Last week I got on the Brown Line going home - northbound on a weeknight at the end of the usual rush. There was a man standing in the mostly full car, in front of an empty seat, talking on his cell phone. So I sat in another, less desirable seat (not facing forward) thinking "he is about to sit down."
Two stops later, he still had not sat down.
What he was doing was walking halfway down the car and coming back to stand in front of the empty seat. You know, the way people on cell phones like to pace, but I don't think I have seen this behavior on a *moving* train car before. (He continued to pace and never did sit down.)
So, during one of his forays away from the empty seat I quickly switch to it. Now in my new seat, there is a woman sitting next to me talking on her cell phone about her 'bad stomach problems.' I am thinking how annoying these people are when the train stops at the platform, the doors open and I can hear the conductor say "Step up- step up- people on cell phones step up."
Today we get our chance to tell the CTA board what we think about its new cash fare changes. The CTA boards meets at 4 pm today at CTA headquarters, 567 W. Lake.
There has been lots of spirited discussion here about the cash-paying commuters having to cough up an extra quarter, while those who use the Chicago Card or Card Plus will see no fare increase. If you have strong feelings one way or another on this issue, let the board know TODAY. Or email your comments.
Last week I got an email bitching about the CTA's photo-taking policy. This person wrote:
"I've taken like 8123957 pictures in the subway, but coming home tonight some lady told me they aren't allowed and they normally ticket people so: QUIT IT! I said "since when has this been in effect?" and she said "since forever" and then her compadre piped in "since September 11. people will use the photos to figure out where to plant bombs."
So I went straight to the source and asked the CTA VP of marketing and communication what the policy is. Here's how Noelle Gaffney replied:
"The general public is allowed to take snapshots in public areas. Equipment such as lighting, tripods, cables etc. is not allowed – except in instances where a commercial and professional photographer enters into a contractual agreement with CTA.
"Photographers are not allowed to enter or photograph non-public areas of CTA stations.
"Photographers are prohibited from obstructing transit operations, interfering with customers, and blocking doors or stairs.
"In light of heightened security concerns, CTA personnel will evaluate the actions of photographers on a case by case basis to determine if a photographer is in compliance with the above guidelines. Photographers must cooperate with the requests of CTA personnel, which may include ceasing taking pictures.
"We recommend that those members of the general public interested in taking pictures at a certain location contact the CTA prior to their visit."
As if CTA trains aren't scary enough, the CTA serves up its Haunted "L" train again this year for rider chills and thrills.
The Mayor’s Office of Special Events and the Chicago Office of Tourism are teaming up to charter the train from the CTA. Ghouls and ghosts can ride the train on Thursday and Friday evenings, and Saturday afternoon, according to the CTA press release.
"The exterior of the:Haunted ‘L’ train has been wrapped to look like a haunted mansion. Once on board, guests will be entertained by Quest Theatre Ensemble. Large-scale puppets from Quest Theatre Ensemble will perform stories based on the popular children’s book, 'Where the Wild Things Are.' "
More details from the press release:
"Trips on the Haunted ‘L’ are free, but guests must obtain tickets from the Chicago Cultural Center Visitor Information Center at 77 East Randolph before boarding. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are only offered on the current day the Haunted ‘L’ is in operation. Ticket distribution begins at 6 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, and at 10 a.m. on Saturdays.
"Haunted ‘L’ trips begin at the Randolph/Wabash ‘L’ station and run 25 minutes. Thursday and Friday evening trips on October 27 and 28 will start at 7 p.m., 7:25 p.m., 7:50 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. Saturday trips on October 29 will begin at 11:40 a.m., 12:05 p.m., 12:30 p.m., 12:55 p.m. and 1:20 p.m. Customers with disabilities can make arrangements when they pick up their tickets to board the train at the accessible Clark/Lake ‘L’ station."
Standing in the same place on the platform. Sitting in the same seat. Seeing the same people at the same time every day.
But sometimes habit goes too far.
I often see two women board at the north end of the Morse platform from the Lunt side and walk to the south end to board. Fine.
But it's quite nervous-making and frankly scary to see them running down the platform as the train is pulling into the station. Especially at the narrow spots on the platform where the stairs rise up and standing people create a very narrow strip for walkers/runners.
After informing CTA brass about U.S. Cellular's annoying and ultimately illegal guerrilla marketing campaign on CTA trains and other property, the CTA "spoke with a US Cellular representative today and also with someone from the ad agency to let them know that we don't allow this type of solicitation. The US Cellular rep said they would stop immediately. "
It just proves that if "You See Something, Say Something"!
I commend the CTA on their quick action in responding to customer complaints. I first emailed them about this at 11:46 am today. I got the above reply at 4:11 pm today.
Noelle Gaffney, CTA's VP in the marketing and communications area, also said in her email: "Thanks for pointing this out. This campaign was not authorized by the CTA."
