Chicago’s Train Agitation

Christopher Danzig

Christopher DanzigThe Daily Northwestern

On Saturday I had the misfortune of taking the El to downtown Chicago. People previously warned me to plan my trip carefully and allow myself extra travel time, but I didn’t realize the extent of the chaos that has engulfed the Chicago Transit Authority.

The Red Line did not go underground, as it normally does. Instead, it weaved its way around the Loop on other colors’ tracks. Nobody else on the train – which was unusually full, even for a Saturday evening – could help figure out where we had gone. Throughout my train car, I heard the same conversation echoing from group to group.

“Where are we?”

“I don’t know. Is this normal?”

“Shouldn’t we be underground?”

“Did we miss our stop?”

There was no explanation anywhere on the El train itself. Several stations had posted a sheet of yellow computer paper on the walls with cryptic alerts, ostensibly warning hundreds of hapless travelers such as myself.

“The northbound platforms between the Roosevelt (accessible) and Lake (accessible) stations will be closed,” read the signs. “Please board trains to Howard on the southbound side of the platform at Roosevelt (accessible), Harrison, Jackson (accessible), Monroe and Lake (accessible) stations.”

With a bit of lucky guesswork, I somehow managed to transfer to the Blue Line and reach my destination, frustrated and stressed. But the roller coaster wasn’t over. Hopes for a less vexing return trip were dashed, as the northbound trains were still more packed, despite the fact that it was nearly 10:30 p.m.

An entire freeway collapsed Sunday in my hometown of Oakland, Calif. It saddens me to know that because of maintenance work, it is more time-consuming to ride the El than it is to detour around a melted, fiery wreck of a busy overpass.