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A primer on CTA's rules for behavior

A reader last week who recently moved to Chicago asked me where she could find rules for behavior on the CTA. I couldn't find them on the CTA Web site, so I asked the CTA for them. Noelle Gaffney sent me a copy of the 1998 ordinance spelling out what we can and can't do on the CTA.

"Some of these rules are not posted because, as you will see when you read through them, they are common sense and widely understood in terms of behaviors that are not acceptable in a public place," Gaffney wrote in sharing them with me. (Clarification: Gaffney later today asked me to clarify that "many of these rules are posted and conveyed through announcements.  In my first email response to you I explained that the rules were generally posted at the location where it was most logical to place it.")

Fair enough. But some of them are interesting to know. So here goes:

Medicine only. It's illegal to "consume any food or beverage, excluding medicines." Keep the Tylenol handy in the slow zones.

Turn it down! It's illegal to "use an entertainment appliance, radio, musical instrument or other sound-emitting device, which is clearly audible to others." This was passed in 1998, but I gotta believe it covers the walkie-talkie-like Nextel and other squawking phones.

Those hazardous sleepers. It's illegal to "sleep or doze where such activity may be hazardous to such person or others or where such activity may interfere with the operation of the CTA's transit system." I'm not sure if that covers the "egregious sleepers" whom I have complained about.

Keep it in your mouth. It's illegal to "spit saliva, food, gum, tobacco or any other substance." Hmmm. You could be ticketed first for eating, and then spitting food.

La Leche League thanks you. You can't "expose one's breast, buttocks, or genitals on ... the CTA; provided that breast-feeding of infants does not violate this ordinance."

No cunnilingus or fellatio. It's illegal to "perform sexual intercourse or any other sex act, including but not limited to cunnilingus or fellatio." That was just a puerile excuse to use those words twice in one paragraph on this blog.

Gamblers begone!  You can't "use any shell game, sleight-of-hand or juggling trick (?!?), or any other game to cheat, defraud, or unlawfully obtain money." Has anyone seen a juggling trick?

No tracts or rave notices. And don't try to "post, stick, stamp, paint, or affix any sign, notice, circular, handbill, placard, poster, card, advertisement or other device calculated to attract the attention of the public."

Pepper spray is OK. It's illegal to possess or carry any pistol, revolver, firearm, dagger, stiletto, billie club, knife, stun gun, taser, mace, bludgeon, explosive device or other weapon." But this section does not apply to cops or jail and military personnel, or pepper spray.

And here's what happens to you violators: "A fine of not less than $100; a period of supervision; restitution; community service for not less than 30 and not more than 120 hours."

Download the PDF of the ordinance below.

Download cta_ordinance98126.pdf


well, I've seen about half of these broken--either with my own eyes or the effects of them (stickers, graffitti, etchings, etc.). Never seen anybody enforce anything on the L; and only sometimes on the bus.

think of all the money they could by enforcing these (of course, as has been pointed out before, after all this neglect, they would have to announce the crack-down. But once sufficient notice has been given--what, a week or 2?--go get 'em, people! I'll be good then, too. Either there's a nice influx of cash into the coffers, or a nicer CTA to ride. Win-win.)

I've frequently seen the shell game on the Red Line. I saw them take $200 from a bunch of dumb-ass out of towners going to a Cubs game. This woman let him take $80, then she lost another $120 on top of that. I couldn't believe it.

What if one wanted to, say, post these rules on the CTA? Can you post things on other riders? Like on their face?

The only one I disagree with is No Fellatio. I should be able to fellate wherever I want.

I was once sitting on a NB Red Line when a dude sat next to me and starting brushing his teeth and spitting on the floor. A few stops later, the shell game commenced. Screw you and your "rules", CTA! Actually it was gross and annoying at the same time.

well, I think all these rules are broken on a daily basis on every train line and possibly half the buses. How many more violations will have to happen before they find it important to post these rules on trains and buses. Also, maybe Kevin didn't post all the lovely rules given to him, but where does it say it's illegal to sleep or smoke on the CTA property? Or to take pics?

Rules? Great idea, but... the problem is in the execution. There is nobody to enforce them.

Whenever I see someone smoking on a CTA platform, I remind them of the non-smoking policy. Once I was approached and asked if I was a cop. I told the person that I wasn't, but was more than happy to get one involved if they wanted.

I once told a guy he was gross for clipping his nails and letting them fall on the ground on the train. He didn't appreciate my comment, but I didn't appreciate "CLIP CLIP clipclipclip"... I think no clipping nails should be worked in somehow.

