Monday, September 24, 2007

If they weren't broke, I'd ask them to pay me.

I really like Ron Huberman, CTA president. I'm quite certain he's far from perfect, but he came into a difficult position and has made very positive changes to the CTA. Maybe it's just that he's got fresh eyes and ideas to bring, or maybe it's that he's got a new way of thinking. Whatever it is, I think he's trying to do what's best for Chicago. I've been watching back episodes of Connections on the train (video podcasts rock!), and seeing all the positive changes featured has really solidified how I feel about him. Despite his positive steps to improving the system, I still find myself frustrated, especially when the steps-in-the-right-direction negatively affect my travel.

Case in point: the slow zone elimination project. When it's over with, I'll be giddy, along with tons of other Chicagoans, that we're not sitting in or crawling through the subway.

Saturday, I was frustrated, and while it's convenient to blame the CTA, I'm honestly more frustrated with my poor planning than anything. Riding the Metra to and from work means I don't keep up with service outages, construction notices, and customer alerts like I used to when I rode the CTA everyday. And so, I didn't think about the fact that eliminating slow zones on the Red Line has meant rerouting the trains out of the subway. Anne alerted me to this, and I knew it was a major thing at night. I didn't look on Saturday morning, though, to see what affect, if any, it was having on weekend trains. All I thought was, "Rather than waiting for the slow-ass Clark bus, I'm going to walk my lazy ass to the Red Line to get to the clinic," with the two stopping at the exact same corner, one block from Planned Parenthood. The Red Line is faster and more reliable, but the bus is only one block from our apartment.

With my iPod on, I nearly missed the announcement at Fullerton that the subway was closed for the weekend and that my train would be staying on the elevated tracks, Sedgwick being the next stop. It's also the closest Brown Line (the elevated tracks the Red had to follow) stop to the clinic, at about 3/4 mile away. Annoyed with the trains already dragging through Uptown as they switch back and forth on the tracks, I knew this was going to make me even later.

I plugged along from Sedgwick to the clinic, deciding to not wait for a shuttle bus that would take me from the Brown Line station to my usual Red Line station. Apparently, the buses were running only every 20 minutes, which made this a good decision overall. Until a bird pooped all over my arm.

The thing about my relationship with the CTA is that when this stuff happens, it all makes sense to me. The CTA can throw this stuff at me, and I can just roll with it, change my plans, and get to where I was going.

Other people don't have this quirk.

Waiting for the Clark bus to head home after volunteering, I found myself with a big pile of frustrated Cubs fans, who were pretty unsteady after arriving at the corner to find the subway station closed. Word on the street had gotten out that they could get on a bus instead that would take them to Wrigley, but the real magic happened once I arrive. I can't even tell you how many people I talked to about the subway being closed, the work happening down there, alternate routes, the shuttle to the Brown Line, etc. I'm also not sure how many people were counting on me to get them to Wrigley Field for the game. Too many to count, actually. They saw my Cubs hat, listened to me talk about the CTA like I worked there, and were confident I knew how to get them to the game. We all PACKED the first Clark bus to arrive and headed north.

They all arrived 10 minutes before the first pitch.

This is probably the 10th or 11th time I've played the CTA Ambassador, though never before to such a big group of people.

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