Only trouble walks between cars: What's illegal on the CTA

CTA signage

Yesterday, I got a tip about a post titled “Now this should make the CTA Tattler.” Obviously I didn’t disappoint Levois at The Sixth Ward blog. But the real point is to educate folks on what is illegal on the CTA.

For instance, it is illegal — not to mention dangerous — to walk between train cars. This post headline quotes my wife: “only trouble walks between cars.” Levois wrote about a guy walking between cars who was ticketed by cops. Good! It seems the only people I see walking between cars are begging, running the shell game, or running from some trouble.

Two years ago I wrote about all the behaviors that are illegal on the CTA. It’s worth reviewing again. And you can read the ordinance for yourself here:

CTA ordinance

Prohibited are:

  • Smoking.
  • Begging.
  • Selling anything (including socks and CDs).
  • Eating or drinking anything.
  • Unsafe conduct, such as crossing between train cars and sleeping (cue John Kass).
  • Spitting saliva, food, gum or tobacco.
  • Indecent exposure (breast-feeding is allowed).
  • Urination or defecation.
  • Any sex act.
  • Gambling.
  • Littering.
  • Possessing a weapon, including a “billie club” or bludgeon.

Violators face a minimum $100 fine.

So please behave. Thank you.


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  • They need to ticket more people walking between cars. Or lock them in a way that they open for emergencies or when the train stops.

  • There's a guy at work who has been ticketed twice for walking between the cars. He was trying to get away from some gangbangers both times. If I felt unsafe on a particular car on the train I'd want to move too, but the police told him both times he should have either called the motorman or waited until the train was in a station and changed cars from the platform.

  • Obviously if he was ticketed, the police would have seen the gangbangers he was trying to get away from. It sounds like they weren't actually doing anything to him and that he just didn't want to be near them.

  • Sometimes when I'm bored, I imagine the amount the transit police could collect in fines from fellow riders if they enforced the eating/drinking rule with $100-per-violation fines.

    Wish they would. Seems like sometimes more than half the train's passengers are stuffing their gullets, thinking rules apply to everyone else.

  • Some fellow passengers on the Brown Line were headed to the Mai Fest in Lincoln Square Saturday night and had obviously warmed up with more than a few beverages. They were running back and forth between the car I was in and the one ahead where their friends were. After the third time I used my very best clearing-the-halls-in-a-high-school voice and told them to cut it out because the L is not a toy, nor is it a thrill ride at Great America. Of course, they lipped off. I then had to inform them I would resent my tax dollars being used to remove their body parts from the tracks and that no one on the train, or waiting for a train, would appreciate the delay such clean up would cause. After that they thankfully relocated to the other car, no doubt to talk about that bitch who told them not to play with the train and who does she think she is anyway.

  • Well the CTA can't really ticket riders for eating and drinking

  • In reply to OrangeLineRider:

    Well the CTA can't really (or shouldn't) ticket riders for eating and drinking when they sell food and drink (especially Dunkin Donuts) at so many of the el stops.

  • In reply to OrangeLineRider:

    If memory serves, during the brief tenure of Ron Huberman, he said he realized they weren't going to be able to stop people from eating and drinking on CTA vehicles and what they needed to do was capitalize on it by having platform-level Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, etc. Who knows if that will happen now that he's moved on to CPS, but here at the brain factory we're hoping he'll open Dunkin Donuts (we can't afford Starbucks) in the hallways at schools. CPS could probably make a lot of money towards closing that funding gap since the adults have to drink a lot of coffee to keep up with the teenagers.

  • In reply to OrangeLineRider:

    Hm. Last Friday night on my Red Line car on the way home from work, five guys came in and started up a shell game. Scored two $20s from a naive young woman, too. They all came in through the platform doors -- sounds like we need a law to prevent the use of those doors.

  • In reply to OrangeLineRider:

    "need a law to prevent the use of those doors" Good one. I'm still in the group that believes(and remembers) proper use of any door on the 'L', back when it was legal to change cars(pre-sticker on the door era)

  • In reply to JohnT:

    I'm not sure what your point is. Because you can remember when it was legal and people using it properly, we should keep doing it? I can remember a lot of things that society used to do, that we shouldn't do any longer.

    Also, just because there was no sticker on the door, doesn't mean it wasn't illegal.

  • In reply to chris:

    The notices at that time said to be careful when crossing cars, then were changed to cross between cars only when train is stopped. I doubt reminders to be careful were about any illegal train door usage.

    My comment was to the previous comment that we need a law to prevent the use of the [platform] doors, as there were shell game players that were changing cars by exiting and entering through the platform doors. (This paragraph is only if you didn't read what I quoting, in order to to get the context-please read the thread to get all of it)

    My post was simply a comment not a point to offend anyone. My opinion does not have to be in the majority to be my opinion. My apologies if that upsets your way of thinking.

    My comment stands that there was a time when it was legal, and there were reasons for doing so.

    In the future, it may become illegal to change cars though the platform doors due to the shell games, or other up-to-no-good people changing cars via the platform doors. And although perhaps one car is crowded or smells and the next car doesn't, because it illegal, and posted, I wonder if such a rigid opinion of not changing cars for any reason will still stand.

  • In reply to JohnT:

    Absolutely, John. The idea that "only trouble walks between cars" is small-minded and thoughtless. If that's the rationable, "trouble" obviously finds the platform doors perfectly usable, so we're just going to have to ban those too.

    (And since the shell game players had someone posted by the car's alert button, only someone intelligent and resourceful enough to walk between cars would have been able to use the button in the next car.)

    The likely reason for the prohibition is ever-increasing insurance and liability prevention. That's fine if it's the case, but the CTA and its more craven riders do no one favors by making these stories up about danger on the rails.

  • In reply to JohnT:

    Don't be ridiculous. The shell game on CTA is already illegal since gambling is prohibited. There is nothing wrong with changing cars from the platform.

  • In reply to JohnT:

    And I remember train surfing. That doesn't make it either legal or the smartest thing to do either.

  • In reply to JohnT:

    If you just clicked reply next to the person's comment you are replying, we wouldn't have to play this guessing game.

    Your opinion is legit and you didn't offend me, but your reasoning for keeping it legal is sort of dumb. And Cheryl (above) posted the perfect retort to it concerning train surfing to illustrate the point...

  • In reply to JohnT:

    Crossing between cars should be aggressively enforced because its like loitering at an open air drug market, it can be presumed the person so doing is up to no good. Quite frankly, the general security on CTA trains (especially Red at night) is more of a priority. The armed robberies are enough for me to remind riders to USE THE FRONT CAR AT NIGHT EVERY TIME as this car is the only one which always has an attendant in the car.

    Oh, and if you see dice games or the shell game, call the cops because that is just disrepectful to anyone on the train. The L may be a "bad neighborhood on wheels" but the dice leads to shooting fast...

  • In reply to JohnT:

    We should be allowed to escape from cars with bad trucks/wheels that give rickety rides.

  • In reply to OrangeLineRider:

    If that's true, they should drop the rule. It's enforced on other train systems like Washington, D.C.'s. You require the offender to produce identification and write them a ticket. Can be done. If the CTA doesn't care about eating and drinking, it needs to quit telling us it's prohibited, and I'll start chomping away on the train like everyone else who can't go five minutes without eating.

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