Sunday, May 11, 2008

Take the CTA -- Please!

My love/hate relationship with the city of Chicago is kind of a roller coaster ride. For instance, take the CTA -- please! (If you get that you are reallly old or you are such a show people geek.)

Saturday afternoon/evening I went downtown to see the John Turturro-produced documentary "Beyond Wiseguys" at the Gene Siskel Center. Since the Red Line trains were not stopping at their usual stops downtown, I walked past my local station and to a bus stop, where I got an express bus downtown. Even though I live just about two miles south of the city's northern border, by the time the bus ("with more frequent service!" the CTA claims) got to my stop,and even though it was one of those double-long, stretchy in the middle buses, every seat was filled. OK, no great disappointment there, but since I was standing (on the 'turntable' in the middle, where the bus swings when it turns) and the bus driver was comfortably seated, the fact that I was hanging on for dear life and he barreled down Lake Shore Drive was not a concern of his. I got off about a half-mile early so I could get my bearings straight before settling in to the movie.

But that wasn't the worst part of it. On the way back, I decide to walk up north a bit, to Division Street, where I could pick up a Clark Street bus, which would take me to about a block from my building and since it was a long ride, I'd be able to do a bit of reading. Well, even though the Clark/Division Red Line station was closed, the CTA hadn't added any buses to the Clark or Broadway routes, to pick up the additional riders they'd get because there really was no rapid transit alternatives listed on the sign that said 'this station closed.' 
After watching two Broadway buses turn onto Clark from Division, at which point they head north for the most part, on the same route as the Clark Street bus, I decided to jump on a Broadway bus, since the crowd had grown to about 11 people waiting for the Clark Street bus in the 15 minutes I was there.

I got to that bus stop about 8 p.m. I got home about 9:30 p.m. Normally, it would a 30-40 minute ride. But about six blocks into my ride, the driver of the Broadway bus put on his hazard lights and settled in for about five changes of the traffic lights. It was not until one rider (no, not me) shouted, "hey, is there something wrong with the bus?" that he mumbled something like "ahead of schedule, have to wait three minutes..." We waited about 10 minutes there, during which time one young white man (I only mention his color in order to try  to point out how ridiculous he looked and acted) confronted the driver, went back to his seat, then got into a nasty, foul-mouthed argument with his female companion. And the bus still WOULD NOT MOVE. 

OK, so then we get moving, not too fast, of course, and when we get to Diversey, where the Broadway bus takes a soft right to go up Broadway and where Clark Street-bound traffic takes a soft left, to continue to go up Clark, my driver, the driver of the BROADWAY bus, goes up Clark Street! Then, then, without saying anything to the passengers, apologizing, etc., he flags down a Clark Street bus, and asks the driver of that bus how he would get back on to Broadway! Is this one of the new part-time drivers the CTA has hired at one of their recent job fairs? Incredible. He keeps driving up Clark, and when we get to Halsted, about four blocks up, I get off and run to catch that Clark Street bus. Of course I have to stand until the bus gets to about Irving, about two miles from home for me, so it's pointless by then to take out one of the books/magazines I brought with to read. I just listen to my ipod, look out the window and fume. 

To top it all off, when I get off the Clark Street bus, about 90 minutes after I first arrived at that bus stop at Division Street, another Clark Street bus was behind it less than a block away, about one-eighth full. 

World Class City, my ass.

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