Planning your CTA train entrance with an exit strategy in mind

Like most creatures of habit (or should I say, boring CTA commuters?),
I usually get on the same train in the same car and take the same seat
at the same time every day. Well, at least for the morning commute. On
the evening commute, the time may vary, but the choice of car never
does.

CTA train

My choice of seats depends on the season. In the morning
during the warm summer months (coming soon, I promise), I usually sit
on the west side of the southbound Red Line to avoid the hot sun. In
the other months, I'll sit on the east side to take advantage of the
sun's warmth.

But the rail car I enter never varies. It's the
fifth car of the Loopbound train when I'm headed to work. And the
seventh car when I'm heading home. The fifth car lets me off the train
right at the Grand and State escalator. And the seventh car puts me
right at the platform exit at Morse.

Call me lazy. Call me stuck in my ways. Whatever. It's just comforting and easy. And I'm sure many of you do the same things.

And
if you do, how about sharing your exit strategies at your favorite
train stop. If I get enough input from you readers, I can create
Chicago's version of Exit Strategy NYC.
That's a Web site selling a phone app that gives New Yorkers
information about where to stand on the train for a quick exit, plus a
schematic layout of the train station, among others things.

(Hat tip to Kevin Z. Photo: Keith Levit Photography)  

Comments

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  • That's exactly how I do it! I'm glad that I'm not the only one.

    Whenever I take the Blue Line in from the Rosemont station, where I park for FIVE DOLLARS!!!! or from Harlem on a transfer from the Pace #209, going downtown for another court hearing on one of my many cases against the government for violating my constitutional right to a separation of state and church, I sit in the first car, because that's the one that stops closest to the exit that goes right to the front door of the Dirksen Federal Building, where the court house is.

    On the return, if I'm going back to Harlem, I sit in the last car, because that's closest to the exit, but if I'm going back to Rosemont, it's the first car for the same reason.

  • Chicago's el/subway is a pretty simple hub/spoke system... I don't think a system wide 'exit strategy' has the same utility that one for the MTA does.

  • In reply to stephenw235:

    I don't think you understand the concept, click on the link to the Exit Strategy NYC. It has nothing to do with the system as a whole, just the individual stops and what car is closest to the exits at that stop.

  • In reply to stephenw235:

    Front car to exit at Granville or Loyola very close to the stairs. Other than that, it's whatever I feel like at the time (tend to favor the front one or two cars for some reason).

  • In reply to stephenw235:

    I do this all the time. Cumberland is my home station, Jackson my work station. Inbound and outbound I try to get in the first car of the train - the southern entrance of Jackson is closest to work and the first car is closest to the exit of Cumberland. I'll plan accordingly when going to other stops.

  • In reply to stephenw235:

    ahh ok :) i get it now

  • In reply to stephenw235:

    Heading to Belmont from Paulina, I always use the front doors on the fourth car. This generally spits me out right at one of the staircases at Belmont so I can make a mad dash across to the northbound Purple Line tracks. Same deal in the evening... 4th car, front doors, at Foster Purple Line to get out at the same Belmont staircase to scurry over to a hopefully newly-arrived Brown Line. Always enter 6th car, rear door, to exit at the auxiliary entry/exit at Paulina.

  • In reply to stephenw235:

    Calfornia blue line to Clark/Lake. In the morning it's always first car in to Clark/Lake. Going home it depends. if it's an 8-car train, then I get on the 5th car in the middle of the platform. If it's a 4-car train, then the last car. First car is definitely the most popular on the inbound Blue line though. Never a seat to be had.

  • In reply to stephenw235:

    I only know where to stand on the platforms, not what car I get in :)

  • In reply to stephenw235:

    Brown Line outbound to Rockwell - always get in the last car since it will be closest to the exit.

    Green Line to Harlem/Lake - always the first car since it will be closest to the exit.

    Red Line to Sox-35th - always get in the front car. This allows one to exit free of the annoyance of the casual L rider who seems to think it's ok to walk four abreast on a narrow train platform.

    Blue Line (Division to Jackson) always the second car, which allows quick access to the south exit. An added benefit is getting to wait for the train at Division in the less-trafficked end of the station which adds to the delightful post-apocalyptic ambiance as one stands among the grime and watches the water drip through the top of the tunnel and shimmer down the walls.

