Halloween 2011


Restrooms at the “L” stops?

A lot of times, I see tourists traveling in Chicago and riding CTA to go from point A to point B.  If they are not familiar with the train system, they could end up spending a lot of time inside the CTA trains and stops, switching trains and changing directions.  It can be worse over the summer, when the weather gets nasty, they may drink lots of water. Eventually, they might need to use the restrooms.

Photo courtesy of MelodytoFunkytown.com

As we all know, the CTA restrooms are not for the public. When someone needs to go to a restroom, should the person go out of the stop and find a restroom? It will be time consuming. More over, the person will have to pay again, when he/she comes back from the restroom.

Sometimes, I am asked whether restrooms are provided at the CTA stops. I answer “not that I am aware of.” I am almost taking it as granted that of course, there is no public restroom at the stops. Until one day, a classmate raised the question that why there isn’t any public restrooms?

A CTA staff, who works at the Jackson Red Line stop told me that he thinks it might be more of a safety concern that CTA does not provide public restrooms.  He said that he’s been working for CTA for more than 20 years, he’s never seen a public restroom at the CTA stops ever since he started working there.

I can see where the safety concern is coming from.  CTA train stops are under staffed.  One-staff-per-stop is the common policy, even some stops have two or multiple exits.  Sometimes, you could hit the customer assistant bottom for 15 minutes and not a single staff has arrived for helping you out.

Because of this, restrooms could be the venue for crime to happen.  People can be attacked there.  There is also a cleaning issue.  Public restrooms bring needs of maintenance.  Cleaning crew is needed to clean up the restrooms.  CTA is taking more and more budget cuts each year, they may not have the budget to hire more cleaning crew.  In fact, cleaning jobs are one of the biggest job-cut categories in CTA.

Chicago Tribune once addressed the issue of the needs of restrooms at CTA stops. But what if the restrooms once are open to the public, they will immediately become the dirty restrooms in New York City?

Not all the bathrooms at subway stops are dirty.  In my home city, restrooms are open to the public at every stop.  They are clean and well secured.

The restrooms are well secured, a security guard is standing right in front of the ladies' room

Photo courtesy of 0755dt.com The restrooms are well secured, a security guard is standing right in front of the ladies' room

Photo courtesy of 0755dt.com

The public restrooms at the subway stops in this south China city Shenzhen is well maintained.  It is not as dirty as the ones in NYC.  Commuters often feel safe inside of it.  In fact, clean and safe pubic restrooms are provided in many countries and regions in Asia.  If Asia can do it, why can’t Chicago provide clean and safe public restrooms?

CTA: Up in Smoke.

Last year I tutored elementary school kids in Englewood. I had to take the CTA red line to 69th. The first time I went, I was frightened. I had heard so many stories from people that the south side of Chicago was dangerous. However once I got off the train and was looking for a bus, I found numerous friendly people to help guide me in the right direction. My next trips were not scary at all. I knew where I was going and found that the further south you go on the red line, does not necessarily mean more danger.

What I noticed more than anything was that the further south I went, the more people I saw who were openly smoking cigarettes on the train!

There are signs posted everywhere on the trains and buses that say no smoking. They even have a voice announcement that asks passengers to not smoke.

Despite the signs and announcements, I saw people smoking everyday I went to Englewood. Although most people would light up on the platform, there were several instances where people actually starting puffing on the train itself. I remember vividly, a man with three kids, puffing on a cigarette for about 5 stops! Not only is he subjecting other passengers to his second-hand smoke, but his children as well!

I can imagine that some people get confused on the platforms. They are outside waiting, so why not have a cigarette. But I can bet that all the people I saw smoking were living in Chicago and knew the rules.

Smoking has been banned on the CTA since…forever. Even if it wasn’t enforced long ago, it has been a priority since the January 1st, 2008 citywide smoking ban for all public places.

I asked several CTA workers why it is not enforced as much in certain areas of the city. One told me that it isn’t true. – Even though I witnessed it with my own eyes.

The other told me, once again, that the CTA had more pressing things to worry about than enforcing a tobacco ban.

My opinion: If you can’t wait until after your commute to smoke, you need to start thinking about changing your lifestyle.


