Transit Adventures

No the website (nor me) isn’t dead – I’m back from Chicago – a detailed summery of my trip

Well, I meant to make website updates while I was in Chicago, but the business of my trip there, visiting relatives and a quick CTA trip at the end of it prevented me from really having any free time to make any website updates, I’ve also barely had time to sleep, much less be online since I’ve gotten back. Well anyway here’s description of my time there on transit: the Late Shore Limited finally arrived at 12:20, about 2 and a half hours late, We (I was traveling with my grandmother who met me onboard in Syracuse) quickly connected to the northern side of Union Station buying our Metra Tickets for a 12:35 train up on the Milwaukee District-North Line to Deerfield, that was it for transit for the day.

The fallowing day, last Wednesday I did a round-trip on the Union Pacific-North Line to Highland Park to the Ogilvie Transportation Center see the sites of downtown Chicago with relatives, the relatives I was staying with in Highland Park live equidistant between the Deerfield and Highland Park Stations, unfortunately at least the northbound trains (during non-rush hour periods) always depart there downtown Chicago Terminals at the same time, :35 minutes past the hour, so I still only had hourly service to where I was going

On Thursday I ended up being driven into downtown Chicago and my only transit riding was a 9:45pm return up to Highland Park on the Milwalkee District-North line to Deerfield, this train I almost missed because of a very long ticket line for the two ticket windows at Union Station, I was close to spending the extra two dollars to buy-on-board and not miss my train. With the exception of the Metra Electric Line stations, Metra has no Ticket Vending Machines, it also has absolutely no ways to pay for tickets with Credit Cards, its cash (or checks for high cost monthly and 10-trip tickets) only, apparently by fall of 2010 there ticket offices will begin accepting credit cards.

Last Friday (July 17th )was my one day to railfan Chicago Transit and made the most of it by taking the UP District-North Line down to the Ogilive Transportation Center before walking two blocks up to the CTA headquarters building and using there CTA pass window (I couldn’t find any other place on-line where I could reliably buy one) to purchase a $5.75 1 day fun pass (The CTA calls them the same thing as the MTA).

Now armed with my fun pass I went out to photograph the Chicago ‘L’. The trip began at the Clinton-Lake Station where I took a Westbound Green Line train to California, here I left the system and walked beneath the elevated down Lake Street to Kedzie. Next was a photo stop at Cicero, where I left the station , walking from its exit only exit at one end of the station to the main entrance at the other. This was fallowed by one at Central, I got off there to photograph a Metra Train rushing by on its adjacent trackage, I also left the system briefly for a station entrance photo. I continued out to Harlem-Lake, the western terminus of the Green Line, here I left the system again and walked what felt like a long mile south to the Blue Line’s Harlem Station, while on the platform at the Harlem Station my camera’s battery decided it was time to die, I took a blue line train one stop out to its terminus at Forest Park, didn’t see any place like a cafe in the surrounding area to rest for a bit and charge my battery so I changed directions and took an inbound train, sitting in the railfan seat looking through the cab and out the front window back to downtown, getting off at the Jackson Station, and finding a Tea Cafe, where I had a cup of tea and read for about 30-45 minutes waiting for my battery to charge. (5 dips)

After my battery was fully charged I decided it was time for photos of some of the downtown stations, since I didn’t feel I had time to make my way out on another branch out of downtown except the Blue Line out to O’Hare. I got on the red line at Jackson and took it one stop south to Harrison where I did another photo stop. From here I decided I wanted to do some photo essays of inner loop stations and walked back up to Library-State/Van Buren, took a train the one stop to LaSalle/Van Buren, these stops are so close to each other that trains that run eight cars stop in both stations at once. Here I walked up to the Quincy Station, that has been given a renovation and kept in a turn of the 1900s original style with wood paneled station houses along the platforms. I got back and took a train one stop to Washington/Wells. I decided it was time to start heading out to O’Hare Airport and walked back to Dearborn Street and got on at Washington, and got on a southbound train one stop to Monroe, here I decided to explore a strange feature of the Dearborn and State Street subways, each has a continuos island platform, so I walked down the island platform back to Washington Station and got on an O’Hare-bound train to Grand-Milwaukee, another underground station, here I left the subway briefly before getting back on and continuing onto Divison-Milwaukee, from there I decided to walk and fallow the Blue Line onto its only portion that’s a traditional el, the rest of it is either in a subway or along expressway medians. I walked a good way along Milwaukee and got back on the Blue Line at Damon. I took it one stop for a photo stop at Western and as I was on the platform when the Customer Service Attendant (all CTA stations have someone sitting in a booth at the turnstiles even though all fares must be purchased at Vending Machines) came up and told me photography wasn’t permitted for safety reasons, I told him I didn’t think it was true and tried to ask for more of an explanation, but this was a little bit hard with his extremely Indian Accented English. Online there policy states that photography is permitted, as long as it doesn’t result in extended loitering (this part of the statement is extremely ambiguous), oh well an uniformed employee, happens so frequently. I got back on the next train and did a quick stop at the unusual Logan Square Station but didn’t leave fare control. I made a final photo stop in the rain at Montrose (did leave fare control) before I continued out to O’Hare Airport and left the CTA system for good.

