Notes on Chicago transit

Posted by Andy Cummings
on Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I made the trek to Wrigley Field (1060 West Addison in Chicago, as every Blues Brothers fan knows) Sunday to see the Cubs take on my Minnesota Twins at one of the last remaining old-style ballparks in the country. I'll leave the baseball commentary to the pros (we lost 3-2), but a few observations on Chicago transit from one who grew up far from any commuter territory:

1. Metra is a phenomenal way to travel. The seats are comfortable, the trains run on time, and it's a thrill to fly over the Kennedy Expressway at Mayfair and look down at the poor sods stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

2. The heavy rail system ("L" and subway) is quite a contrast to Metra. It gets you where you need to go, but the cars are less comfortable and tend to get cramped.

3. On the trip back, the L stop at Addison Street just a couple blocks from Wrigley was, not surprisingly, flooded with people. The line spilled out from the station and down to the street. We decided to walk one station to the north, and amazingly, it didn't seem like others saw fit to do the same. We ended up getting seats together, only to have throngs of baseball fans crowd on at Addison Street and occupy what seemed like every cubic inch of space on the car. The three-quarter-mile walk was well worth it!

4. On the trip back north, I found a seat near front of my Milwaukee District North train for Fox Lake, Ill. But after boarding, the conductor got on the car to announce that a mass of inebriated Cubs fans would be getting on board at Grayland, and that if we wanted a quieter ride, we should move rearward by a few cars. I did this, and appreciated the tipoff.

5. Chicagoans like public transit, and despite it being Sunday, both my Metra and CTA trains ran at capacity. It was great seeing so many people voting with their feet for rail transit.

6. $5 for a Metra weekend pass got me both into and out of the city for something like 100 miles of train riding. You can't beat that. If only the baseball tickets were so affordable!

Andy Cummings
Associate Editor
TRAINS Magazine
Waukesha, Wis.

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