My NUMBER ONE CTA Pet Peeve!

Everybody sees them when you get on the train or bus. The seats with the white handicap signs. The bus gives written and oral instructions by the robotic voice. It essentially says that the seats are for the elderly, expected mothers and…. wait for it…. HANDICAPPED PEOPLE. You can be young and handicapped, I was twice when I was younger due to surgery on both of my ankles. But what I must say absolutely pisses me off the most, more than anything I can imagine on the Chicago Transportation Authority, is the people who have the nerve, the gall, the AUDACITY, to sit in those seats when any of the three people who actually qualify for those seats are on the train!

Listen, if there is no one else on the bus or train that looks like they need and it is readily available to sit in, I will sit! But But the moment someone gets on the bus that needs , I get up! And all other able-bodied, non-handicapped, non parents and non elderly need to do the same!The worst to me is seeing the folks watch the elderly and all of them walk past them when they know they should be getting up. Proper etiquette says not to start screaming at anyone, especially someone you don’t know, on the  train. I might just have to break that rule for a quick second if I see someone do that again.

Now, I’m not a perfect CTA passenger and I know this. I listen to my music with my Beats by Dre Headphones turned ALL the way up. If I am that hungry, I may eat. My bookbag might ACCIDENTALLY hit you. But none of those are against the rules (except the food one, but I rarely do that so it doesn’t count). But I will ALWAYS get up, long as I have the power to, for those who truly need those seats.

Just barely catching the train!

I can’t imagine hearing two worse words when you are in a rush than “doors closing” and you are not on the train or bus when the doors actually do close. It rarely ever happens when you have time to spare, which means that it ALWAYS happens when you need to get somewhere. If you are like me and have a train/bus tracker app, you know it is usually dependable. But if it is one minute off and you are one minute late, you will have to wait.

I’m pretty sure I am not the only one out there that has turned into an incredible athlete if they hear a train coming or see a bus at the stop getting ready to pull off. Even the laziest and most non-committal to the gym will all of a sudden look like Usain Bolt. And that’s IN high heels, hard bottom dress shoes and probably a laptop case and a cup of coffee too! But just as there is nothing more frustrating than just missing the train or bus, there is nothing more gratifying than sliding in right as the door is ready to close on the train. It’s a bit easier in the bus’ case, but then again it’s really at the discretion of the bus driver. If they don’t want to stop, then they are gone.

There was one time that I did see a bus driver genuinely do the great thing. Taking the 145 or 146 downtown, getting ready to merge onto Lake Shore Drive, there was an old lady who wanted to get on the bus but clearly wasn’t going to be able to run. The bus driver, instead of driving off and leaving her, drove up to right where she was in the middle of the street, stopped, and opened the door. I thought that was real decent of him.

As for me, the 23-year old. Don’t let me be the one waiting across the street, or else it’s 8 minutes until the next bus, according to bus tracker at least.

At least I don’t have to run this time though.

 

There’s nothing worse than…

Getting on the train, ready to be about your day. That could be work, class, or simply on your way to do not too much. And you notice that the train car you’re in or the bus you’re on is “winning” (yes I took a word that Charlie Sheen made famous, so what!). When I say “winning”, I mean there are two or three, probably more nice looking young ladies on the train/bus at once. This can be good, and this can be bad. Good because, well there is plenty to look at and keep my attention on this ride. Bad because, well… there is plenty to look at and keep my attention on this ride. I am the type of person who treats looks at a woman on the train like semi-decent eater would treat a buffet. I look a lot, but not all at once. Don’t want to stare, that’ll just be creepy. But I will look.

And every so often? I catch their attention. And is that…. a smile I will receive back? Oh the reciprocity!

Now, I have had my few bold moments on public transportation where I will go up to a woman and actually speak my mind to her. The responses vary, from getting a number and having success, getting a number and having no success, to hearing the “boyfriend” line, to just straight up rejection. Guess it’s all part of the game, if  you choose to play it on public transportation. It’s all a huge psychological thing too. Women tend to think guys are creeps on the train when, in all reality, we’re not. We could just as easily think yall are snobby for how you look. But I digress. My ultimate point is this, if you want someone on the train or bus, go after them. Don’t worry about how you might be looked at or if you will be rejected.

It’s life. On the CTA.

 

My FourSquare Top Four “El” stops!

For this post, I decided to dig into one of my favorite apps on my Evo: Foursquare. For anyone unfamiliar with the app, it lets you check into places and get points for it and sometimes the places have sales and specials you can only get by checking in on Foursquare. For anyone who is familiar with the app, it has a “Most Explored Categories” section which groups the top five “genres” of places that you check in at. What’s at the top of mine? Well train stations of course! I’m going to take the top few and give you a special rundown on why I’m always there and why they hold a special place in my heart (and my phone).

