Here's a guest post from Tom:
I have been a life-long Chicagoan, and I have used public transportation for a good part of my life here. I've used the "green limousine" through high school on the north side and up until I changed jobs, rode the Blue Line from Oak Park to Washington street almost every weekday. I have seen the best and worst of the CTA in action.
However, I recently was at a two-week training seminar in Philadelphia and, because of cheap hotel rates and other logistical nightmares, was able to experience that city's public transportation system.
I have to say, we in Chicago need to praise what we have come to accept as minimal standards. I found EVERY subway station in Philadelphia that I used to smell of urine (stale and fresh). They STILL use tokens. You can only buy a weekly pass from a human being, and not on a weekend. And not without exact change.
There were no buttons to press for an emergency. There was no even mildly disinterested person to ask questions. In other words, I took a 10 year trip back in time to our CTA of old. I could not wait to get back to a cleaner, more modern system that at least was TRYING to treat users as valued customers instead of nuisances.
I know that all of us who use public trans wants a leaner, more usable system. I also acknowledge that the CTA has a long way to go to live up to other cities and their systems. I mean, look at the Blue Line stops along the Eisenhower; I've seen less corrugated steel roofs in a shanty town that protect from the rain better (LOOK at the Oak Park stop for proof).
However, I think that the whiniest riders need to take a step back before they completely lambast the CTA and realize that it IS better than it has been. I know my nose knows that it's a gallon of urine cleaner!
Thanks for letting me vent.
Kevin here: Are there other big cities where the transit system really sucks, even compared to the CTA?