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Yep, the seats are getting a deep-cleaning too

After my post yesterday about the new CTA cleaning process that yields gleaming train floors, some folks also asked about the nifty clean train seats.

It turns out that those too are getting a deep-clean method from the "Gregomatic."  The process involves soaping and scrubbing seats by hand with this special machine to rinse and suction out the dirt.

BTW: My CTA source said CTA President Ron Huberman wanted y'all to know about the seat cleanings too after reading my blog yesterday. Thanks for letting us know, Ron.

Tell us your secrets, ye 9.800 old Chicago Card holders. Really, how did you do it? How did you manage not to deactivate or otherwise damage your original Chicago Card after four years? Did you keep it in some hermetically sealed plastic, away from every other credit or smart card you ever owned? We who have paid the $5 replacement fee at least three times in those four years want to know your secrets. Well, at least your replacement card is free.

Slow zone weekend work on Blue and Red Lines. Lots of work on both lines this week -- too much to summarize here. Instead, go here to get the scoop.


Do the Chicago Card PLUS expire as well?

No. I keep my card in my wallet. I never take it out. It's always worked.

It is not, however, next to any other card that is plastic - only paper.

I do the same thing as the guy above. Its right behind my drivers license. Just slap the wallet to the sensor and you're off.

I actually am not interested in having to display my wallet in a CTA station. I carry my card in my pocket. I wish its signal were strong enough to register on the turnstile reader from there, but it isn't.

Hearing news like this really makes me glad that Ron Huberman is now steering the ship. Even with the limited funding, he's doing a lot to help CTA.

As far as Chicago Cards, to my knowledge the Chicago Card Plus does expire as well. However, those won't begin to expire until January. I'm really displeased to hear about this expiration. None of the original materials I received with my card four years ago mentioned anything about an expiration date, so this news came as a huge surprise to me.

I have concerns about how smooth the replacement process will be, especially for transferring balances between Plus cards. What happens if my old card gets transfered and deactivated, but I haven't received the new card yet? I typically do not carry cash, so hopefully there won't be any surprises at the farebox.

I treat my card pretty badly, but I've never had an issue with it -- in my back pocket, thrown in my purse, even through the wash a couple of times. Maybe I'm just lucky? (Now it won't work on the way home or something...)

I also have not "babied" my Chicago Card Plus and I've had it for at least a couple years. I even have it in the plastic holder right next to my elevator card for work. Both work flawlessly. Maybe I just got lucky.

I also think Ron Huberman is doing some good things. I mean, if he can keep the momentum up we will see lots of good things coming. He just got started just a matter of a few months ago. The blue line subway is fantastic now, it flys along now like it used to. And they wasted no time after finishing up the subway portion to start major reconstruction on the segment from Addison to Jefferson Park. Its hilarious that Kruesi kept telling us that it would take many, many years to fix the Blue line and a half-million dollars. Now I have no doubt that it will be probably 80-90% slow zone free by the end of 2008. Good job Ron! I think the CTA finally recognizing that trains are much more efficient than buses and slow zones exponentially cut down on this efficiency is a great thing. Keep it up! Make the North Branch of the Red line the next priority and you'll make a LOT of weary CTA riders very, very happy.

I've had my Chicago Card Plus for three years now. While I haven't had to replace it (YET), in the cold months there are many days where I can barely get it to work. This is usually the worst at the Lawrence Red Line stop turnstiles. That's why I keep it in my hand, and then put my glove or mitten over that.

Agreed about the need for North Branch Red Line work! Glad to hear about improvement on the Blue Line, though.

My Plus Card got slightly bent from being in my pocket a year or two ago and it still works. It's dirty and fading - but I just usually keep it in my bag - no problems ever. (knock on wood)

I keep my Chicago Card by itself in a cardholder with clear plastic window and attached cord. It is normally kept in an outer pocket of my tote bag, so I can pull the cardholder out and hold it up to the reader and put it back without removing the card or risking losing it (the end of the cord is tied to the bag). Most of the time it works at the turnstile, on the bus and at the money-adding machine, but sometimes it doesn't--for no reason that's apparent to me. I don't believe it's anything I did.

Speaking of displaying wallets, I never could understand how opening one's wallet on the street in order to get into an ATM lobby after hours is supposed to enhance our personal security. The banks might want to rethink that one.

about the Blue Line--are these repairs to the slow zones fixing the problems the NTSB observed? The off-kilter rails, rotting woods, etc? Might be nice to fly downtown again instead of taking buses all the time.

I haven't read all the comments yet, so I may be repeating. The Trib article of a couple days ago said that Plus cards do NOT expire.

And in case Ron's still reading, not that he'd remember me, but *waves*. It's been almost 20 years....

I never had to replace my Chicago Card since I keep it in one of those Metra pockets you can get at Northwestern Station or Union Station. I keep my Metra pass (Ravenswood) and a few business cards in them. Has worked so far.

Now switching over to Chicago Card Plus. Is that any better or worse for people?

"We who have paid the $5 replacement fee at least three times in those four years want to know your secrets."

Ha, the only answer I'd believe is "we'll I NEVER USE IT because it's sitting on a velvet pillow in a climate-controlled safety box". :)

I've been through a few Chicago Cards yet have NEVER had problems with other types of cards used very heavily.