1)Fullerton:
When I first joined Foursquare, I didn’t check in here very much. Then again, it was the summer. Being the graduate student at DePaul that I am, it is only natural that I am here a lot, correct? Well some would look at the fact that my classes are actually all down in the Loop and say no. But, as you will see in a little bit, I live further north of Lincoln Park in Lakeview. Getting to class isn’t a hassle, but going down to the Loop just to study seems a bit fruitless to me. The Lincoln Park campus just has easier access. Plus, there are plenty of games I go to and cover, more of the campus school events are on this campus, and there is a sub shop home to one of my favorite subs in Chicago about a mile away from the stop (Uncle Sammy’s, go there and order the Pilgrim… thank me later)

2) Sheridan:

There is nothing overly special about this stop to me, except for one thing: it’s the closest one within walking distance to my apartment. Few decent restaurants, and a GameStop on my way home. Nothing crazy though. I used to live in between Addison and Sheridan, which would have made this a cooler one to write about. Now, it’s just ehhhh. And most of the time I’d rather take the Halsted bus.

3)North/Clybourn

Nothing crazy here either, just where I get off to go to work. Sometimes go to the Apple Store, Best Buy, or Joe’s on Weed Street. But mostly work.

4) Chicago (red line)

Chick-fil-A is here. That’s really all that needs to be said for me. There’s the Magnificent Mile and the Water Tower and all that good stuff but… Chick-fil-A. Best fast food restaurant ever. Not up for debate. At all. If you are new to this blog and have never been there… You need to go. Yesterday.

There are plenty more to talk about, but I really only have one more suggestion. Never EVER, get off at the Wilson stop, for any reason.

What DB loves (and hates) on the CTA

On any given day, there are stories on the CTA.

Plenty of stories.

Merely sitting on the bus for my normal Halsted/Broadway to Halsted/Willow trip to work on the number 8 bus gives me plenty of ammunition for the day. And if I have to take more than one bus or train in a day? The stories could be endless.

So what on these forms of transportation do I like, and what do I hate? Ohhhhhh the list could go on and on, but lets see……

Lets start out with what I like:

-The people watching. I mean, there are so many people going so many different places. Chicago is great because your income doesn’t keep you from the public transportation. I would venture to guess there are plenty of folks on the bus or train making six figures just as there are normal students and homeless people as well. Just to see the different people talking and interacting just makes the rides worth it.

-Seeing different parts of the city. Personally, I have not been to every stop on the “el” and I made it a goal of my “bucket list” for while I live in Chicago to get to each and every stop. Chicago varies, from Evanston, the purple line and the quiet suburban neighborhoods all the way down to 95th on the red line. And you can’t forget everything in between. Who knows, you may have to get off at a particular stop one day and voila! Your favorite restaurant was there and you never knew until just then.

But what do I hate? Oh I could go on for days with this. I’ll limit it to this one major pet peeve:

-The bums/beggars. My goodness, the homeless and begging in Chicago are some of the most innovative and creative I have ever seen! And that includes living in New York, Atlanta, and Miami. Generally speaking, when I am on the train, I have my headphones on and this is for a few reasons. One, I like listening to music and having some me time. Working in retail and having to cater to other folk’s needs all day does that to you. But the few times I’m on the train sans headphones, this is what I will for sure hear:

“Sorry to interrupt you folks, but I just got outta jail and I’m tryin’ to get my life back together. If anyone has some spare change or a job for me, please help me out. God bless you.”

I respect the grind of anyone who is trying to better their life…. But not at the expense of me trying to have a peaceful train ride. You need a job, Craigslist is actually more reputable than you think. Use that. Not my 10 minute train ride.

PS- I would say that picture at the top of this post is something I don’t like, but that would be a lie. That’s pretty damn funny and thus very photo-worthy.

More convenience for tourists to buy day-passes

Photo courtesy of cicorp.com

I live two blocks away from Red Line Clark/Division stop.  When friends coming from outside of town to visit me, I often take them to the closest Walgreens to get day(s)-passes.

When they see this type of good deals at Walgreens, they often compliment it with a surprise.  They might be pay $2.00/$2.25 for each ride during the days in Chicago without knowing the day(s)-passes.

Not a lot of CTA stops sell this kind of passes.  The only stop that I’ve seen selling them is Blue Line O’Hare stop.  Other than that, I’ve never seen any other place selling it.

However, not many people know this type of deal are sold at Walgreens either.  If every CTA stop has several ticket machine, why not install another one for this type of deal.  It seems like a hidden-deal that most people don’t know about, or even they know, they don’t know where to buy it.

