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It could be worse -- we could be in New York City; the "Pokey" award

Here in Chicago, the CTA faced about a $50 million budget gap for 2009, which it plugged with a fare increase, but no service cuts.

In New York City today, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will reveal its budget and how it plans to deal with a $1.2 billion shortfall. So yes, it could have been much worse for us, were it not for the sales tax increase passed early this year.

The New York Times reports that an 8% hike in fares and tolls will cover about half of that. But Gotham City passengers are waiting for the other shoe to drop -- in the form of expected heavy service cuts.

And while we're talking about the MTA, check out this New York Magazine story about which bus gets the Pokie and Schleppie awards for being "slower than chickens walking." The "winning" bus moves at 3.7 mph.

So, which CTA bus do yo think should win our own CTA Tattler Pokie award? Or should be call it the Bunchie? (Hat tip to Jasmine.)


I always hate it when people say, "It could be worse." Of course things could always be worse! You could get hit by a speeding 22 or 36 and not even know it's coming because it's not on the bus tracker. That would certainly be worse than a far hike, wouldn't it? The expression is too often used as an excuse for things being as bad as they are.

I like 'Bunchie.' What should the statue on the trophy be?

And I'm torn about honorees. The #72 always plagued me with bunching (like the one time I was walking two blocks to catch it, and one went by, I said dang, missed it -- then another one went by, and I said well, that was the bunched bus so now I'm definitely going to be waiting... then a third came and went when I was nearly there and I got frustrated... but when I got to the corner, the fourth pulled up with the fifth right behind it, and I got to board. I still wonder how long people were waiting after that fifth one). But the #22 seems to be a perennial favorite too. Although maybe the #22 deserves to not just get an award but have one named after it.

But more important questions lie ahead of us. When is the Santa Train coming?!?!

At least downtown, the 36 is always bunched up -- I've seen up to three in a row at State/Van Buren, which serves like six bus routes.

Hah. Answered my own question: Santa is out riding the rails starting this Saturday!


Woohoo! I love the Santa Train!

Did people read the article in yesterday's Tribune about how the CTA plans on moving towards bank-issued debit/credit cards that double as public transportation smart cards? It'll go out to bid next year.


Yes, we were discussing it a little bit in yesterday's thread. I think it sounds like a good idea.

Doesn't the MTA get some money from bridge tolls in NYC? I'm sure they can raise those a bit as well.

The chances of getting hit by a speeding 22 or 36 are not great because you can't get hit by an oxymoron.

John Cullerton has been chosen to be President of the state Senate. He gets along with Madigan. Maybe now we can have a capital bill and can stop feeling compelled to say that things could be worse. If there were adequate funding for infrastructure repairs and rolling stock purchases, things might be better and then we won't know what to do with ourselves.

Sabrina: The Straphangers' Campaign trophy for the Pokey award is a snail, while their Schleppie for least reliable are two elephants. Don't know if there are actual physical trophies to match what's pictured on their web site (see http://www.straphangers.org/pokeyaward/08/index.html). I imagined the Bunchie would be two or three buses smushed together like those elephants.

As to my nomination for the Bunchie, I have so many nominees - the 72, the 22, the 36. And that's just at the local level. Should there be a separate award for express buses?

You wouldn't get run over by a speeding 22 -- you'd get run over by three in a row.

I was going to say, how could you get hit by a speeding 22 or 36...they go so slow a grandma on crutches could get out of the way in plenty of time...


The 151 Sheridan could qualify for either award. There are about 15 million stops on its route from Howard to Union Station and due to the fact that it serves Sheridan road which has a pletora of elderly people, particulary the stretch between Devon and Foster and Waveland to maybe Belmont, its progress might be somewhere around two blocks every seven or eight minutes. Not to knock old people, but they do take their time getting on and off the bus. I rode the 151 home from Union Station the other night (to Bryn Mawr) and it took me about an hour and a half.

Oh, and as for the symbol on the trophy (Bunchie)? A cluster of grapes? Three anthropomorphic buses dancing a Rocketts-style high kick chorus line complete with raised top hats?

How about a bunch of bananas painted to look like CTA buses? They could even be reclining in one of those silly banana hammocks available at Bed Bath & Beyond.