    This is an entry rather than exit strategy: Red Line out of Howard 9pm-ish on a Sunday - wait for one of the first four cars. Often at this time, they cut the 8-car trains down to 4 cars, but they don't always feel it's necessary to inform the passengers waiting at cars 5 though 8. I got wise after waiting on a chilly night and watching the front of the train take off without its tail.

  • In reply to stephenw235:

    I don't even take the same route every day--it sometimes depends on what I'm doing after work, if I need to stop at a store that's along this route or do I want to take the fastest route or maybe the most scenic.

    Hey, does that mean I'm not boring?

  • In reply to stephenw235:

    Going into the loop I always go for cars 4-8, so I can avoid people getting off at sedgewick until most of them have hit the stairs already, going home I want the first 2 cars for the same reason at Belmont(This will change when the platform is no longer so squeezed by the construction areas).

    Whenever I need to be up near the Ohare end of the blue line, I try to go as far as possible from the station entrances to avoid cars full of suitcase weilding tourists.

    I was reminded last night why I avoid cars where the only place to stand is right next to the doors, someone tried to steal my iPod at Fullerton as they got off. They broke my expensive headphones, but did not get my iPod atleast.

  • In reply to stephenw235:

    Curious. I don't bother with an exit strategy -- I don't take the train if I'm in a hurry, and I rarely take it during peak hours, so getting off the platform quickly isn't an issue.

    I prefer to sit in the last car. A lot of times I can sit in the very last seat -- one of the two that are in the driver's area. It's a cool view of what's behind us, and when you stop, it looks like the train is moving backwards while your eyes refocus.

    Of course, in light of recent rail accidents, I should probably reconsider. That seat would give me a front-row view of my death if we were ever rear-ended by another train. Either that, or an excuse to run through the car and use the emergency doors between the cars.

  • In reply to stephenw235:

    I usually try to get somewhere where I can get a seat, even though I have to press past all the big bottoms clogging the doorway on trying to get out.

    BTW...I wonder if that Harris ad with "Mr. Wonderful is one car down" is true. Also, whether Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff actually rides CTA.

  • In reply to jack:

    I always make sure to board one car down from that Harris ad (Mr. Wonderful is one car down) so that at least on those trains, that ad is accurate.

  • In reply to jack:

    Interesting, but I usually look for the car with the least amount of people and grab a seat. The extra few steps isn't a big deal to me.

  • In reply to jack:

    Not a car strategy but an at-the-exit-door strategy. When I'm faced with a crowd of people outside that door waiting to get on and I'm the only person trying to get off (since I live downtown, this happens a lot if I come home during evening rush), I know I'll get squeezed back into the train if I'm not careful.

    So usually I just stand there in the middle of the doorway without moving. Invariably, like the parting of the Red Sea, a channel spontaneously opens in the middle of the crowd so I can walk off the train before the hordes climb aboard. It might earn me a couple of dirty looks, but it gets me off the train without unnecessary bruising every time.

  • In reply to jack:

    By the way, Kevin, excellent community-sourcing idea! You may also want to ask your Twitter followers this question to come up with answers for your potential Chicago Exit Strategy app.

  • In reply to jack:

    If I take the train TO work, I try to avoid the back cars when I get on at Bryn Mawr. I get off at Lake street and the back cars end up near that skinny walkway between the train and the wall most of the time so I end up trying to squeeze through this tight mess. Not good, especially on days when I have my gym bag. On the way home it doesn't really matter except I find the front or end cars are less crowded. People tend to gravitate to the middle.

    If I drive to work and park near Milwaukee and Halsted as I do sometime, I ride the Blue line one stop to work from Grand. The middle cars on that train are less crowded for some reason. On the way home I walk to the end of the platform nearest Wells street at the Clark/Lake stop. This end of the train lets you off nearest the escalator at Grand (sorry, I'm tired after work. Screw the stairs.)

  • In reply to jack:

    How much does where the entrances to the train platforms have to do with it? Do a lot of people walk down (or up) the stairs and just stop right there? Does that have a lot to do with what cars get filled up first?

  • In reply to jack:

    Brown line toward the loop to Kedzie, Francisco or Rockwell: first car; from the loop: last car.

