another pet peeve:

"Does this bus go to the Museum of Science and Industry?"


"Are you sure?"

I'm waiting one of these mornings for a fellow smart-ass to be behind the wheel.

"You know, come to think of it, pal, I'm not so sure. I'll completely abandon my route and make the 60 people crowded on this bus late for work and schlep your butts down to 57th Street so you can go to the museum. How come I never thought of that before you asked?"

let everyone exit the train before you even TRY getting on! there's actually a lot of parallels to elevator etiquette.

Well I must be a millionare in karma points cause almost every time I step foot on mich. ave I have somebody ask me "how do you get to American Girl Place? navy pier? museum campus? Marshall fields? Cheesecake factory? Wrigley field?" I even helped co-worker that moved from China to chicago and spoke very little english. She lived off the o'hare blue line stop and I tried to show her how to take the #66 bus to the blue line, but she felt more comfortable riding the red line down to the city and transfering with me.

Then there's the single young woman with the Rain Forest doggie bag who's riding the Red Line toward Howard, and at about Fullerton, she tipsily asks me from across the aisle, "Excuse me, , how many more stops until we get to Rosemont?" D'oh!

Single woman, young, drunk, visitor, out at midnight on a Saturday, alone. Not a good situation! Don't know whether she successfully navigated the Belmont bridge and then the Washington transfer tunnel. Could have earned lots of karma points if I escorted her at least that far...but I honestly had to get where I was going.

There's always that fine line between attaining good karma and martyrdom....

Seriously, you look at how bright-eyed & bushy-tailed some of our lovely visitors walk around our city and it's a wonder they aren't taken advantage of more often. This goes way back & it isn't exactly "L" related, but I once saw a homeless guy selling the Chicago Reader outside the Art Institute..and people were buying it! An educated tourist is a good tourist.

Well, long before I moved here six months ago, I was a tourist here many times. I would hope someone would be nice enough to me to answer a question or two about how to get around. I remember thinking that Chicago was a really friendly city when I visited, which is one reason I moved here. It doesn't hurt to help a tourist. However, the 'burb weekend warriors can screw themselves. They have a totally different attitude than the tourists, mainly like, "The L revolves around me because I'm lowering myself to come into the city." I apologize to those burbanites who aren't like this. I realize it's stereotyping and that's wrong. I'm just going from what I've seen on the train so far.

Don't talk loudly into your phone. If you can't hear, tell them you'll call back when you get off the train.

Don't put your bag in the seat next to you, especially if someone is already sitting there.

If you're going to drink alcoholic beverages, make sure you have enough to share. (I actually witnessed that a few weeks ago. A college kid had several bottles of wine he was sharing and was passing out styrofoam cups to those who had not brought their own glass.)

Great site - from time to time I've posted my own humorous CTA stories, but just recently found your site exclusively dedicated to that endeavour. Keep posting and stop by my site if you get a chance.


Do not pee on or near any public tranportation

I like Kimberli's sentiment best. Tourists are clueless? Fine, they give the city money. Newbies are clueless? Of course. But the suburban assholes are too often maliciously clueless...

Oh, and one more thing. The CTA would do itself a world of good with respect to events like Cubs games and the Taste if it had credit card-enabled fare machines like the rest of the metropolises (metropoli?) in the world. Buying my first ticket for the Tube was probably quicker than the 50th time I bought one with cash for the L.

Dear drunk, loud and obnoxious tourist "chick" riding the Red Line last Thursday night during rush hour:

Yes, I was happy to hear you enjoyed Taste of Chicago. Yes, I was glad to hear you think Chicago "rules" and "rilly" like visiting your "like" friends "like" here. And, yes, I even thought your attempts at singing at the top of your lungs with your drunk girlfriends was slighty amusing, even though I was commuting home after working an 11 hour day and could have used some quiet time.


No, I didn't think you were clever calling the poor guy in the hat sitting across from you "stallion" for three stops. And, if you couldn't tell, neither did he by the ashamed look on his face. No, I didn't think it was cute that you followed it up by trying to stick your bare foot in his face as he tried to sit quietly and read his book. And no, I didn't consider it to be even the slightest bit amusing when you switched over to trying to plant your bare foot in his face to his crotch. It barely worked for Jennifer Beals in "Flashdance" so why on earth would you think it could work for you?

Better yet, what would you have done if the roles were reversed?

You'd have called a cop and had him arrested for sexual assault.

But it was different for you, wasn't it? You're just a... cute tourist chick.

Although, I really do want to thank you for staggering off the train with your other drunky girlfriend at Fullerton. It was a much more enjoyable ride for the rest of us from that point onward, including "Mr. Stallion" most of all, I'd imagine. I hope you have a nice trip back to Ohio, or Winnetka, or wherever it is that you came from.

Chicagoans may allegedly be "nice" people, but even we have a limited amount of patience for tourist bullsh*t. Never forget you're a visitor and should behave as such. Most of all, because you never know when you'll run across some of the crazies that ride the L who would just love any reason to f*ck with you back.

Dearest Tourists & VIsitors:

When riding the "L" please refrain from trying to "surf" in the aisles. No one is going to think that you're cool when you're standing in the middle of the aisle trying to balance yourself with your amrs out. A) you look ridiculous and B) people get pissed when the train lurches and you stumble forward into a clump of tired people who just got off work.