If you watch individual routes on the bus tracker for a while you realize that no route is really worse than any other for bunching. You're just bothered by what affects you, and the big picture doesn't matter.

I'm very amused by the CTA's ability to create a minute-by-minute schedule for the holiday train even as they dodge the question about why they stopped doing that for the rest of the system.

Even the Santa Train doesn't run on its schedule. Last year on the NB Red, there were switching problems at Belmont. Santa kept getting out of his sleigh to stalk up the platform and shake an angry fist at the Clark junction tower. That kind of took away the jolly old fellow aura that Santa should maintain at all times.

The 22 bus deserves a Bunchie, or, as one commenter rightly pointed out, to have the award named after it.

The 36 should win hands-down. The 22 is a dream compared to the 36.

The 22 bunches a ton southbound past Fullerton in the mornings, it is rare to catch a 36 with so much 22 bunching.

The 156 is also the worst, especially when I am waiting for a 151 southbound past fullerton, 3-4 156 to a 151 is standard in the morning.

The 156 is not bunched, it simply just runs a lot of buses on its route. Where I pick my 136 to go north in the loop, there are lots of 156 buses, but they seem to fill them up so I don't have a problem with it. It's funny when I see people running for one, considering it seems like they come every 2 minutes.

You'll be happy to HAVE the CTA next year when/if you commute. Those of you that still have jobs, that is. Do you think the economy is just going to get better overnight? Nope. We've just begun to see the carnage wrought. When unemployment gets to 15% or so in the next month or two we'll only be at the beginning. If you were planning on retiring and you DON'T have a city pension you can forget that. If you get laid off you can bet there won't be a job for you. Quit complaining about everything. It will get much worse and you need to spend your energy on much more constuctive things like "Where will I live and what will I eat?" Have you noticed how many "retail" companies are going out of business? How about all of them? Time to wake up and smell the roses. The shitstorm has barely begun and as much as I like Barack Obama, he's not going to be able to fix this mess.

In Painhertz's scenario, all of us will be pleading with the rich CTA pensioners to spend some money so their wealth will "trickle down" to us.

Well..the next round of layoffs/headcount reductions at the CTA will come from middle management. They've been offered a sweetheart deal to buy extra years of pension so they can retire fat and happy with full benefits. Everyone else? Bupkis.

Maybe Painhertz and Santa can get together for some quality fist-shakin' this year.

Laugh...go ahead. See you in the soup line.

I'd nominate the 147 for the Bunchie, as there's always a bunch of them at Michigan and South Water during the evening commute. Except there's really ALWAYS a bunch of them - no exaggeration, every two minutes. It must be the most well-traveled bus route in the city. Who are you people taking this bus and where do you live?

On a lighter note, I usually take the brown line to work in the morning and the #11 home at night. Yesterday when I walked out to the bus stop at my normal time bustracker said it would be 20 minutes until a #11 would be there. Frankly, I've never had to wait that long. 'Specially at 4:30pm. So, I opted for the brown line home. Darn train was so fast and I was listening to Django Reinhartd playing "Sweet Georgia Brown" into some wacky Thelonious Monk/John Coltrane stuff that I missed my stop and ended up walking hope from Western. I still got home 20 minutes faster than if I took the bus normally and I enjoyed the walk. So there. Hmm...I think my lithium is kicking in. :)

New Bunchie nomination: At approximately 1pm I witnessed a herd of three #70 buses rolling east, not uncommon on this route. No one knows why they travel in packs. Is it to ward off predators? Have the Ashland and Western buses been known to become aggressive and attack weaker buses?

My "Pokey" goes to the 65

Where the hell are you at Milwuakee-Grand in the AM, if I miss one, I know it will be about a 20-25 minute wait, its like the black hole of bus lines.

The proposed fare increases in NYC, as reported by the Times, are 23%, not 8%.

The MTA does run some of NYC's bridges (and collects the toll revenues from them), but not all of them.

