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News updates: "Nicest" motorman; lower 2008 deficit; single RTA fare card?

Shocker: The Trib published a CTA story Tuesday, and it didn't appear in the RedEye! That's probably because it was too long, and too well-written to be effectively edited. But commenters here noted the piece about the Nicest Train Operator in Chicago, and our Google News feed picked it up. But if you didn't see it, it's worth a read.

I've writtenabout this motorman and others in the past. There are many great CTA workers out there.

Just Wellington to go.The Paulina Brown Line station opens today. That now means that 88 out 144 CTA rail stations are accessible. Wellington will be open by the end of summer, which would make it the final station to open after work was complete at 16 Brown Line stations during the $530 million rehab project.

A rarity: no weekend rail service changes. But there are a few buses being rerouted. And the No. 10 Museum of Science and Industry bus hours are extended for spring break. Details here.

CTA, RTA agree on lower 2008 deficit.Yes folks, there's been a meeting of the minds, or at least of the respective CTA and RTA accountants: The two transit service agencies now agree the 2008 deficit is $56.1 million -- almost $31 million lower than the original $87 million figure that CTA had first noted. A low interest loan may be used to pay down the deficit, reportsthe Chi-Town Daily News. The CTA will unveil a plan at next Wednesday's board about how it plans to deal with the projected $155 million 2009 deficit.

A step closer to single fare card. The RTA Thursday laid out a blueprint to get the CTA, Metra and Pace transit systems to a single, coordinated fare collection system. Read the Trib story for the encouraging news.


[That now means that 88 out 144 CTA rail stations are accessible.]

Not singling out Kevin here, as I still see this a lot, but there are only 143 stations now that the Washington Red Line has been permanently shuttered.

The new Paulina station is really nice inside - I love the art. But if they're going to be cheap with the tiny overhangs, they could at least have not put it as far away as possible from the end of the platform connected to the only entrance.

[... if they're going to be cheap with the tiny overhangs, they could at least have not put it as far away as possible from the end of the platform connected to the only entrance.]

Haven't been there yet but thought there were going to be two entrances? There's the new main station house on Lincoln, and then an auxiliary entrance where the old station house on Paulina was. Is the auxiliary entrance not open yet?

Regardless, this point does hold for Diversey.

It makes me a little nervous that there's no track work going on at all. Could this be the beginning of our slide back up to 22%?

[It makes me a little nervous that there's no track work going on at all. Could this be the beginning of our slide back up to 22%?]

I imagine they're expecting higher-than-usual traffic with spring break and whatnot. They were still doing overnight track work this past week.

I noted in the Tribune comments that this seems to be a time that CTA PR didn't cooperate with the story, even though it was good news.

Also, it wasn't written by Hilkevitch, who can't get beyond the CTA Press Release. The RedEye reference might reflect better on Kyra Kyles, who at least goes into the field (although, in her story on the Halsted route, she didn't pick up that after the improvements, the route changed garages).

I did wonder if there was some kind of event coming up -- Spring Break makes sense. I assume they won't be doing work for Easter next week, either. Okay: paranoia is dissipating....

Hooray for efficiencies and a single card for RTA. It's about time they do that and accept credit cards and their excuse not to is really weak.


Trackwork on the Dearborn subway will be happening soon, so I don't think we'll be going up to 22% anytime soon. But they do need to remain vigilant.

Regarding the Paulina entrances, I only saw the one entrance. According to the CTA's site, the old station house is exit-only and the new station house is the only way in.

I've seen the "Nicest" train operator at Howard several times. I love that he wears the old school railroad overalls and the hat. I told him once and he replied with a very dignified, "Thank you, young lady." Sad that CTA wouldn't assist the Trib reporter in his attempt to sing the praises of one of its employees. The Redeye has made a cottage industry out of kvetching about CTA; you'd think they'd appreciate the positive vibe for a change.

[According to the CTA's site, the old station house is exit-only and the new station house is the only way in.]

Don't mean to be rude, but where do you see this? From the page announcing the station reopening:

"The old stationhouse was made into an auxiliary ENTRANCE/exit for added customer convenience." (emphasis mine)


I used the Paulina "auxiliary" entrance bright and early this morning. I had been anxious to see what it would be. It is a farecard-only entrance. Touch the farecard and you then go through a single full-height turnstile. I think I've maybe seen this somewhere else in the system, but can't think of where.

