Thoughts on Mass Transit

I’m in Chicago at the moment, in my hotel room on the 15th floor, and in lieu of taking a break from working on handouts, I present you with a short list of things I love about the DC Metro in comparison with the Chicago El, which I spent ~1:20 on this evening.

  • No Food And Drink is a giant pain in the ass at times, but it results in MUCH cleaner subway stations and cars.
  • (Mostly) Polite drivers announcing the next stop well ahead of time, as well as the current stop, so that even if you’re not staring at a map, you know you are approaching x station. This is especially useful if you’re traveling with a giant red suitcase that is the size of two small children.
  • Cell phone reception! Underground! Under the effing Potomac, for that matter! I tried to send a text from the Blue Line today, but no dice until I actually physically exited the station. Now, I know this wouldn’t be an issue if I were above ground – but it’s not an issue, at least where I travel, in DC underground!
  • Clear indication in each station when the next train is coming, which train it will be, and how many cars are attached to that particular train.

I know, I know, Chicago’s transit system is massively under-funded. Massively. For me right now, though, it’s just another reason why I’m really not interested in living in Chicago at any time, now or in the future, even though lots of people I love and treasure live or have lived there.

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0 thoughts on “Thoughts on Mass Transit

  1. I would also guess that the “el” is an older system, in a larger city, supporting many more riders. It is underfunded, but for the majority of riders, it serves them well. Depending on your cell carrier, you can get cell service underground; and Chicagoans learn to look down the track to see when the next train is coming (though there is normally a schedule a eta’s posted at most stops). I’ll take Chicago any day, even with it’s imperfections.

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  2. If you like to bike, though, this is the city to be in. I have been here 2.5 months and have ridden the train a total of 4 times (bus, once) because biking here is so easy and accessible. I know that will change once the snow comes, though.

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  3. The first time I rode on the Metro, I was 12. My only previous mass transit experience was with the MBTA in Boston, so I didn’t think something like the Metro was possible. I thought I was in a sci-fi movie. šŸ™‚

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  4. You are so right Laurie! I love biking in Chicago. I did bike in the snow, when it was not too crazy and they had plowed well. 2 unrelated thoughts on bikes: 1, we got a Chariot sidecar for the peanut, it is rad. 2, there is a product for babies called baby legs, they are really great, and they make really good arm warmers for adults when they are biking. You should check them out, they are pretty cheap.

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  5. chicago kicks philly to the curb, though. I still think NYC is the best and most efficient and most encompassing. but I haven’t lived in DC (can only attest to cities I’ve lived in).

    philly sux.

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  6. The metro in DC seems more like an art project than an actually useful system. Perhaps I had a bad set of experience, but it seems to go nowhere useful–only for suburban people who need to go to work. It also seems really aimed at people who looooooove following lots of rules and wearing suits. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was in the Planet of the Apes 4. Also, when stations are shut down, there is no signage, explanation, or alternative. And whenever I asked someone above ground how to use it, they had NO IDEA even though they lived there. That gave me the sense that it wasn’t very useful.

    NYC is supposed to get underground cell phone reception but I am sort of against it. I don’t want to hear people yakking.

    And yeah DC is WAAAAAAY newer, hence the cleaner thing. Station announcing depends on what train you are on.

    I am in SF and they have like, 10 different transit systems, with no number/letter consistency. Buses, streetcars, subways, cable cars, and trains. So confusing.

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  7. They are just ludicrously proud of the Metro system I think, and seem to try their damndest to keep it nice. The system does go the places I’ve needed to go within DC, and seems to hit the more distant areas in MD well. I’m not there so who the hell knows. I remember the cars being a lot WIDER when I was visiting in 02, or whatever reason.

    I wish I would have been in NYC during the pre-Guliani days when the train cars were spangled in graf and borderline unsafe at certain times.

    That’s actually a really dumb wish.

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  8. Pingback: Mass Transit, part two | Outpost 505

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