As a writer of this blog, I enjoy reading and hearing people’s stories of Chicago’s public transportation system. It’s exciting to see if other people have seen what I have seen, or if they feel a certain way about things like I do. If you’re looking for something exciting to do for the holiday season, and want to continue to hear stories of the CTA, here are two plays that might spark your interest.

The Chicago Cabaret Project presents “CT-Hey!” a musical where they unfold stories and songs about the Red Line. It currently running and ends on November 18th and tickets are only $18. For more information visit stage773.com.

But that’s not all. Waltzing Mechanics is presenting “El stories”.   Real life stories from train riders, and they will even reenact an audience member’s story. This show runs from December 2nd –January 14th and tickets can be purchased for $13. For more on this show visit greenhousethearter.org.  

I can’t wait to attend one of these events to see funny stores from the CTA come to life again.

Will that be cash or credit?

“I’m sorry but your card reads invalid,” says the driver. “But I do not have enough cash on me,” replies the passenger. This scenario can be seen almost every day and is a little too familiar to myself. However, I’ve been lucky enough to not have to turn around and leave the bus filled with embarrassment. And in the future, neither will anyone else. Transit officials have announced the plan to allow CTA riders the ability to pay fares using a credit/debit card, a prepaid card, and eventually a mobile phone.  This new fare collection system will be provided by Cubic Transportation Systems, who already provides the current fare system.   

The use of credit/debit cards and prepaid cards will be similar to the current Chicago Card and Chicago Plus card. To use a credit/debit card, one would just tap their card on an electronic reader to pay the fare.  And there is no special card required; a customer can use the same debit card they use on all their other purchases. If a customer chooses not to use a credit or debit card, they may purchase a prepaid card to use on trains and buses. By this time, only CTA buses will continue to accept cash for fares.

This new pay system will save the transit agency almost five million dollars annually; due to the fact it will allow the CTA to no longer be involved with collecting fares, handling processing fees and equipment failures.  CTA President Forrest Claypool will ask the transit agency board to approve the $454 million, 12-year contract, which if approved is anticipated to start running in late 2013 or early 2014.If this is successful, it would eventually move to becoming a service for Metra and Pace customers as well.

Germs are everywhere!!

I was sitting on the train riding north on the redline after a long day of work, there were tons of people on the train and everyone like me was tired and just ready to be home. As I sat there on the train eyes closed semi-enjoying my ride I for a brief moment peeked at the door when i noticed a random passenger MAKING OUT WITH THE POLE….yes you heard me right MAKING OUT WITH THE POLE. He licked the pole with his actual tongue and was caressing it as if he was kissing the love of his life.

I was soooo disgusted and then i thought in that moment of all the times i touch the poles and rails on and around the CTA. I almost threw up, I mean are you kidding me that’s so gross. I realized that there are germs EVERYWHERE and you don’t know who’s mouth or God knows what is lurking on these public pieces of furniture.

ABC news in NYC went out and tested those public areas for the germs you may encounter on a daily  basis. they found germs everywhere but were surprised by how low the number is when it comes to subways, check out the article.

Low Bacteria Levels on NYC Subway, Higher on Amtrak

Gerba was surprised to find relatively low levels of bacteria on the New York City subway. But he did find elevated levels of mold, a potential problem for people with allergies.

He was not prepared for what he found on an Amtrak train — coliform levels in the millions on restroom sink handles. Coliform is a bacteria that can indicate fecal contamination.

He also found high bacteria levels on café car tables, and MRSA, a bacteria that can cause skin infections, on the armrests.

“We always found large numbers of bacteria on Amtrak surfaces,” he said. “Usually we were finding maybe 100,000 bacteria per square inch.”

Is your stop the most hated in the city?

It has been dubbed “the worst stop on the el” some say it is the dirtiest and the most dangerous. The wilson stop, located on the corner of Wilson and Broadway has apparently been an eyesore for many years. so you know it came as a surprise to me when I was looking for apartments last year.  I was just happy to be close enough to get to the station in the cold, i didn’t even think to research the actual stop.

I knew when i got off  that it was a bit sketchy but i just assumed it came with living in a city, but it appears this stop has been the beacon of some problems over the years and its finally going to get the facelift it deserves.