I read that off http://www.ctabrownline.com/paulina.html :

"An auxiliary exit will be located at the site of the original Paulina station at 3411 N. Paulina, making it more convenient for customers to exit trains."

But if someone has already used it as an entrance, then I sit corrected!

Fair enough, Jordan. Thanks.

I just remembered my own "nice" motorman experience. Back in December 2007, when work was underway on the new Howard station, I was sitting on a NB Red Line. I guess there was crane work going on that day (IIRC, it was a Saturday afternoon), so we were stopping at every Rogers Park station for about 10 minutes at a time.

The motorman was a constant presence, apologizing for the delay repeatedly in a very sincere tone. He closed the doors while we were in the stations because it was cold, but let people know that they should feel free to use the manuel door open if they needed to get out.

Once we got to Jarvis, he got concerned about 290 that would shortly be departing Howard. He said that he understands that a lot of people use that bus to get to work, and he really hoped we could make it before the bus left.

But no luck. As we were pulling into Howard, he came on and said that the 290 was just now leaving, and said, "God, I'm sorry," in the tone of voice that one would use if he accidentally ran over your dog with the car.

Once the train stopped, he told those transferring to the 290 to come to the front of the train, so that hopefully they could pool money together for a cab. In fact, he said, he would even contribute to the cab fund personally.

I wasn't transferring to the 290, but I was impressed by that guy.

JohnL: 35th-bronzville-iit has an extrance like that

"The 34th entrance to 35-Bronzeville-IIT, with farecard-only access through a high-barrier gate (HBG), is seen here looking north on September 30, 2003. When the station first reopened after the 1994-96 Green Line rehab, this was the station's only entrance until the main headhouse at 35th was completed. On the left is a new Helmut Jahn-designed IIT dormitory, for which the 34th entrance provides a convenient access option. (Photo by Graham Garfield)"
(from http://www.chicago-l.org/stations/35-bronze-IIT.html )

Excellent glimpse of the many little kindnesses CTA employees dispense out of the overall bureaucratic darkness. It happens more often than we think. Thanks for sharing, strannix.

On the subject of auxiliary entrances and exits... what's up with making the one at Sedgewick an "emergency exit" only? What possible downside could there be to letting people simply use it as an exit in the absence of a calamity?

Somehow I don't find it impressive that the RTA has figured out a way to start accepting credit cards at Ogilvie by the end of **2010**. This has nothing to do with the fare medium; any podunk business opening up next week will arrange to have a credit card thingy at their cash registers. It's so hard for Metra to do the same?

Also, the notion that outfitting conductors with farecard readers will take up to three years seems... absurd. I don't ride Metra much so it's no skin off my back, but they do seem to be making every effort to move at the speed of government.

The Western stop on the O'Hare branch of the Blue Line also has a similar auxiliary entrance to Paulina's.

I think it is outrageous that the RTA can hold a Board meeting, while there's massive operating budget problem in our region, and they can get away with distracting us from worrying about whether Metra can get on a modern fare system. As far as I can tell only the Tribune reported on the meeting and they bought their bait on the fare story. The crisis barely gets mentioned.

The RTA appears to be punting this back to the Service Boards to solve--so now at next week's CTA Board Meering, Carol and R-Rod will have to explain what they're going to do. Service cuts? Fare increases? Some other magic? Hello? It's already April. The longer this goes on, the more likely we start hearing about Doomsday again.

I've been riding Michael's train for 8 years, and he makes me smile every afternoon...and if I miss his train, I find myself disappointed. I ride all the way up to Howard from the loop, and after many years of riding his train, we have the occasional chat, and he always remembers my name, which is amazing to me. But everyday, I see other people smiling on the train, too, when he makes his gracious comments, and it's a beautiful thing. Michael is definitely a shining star in the CTA!

Went out to the Paulina stop today to look around, and it's beautiful, with a design unique to the Brown Line rebuilds. I'm impressed.

Also, it's easy to see how the auxiliary entrance might be missed. It's doesn't look any different than any of the exit-only stairwells at the other Brown Line stops, although it's set much further back from the sidewalk than most other stops. There is a sign in front designating it as a farecard-only entrance, but if I didn't know it was there, I probably wouldn't have noticed it.

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