I'm a bit confused, Kevin, how an 8% fare increase is "worse" than the CTA's 2009 30% increase for rail service (when elimanation of the 10% bonus for Chicago Cards is factored in) and 12.5% for bus service. The last I checked, 8% was a lower number than both of those. Also, that second article implies that only four or five rail lines would be severly impacted by the service cuts over there(and the New York Times article didn't really suggest anything different). That may sound like a lot to people here. But I believe the subway system in New York has more than 40 rail lines. Almost everyone in New York, from my understanding, is within easy walking distance of around three subway lines. So their proposal doesn't seem to me to be anything significant.

I have no idea why I didn't factor in the elimanation of the 10% bonus for bus trips. So that is actually a 22% increase.

MK: As you so often admonish us, read what I wrote. The 8% fare increase has already been announced and will only cover half of the shortfall.

As still waiting reports, the increase is actually more like 23% with steep service cuts. So yes, I submit certainly that's worse that what we got.

The 156 is a classic bunchie, but 72 is also a convincing contender. In the morning, the 156s always travel in pairs. Always.

It hasn't improved a bit since they installed the bus tracker.

The biggest 156 bunch I saw was four, after a wait of 25 minutes.

CTA needs somebody to sit down and explain, with finger puppets if necessary, that averages don't apply. Three buses arriving simultaneously after 30 minutes is NOT just as good as one bus every ten minutes.

Martha: I haven't witnessed any outbreaks of violence myself, but I did see a #12 cowering behind a Geo Metro when it spotted a X9 heading for the same intersection. Although it could just be that it was trying to draft behind the Metro for better mileage...

It certainly could be worse. The evanston express at least sticks to a schedule. I keep my sanity by using the trains when possible. If you live along broadway, why aren't you using the red line?

New York's transit system is something like 20 times larger than ours. So cuts that would certainly be steep for Chicago would be closer to a drop in the bucket for New York. As I stated, nothing in the two articles linked to suggests that the service cuts would be severe. But that is all I am going by. It doesn't mean they wouldn't be. I could always research it more thouroughly but I have no desire to do that. Among other reasons, if the proposal really is extreamly severe we know that there will be a fix that prevents them from occuring. There always is. Even in a very bad economy like this.

As a regular rider of the #53 Pulaski, that bus line surely gets my vote. It never operates on the posted schedule and the waits for buses are long, long, long. And you know what happens next.....when a bus finally arrives it is accompanied with its posse of one or two other buses. In this case there is no strength in numbers. It would really help me to be able to track approaching buses with the GPS tracking system since I live right around the corner from my stop, but unfortunately the #53 Pulaski is not part of that system. Why is that? I think CTA management is too embarrassed to show the public just how poorly and slowly the #53 buses run.

It probably would be more helpul if I included a source for the 23% fare/toll increase statistic:


In the Friday NY Times, Clyde Haberman described New Yorkers' feelings about their own personal doomsday with some fairly poetic language:

"It means putting up with less. A good deal less. If the transportation authority’s latest proposals go into effect, passengers on some lines will have to put up with a lot less every day of the week, not just on weekends. And, lucky devils, they and everyone else will pay more for the privilege. Transit fares and bridge tolls are destined to go up. Exactly how the increases will shake out — how MetroCard discounts will be programmed, for example — is not clear. Don’t be surprised, though, if the base fare on subways and buses rises soon to $2.50.

An image forms of the damned fellow in Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment” on a wall of the Sistine Chapel. His face is contorted as demons drag him to his fate in the nether regions. He is horrified. He also knows nothing can save him. New York mass-transit riders understand that feeling. They are appalled by what is happening to them. But you get a sense that they are beaten down."

I live in Evanston, so the bus service is very limited, and doesn't run often. I live right by the 201 central/ridge bus stop, and on Saturdays, it runs every 20 minutes. It runs from howard station to old orchard mall, and even though there is never traffic on a saturday on this route, it always seems to be 15 to 20 minutes late, so there is still bunching! Also, I sent CTA and email about when evanston routes will get bus tracker, and they said not until June 2009!

I live in Evanston, so the bus service is very limited, and doesn't run often. I live right by the 201 central/ridge bus stop, and on Saturdays, it runs every 20 minutes. It runs from howard station to old orchard mall, and even though there is never traffic on a saturday on this route, it always seems to be 15 to 20 minutes late, so there is still bunching! Also, I sent CTA and email about when evanston routes will get bus tracker, and they said not until June 2009!

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