I agree with Carrie, there should be some kind of "no clipping nails, plucking eyebrows, putting on makeup" rule.

cmama, click on the Download ordinance link--it does actually say something about sleeping in any way that takes up too much space (forget the exact wording.) He just summarized some of the interesting points. Come to think of it, I don't think it said anything about pictures, though...

As for the make-up, we'll have to wait for some idiot to poke her eye out with a mascara wand or something. (usually a SHE that I see that sort of thing)

Thanks for unearthing this info. Perhaps Ms. Gaffney could be convinced to advocate the prominent posting of these rules in stations and on trains and buses. Then some random, stealth enforcements would help show that the rules matter.

By the way, "expose one's breast" (something that's prohibited) would seem to be open to interpretation. I'd imagine the definition of "breast" might be limited to the female type, but could it also mean shirtlessness isn't OK for men? I think I've seen one shirtless guy on the L in five years, so if the rule applies to all chests, that's one of the most well-kept rules on the CTA. Seems to happen more on NYC's subways than here.

Would be great if the set an example and actually started enforcing some of these rules. I've often wondered how many of the thugs are carrying a gun on the train.

What a truly incompetently written ordinance!

Section 1.15 prohibits the carrying of a knife, so I guess someone going to work with a utility knife is breaking the law. As is someone carrying a Swiss Army knife with a blade shorter than 3 inches, which is legal anywhere in Chicago except a courthouse.

Section 1.16 bans giving away farecards. Totally!
What they meant to do was ban giving away a farecard that's good for a second or third ride. But what they've done is ban giving away any farecard.
That means if you want to give someone a never used farecard, the CTA could have you arrested!

So not only can't the CTA run a railroad or bus system, they can't even properly use the English language to write clear & logical rules!
Which could mean that if someone is charged under one of these two sections & has a good lawyer, all the CTA rules could get thrown out by a judge.

This is the funniest post I have ever read here. An edumacational, too!

I'm fairly certain I've seen everyone one of these rules broken over the course of my life.

Will someone please let Gaffney know these are a complete joke. There is absolutely no point if they are not going to be enforced.

If anything I think urinating on a rail car should have a 500 dollar fine or community service. I got in a fight with a guy just the other day for using hobo corner as a washroom. I simply stated "thank you, now the rest of the car get to enjoy the aroma of your piss for the rest of the ride to Howard! (where I highly doubt it will be cleaned up before the train goes back out)" Fortunately a few others in the car joined in at yelling at the guy as his exited at Wilson.

After having coffee spilled on my head by someone standing and drinking on a moving red line, this one is apparently NOT common sense:

Medicine only. It's illegal to "consume any food or beverage, excluding medicines."

Man! I do not miss the CTA.

I love how food and drink is supposedly outlawed, yet most subway stops have vending machines and/or food stores *inside* the turnstiles (such as the Dunkin' Donuts at the Chicago stop). I'd love to hear an explanation from the CTA for that little glaring inconsistency that doesn't smack of doubletalk.

I never understand this confusion. What's wrong with vending machines and doughnut shops selling food that can be eaten anywhere but in the trains? Can one not stop at such a shop on the way OUT of the station? They're not exactly forcing us to take the food into the train and eat it there. Eat it on the platform or take it out of the station with you, or eat it somewhere after your train trip. Not rocket science.

the sexual intercourse one was clearly passed in the wake of the Lewinsky scandal. there's no other possible explanation for how specific it is.

so... i'm supposed to dry-swallow my tylenol (that i so greatly need on account of the cta) and choke to death. that's just great.

all right--I am now completely behind a no cosmetics rule (not that it will make any more difference than the no eating rule, I imagine). Last week, it was the perfume giving me a headache; today it was the nail polish! Somebody (but not the lady with the perfume) on the X80 again, with the bottle held between her knees, of all places. I changed seats, but the smell lingered in my nose until I made my transfer.
Gotta grow me a better backbone, to ask people to stop, rather than be passive-aggressive about it.
That being said, next time she does that, I hope the bottle spills on her, and that I'm not there.

I know about the rules, but you know what? None of the announcements say anything about drinking. Where I work we're extremely busy, and we just moved and our corporate office won't let us buy a water cooler right now. And yes, it often gets too busy for me to even leave and get a drink, or I run out of the drinks I bring. We have few windows in the office, so it's dry as a bone.

So...since they don't say anything about no drinking (they only specify eating on the train), if I don't finish my drink by the time the train reaches my platform, then by God, I'm going to finish it to soothe my throat if I have to on the train. Plus, I'm getting over pneumonia, so if you people who were giving me dirty looks because of my coughing (as if I can control that), then ska-roooo yoo! I need a drink, 'kay? I'm very careful, I never spill, and even if I DID spill, 1) it's water, and 2) I'll clean it, and 3) it'd probably clean the crap that CTA missed.

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