A few more pointers: please don't stare at other commuters; what the hell are you looking at??? Please stop leaning out of your seat to look at the route maps; again, no likes getting bumped by your stupid self when the train lurches and you fall out of the seat onto our feet. Please don't eat stinky food on the train!!! Some people don't like the smell of yucky two-hour old McDOnald's burgers wafting through the cars!

Finally, in closing, please remember that you are visiting our city. BE POLITE! Don't act like the city-dwellers "Owe" you explantions about every little thing.

The tourist versus suburban visitor is key. There is no reason not to help tourists find where they are going. What does it cost you to tell someone that American Girl is up to blocks, turn left and on their left? Nothing. In fact, I have been a tourist in cities around the world, and most people, in my experience, are very nice about helping people. I have tried to return the karmic favor here.

That being said, tourists generally have no reason to take a genuine CTA commuter bus. It is clearly beyond them, and there are generally cabs and dedicated buses that will take them where they need to go.

>Do not pee on or near any public tranportation

No..that right is reserved for the locals.

Few things are more amusing, in an evil way, than watching a group of high-school students on a field trip: literally 40 of them crowded on a Brown Line train I was on...no effort was made to split up or anything. Everyone was standing in aisles and doorways chattering loudly, holding on to nothing. When the train lurched into motion, every last one of them ended up on the floor, with much screaming. Heh, heh.

My biggest complaint is bunching up around the doors, even when the car isn't crowded, and then looking shocked when I aggressively ask to be let through.

Also, asking more than one question of a bus driver on any bus on Michigan Avenue should be punished with a night in jail and a $500 fine. (Bus drivers are the one group of CTA employees who I think are underpaid. Most of the problems with bus service IMO are due to poor management and training. When the drivers are doing what they are supposed to though, they have an AMAZINGLY stressful job...)

Otherwise, my biggest problem with tourists and suburbanites is that it seems as if many feel entitled to do whatever they want, especially disrespecting the people that make the city great. Far too many have this presumptuous attitude that the city is here just for them to frolic in. You don't have to dampen your enthusiasm for the city. All I ask is that you don't presume that your good time is more important than my need to conduct my daily affairs.

Like someone posted before, this is not a theme park. It was not built as your playground. Moreover, I'd be happy if none of the suburbanites who like to whine about how their tax money is poured down 'that rathole in Chicago' while wearing their Chicago Bears hat would ever set foot into the city again. They can keep their money.

On the other hand, it's usually pretty easy to tell when someone approaches you humbly to ask to be pointed in the right direction or just for an opinion. For those folks, I'm glad to go out of my way to cast the city in the best light possible. I LOVE to help people better appreciate Chicago.

Finally, AMEN to the idea of the CTA offering at least one credit card enabled machine at every El station.

I can see why asking multiple questions of bus drivers on Michigan Ave. (and State St., for that matter) is annoying.

But from my days as a newbie to the bus routes (switched from riding the L), I place the blame squarely on the CTA. There are multiple bus routes along State St, and many of the buses do not have functioning signs indicating which route.

More to the point, though, is that the CTA installed very aesthetically pleasing bus stop signs along State St. that provide no information about the bus routes other than route #. Unless you are a daily commuter on the buses, I don't know how one can tell the difference between the 146 and 147 and 151 etc., based on the signs.

Back to the original topic: best advice for newbies is be patient and good-humoured. The CTA can be an adventure, and it does you no good to blow your top when the subway stops between stations; when your seatmate starts talking to himself; or when the air conditioning stops working. All these can be precious urban moments, and you should make the best of it.

I'm glad that all of you have so much patience for the directional questions from tourists, because I've run out.

In one afternoon, in the span of three blocks, I was asked three times where American Girl was. Of course these folks are always holding the hand of some Paris Hilton-in-training who is schleping around a ratty, germy dolly.

Finally when the fourth person asked I was so fed up I purposefully gave them the wrong directions.

Yes, you can call me mean and horrible....but damn I felt much better after that.

I'm not a newbie, but I've learned the hard way to ask on a northbound 145 how far the bus is going. I've been on the 145 twice now where suddenly Grace is the last stop.

Am I the only person who was offended by Kyra's implication that people who use pesos (i.e., mexicans, hispanics, latinos/as) are stupid?

Although the intention and article was kind of funny, it was also irritating and self-serving. Keep in mind that these annoying newbies and tourists pump money into the CTA, and maybe this would help to keep it going for all of you people who rely so heavily upon it. Endure their stupidity to perhaps ensure your transit future?

Michelle - no, I don't think Kyra's peso comment was degrading. She could've said "two-dollar bill," "Sacagawea dollar," "Mercury dime," "ruble," or any other such currency that the CTA obviously doesn't take. Maybe she chose peso because she's witnessed someone trying to use it.

Yeah, I actually laughed when I heard 1) the peso comment and 2) the comment about one guy trying to fit his family of 50 in to one rail car.

Also, knowing before going is extremely important. I use the CTA's website all the time to see train times and bus times. The trip planner is also very useful because it shows you how to get around the entire Chicagoland area on Metra, CTA, and Pace.

A thing about dumb new riders, not just new, but new and dumb, the annoy the hell out of me. Once I saw a guy approach the bus driver and say, "So where you going", after having ample time to a) see the sign with the route and destination and b) hearing a voice say the same thing.

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