Beggar also needs dignity

Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn wrote an article about a beggar punched a passenger, as the passenger tossed $2 to the beggar on the floor.  The passenger denied that he tossed the money to the floor.  Instead, he put the money on the seat and it fell to the floor.  His article Beggar chooses to retaliate is published on the Tribune web site.

The passenger was badly injured.  According to Zorn, he suffered a concussion, a laceration to the face that required 15 stitches and a hairline fracture to his ribs.”

Zorn said that the victim “didn’t deserve to be struck and injured.”  Despite the fact that the victim was badly hurts, he did make a “proactive display of contempt”.

I sympathize the victim.  However, if he did gave the money to the beggar in a disrespectful way, he needs to change the way he behaves, too.

Beggars need and also have dignity like any others.  They deserve to be respected.  A lot of times, I see polite beggars begging on the trains.  Some of them are disabled; some are ex-inmates and simply don’t want to commit crime again, so they become beggars; some lost jobs and houses, they just need money.

I agree with the fact that begging is better than doing crimes.  As long these people are not breaking the law, they deserve to be respected.

Suicide incidents on the L

The past weekend was a terrible weekend for me.  I read from the news that my first love died from suicide about three week ago.  He threw himself down to the ground from his apartment building.

I was shocked.  He was only 28 years old.  ONLY 28.

It was a little more than 10 years ago, when we first met.  Throughout the years, he had been greatly pursuing his dream–becoming a good actor.  He graduated with honor from the best acting school in China, had starred in the most popular TV series and was exposed internationally at Venice International Film Festival.

He seemed that he was having a perfect life.  But he had been suffering from depression for three years already.

I also once suffered from the depression for three years, when I was a teenager.  I thought of suicide, as I was so depressed that I couldn’t see a way out.  Eventually, I found my way out, with help from faimily, friends and psychologist.

However, depression is a serious mental disorder that is hitting very hard to our society.

We often hear from the news that people being suicidal by jumping to the train track.  It seems so common in a city that people suicide.

Photo courtesy of CBS News

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 90 percent of the people who died by suicide have depression and other mental disorder.

Suicide from mental disorder not only takes lives from the people who are suffering from them, also hurts families, friends and people who witness the suicide scene.

On August 16, 2010, A man jumped in front of the up-coming Green Line and died on the scene.  The train operator was sent to a hospital with mental “shock”, according to Fox News.

Without a speaker phone, CTA safety guard feels “vulnerable” during evening shifts

Three years ago, a fifteen-year-old high school student Brittney Davis was attacked by
three guys on the CTA Green Line Ashland Stop platform.  The three guys were able to rob her purse.  Chicago police was not able to pursue a further investigation because of the lack of camera for evidence.

The same crime incident could happen anywhere around the CTA.

Three years after Davis’ incident, the CTA has not tightened much.  On Jan. 26, 2010, a woman was attacked by three men at the exit of the CTA Brown Line Francisco Stop.  Chicago Police said that the three men were on the same train with this woman and followed her out of the train all the way to the exit.   The woman was slightly wounded.  The police could not identify the suspects.  This is already the second crime incident happen at the Francisco stop since the beginning of the year.

From Brittney Davis’ incident to the Francisco stop incident, the crime strategies are almost the same.  One starts to wonder how come the same incident happens at the CTA stops over and over throughout years without much improvement.

CTA representative Jeff Wilson said that security cameras were installed along the Brown Line including Francisco Stop shortly after the incident as part of the Brown Line expansion project.

Ald. Dick Mell in the 33rd ward said: “after the incident more police officers were engaged in the security at the stop.  There isn’t any other crime since Janurary.”

“This is where the police are focusing on right now,” Mell said.

Do the security cameras help to secure the CTA areas?

Wilson said: “More people and more technology definitely help.”

CTA employee Corey Carr said that security cameras do not help much.

“Criminals just need to have their back facing the camera, they can still snatch the purses,” Carr said.

Accroding to Carr, crimes are performed around CTA areas every day.  “Pocket-picking, robbery, sexual assault, fighting…my estimated guess…I see 10 times out of a week,” Carr said.

Pocket-picking is hard to prevent, but robbery and sexual assault can be prevented.

Carr said: “More security can help to prevent those things from happening.”

At most of the CTA subway stops, only one security person works at each stop.   The person is in charge of several entrances, exits and the platform, and at the same time, the person has to watch the security camera monitor.  Some busy stops, such as both the Blue Line and the Red Line at the Jackson stop have two CTA persons working at the both
of the entraces.

Terri Wolfe, who works as a security guard at the CTA Red Line Division and Clark stop said: “sometimes I am overwhelmed when there are lots of people going in and out from all the directions.  Especially this stop, in weekends, people come here for clubbing.
When they are drunk, thefts could take an advantage from them.  I can’t watch all of the thefts.  It’s too much for me.