CTA announced last month that it would be giving the wilson stop a 6 million dollar federal grant to update this dreary stop. The money will make it make it accessible with a new elevator in the station house, as well provide an exterior rehab and “street modifications,” according to a press release.

although the stop is getting this money it doesn’t impress the current commuters, I yelped the wilson stop and nearly all of the reviews were 4 thumbs all the way down.

My advice is simple if you have to get off on this stop and its late just walk VERY BRISKLY to your destination no matter where you are remember your in Chicago, it isn’t quite pleasntville.

6 children, one parent and some strollers…

When you have enough kids for an NBA starting line up then you have to be strategic when planning a trip on public transportation. Little kids can be a handful just by themselves so imagine traveling with 6 all under the age of 10 yrs old.

This is what i was thinking when i was traveling home from work one day and I observed this man struggling to get his 6 children on the train it was quite the show. He herded them all in one by one and people sympathetically gave up their seats for the large family.

The CTA has some rules for parents traveling with children and with strollers.


Children in strollers

Children in open strollers are welcome on CTA, however we encourage parents to be considerate of other customers and adhere to these rules when traveling with a stroller.

Keep strollers clear of aisles and doorways aboard buses and trains.

Seniors and customers with disabilities have priority use of the Priority Seating area aboard buses and trains. If these seats are not in use, open strollers may be parked in this area. This will help you to avoid blocking the aisle. Please yield this space if a customer with disabilities, a senior, or a person using a mobility device wishes to board. On buses, you may request use of the access ramp or lift to help you board and exit.

Please fold your stroller in the event that a bus or train becomes crowded, in order to make room for others. Be aware that in the event that a bus or train is crowded, a CTA employee may ask you to fold your stroller or wait for another vehicle. Please follow their instructions. Also, during certain periods of high ridership, we may require that all strollers be folded before you board.

Children in an open stroller should be seated and secured in the stroller before boarding the bus or train.

Note that strollers are never allowed on escalators. If traveling with an open stroller in a multi-level facility, please use elevators or ramps where available. On train station platforms, position your stroller parallel to the platform edge (not facing it), use wheel locks/brakes and stay with it at all times.

Give Back This Holiday Season!

It’s holiday season everyone! Although this time of year can be busy for most, I think it is important to make time to give back to the community. It’s hard to ignore homelessness in this city, when there are so many on the trains and buses. Since most people don’t like to give money or food when approached in those situations, find a place to donate on your own time!

The Greater Chicago Food Depository makes this very easy. TGCFD is Chicago’s food bank. It’s a nonprofit food distribution and training center providing food for hungry people while striving to end hunger in the community.








The Food Depository distributes donated and purchased food through a network of 650 pantries, soup kitchen and shelters. By partnering with The Food Depository, you can host your own food drive. If you qualify, they will even pick up the boxes for you. Register on their website.

If you only want to donate a personal amount of food, you can take the CTA to any of these partnering locations. To get to the Greater Chicago Food Depository itself to volunteer,

take the CTA Red line to Roosevelt. Then transfer to the Orange line. Traveling towards midway, get off at Pulaski. Next take the 53A bus towards 31st. Get off bus at 42nd street and walk to 4100 W Ann Lurie Pl, Chicago, IL 60632.

Here is a LIST of most needed items!

Assault on the Red line.

 The attached video shows an assault of an older man that occurred on the  CTA’s Red Line.  The assault happened at the Chicago Avenue stop on  Friday, November 11.  The video depicts a male mimicking an older  gentleman and then punching him in the face.  The attack appears unprovoked.  It is very disturbing to watch.  What makes the video even harder to watch is that the people around the assailant laughed and mimicked the older man getting punched.  They did not stop to check on the older man.  The assailant is shown getting on the train and as the train leaves the station another citizen approaches the older man lying unconscious on the floor.   The lack of remorse is chilling.

At first I was outraged that nobody stepped forward to help the older man, but now I realized it was probably the safest thing to do, waiting for the assailant and his friends to leave the scene.  Who knows how they would have reacted to somebody assisting the victim.  What does this say about our society that people find humor and sport in making fun of an absolute stranger and then punching them in the face and walking away.  I wonder how the assailant would feel if someone did that to someone he loved.  A reader posted in the reaction section at the bottom of the article that the area this occurred in is a gang area.  I do not know if this is true or not, but I will still think twice before I go anywhere near the Chicago Avenue station.