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We Came, We Saw, We Sarcastically Laughed

By Jocelyn Geboy in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 27, 2007 7:13PM

We almost didn't go to last night's meeting about the three-track project at CTA headquarters. But we just didn't think it would be right for us to remind you over and over again and not check it out for ourselves. Our only compunction about going was that we knew were going to be fed complete crap all the while being expected to think it was a reasonably good meal.

Walking up to the second floor of the building at 567 W. Lake, we saw it was going to be a night of spin. There were these big easels (shit, we forgot to take pictures!) of maps showing all the routes and proposed supplemental routes. We think we forgot to take pictures, because the place was swarming with people waiting to 'help,' and when someone talked to us about the Bryn Mawr map we were looking at, first they didn't know what they were talking about (clearly we could read the map legend better than they could). Then when we started to get a little bitter about the public meetings and how things were already being put into motion anyway, they just fed us a bunch of good old fashioned doublespeak. And then they were saved because it was time to begin.

2007_03packedtrain.jpgTruthfully, we were mostly okay with John Dalton, the General Manager of Construction. He's the major get-it-done guy and seemed to be the least involved with spinning stuff. He's more of a practical dude. Although, there were times when two different white haired gentlemen who looked like they were avid Nova watchers approached with some pretty logical logistical questions, and he wasn't really able to address some basic laws of physics/science. For instance -- If you can handle 4,000 people downtown during the p.m. rush, how come you can only handle 3,000 up at Belmont during the same time period? Where are those other 1,000 people going to go?

When John Pekay (sp? We couldn't find his name anywhere on the CTA website.) came up to talk about alternate routes and how the CTA was going to supplement bus service and what other possible solutions were (for people to leave earlier or later, for people to change their route using a bus, etc.), we knew we had hit the prime bullshit section of the presentation. For instance, he showed a slide of the current time schedules and their capacities and loads. Right this very moment, there are times when the trains are already filled to their capacity during rush hour periods (p. 12 of the presentation --PDF). When the reduction occurs (a "slight reduction," he said, to which we thought Tony Snow might have been hiding somewhere), there will be much longer periods of time where capacity will be absolutely overflowing.

More meeting mayhem after the jump ...

In Phase One of the project, the southbound tracks will be left untouched, with the northbound tracks having the work done. Tracks 3 (the northbound Red Line) and 4 (the track that the northbound Brown and Purple line run on) will have to be shifted over so that the islands at Fullerton and Belmont can be lengthened to accommodate an eight-car Brown Line instead of the current six-car formation. When the change is made, the stations will also be made ADA compliant. At Fullerton, Tracks 3 and 4 will be out of commission, with all northbound trains running on a new Track 4. At Belmont, all trains will run on Track 3. That's three train lines, one track. Some Red Line train service will be slightly reduced, even though they said that was going to remain the "core" of the system.

The presentation promised more bus service to supplement train service as people would inevitably decide to take buses instead of crowded, slowed down trains ... however, the presentation often was vague about how many more buses would be added or if the intervals between buses would, in fact, really be increasing. The powerpoint presentation sometimes only increased intervals by a minute (p. 20 of the PDF).

To make matters worse, many people reminded the presenters that they were already waiting too long for buses and that buses often were passing stops by before they got to the express part of the route because they were too full to let other passengers board -- and the major three-track operation hadn't even begun yet. Promises of staged buses that would be used as demands changed and usage patterns fluctuated fell on deaf ears as commenters also said that current posted schedules were not anywhere close to realistic. When asked if they rode the system, the employees all claimed that they did.

It turns out Chicagoist got ten seconds out of our 15 minutes of fame out of the whole deal (see CTA public meeting video). But what you see in that video clip is just a fraction of our comment/question about how if three trains are going to run on the same track, what in hell are they going to do when there's a problem? Seeing as the past year has brought a fire, derailment or other major delay nearly once a week, we can't even comprehend what commuters are left with then. All they could say was that the employees were being "specifically trained on how to deal with hiccups in the three-track operation." Hiccups? They proceeded to use that word throughout the course of the night, too. It was as if that was the party line word for "massive fuck-ups and situations beyond our control which we cannot account for nor handle in a reasonable manner."

People were making really valid comments and raising really legitimate concerns, and they were consistently being told to see customer service outside or that they didn't have an answer for that or that it would be taken care of or given some total bullshit spin no substance lalalalala answer. What was even more creepy was that a man from the South Shore/Austin neighborhood came up to ask a second question and slipped and said that it was nothing short of a "fucking nightmare." He was told that he couldn't use that kind of language (fair enough). He went to his seat, and then someone came up to him and told him he actually had to leave (marginally fair enough). Before he could even get out of the door (he wasn't resisting or putting up a fight or arguing or being vocal, by the way), there was a Chicago Police Officer in full uniform at the door. What? Last time we checked, it wasn't a crime to say "fucking."

Unless of course, you're on a crowded el train and say, "I think I'm going to fucking kill somebody."

"packed train pablo" via zigglosaur