DePaul University student James Didier was attacked by several guys when the Brown Line  train just pulled into Clark and Lake stop.  “He was struggling with his assailant onto the platform,” CBS reported.

Didier said to the CBS that he yelled for help for several minutes, but no one came.

Lack of security does not just happen on the platform but also on the train.  Normally, only one crew works on one train.  Therefore, the rear cars are isolated in a
way.  It gives a chance to the criminals.

According to Chicago.everyblock.com (a city data collection website, its Chicago crime data is sourced from Chicago Police and updated daily), crimes from theft to robbery happen everyday on the CTA trains.  CTA security remains unattended.  Only occasionally police
patrolling is spotted on the train between some stops.

Everyblock Chicago showed that CTA crimes slightly dropped 2.3 % in 2009 compare to 2008.

CTA public relations person Wanda Taylor said: “We work closely with the police to provide a safer environment to the customers.”

The crime rate for this year is unknown yet.  But Wolfe pointed out: “I hear more robbery complaints because the weather is getting better.”

The reported CTA crime cases in April increased 24% compare to February.  Taylor responded that the weather change could cause people go out more often, and CTA is working with the police to reduce the crime.

The crime rate also depends on the work attitude with the security guards.  According to Wolfe, because of the weather change, security guards are no longer allowed to sit in the station booth.

CTA security guard Rickey Neal was spotted working actively at Red Line 63rd Stop at 12:15 a.m. on April 17th.  Most of the time, he stood at the ticket people helping the customers with the ticket machine.  Every 45 minutes he did rounds in the stop.

CTA security guard Darrel Hampton, who works at the Red Line Harrison stop said that he is very aware of customers who travel alone at night.

“If someone went down (to the platform) alone at night, I will follow…to make sure that person is safe.” He said.

However, not every security guard follows the rule.

CTA security guard Edward Cole was found talking with two females outside of the Red Line Garfield entrance at 12:59 a.m. on April 17 for 10 minutes until the reporter requested to interview him.

Cole said: “With the minimum wage they pay me, this is how much I can do.”

CTA security guard Shavona Woodards who works at the Red Line 47th Stop was observed fixing her nails at work at 1:30 a.m. on April 17th.

Two security companies are in charge of the CTA security guards.  One is Securitas, the other is Star Security.  They both claimed that they are not authorized to talk to the press about CTA.

Not only the CTA security guards are not well trained, they are not also equipped.  Some security guards are equipped with radios, some are not.  Security guard Rickey Neal worked at both the CTA Red Line and the Green Line stops.  Neal does not always have a
radio.

“I will say half and half.
Half of the time I do, half of the time I don’t, here at 63rd Red Line.” He said with the radio in his hand.  “When I was working at the Green Line, most of the time I didn’t have a radio.  Only occasionally I would have it.”

From the Red Line Roosevelt stop toward north to Clybourn stop, none of the security guards had a radio.

“I feel safe holding a radio at work because it helps me to communicate with the security center.” Neal said.

“When an incident is happening, since I don’t have a radio, I feel like I put myself into a vulnerable situation.  Not to mention the customers.” Wolfe said.

“I just have to bring my cell phone with me in case I need to call 911,” said Cathy Hampton who works at the Red Line Monroe Stop.

The security guards work mostly in the night shifts and they do not have radios.  But CTA’s own employees who work at the stops during the day have radios.

“Maybe the radio won’t have reception underground.” Cathy Hampton said.

However, CTA employee Corey Carr, who works at an underground stop Red Line Clark and Division showed reporter his radio worked just fine underground.

“Yes, CTA workers have radios.  But it’s the security companies’ decision whether they their security should have radio or not.” CTA PR Taylor said.

Star Security and Securitas both denied the interview request.

Not only the security guards are lack of management, CTA’s own employees are also having the same problem.
A man who lives in the 33rd Ward said that there was once he saw 6 men jumping over the fence at the Brown Line Kenzie stop, he immediately reported to the CTA worker at the stop. The men described that the CTA worker shrugged and responded that he
will not stop the six men from trespassing.

Wolfe said she had more robbery complaints at Red Line Çlark and Division Stop this month in May.  “I didn’t do anything,” she said.  “There’s nothing I can do.”

CTA representative Jeff Wilson said that if customer had experience like this, he most appropriate for the customer to do is to call the CTA hotline.

CTA was ranked among the top ten major crime categories in Chicago by Chicago Everyblock (CTA Tattler).

Famous CTA rapper, Solow

Want to know more about Solow?  Please check out our posts:

One rapper underground at the Red Line shows that the performers by the trains make a large impact.

Rapper on the Train…REAL Hustle