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The CTA Insider returns with bleachy insights

Last year we got some inside info from a person who dubbed himself the CTA Insider. He gave us some insights on various CTA matters for about three months and then dropped out of the picture.

Now he's back after a self-imposed absence.

Last week I posted about a squeaky-clean El car I smelled that was heavy with bleach. The CTA Insider tells me bleach was allowed to be used again on the CTA. Its use apparently was halted for some time after some nimwit mixed bleach and ammonia, which of course is very dangerous (in pdf).

Anyone else have some questions for the Insider?


No questions for the insider, but did you see the item in the Sun-Times today about the GPS on the Madison bus?

I have a question. Why is the CTA so stupid that they would outlaw bleach (I mean bleach, people) instead of simply retraining their employee?

Pine-Sol did not have the ability to get rid of pee smell on an L car, it just made smell like lime-scented pee.

Slightly off topic, but has anyone noticed that CTA is making station announcements more often whenever there's even a minor delay? I seem to hear them much more frequently in the loop lately. Just the other day an announcement was made saying Brown Line trains were delayed because of a disgruntled passenger. (It's nice to know the words "police activity" are no longer in CTA's vocabulary. They seem to be more open as to what the cause of delays are now.)

Well to use The Other Kevin's remark, When is the CTA going to get a better PA system? I hear those announcements and I can barely understand what they are saying. It's a shame that restaurant drive thru windows have better audio that the CTA.

Where can I get a schedule of the Brown Line closures that I can understand? I have the pdf downloaded from the CTA "Countdown to a New Brown" site, but the charts are complicated, and I can't figure out what stations are closing in Spring '06.

For instance, I know that Addison will not be closed when Paulina is, but which one is closing first? And when is the second round of closures happening? (Spring '07?) How many weekend closures will cause Western to be the end of the line? etc...

Could this info be put clearly on a webpage, not in an internal-memo-style pdf?

Re the announcements: I too have noticed that they are more frequent and in general more informative. I think the CTA Tattler deserves most of the credit for this. Thanks Tattler!!!

I have a question for the insider. I can't tell you how many times I arrive at Belmont or Fullterton on a Red/Brown line, only to see the other train just leaving the station. Are the drivers supposed to check to see if the other line train is coming in so that riders can make the transfer instead of waiting 10+ minutes for the next train? Is there a policy on that?

Is there a better way to apply to the CTA than online? I want to go for the media rep job, but I feel that my resume will just get filled away somewhere from online.

Good question by Flynn. It seems the Redline always waits--i've been on northbound trains that waited at Fullerton, zipped up to Belmont, and then waited for the same Brownline train to arrive again! But, many times southbound on the Redline pulling into Belmont, there goes the Brownline train--they never wait.

For reasons that totally baffle me, Southbound Howard trains always wait for southbound Ravenswood trains at Belmont, but never the other way around.
I for one am sick and tired of having my commute lengthened for the Lakeview and Ravenswood yuppies.

I wait for 10+ minutes NB and SB waiting to change from the brown to the red frequently. Modifiers such as "always" and "never" seldom work. But I'm sure your life is worse than everybody else's, though. So let's blame yuppies!

The Red Line will sometimes wait at Belmont for two Brown Lines. Luckily for us, it's been a warm winter so far. This happens nearly every day. As we all know, there is no real train schedule, and with all of the slow zones, my only guess is that the CTA has directed the Red Line train operators to wait for Brown/Purple Lines. This has increased just over the past couple years. The Red Line doesn't run frequently enough so the CTA stalls it at Belmont to keep the current frequency of trains spaced apart. What's sad is that I'll bet alot more people would move further north if the Red Line actually ran at the speed it's supposed to. Carole Brown has yet to offer any substantive info on plans for fixing the "Slow Zone" (entire northside Red Line).

Well, there are cases where I can see not waiting. Basically, if you're transferring from Red to Brown (either direction), the only problem with the Brown not waiting is if you want to get off on the two stops in between Belmont and Fullerton. Other than that, the Red usually catches the Brown at the next stop anyway, so you can just stay on the Red for one more stop. I have seen MANY times where I've gotten off of a Brown at Fullerton just as a Red is pulling away. Same thing going south. So, as long as the Brown waits on the last overlapping stop, it's not too bad. However, I have seen it pull away as I come in on a Red.

Sometimes, the Red line is backed up, so there's a train coming right behind it. I admit my method is a bit more selfish...I'm trying to leapfrog a Purple by taking the Brown to Fullerton, hopping a Red to Belmont, and then catching the Purple we just passed. Trying to do that around 6:30-7pm, I frequently see the Red leaving JUST as a Brown is pulling in.

Also, with this era of communication, I would hope that with the new track construction, we'd get some sort of display showing where the trains are. When I'm trying to figure out if it's worth waiting for the next Purple or just take this Red, I don't know what's coming, and it usually is a tough decision. You'd think it wouldn't be tough to have some simple tracking mechanism that shows me if the next trains coming in are Brown, Purple, or whatever. Heck, take the case of running the hallway between the Blue and Red at Washington. Or how about running up the stairs at Clark & Lake? Or even AT Clark & Lake...do I take a Brown up to Merch. Mart and catch a Purple that's just coming, or do I wait here for a Purple? I don't even know if there's one currently making the loop or not.

ANY info on that kind of stuff would make commuting much better.

Wow Flynn, it sounds as if you would like the CTA to be customer friendly...

I have a question regarding Visitor Passes. Working as a Chicago Greeter at the Cultural Center, I find that many tourists come in looking for Visitor Passes and have a hard time locating them because the vendors (even the Cultural Center Gift Shop itself) are constantly running out and they tell me are having a hard time getting supplies replenished on a timely basis. The CTA help desk says this should never happen, that they can easily supply passes on a timely basis. But the vendors tell me that they place orders in advance of running out but they don't get filled for three - four weeks after they run out. What gives? Also, why are there only two Visitor Pass vending machines downtown which are located within four blocks of each other (Chicago Ave Red Line subway station and the Waterworks Visitors Center) and not a single machine in the Loop (ie, south of the river)? Can the CTA at least install a Visitors Pass machine in the Randolph/State Red Line station or at the Cultural Center? Thanks.

> You'd think it wouldn't be tough to have some simple tracking mechanism that shows me if the next trains coming in are Brown, Purple, or whatever. Heck, take the case of running the hallway between the Blue and Red at Washington

I agree with this. The solution to the problem is to have different sounds for trains in different directions. Right now, you're lucky if you hear the "This is a Red Line train to Howard" when you're running down the transfer tunnel. However, you can always hear the "Doors Closing" announcement. (Since there's quite a delay between the direction announcement and the doors closing.)

What they do in Japan is to play music (on the platform speakers, not the train speakers) while the doors are open, and shut it off before the doors close. Example: train pulls in, doors open, platform speakers say "This is wherever, wherever.", delay while people get on and off, a few bars of a tune (different for each track), "Track 1 doors closing", and the doors close. It's very efficient and the music is much more relaxing than "ding dong, doors closing". :)


Track 1: http://www.oriori.org/tokyo/mp3/yurakucho1.mp3
Track 2: http://www.oriori.org/tokyo/mp3/yurakucho2.mp3

They also use male voices for all announcements affecting one track and female for the other, so even if you're "far away" you can still get some information out of the announcements. All in all, much better than what we have now, and it wouldn't cost much money to add.

Even converting the "doors closing" voice to female in one direction would help a lot.

We can dream, can't we, Mel? :)

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