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Unlucky Commuters Stuck Two Hours on Train

By Shannon in News on Jul 9, 2007 4:15PM

During Kumail Nanjiani’s (all-too-short) set Friday night at the Vic, the comedian had a couple of woo-ers. Not suitors, per se, but people doing shout-outs to basically anything he mentioned. The most notable “Woo!” came when he started a joke about waiting for the train, which caused him to reflect that he’d never heard anyone give interjectoral props to the CTA in his life. After incidents like last Tuesday’s hour-long shutdown on the Green Line and Saturday’s cluster on the Red, our understanding of Kumail’s statement has increased tenfold.

emergency transfer card - frontAround 9 p.m. Saturday night, a suicidal jumper appeared on the Red Line elevated tracks near the Cermak/Chinatown station. The unidentified man threatened to plunge from a CTA viaduct onto Archer Avenue. Trying to avoid electrocution, officials cut power to the tracks, stranding a northbound train that had just left Chinatown, and a southbound train that had just left Roosevelt and was still coming out of the tunnel. The man left the tracks about 45 minutes later, but by that time, agitated passengers had taken matters into their own hands and started to escape the light-less, air-less cars. Officials couldn’t turn the power back on until they were sure no fugitives remained on the tracks, turning a 45-minute ordeal into a 2-hour nightmare. Sixteen people ended up in hospitals for dizziness and other maladies, four of them in serious condition.

It’s a sticky situation, to be sure. A suicide jumper is a random occurrence that's hard to plan for. On the other hand, being stranded in stiflingly hot darkness with a bunch of panicky strangers isn’t our idea of a good time. In fact, had the situation lasted longer, it might have escalated to riot proportions. When people started to flee the trains, shouldn’t that have been an indication to officials that hey, since we can’t contain this, we should at least make sure they get back to stations safely? After 45 minutes, if you’re dealing with a train that’s still close to a station, we don’t see the harm in herding people along. What we see as the biggest problem is the lack of power supplied to the trains themselves, especially on a stuffy, humid night like Saturday, or in below-zero temperatures. We hate to add insult to injury, considering the CTA’s ever-precarious money state, but some kind of train-centered backup power that keeps the A/C and lights on would make cock-ups like this much more bearable.

Since we probably won’t be able to see this in our lifetimes (unless someone brings up the possibility of an Olympic mucky-muck passing out on a deadened train), we propose toting an everyday CTA train survival kit. We’re thinking:

These are just the few that we came up with. What would you put in your survival kit?

Image courtesy of thirdrail.