Total Number of Dips (Chicago uses farecards that are the same shape and design as MTA MetroCards, New York reads them as ‘See Agent’ I once tried, but CTA ‘L’ turnstiles require you to dip there cards in the same way as MTA buses work, the only time you can swipe them is at swipeable areas where you can check your balance) on my CTA 1-day Unlimited Fun Pass: 13
Amount had a I would have spend had I paid $2.25 per ride: $29.25
Amount Saved: $23.50
Price of each ‘L’ ride for me: approximately 44ยข, I really can’t complain but could have easily gotten more out of it had I remembered to charge my camera’s battery the night before, I also wish there day-passes were easier to purchase, I meant to buy one on my previous days into downtown Chicago, because if all the stations sold them I would have gotten off my Metra Train in Evanston and connected to the CTA and the Purple Line there for my day of railfanning

Anyway, after I got to O’Hare Airport I looked at a monitor that supposively lists all departing flights but my JetBlue Flight to JFK (and no other JetBlue Flights that I could see) were listed, there also wasn’t any Airport Personal that I could ask about my flight. I noticed on an airport directory that JetBlue’s ticket counter was in Terminal 2 and walked through the underground passageway from the CTA Station (it’s in the center of the older terminal area-for terminals 1,2, and 3) to the JetBlue Ticket Counters where I checked in for my flight and made a comment to an employee how I was quite worried that my flight wasn’t listed he even said that the City of Chicago was gypping JetBlue.

I then decided with some extra time I wanted a ride on the airports ATS-Airpot Transit System, a rubber tired people mover that connects the central terminal area at stations at each Terminal 1,2 and 3 with Terminal 5, the relatively new International Terminal that is outside the central area and a station at Economy Station E. I road the train from Terminal 2 out to Economy Parking Lot Station E and back, my only photos of the trains were from the window of a train moving the other direction. All of the glassed in stations with platform doors seem to have additional fenced off areas at the ends of the platforms that make photography of the trains from the stations impossible. The majority of riders were getting on/off at International Terminal 5 and going to Terminal 3 for connections with a smaller number going to Terminal 1, terminal 2 seemed like the least used station since it only serves the non-major domestic airlines at the airport, as well a s most United Express Flights. All-in-all I found the ATS one of the better Airport Systems, but overall hate O’Hare because of its lack of information on Airport monitors for JetBlue, and the fact I’ve had what must be 15 minute walks changing planes on United when I’ve changed from Full-Sized Jets from the East Coast to United Express Regional Jets to get to Colorado Springs. I then went back to Terminal 2 for my JetBlue flight that was extremely empty with no one sitting the middle seats of the plane, and some rows in the back completely empty or with people sprawled across three seats sleeping. We were all set to depart when a maintenance problem delayed the plane, it was resolved in about half-an-hour and proceeded to the runway to wait another ten minutes for a slotted departure time, we finally got airborn and circled for about 20 minutes over the Pennsylvania/New Jersey Border (a LiveMap is one of the channels on JetBlue’s free DriecTV service), Finally touched down at JFK around 11:15 about an hour late. My mom offered to pick me up and I had a quick half-hour car ride home (the trip on Airtrain and the subway at this time of the night since all run local would have taken an hour and a half to two hours).

One reply on “No the website (nor me) isn’t dead – I’m back from Chicago – a detailed summery of my trip”

Getting hassled over transit photography is pretty annoying, especially when you’re not doing anything wrong-hearted about it. Sounds like you just had to reckon with someone who Thought Something Should Be Done, unfortunately. The way I read the CTA policy, so long as you don’t have a tripod, you’re not blocking traffic, or doing anything stupid, you’re in the clear. I spent three days in Chicago gathering photos and notes for a detailed look at the ‘L,’ and I wasn’t hassled once. Honestly, probably a good thing – they’d probably look a lot more closely at non-Americans.