  • In reply to jack:

    purple line northbound to howard (so it is a 6-car train): The third-to-last car, which usually is right by the escalator at Howard

  • In reply to jack:

    I do this too, usually on my way home though on the Red Line from Chicago to North/Clybourn because there is only one exit point at the North stop and it's allll the way at one end. I dont count cars, but I enter a little north of the escalator and usually end up in the right spot.

  • In reply to jack:

    It's fascinating to me that so many people know which car number they usually get on...I'm more prone to a specific spot on the platform (trying to count the cars as they go by would probably make me puke).

    And usually I'm SPRINTING to catch the O'Hare-bound train at Clark/Lake that seems to always be sitting there when I get down to the platform every day at 5:30. I guess I just feel lucky to catch the stupid train at all.

  • In reply to jack:

    It could well help here in Chicago.
    Because Tokyo, Japan has already aced the exam.
    The booklet {I must call it a booklet - It is eighty pages.} which most frequently goes out-of-stock in the stations of Tokyo Metro is a Japanese-language-only guide known as the 'Tokyo Metro Navi'.
    (An aside here. If you are confused by which north side "L" stops the Purple Line serves, you would be woefully deficient at deciphering the maps of Tokyo Metro.)
    But without even knowing much Japanese at all, on pages 55 - 72 are illustrated guides informing you in which car(s) on your specified subway line you should be in order to swiftly transfer to another train at an upcoming station, or access a station's escalator or elevator.
    All trains in metropolitan Tokyo (& Yokohama) are themselves numbered; i.e.: Car #1 is always on the point of an outbound train, and car #8 or #10 is always at the other end. (There are no terminal loops on Tokyo Metro. Control passes to the other end of the train.) By reading this guide, and presuming you have enough time to position yourself to board that specific car, you can effect a swift transfer or exit when you reach your station.
    I have a few of these guides. I managed to visit less-trafficked stations which had copies of these. The only thing which might be a publication number reads "54-M025529". If you ever see me out and about, ask to glimpse it.

  • In reply to jack:

    Its funny because I always make a concerted effort to board the north end of the train (be it the first or last car given the direction) when I'm going to Granville or Chicago/Franklin, but don't plan so well going to any other stop. However, when I'm traveling on the Blue Line I'm more interested in sitting in the 2200s (because I think they're cooler!) over any boarding position, yet it always seems to work out well when I'm transferring at Jefferson Park.

  • In reply to jack:

    If you're exiting at North/Clybourn northbound, you want to be at the rear of the seventh (next-to-last) car.

    If you're exiting at Bryn Mawr northbound, you want to be at the rear of the seventh car for the south stairs into the station lobby and at the rear of the third car for the stairs to the Peterson bus. As you descend the stasirway stay to the right for the best shot at catching the bus.

    (The Bryn Mawr stop is very competitive; some people start to hover near that door at Lawrence or Argyle, and people who happen to use that doorway at Berwyn often have to push through a few people.)

  • In reply to jack:

    Jackson blue line, traveling away from O'Hare: front car
    Noyes purple line, traveling north: front car
    Foster purple line, traveling north: last car
    O'Hare blue line: front car
    Rosemont blue line, traveling towards O'Hare: front 2 cars
    Grand red line, traveling south: a little bit rear of center

  • In reply to jack:

    Harrison red line, traveling south: rear car -- assuming you want the Harrison Street entrance and it's not closed for remodeling!

    La Salle/Van Buren Brown Line, if you want Clark Street: if the train has 8 cars, get in the second car, exit out the front door. Puts you right there by the stairway.

    Brown Line ANY TIME -- for an awesome view of the skyline, sit on the left side facing backwards if Kimball-bound; right side facing forwards if Loop-bound. Espeically on a clear night.

  • In reply to jack:

    Blue Line (8 car trains)
    From Irving Park:

    to Washington or Clark/ Lake- 2nd car from Pulaski entrance (but if I'm coming from the gym via the Irving Park entrance then 7th)
    to UIC- 6th car
    to O'Hare- 2nd car

    To Irving Park:
    From Downtown or UIC- 7th car via Pulaski or 2nd via Irving Park
    From O'Hare- 2nd car

    Green Line
    Clark/ Lake to Clinton- 5th or 6th car
    Clinton to Clark/ Lake- 5th car

    Pink Line
    Clinton to Clark/ Lake- 4th car

    and on 2600 cars, I like sitting on the longitudinal seats so I can throw my head back and drift while on my trek.

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