I had a great email conversation with Ms. Gaffney a little earlier this week about the CTA's photo-taking policy. I'll post on that next week. But she did encourage riders to always let the CTA know about things like this.
Robin shares this bizarre story and begs the question - huh?
We've all heard it, over the loudspeakers: "Solicitation on CTA trains is prohibited; violators will be arrested." Sure, panhandling can be troublesome, but it's not sinister, like what I saw this morning. Solicitation? Maybe. Completely insulting? Without doubt.
I ride the brown line from Western to Chicago during rush hour. At Fullerton, an eye-catching gent gets on the train, cell phone pressed to his ear. He wears gray pants, a blue zippered hoodie, and a black backpack. There is a large white logo on the left breast of the hoodie, and a smaller one on his backpack. Aaaand...his face is painted blue. From hairline to jawline. Blue Man Group blue. Bears fan blue. I don't recall any major sporting events today, but maybe I've missed something. So, like a good little city mouse, I ignore him and his blue face. He enters at the opposite end of the car from me, but at Armitage, he moves to the doors nearest me. He's yapping away on his cell phone, which is annoying enough, but as he contrives to turn completely around in the unoccupied doorway, I can finally read his logos: "Talk Until You're Blue in the Face, with U.S. Cellular."
This makes things more interesting and more distressing. Not only is he a complete dink, he's being paid to be a complete dink. Not only is his yapping intruding on my aural landscape, but his yapping constitutes an ad.
His conversation (is it one-sided? is he talking to himself? is he a marginally-employed actor??!) sounds mundane enough: "No, man, I didn't even know she was his sister. Not like she was his girl or something. Well, she's awfully cute." Then, at a no-doubt pre-scripted spot--once casual eavesdroppers are sure to be hooked by the mini-drama between two friends, a third friend, and that friend's sister--he says "Naw, don't worry about it, brah, I've got free incoming calls with this thing. Yeah, and they gave me a sweet phone, too. Yeah, we could walkie-talkie. Even takes pictures." The ad portion of his broadcast concludes with "No, I took no naked pictures of his sister with it." He gets off at Sedgwick, just as I am resolved to shoving him off the train when the doors open.
Okay, so, on the one hand, this is brilliant guerrilla marketing, the likes of which I usually associate with underground theatre. On the other, it's absolute co-opting of that kind of whisper-campaign, word-of-mouth advertising that can really make a product move. Do they think they're clever? Do they think we don't get it? Aren't they concerned with the (assumed) fact that this isn't allowed on the CTA, and their man might get ejected or arrested, as the announcements promise?
Then, distressingly, I wonder if this is NOT the "solicitation" the CTA deems illegal, but if the transit authority, strapped for cash as it publicly is, accepted money from U.S. Cellular to allow the company's shill on the train to pose as a satisfied customer who, out of the joy he gets from his phone, pitches a phone service to his buddy on the line and everyone in earshot.
I don't mind if they sell the sides of trains, the turnstiles, or the walls. Like all millennial gen-Xers, I'm so used to constant visual intrusion that signage is wasted on me. But can the CTA really offer up its atmosphere--the soundwaves in its cars--to the highest bidder?
Clearly, I'm going to never ever spend any money with U.S. Cellular--and encourage my friends to boycott as well--because of the intrusion and stupidity of having an actor in blue-face pimp their phone during my commute, but I want more action. I want to know if the CTA is complicit in this crappy ad campaign. If they aren't, I want them to come out against this kind of activity on their buses and trains. If they are, however, I want the riders to rise up and demand that the soundscape of the CTA remain unsold.
On Wednesday, there were at least two emergency incidences that caused CTA rail service disruptions. First, around 10:30 am, a Brown Line train hit an SUV that was trying to get around the crossing gate.
Then, at the height of the evening rush hour, northbound trains were stopped for about 40 minutes while paramedics helped a sick passenger. There is not story on that in the Tribune. That's something that happens with some frequency, though I don't know just how often.
Below is a first-person account from Toby about the woman who noticed the sick man and the courage she had to summon to inform the motorman and ultimately delay thousands of passengers. Interesting stuff. Think about it next time you're delayed by a sick passenger. And thanks for writing, Toby.
From Toby: So after an utterly exhausting work day I am standing up in the last car of a northbound Red Line train. We had just exited the underground section and was passing Fullerton when a clearly distressed woman comes from the front of the car and asks me as calmly as she could muster for me to please move away from the intercom button so that she could message the conductor.
As she struggles to get the CTA’s attention, she looks to me, about to cry, saying there is a man, in what looks to me in his mid to late 60s, in the front of the car unresponsive, deathly pale and all together not looking to be in good shape. She exchanges a few words with the conductor, is put on hold, and looks to me, shaking, saying she has no idea if she is doing the right thing. It’s the middle of rush-hour, half the city is trying to get home right now and here is this poor lady stopping a train because she thinks this guy might be bad off. I don’t envy her position in the least.