Does The CTA Holiday Train Have To Be A Nightmare To Ride?

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Nov 24, 2015 5:50PM

This has never, ever happened and is obviously staged. Photo via the CTA.

We'll start this off with the caveat that we really do believe the CTA's heart is in the right place when it comes to the annual Holiday Train. However if you've ever actually ridden on the train, you know that in reality the experience is a nightmare.

No matter where you board—and we've travelled from one end to the other to try and find the best place to do so—the train is always already filled with screaming kids and their families, along with average commuters crushed in even closer than humanly thought possible. And we say this as people who have experienced the Red Line at rush hour when there's a night time Cubs game.

But it doesn't have to be this way!

We think the CTA Holiday Train should be a magical experience, for everyone. Kids should find it magical instead of terrifying, adults should feel nostalgic instead of murderous, and CTA crews should take great joy in spreading good cheer instead of fearing the possibility of a riot breaking out over someone trying to get their stroller onto the train.

So we have a few suggestions to share that we think might make the whole experience better.

This is what the CTA Holiday Train running express through your station because it's too full looks like. Photo via the CTA.

Run more trains more often. We know it's quite an undertaking, but the train should run more than one or two runs on scheduled days. These requires too many people to try and board too few trains. We understand having fewer runs on weekdays, but on weekends the Holiday Train should run all day long.

In fact, this seems like the biggest no-brainer of all our recommendations. As fellow writer Michelle Kopeny said during a discussion of the train, "They should run the damn thing constantly during the season. It's almost impossible to get on during its one of two daily runs on each line as the schedule now exists, and it's a miserable experience if you do get on. Sure it smells like candy canes (or is it pine cones?), but it's more crowded than a train that shows up after a massive delay during rush hour, and you've got smelly screaming kids and pissed off businessmen that somehow ended up on there with their suitcases. Both probably kicking you in the side."

Don't worry Santa, we're cool with you. Photo via the CTA

More CTA staff on the platforms. Things get hectic when people try and board the Holiday Train, and we've seen grown adults push toddlers aside to get on the dang thing. Additional staff could help better police situations like that, while also providing the service of letting folks know whether it's even safe to add additional passengers at a particular stop.

Given the crushing crowds, we're actually appreciative of the good humor we've seen CTA employees maintain during our past experiences with the Holiday Train, but we think everyone would have a better time if there were more "train elves" all around.

Keep strollers off the train. This is a no-brainer. If you can't bring bikes on trains during rush hour it stands to reason you should bring strollers on the Holiday Train ever. It's not only unsafe—causing tripping hazards—but it takes up room that could instead be a little kid or other passenger that would enjoy the ride far more than an inanimate stroller.

Leave the puffy coat at home. Actually, the CTA already recommends traveling and dressing light, but no one seems to listen to them, so it bears repeating.

CTA Holiday Bus, photo via the CTA

Ride the Holiday Bus instead. Actually, this is far more enjoyable, believe or not. So, uh, yeah! You should totally ride the Holiday Train and leave the Holiday Bus to us!

We understand these aren't all ideas that can be put into effect immediately, so if you are going to ride the Holiday Train this year, study the schedule, don some protective gear, and goodluck and godspeed!