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PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2006 9:08 pm 
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As some of you may know, I recently returned to Chicago after a post-graduation hiatus of a year. In that period, I became a heck of a lot more familiar with New York City (as having friends in the financial district, Brooklyn, and Queens meant a departure from my normal 4-5-6-accessible stomping grounds) and became passingly acquainted with Washington, DC.

...

Gee, is Chicago fucked up or what?

My tenure as a student in the city found me in a mostly car-less state; in other words, I relied almost entirely on public transportation during my undergraduate career. It played, to a certain extent, like a comedy of errors: nonexistent busses; slow, dilapidated trains; dark, dingy stations. Yet it wasn't that bad. After all, I left campus to have fun, and so what if the fun started a few minutes late thanks to the Garfield bus's desire to run in slow-motion? It could wait.

I also succeeded in convincing myself that part of the problem I was having was somehow the fault of the University and not the CTA. "Surely it's just THIS line that's slow...I can't imagine that the ENTIRE SYSTEM acts like this."

Hoh boy.

Since I've left and returned--heck, starting at the end of my college run, really--it's just gotten worse and worse. For starters, let's depart from public transportation for a moment and focus on those celebrated highways that surround the city of Chicago. During rush hour, there is always traffic. Guaranteed traffic. Now, this is partly a fact of urban life; lord knows that the various New York highways can get iffy on Fridays at around 5pm. Yet "iffy" is a long way from "guaranteed congestion that turns what should be a 10 minute trip into a 1.5 hour ordeal". I'm no city planner, and so I have no idea what the trouble is...if I had to venture a guess, I'd go with "too many cars, not enough road."

So when the Illinois Department of Transportation realized that it would have to shut down one of the largest of those highways to two (At best) and one (at worst) lanes. In both directions. For at least two years--and this after several years of the sort of piecemeal construction, gee-golly-gosh-what-did-they-actually-CHANGE? on the road in question--you'd think they would have some sort of auxilary plan. Some sort of well-thought-out, using-the-best-minds-we-have sort of detour system. Maybe another roadway?

The plan, it turns out, is to "Avoid the Ryan." Seriously. http://www.avoidtheryan.com/ . "During construction...just, like, don't take that road."

MAJOR FUCKING THOROUGHFARE. I-90. Down to ONE LANE. For TWO YEARS. And the best the DOT can muster is "um, yeah, take the already-overcrowded Ashland Avenue?"

It totally rules out that highway as an option. Just imagine, you New Yorkers, if I87 (or fuck, I287) just didn't exist for two years. Would you know what to do? Would you expect the DOT to be able to TELL you what to do? When the Tappan Zee closes, I certainly expect Westchester and New York counties to have something a little more vigorous in place.

But back to public transportation. The CTA, since I left, has been a roving financial and institutional (both physical and managerial) nightmare. It's falling apart, for one. Millions are being thrown at rehabilitating the Brown Line (also known as the only line that spends its entire journey in near-Glitzland), while thousands south of 95th have no rail line to speak of. Fare hikes and budget crises are a yearly occurence, with the promised "doomsday scenario" always felled by a last-minute compromise. Trains are never on time. Rail cracks and electrical fires happen far too frequently.

Two of the city's busiest lines--the Blue line and the Red Line--are connected at two pairs of stations by underground tunnels. One of those tunnels just closed today. For two years. As the housing stations have just closed. For two years. Because the CTA wants to build a "super-station" (rumor has it for express service to the airports, as yet another entry--following Millennium Park--in the city's efforts to be friendlier to tourists than it is to residents) underneath the street in that area. The CTA's suggestion? "Just transfer at Jackson." I witnessed the result of this policy today. SEAS of people--fucking SEAS of people--standing and waiting for the always-delayed train to arrive. Instead of breaking the transferees into two groups (those looking to go Northwest tend to transfer at WA, while those looking to go South tend to transfer at Jackson) they're now all crammed into one, and the lack of free above-ground transfers means severe congestion.

Goddamn.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2006 11:18 am 
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Well, they're considering re-making the Gowanus portion of 287, but I think they'll end up building a tunnel and it won't be that painful a construction process. But, yes, sounds like you have some quite SMART people running things.

You'll never hear me say anything poor about the MTA, unless it's 3am, I'm drunk and need to urinate, but that makes me unique among New Yorkers, most of whom have never been further than 50 miles from home and wouldn't know a bad transit system from a good one. I'm just glad I don't live in London.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2006 12:18 pm 
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I've heard only good things about London. Mind elaborating?

It isn't that the CTA is bad inasmuch as the people who run it are absolutely, positively clueless. The actual layout of busses and trains is more or less OK, although there could always be, y'know, more track. But nothing EVER works as it's supposed to, and the whole 19th-century-nature of it all is really beginning to show. Take the Loop section of track itself. It's a city landmark; it's never going anywhere. But it's also horribly inefficient, and functions as one big, redundant slow-zone, even in the underground section of track (Jackson, Monroe, Washington, and Lake are all TWO BLOCKS AWAY FROM EACH OTHER. You're telling me there couldn't just be, y'know, two loop stops?)

Bah.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 1:35 pm 
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London = slow, delay, total line shudown catastrophe much more often than anywhere else. Plus, you'll need a crowbar to jam yourself onto a train at rush hour.

Berlin on the other hand...sweet jesus, they run a fantastic subway.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 10:54 pm 
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I was crazy-impressed by DC's system. I commuted three times as far in DC as I do here, yet somehow made it to my destination 10 minutes faster in DC. Crowded, but orderly chaos.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2006 10:32 am 
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But it doesn't run all night. And the lack of a 'purple line' connector between the two spurs of the red line in MD was always annoying.

I've done subways in NYC, Boston, DC, Paris, London, Tokyo....each one has its charms. I'm loving NYCs again now that I've moved back here. Noisy as hell, though.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2006 11:23 am 
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The new NYCT subway cars cut the noise by a huge margin, in my experience, but that won't matter just yet unless you live on the 2/4/5/6 or L lines. The first of the newest line of cars is still in testing on the "A" line.


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