Maybe not perfect, but CTA holds up pretty well throughout blizzard

By most accounts, the CTA did pretty well in providing service throughout the Blizzard of 2011. And one thing we can say for certain — it did better than its sister transit agency Metra.

On Thursday, Metra operated a reduced schedule on four of its 11 train lines, and half-hour delays were not uncommon. The CTA had full rail service after clearing the ground-level tracks on Yellow Line and re-establishing service between 54th/Cermak and Pulaski on the Pink Line.

There were some early delays Thursday on the Blue Line, and of course the bus routes were slow-going through some streets that were still snow-clogged. And a switch box fire caused Red Line delays in the late afternoon.

The biggest CTA complaint I heard was the common complaint for the huge transit system — a lack of proper and prompt communication with passengers.

For instance, though Lake Shore Drive was clear Thursday morning, CTA buses avoided it because all lanes were not open. Fine, but operators never mentioned that to customers. And one Tattler reader places the blame at the top:

“The CTA’s failure to communicate with its customers this circumstance is a complete failure at the highest level. You can’t blame the bus driver, and you can’t blame the supervisor. They both thought it was ridiculous as well and encouraged the bus load of irate passengers to call the CTA to complain as it made no sense.”

Still, in the CTA Tattler click poll about 75% of respondents said CTA service throughout the blizzard was good.

Now severe cold will try to disrupt CTA service. Let’s hope Mother Nature loses that battle too.

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  • CTA did a hell of a lot better than Metra.

  • This morning's commute was crowded on the Red Line. We were slightly delayed due to door problems on the train ahead of us. But all-in-all, a fairly easy commute.

  • Metra was even worse at communicating service updates. My one complaint about the CTA was on Wednesday afternoon the website said the purple line was running normal service, but the train I used ran local making all red line stops all the way to Howard. It would have been nice to know that in advance.

  • Ed, it's the responsibility of the property owner - the CTA. Call them and complain.

  • You think it's frustrating not getting clear communication? Try driving the bus minus clear communication.

    For the most part, the people who were getting on my bus were real cool about everything, but some got on upset with me, as if I called for this storm myself, and when I didn't have all the CTA answers for them? Well I should just go straight to hell. But like I said, for the most part everyone was real cool, and I appreciated it.

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    Since you are a bus driver, maybe you can answer this question (which I posted elsewhere, but did not get an answer)

    Is there any policy on when the driver can take an alternate route?

    Obviously, there were warning before 3 p.m. Tuesday that Lake Shore Drive was going to become a dangerous place.

    There are some reports that some drivers decided to use an alternate route and eventually got their riders home, while other buses were stranded on LSD.

    Is there any policy?

  • In reply to jack:

    I can provide a bit of anecdotal background. I've been on two 147 buses during morning commutes that left a locked Lake Shore Drive on Lawrence or Wilson and took Marine Drive to Irving Park. Each time the operator did that saved us quite a bit of travel time. Both times, as I was leaving I complimented the operators, and each told me that they use their GPS front end to punch in an alternate route and, if it's faster, they're allowed to take it. Again, that's anecdotal, but the drivers told me essentially the same thing. And even if it's a reasonable summary of the process, I don't know how much it would have applied or helped on Tuesday.

  • In reply to jack:

    We're suppose to stay on route at all times, but things happen, if the cpd has a street blocked off, obviously we'll have to create our own reroute, but hopefully the control center will send us the reroute before we even get to the blocked off street.

    However if traffic just sucks, that's not enough excuse for us to choose to go off route, it would be nice to do, but you risk getting in major trouble if anything goes wrong while off route. If you get in an accident while off route all you'll hear from the managers is

    "why'd you go off route?"
    "Well, traffic was terrible."
    "why'd you go off route?"
    "I was sending messages to the control center, but getting no response"
    "why'd you go off route?"
    "The people on the bus were starting to get real upset, and they were taking it out on me."
    "why'd you go off route?"

    In the case of Tuesday night, I sure hope you're not blaming the bus operators on lake shore drive, that would be extremely ignorant. I was just about to get on lake shore drive when a supervisor on the street told me it was closed down so I went locally the whole way.

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    Thanks for the response, and no, I am not blaming the drivers, given the apparent lack of direction from management.

    Your answer seems to be that it would have been up to the control center to get out the word, about 2:30, to stay off the Drive, and did not. Given that the weather warnings were more than "traffic sucks," it appears they should have, but waited for CPD to close LSD. I can see why the drivers wouldn't want to take the flack.

  • In reply to goldminetim:

    I think it's kind of cool that I've been on two renegade buses. But I'm always happier when traffic doesn't suck that bad.

  • In reply to jack:

    I was affected by Thursday's Red Line problem. What got me wasn't that there was a problem per se. I can understand that. What I mind is when bad information and inexplicable treatment follow in the aftermath. After I spent a long time at Monroe waiting for a northbound train, along one finally comes--up the southbound side. We were told to get on, we'd be taken to Lake, where there'd be a northbound train waiting on the normal track for us to get on. Not clear why the change, but it still sounded like a plan to me. Except when we (maybe 50-100 people) got there, there was the train standing, plenty of room on board, but instead of letting anyone on, it just takes off without us.

  • In reply to jack:

    Somehow, as cleanup progressed, everything got worse. On Thursday our alley still wasn't plowed, so I took the bus to work. It went fine. Getting back, however, proved a tremendous hassle. I ended up waiting outside for half an hour, giving up and walking east down Devon for another ten minutes, and finally seeing a single ridiculously crowded bus turn onto the street that I managed to take. All this in single-degree weather.

    And while I was waiting at the first stop, I saw at least four other 155s go by in the opposite direction, only to hit some sort of bus traffic jam at the little turnaround. It was absolutely infuriating. And freezing.

  • In reply to AlbuterolGonzales:

    They're not plowing alleys. I heard that on the radio this morning. It seems too many people have complained in the past about damage to garage doors.

  • The sidewalk in front of Bryn Mawr was clear by the time I got there a little after 8.

    Based on where the train pulled up at that station, I think it must have been either a 4- or 6-car train, which makes no sense to me. But I got to work. The bus tracker showed an utter lack of approaching 147 buses, my preferred route, so I guess I won.

  • Well, this morning there were 3 trains that were full when I tried to get on at granville red line. I finally got on, but my train was full from Argyle on on no one was able to get on from there to Lake.

  • KevinB, I'm not at all surprised at full trains. After all, many people can't get their cars out so they flood the CTA trains.

  • Well, first the trains weren't running at the regular frequency, which I'm assuming caused the full trains. You would think with only 3 stops between Howard and Granville that they could keep to the schedule...but then, this is the CTA...

  • Sorry for the confusion, Ed; I approached the station from the west.

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