As Chicagoans, we live in the third largest city in the United States with over 2.7 million people. Of those, about 1.7 million ride the CTA every day with 726,459 riding the elevated rails. We rely on public transportation daily to get back and forth and during Monday through Friday, that usually means going to work. On the rapid transit system (rapid isn’t the word we would use), there are 1,356 rail cars that operate over eight routes and 224.1 miles of tracks. The trains make about 2,250 trips each day. So, with that quick educational lesson, let’s talk about how the trains, especially the brown line, fail us Every.Single.Day.
Most of us live in neighborhoods surrounding downtown Chicago. If you are not lucky enough to have different options on how to get to work, i.e., bus, car, walk, or bike, unfortunately, you are stuck with the brown, red, blue, orange, pink or green line trains. Sure, they all have their share of problems; the red line was under construction for a long period of time and the blue line smells; but the brown line train wins the award for the worst of all rail lines and here is why.
Imagine living about 8 miles north of downtown and the only available options of getting to work are either a cab or the brown line. The cab option is pretty much out of the question since it will cost almost $30 one way, even with UberX, so that leaves the good ol’ brown line train. Oh joy!! You arrive at your neighborhood station and the handy sign posted at the station confirms the train will be arriving in two minutes. Oh yeah… no waiting… oh yeah. Things are looking good! You’re going to get to work a little early, perhaps get that breakfast sandwich you are addicted to and relax a minute or two before the day starts. The headphones come out and Miley is jamming in your ears. All is good right? Hmm, not so much…..
It starts off innocent enough, the speakers beep…”we are standing momentarily waiting for signal clearance. We expect to be moving shortly.” Okay, okay, this is fine. No need to stress. Then the beeps come back…”we are experiencing a delay and we regret this inconvenience…” Now the stress starts seeping in thinking about all the lost time you thought you had before work. Its okay, you gave yourself over an hour for a 40 minute ride. You’ll be fine….
Well, now its 8:45 and you haven’t even arrived at Belmont yet. Really? This is happening again? Didn’t this just happen yesterday? And the day before? And the day before that? That breakfast sandwich is quickly vanishing from your morning. Great, thanks to the CTA, now you are going to starve all morning. Meanwhile, the train keeps stopping every 20 feet and you can feel your pulse quickly gaining speed (that really is the only thing gaining any sort of speed). The other riders around you start shaking their heads in disgust knowing that this is not going to end well for them either. And now it’s 9:05 and you are five minutes late for work, hungry from the lack of breakfast, and hoping no one notices your late arrival for the millionth time.
This is how the brown line operates. It’s like a sick cruel joke the CTA plays on its passengers and we are the sorry suckers that have to pay for this service, or lack thereof. Something needs to be done because people are hangry (no breakfast)! Just go to the Chicago Transit Authority Reports page and read the tweets from riders. Here are just a few:
@juliakaufman i don’t think a 25 minute delayed train counts as a “minor delay”. #cta #brownline #getittogether; and
@Westerlywick i cannot explain how frustrated i am. already had a 2 hour commute and @cta brown line is delayed (no notice or service delay announcement).
Is this why the suburbs start luring people away after just a few years of living in the city? Perhaps this is the CTA and suburbs joint conspiracy effort. If so, it’s working.