How do you engage in "profiling" behavior while riding the CTA?

In a New York Times Magazine letter to The Ethicist columnist, a white reader frets that he may be guilty of “racial profiling” because he sits next to a black passenger on the Long Island Rail Road, figuring the guy will exit at Jamaica Station – thus allowing him to slide into a preferred window seat. The population of Jamaica, Queens, is 60 percent black.

As the columnist points out, that’s not racial profiling. Instead, the rider is “gambling on established demographics.”

And I think that’s something regular CTA commuters do every day. Well, that, and capitalizing on established rider behavior.

Here’s how I do it:

  • At rush hour, I wait at the far south end of the Grand platform  for the northbound Red Line. Why? Because I know that at the stops in the Loop, that last car gets fewer riders because you would have to board on a narrow walkway adjacent to the mezzanine stairway.
  • Also, when I board, I move to the center of the car to stand. Why? Well, for sure to get away from the crush of riders entering exiting by the doors. But also because there are more seats in the center that might open up and allow me to sit.

How do you gamble or capitalize on the riding behavior of other passengers to make your own commute a little bit easier?


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  • I guess it is fair gambling if you ride the Purple Line to Howard or Linden that a certain demographic (usually wearing earrings) will be off by Belmont. But most of the car will be off by Belmont, anyway,

    Otherwise, it is kind of tough on the CTA. Pretty much everyone on the South Red and Green Lines are the same, unless you think someone is going to get off at Garfield to go to Hyde Park. North side is enough mixed that, other than the observation made above, it is hard to make predictions. Probably Orientals are more likely to ride the Brown Line to the end, while Kass's pink guys will be off by Damen.

  • In reply to jack:

    "Orientals"? You're giving away your age Jack. Sounds like something my father would say.

  • In reply to WestLooper:

    Well, should I have used some of the terms attributed to Richard Nixon by Dan Akroyd in "The Final Days?"

    And if that gives away my age, take that p-n-.

  • In reply to jack:

    Not sure it shows age (early 60s). It sure does show bigotry, though. "Oriental" in reference to people has been an unacceptable and racist term in American English for more than 30 years. (and modeling Richard Nixon shows questionable judgment)

    Now, how about "everyone on the south Red and Green Lines are the same..." ??.....

  • On hot days, I always go to the car ends because the A/C works better there than between the doors.

  • I tend to sit away from the dirty, smelly people. Am I guilty of Olfactory Profiling?

  • I move away from the doors because I don't like standing near the stupid people.

  • For the places that I go, I generally know which car I need to be in for the easiest way to the exit, and since I usually board when it is not busy, I get my choice of cars.

  • You can tell the riders on the inbound Brown line that are going to bolt at Belmont bc they start to get antsy on or around Southport. A tactic is to hover close to the single seats and look for the "signs" then snag a seat unless you see a pregnant woman or sr citizen eyeballing the self absorbed whipper snapper, willing them to give up their seat.

  • I can add one on the bus, since I had to take the 60 bus for jury duty today.

    Actually it was quite pleasant. Apparently the 60 has become the Union Station-UIC local, so most around 20 got off or on about there. The cut through Pilsen was pleasant, too.

    Note that I did not take the L, to get anywhere near 26th and California nor to the 60 bus.

  • I sit next to skinny people on the bus so I have more room to sit. BTW I am pretty slim myself. Does that make me a weight bigot?

  • I would think that a wider-array-of nationalitities-than-on-the-Orange Line set of Latinos would be the dominant outer Brown Line group given the makeup of the Albany Park and the Lawrence Ave corridor. Those "Orientals" have all took over Protestant churches in the north suburbs. I used to take a lot of delight in foiling black people's seating plans when I would stay on the #6 well past 59th St.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to urbanleftbehind:

    You can say that for mainly the Orange Line, regarding Latinos, from Midway to about Western, I think. Beyond that from 35th/Archer to Roosevelt seems to be a mix with Halsted more Asian-oriented due to it's proximity to Chinatown. I'll also add that I don't think anyone would take the L if they lived in the Loop unless they were headed to Midway or O'Hare.

  • When I would take the Red or Purple northbound, I would linger around those wearing Cubs paraphernalia prior to Addison, since I knew they'd most likely be vacating their seats, and I could sit until Howard (spring/summer months...).

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