Chicago transportation is a touchy subject. In order to travel up to ten miles in a car, an inhabitant of the city may as well be taking a sixty mile road trip in another state. So when it comes to commuting or even exploring the eclectic city, a very important subject that should be broached is transportation. How far is it to Navy Pier from here? How should I get there? When should I leave? What is my estimated time of arrival, or ETA?
I mapped out a simple 5 mile route from Belmont and Sheffield in Lakeview, Chicago to Navy Pier, located in the downtown loop. Walking 5 miles is a daunting task, especially in the summer heat, but it may be less stressful than dodging cars while biking or being cramped on a bus or train. Shown below is a flow chart of the typical amount of time it takes to move 5 miles in the city of Chicago.
Click on these links to view Google Maps and the CTA tracker, both useful sources in navigating the city.
The Chicago Transit Authority’s trains and buses are a great way to reach your summer destinations. But like all big cities, Chicago’s has its share of violence and theft and even the most seasoned commuters can fall prey to pick-pocketing and attacks while using the CTA.
The next time you board your CTA bus or the “L” keep these essential safety tips in mind:
Don’t flaunt it
Break the habit of patting your pockets or purses to make sure if your wallet is there. According to the CTA, this actually lets thieves know the exact location of your valuables.
It sounds like a given, but it needs to be said. Always keep your wallet in a safe location, like the inside of a jacket or the inside pocket of a purse.
Guys, always keep your wallet in a front pocket instead of a back pocket. Ladies, if your purse straps are long enough, wear it diagonally across your body so someone can’t snatch it. If not, keep your hands on your purse at all times. Don’t let it sit idly on your lap.
The CTA is no place to show off your latest tech device or Valentine’s Day present. Try to conceal your expensive belongings. This Chicago Tribune article on CTA smartphone thefts might put things into perspective.
Have a separate holder for your transit card (somewhere other than your wallet). This eliminates the need to take out your wallet whenever you need to use your card.
These chapters may help you get inside the mind of a pick-pocketer.
You snooze, you lose
Don’t sleep! Especially on its slow days, the “L” might seem like a good place to catch some extra z’s, but CTA advises you to be awake and alert.
Don’t get so engrossed in your phone, iPod or book that you tune out the rest of the bus or train. Always pay attention to what’s going on around you.
CTA warns commuters to be wary of noisy passengers arguing or causing a commotion. This could be staged to distract you.
Do your part
According to the CTA website, commuters can help keep buses and trains safe by watching for:
- Someone hiding things on CTA property
- Unattended packages
- People other than authorized CTA employees on the rail tracks
- Someone wearing unusual clothing for the time of year (i.e. a winter parka in the summer)
If you notice anything out of the ordinary, such as smoke, an odd smell, or suspicious activities you should immediately tell the bus driver, rail operator or call 911.
The CTA says, “If it’s unwanted, it’s harassment.” If you feel threatened in any way you should move toward light areas and people, or move to another part of the bus or to another rail car. Tell the rail or bus operator that you are being harassed immediately.
CTA recently announced they will double the number of surveillance cameras at CTA rail stations to about 3,000. There will also be an increased police presence over the next few months to keep violence and theft at bay.
Be sure to bookmark the official CTA website to stay up to date on official safety information (and for all things CTA). For additional coverage of the CTA’s new security plans visit the CTA Tattler blog.
Keeping the trains and buses running is a year-long job for the Chicago Transit Authority. During the winter months, its difficulties are compounded by freezing temperatures and varied snowfall.
“Cold weather ages transportation infrastructure at a troublesome rate in a difficult way,” said Joseph Schwieterman, professor of DePaul University. “Especially the chilling and thawing process is extremely hard on roads and railroad tracks.”
The CTA prepares for the winter months in advance, said CTA Spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney. Many of these preparations include ensuring that the proper tools and equipment are available should the need arise. The CTA garages stocks are updated in case equipment or machinery needs to be replaced and conducts regular inspections, she said
In addition to preparations, the CTA constantly checks current conditions.
“There’s a lot we do in advance of winter that we just we’re going to need to have done,” said Gaffney. “But we also monitor the weather and if there is sleet or snow forecast, we respond accordingly with making sure the proper resources and staff are in place when snow does come.”
Trains are outfitted with sleet scrapers that remove ice from the rails as trains pass. Additionally, de-icing fluid is sprayed onto the rails when ice builds up. Snow plows are placed on the front cars to handle any snow banks that might pose a problem, Gaffney said.
Additionally, in case of difficulties that normal train operations can’t handle, CTA workers are on call to fix winter-related problems using special heavy equipment, she said.
“The other thing for trains when it gets really cold, switches freeze and that’s a huge problem for the CTA and Amtrak, especially when you have snow mixed in,” Schwieterman said.
Snow would become caught in the switches, preventing movement. Sometimes the electrical circuitry controlling the switches would freeze as well, but is not as common, Schwieterman said. To handle this particular problem, the CTA has heaters at switch locations which are activated by track workers allowing operations to continue and prevent derailment, Gaffney said.
The CTA doesn’t forget about the customers either. The station heaters are checked before the season and during times of snowfall, the CTA staff and outside firms are sent to shovel sand to prevent people from slipping, Gaffney said.
Ultimately, when it comes to cold weather, it depends on the conditions. How heavy or light the weather is and how long it lasts determines the CTA’s response, she said.
- Chicago Ranked the Most Road-Congested City
- Rolling Out the New CTA Train Tracker
- Metras New Quiet Cars: Boom or Bust?
- Braving Chicago’s Winter on Two Wheels
- CTA Train Tracker: What’s Chicago Saying?
- Parkin’ Yo’self in Chitown
- Construction in Chicago
- No Expansion for O’Hare as City Puts off Bonds Sale
Want to know when the next train’s coming? Don’t worry – there’s an app for that.
In January, the Chicago Transit Authority officially rolled out its beta version of the CTA Train Tracker , available as a mobile application for smart phones and on the Internet. The authority’s bus tracker has already been in place since last year.
In the press release, the CTA stated that estimated arrival times are generated through a combination of scheduling information and the data collected by the QuicTrak program, “which monitors signaling systems and indicates when a portion of track is occupied by a train. Average transit time is determined by measuring how long it takes a train to travel a portion of track and by averaging the travel times of the last five trains to move across a portion of track, the CTA can calculate the estimated arrival times for trains at each station.”
Okay, so it’s a little confusing. But what Chicagoans really care about isn’t methodology, it’s how well the tracker works, right?
So far reaction seems to be positive – in large part because commuters have been waiting for this for awhile now. The CTA Tattler blog even wrote about the CTA pre-testing the tracker on the Brown line back in April.
The Twittersphere has been praising its introduction, which many say was a long time coming. Twitter user Jose L. Torrez went so far as to call it a “WIN!” while Anne Haley, aka Anniebannanie91 tweeted “Cta train tracker= my bff.”
“Train tracker seems to work well,” said Ryan C. Miller, coordinator of orientation and parent programs at the Illinois Institute of Technology. “I’ve not been burned by it – yet.”
Time Out Chicago also did their own little test to see what people’s reactions have been, as did The Huffington Post. Blogger Steven Vance got a chance to try out the tracker before everyone else did. His verdict? It needs a few tweaks for mobile devices but other than that, he’s “extremely impressed.”
So far, it sounds good. Now if we could just do something about those pitiful French -fry warming lights at the stations….and maybe WiFi underground. Yes, please?
- From WBEZ: CTA proposes closing several stops on the Red Line
- CTA: Red and Purple line modernization plan
- CTA: Alerts
- CTA Tattler: Theater troupe to act out Red Line riders’ stories