I've been meaning to share this for a couple of months now ...

It's great to see any improvements made with mass transit, but I can't help but wonder if we've been duped politically with the Kruesi/Huberman transition.

Here's what I mean.

I think that Daley is a very crafy mayor and am wondering if he made 'future plans' for Kruesi well in advance of Kruesi publicly announcing his resignation -- say a year or more in advance due to all the negativity the CTA and city has received from the public and Springfield regarding finances, management, lobbying and service quality.

I just wonder if they also let things get a bit sloppier on purpose to get the public pissed at Springfield and Congress about inadequate funding, while making it a little easier for us to accept a new manager with a lack of public transit experience. This is not meant to disrespect Huberman's talent and potential, however.

Is it a bit over-the-top to wonder these things? Maybe.

BUT, I just find it a little hard to believe that Kruesi's administration could not pull off some of the basic asthetic and service differences that Huberman's group has in quick order.

Case in point. You mean to tell me that Kruesi couldn't implement better cleaning methods on the redline? Couldn't fast track slow zone fixes, even after the Blue line derailment? Couldn't get the purple line to stop at Sheridan? Etc. etc.?

It just makes me go hmmmmmmmmmm.

ok, i think it's personality or something, because my boss and i have the SAME STYLE WALLET, we keep our chicago cards in the same pocket, and i've replaced mine twice now, and he hasn't yet. now, his is peeling, but no serious cracks yet, so i guess that's the death knoll. i'm still a little bitter, though.

HUGE thanks to Ron and whoever else is responsible at the CTA to deep cleaning the Red line trains and bringing them back to a respectable level of cleanliness. The disgusting grime in various hard-to-reach areas on the traincars is all but gone! Now if they would somehow figure out some sort of portable high-tech vacuum system that could suck up seeds, chicken bones, dirt, that they could run through a train in 2-3 minutes and suck all the debris up when it reached the terminal station, that would be fantastic.

I would say rather than Kruesi being that incompetent or that the problem was so easy for Huberman to fix is more a fact of any person doing any job for 10 years... you get kind of complacent after a few. A change in leadership, especially for the better, usually produces faster action.

If you personally have changed jobs, think of your efforts at the tail end of the old job versus at the beginning of the new job.

My impression is that Kruesi was a by-the-book manager of the kind that wreck many enterprises. He saw his job as accomplishing set goals, micromanaging small details, checking off all the boxes on his To Do list, being a good and unimaginative executor of his boss's direct orders. That attitude tends to replace any common sense view of what your enterprise as a whole is supposed to be about. His talents were all about being a good bureaucrat, in other words. We've all had bosses like that.

Huberman, on the other hand, seems to have decided that his focus will be on the users of the system. He sees customer satisfaction as the path to success. That's the model that generally drives modern enterprises like Apple, as opposed to old-line industrial dinosaurs like the US auto industry. So far so good. It remains to be seen whether Huberman's promising management model will find a way to function without being torpedoed by political sabotage.

On 9/7/07, I requested a replacement for my soon-to-be expring card and got the following e-mail on 9/21/07 - this better not be the beginning of card expiration chaos:

Dear Chicago Card Customer:

The CTA would like to inform you of a recent system malfunction we encountered on September 19th and September 20th when replacement requests were processed for Chicago Card customers with upcoming expiring cards.

The system mistakenly identified soon to be expiring cards such as yours, as cards that had been lost, stolen or damaged. As a result, your Chicago Card was disabled and an automatic email was sent notifying you the card would be instantly deactivated.

Please be advised we have reactivated your Chicago Card and your balance will not be affected by this issue. You may continue to use your Chicago Card until the cards' expiration date. You will be receiving your new $0 value Chicago Card within 5 – 7 business days.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Thank you for being a valued Chicago Card customer.


Chicago Card Operations Center

When my Chicago Card Plus broke in half all of a sudden, it took the CTA a month to get me a new one, during which I had to pay all fares twice, because I was on the monthly plan. And of course, there were was not even a possibility of getting a refund. It should be fun watching them try to replace the cards of thousands of people at once.

I'm on card #7 now. Which has suddenly gone from being a 30 day pass to being a pay-per-ride card. I cannot get anyone at the CTA to help me. I even went so far as to email Carole Brown. Someone named Greg emailed back, gave me a phone number to someone he said was one of the better customer service people there. She hasn't returned my phone call yet.

The CTA sucks.

I'm a woman, not a guy, but I'm glad my method is the same working situation as others...

Speaking of displaying wallets, I never could understand how opening one's wallet on the street in order to get into an ATM lobby after hours is supposed to enhance our personal security. The banks might want to rethink that one.

a bit off-topic but the new 'street-side' ATMs (corner of North & Sheffield, for instance) Bank of America is gung-ho about putting up boggles my mind as well. Did they even CONSIDER one's safety?

My 4-year-old ChicagoCard has started dying, so I was glad to hear they were offering new cards for free. And then I saw that they're doing free replacement cards too at https://www.chicago-card.com/cc/ExpiredCard.aspx

I'll believe it when I see my new card in the mail AND I can transfer the balance from the old to the new.

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