CTA’s Holiday Bus – All you love about Holiday Train, only smaller and stuck in traffic on Western

This is a CTA Tattler guest post by Martha.

Don’t let the possibly Grinchy headline mislead you. The Holiday Bus is nothing but magic.

Compared to all the other buses on the #49 Western route, let’s leave it to Petula Clark to explain: “How can you lose? The lights are much brighter there. You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares.”

With the exception of today’s run through Lincoln Square, the Holiday Bus largely serves neighborhoods the Holiday Train can’t reach, and allows CTA’s bus personnel to enjoy the festive Festivus season love that rail personnel have had a lock on for nearly two decades.

While commuting during Decembers past I would see “Seasons Greetings” accompanied by sleigh and reindeer graphics displayed intermittently on buses’ destination signs. I always wondered if bus personnel seethed at the fun rail seemed to be having on the Holiday Train.

After all, (almost) every one loves the Holiday Train. In fact it’s almost become a victim of its own success. Last Saturday on the train’s final weekend Red Line run I almost felt like I was riding the Tokyo subway. The elves needed to learn the passenger packing techniques perfected long ago in Japan’s largest city as many people were left stranded on the platform before the train reached Roosevelt on the train’s northbound run from 95th.

The Holiday Bus relieves some of the pressure by providing another outlet for CTA holiday cheer enthusiasts. Just like the train, it’s got Santa. In fact, he’s an indoor/outdoor Santa since he occasionally pops out of the bus’s back emergency hatch, positioned over his Santa throne next to his indoor fireplace, to Ho Ho Ho at passersby.

The Holiday Bus also features lots of lights and decorations. As on the Holiday Train, there are elves passing out candy canes. Instead of the delightfully corny holiday-themed advertisements found on the Holiday Train, the Holiday Bus features holiday-themed artwork created by students at Mahalia Jackson Elementary School.

The platform over the bus’ right front wheel well provides a platform for a snowman and toy train. Snowflakes grace the ceiling, while the articulation point of the 60-foot New Flyer takes on a party atmosphere with its lights and wreathes. A support vehicle follows the bus. Is it full of extra candy canes or is it there to pick up the virtual poop dropped by the bus’s reindeer wrap?

Enough of my egg nog-fueled prose. Check out some photos of the bus interior and exterior and see the magic for yourself. Sadly, today marked the final runs of both the Holiday Bus and the Holiday Train. Until next year, CTA elves and Santa!

Thanks for the new holiday tradition.

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  • Nicely done, Martha. I didn't have a chance to ride either the train or the bus this year. But in past years, I was really impressed by the creativity on display. Somebody (probably a bunch of somebodies) must have had fun thinking it up and making it happen.

  • I totally agree - the Holiday Bus was so much fun! I have to email the CTA to let them know how much I enjoyed it. I rode it on Friday when it was the 22 Clark. After I got over the initial hilarity of Santa, the Elves, the decorations and the looks of people getting on the bus, I started watching out the window to see the reaction on the street. Santa popped out of the hatch around Irving Park and started yelling "happy holidays and Merry Christmas" and the construction workers at Wrigley were getting a kick out of it and waving to the bus. I love the new holiday tradition and hope the CTA keeps it going!

  • Lol. All this talk about the bus, and now I have Meghan Trainor's song stuck in my head:

    Because you know it's all about that bus,
    'Bout that bus 'bout that bus, no trouble
    It's all 'bout that bus, 'bout that bus, no trouble

    Yeah it's pretty clear, we're not on the #2
    But it can make it, make it, like it's supposed to do
    'Cause it's got that room room, that all the riders chase
    It makes all the right stops, in all the right places

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