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Chicago CTA 'L' Train System Review

Updated: Jul 24, 2021

Uh oh here she comes

CTA Train interior keystone light can & red eye

Ah Chicago's notorious 'L' trains. While the CTA has managed to somehow finally get the trains to run regularly after 30+ years there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. In-fact they still use the same old nasty 30+ year old trains that they unironically use a cleaning solution that smells like puke to clean them with. I guess the best way to cover the piss smell is with a more potent puke smell.

Your typical CTA Blue Line trip consists of:

  • Traveling on a 30+ year old train packed to the brim with people, some who could use a shower or two...maybe three

  • Dodging panhandlers, homeless, & mentally unstable people on the way to the train only to be accosted by the ones who ride the trains daily & panhandle (you've "just got out of the hospital & need $2 for a bus ticket" for the past 20 years my friend!) or participate in other antics like taking a dump near the driver's booth or exposing themselves

  • Occasionally witnessing a fight break out, theft, or strong arm robbery attempt

  • Delays due to a frighteningly increasing frequency of derailments

  • Elevators being used as a bathroom

  • Homeless people taking over the stations during the Winter

  • That one person that refuses to buy a set of headphones & plays music off their phone's speakers even though there's signs posted everywhere saying it's prohibited or that one person who DOES actually have headphones, but can't keep themselves from pole dancing and/or aggressively yelling the lyrics to the music

A word of wisdom to people. Be careful when riding the CTA past 11pm. Lots of nefarious individuals skulk about & Cook County Jail lets out convicts at midnight. With the Blue & Red lines being the only 24/7 lines guess where they all congregate? You guessed it, these very lines! Thefts are rarely solved even with cameras everywhere & the police take forever to arrive so if your phone is stolen you are SOL unless you have tracking turned on at which point the police officers will offer for you to ride with them & track the perp down immediately (WHICH WOULDN'T HAVE TO BE DONE IF YOU GOT THERE FASTER INSTEAD of 1.5 HOURS LATER AS THEY'D STILL BE IN THE AREA!)

In 2019 supposedly a new series of trains is being produced, but no word yet on whether or not they will be for the Blue Line. I'm skeptical of the design as the previous new models pretty much just added LEDs for signs & removed 50% of the seating, forcing more people to stand. The trains desperately need more cars added to accommodate Chicago's increasing population. What has improved though is now the tunnels have cell signal which was made possible by a huge joint project that consisted of the city & cell carriers. Having signal while in the tunnels is extremely nice although the signal is not consistent enough to actually take calls. Light web browsing works well though & should keep you distracted from the horrors surrounding the CTA enough until you arrive at your destination.

There are other questions surrounding the CTA like why doesn't every stop have an elevator (ie: the California stop) even though they have the handicapped turnstile? Why is Cicero's Laramie entrance closed, forcing people to walk over half a mile in a crime ridden area? These questions have gone unanswered for decades, I've even written to politicians as well as CTA officials & received no response.

Overall, nobody "enjoys" riding the CTA as the experience is far from pleasurable. When you enter a train after a quick "security check" your eyes glaze over & the game of "pretending the people around you don't exist" begins. You essentially take on the mindset of a POW, surviving hell until the end. The entire rail system desperately needs to be revamped & something needs to be done about the crime. I've seen & been through it all from knife fights to the Santa Claus train. Still, it is a damn cheap, convenient & fast way to get around the city. We're not going to even go into the CTA always crying about being broke when they pay their entry level employees $25+/hr & are packed to the brim with customers almost all day; all while using 30+ year old equipment that they barely maintain so... how Sway?!!?!?! How?!??!! Riding the CTA you never know what you're going to get, but on the trains the landscapes & architecture of Chicago can be breathtaking to look at (the soothing tranquility of sunset over the chapels near the Blue Line's Medical District stop are amazing.) Once I was able to afford to drive everywhere I said goodbye to the CTA & never looked back.

*While writing this I realized I literally have relationships with panhandlers for 20+ years that began when I was a child. They have watched me grow into a man & I them into their middle age/senior years. Most still run the same scams, some even though I interacted with them everyday they're so far gone they don't even know who I am. The CTA Blue line is truly a sad place.

Totally deserving of this 1 star



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