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Best idea for the next civic spectacle, after this year’s Great Chicago Fire Festival triumph

Audience Choice, City Life No Comments »

Busmob

If Chicago wishes to treat visitors to a spectacle, it ought to put them on one of the CTA’s longer bus routes. On the 29, which travels along State Street, spectators can enjoy an immersive experience for the price of a single-ride ticket. The southbound leg will take them from the splendor of Gold Coast mansions to the Loop’s retail blocks and then to neighborhoods that demonstrate the shocking disparity of this city with a clarity that no pyrotechnics can match. And perhaps the revenues from the added bus fares, coupled with savings realized from scrapping pricey theatrics, can make the spectacle seem a little less sad.

Audience Choice: Re-creation of the World’s Fair

Other audience comments that caught our attention: “A replication of the Great Chicago Flood of 1992″; “Actually re-enacting the great Chicago fire”; “The Great Parking Meter Lease Festival”; “Disco Demolition reunion”; “Founding Mothers of Chicago. Presenting 150 years of forgotten/ignored history crediting the women who built Chicago”; and “The return of July 3 at Grant Park. The city is not the same without the crowds gathering for the taste and fireworks!”

Best of Chicago 2014

Best rock icon spotted on the CTA

City Life No Comments »

Dave Grohl

As part of the Foo Fighters new album and HBO series “Sonic Highways,” Dave Grohl and company traveled to Chicago to record a track with legendary producer Steve Albini (who recorded Grohl on Nirvana’s “In Utero”). Grohl was spotted and photographed riding the CTA rails in January, sporting a hearty winter coat (it was officially documented on People of the CTA). Wonder if he had any Ventra card issues?

peopleofthecta.com

Best of Chicago 2014

Best reasons to stop seeing red over grungy El stations

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The deluxe rehabs of the Red Line’s 95th Street and Wilson stops

If you’ve ever visited London, Tokyo or even Washington D.C., you know that rapid transit can be a dignified, democratic experience, rather than a degrading one. However, it sure doesn’t seem that way when you’re waiting in a CTA tunnel with filthy walls and a dripping ceiling. Thankfully, the Emanuel administration has made upgrading the system a priority, and two of the gnarliest Red Line stations are now undergoing massive rehabs. The Wilson stop, a three-time winner of RedEye’s “Crust Station” contest, is getting a $203 million makeover that will turn it into a Purple Line transfer—expect an influx of Northwestern folks moving to Uptown. Meanwhile, the hulking, rust-stained 95th Street station is getting a $240 million overhaul that will transform it into an airy, light-filled transit temple. When you factor in the $492 million “Your New Blue” overhaul of thirteen O’Hare branch stations, Chicago strap-hanging is bound to become a lot more pleasant.

95th Street Station, 95th and the Dan Ryan; Wilson Station, Wilson and Broadway

Best of Chicago 2014

Best CTA Blue Line mishap

City Life No Comments »

O’Hare Station Derailment

Public transit is inevitable for many Chicagoans. For those Blue Line riders, this fall and winter’s station closings will be a pain. And that guy shooting a rifle in the LaSalle station last month? Could be worse. Remember last March when a Blue Line train headed into the O’Hare station, overran the bumper, and derailed?  That security camera footage nervewrackingly showed bystanders conversing mere seconds before the train ascended an escalator causing six-million dollars in damages. Good thing the CTA increased the fair from O’Hare to $5.

Best of Chicago 2014

Best guess as to which project gets done first: Redevelopment of US Steel Southworks site on south lakefront; construction of the Chicago Spire; redevelopment of Old Chicago Main Post Office or CTA Red Line extension to 130th Street

Audience Choice, City Life No Comments »

Redevelopment of Old Chicago Main Post Office

Second city to none, Chicago is on track to best the glacial pace of Roman construction, which has become a matter of proverb. If Rome was indeed not built in a day, what timelines should we be expecting? Let us consult specific historical precedents. Think of Spire as an obelisk—an unmistakable symbol of potency. Though the Romans whisked obelisks from Egypt practically overnight, it had taken the Egyptians some 1,000 years to perfect the craft of carving a monolith out of stone. The CTA Red Line extension is most like aqueducts: a democratic means of conveyance elevated high above ground. The aqueducts system took just shy of 300 years to complete. The U.S. Steel site, with its phased approach and intractable political pressures, follows the pattern of the three Punic Wars, whose campaigns against Carthage lasted 120 years. Our bet is on the old post office: its transformation into an entertainment destination recalls the bread and circuses of the Colosseum. That project was finished in merely twenty-six years. Friends, Romans, countrymen: see you in 2040!

Audience Choice: CTA Red Line extension to 130th Street

Best of Chicago 2014

Best single-purpose fake Twitter account

City Life No Comments »

@ChicagoVentra
Unlike Facebook and Google, Twitter does not penalize its users for adopting fake names or otherwise harmlessly misrepresenting themselves. This makes it a wonderful place for comedians to be what they’re not, whether a borderline-illiterate spokesperson for Burlington Coat Factory or an angst-ridden Roomba. Some of the most popular fake Twitter accounts aren’t active for very long—they plug into a current controversy and present a blunt or refreshing take on it. When the CTA began its excruciating transition to the much-loathed Ventra card system, local Twitizens took some comfort in the idea that a PR flack might Tweet things such as “Has your #Ventra Card been lost or stolen? Don’t worry! They won’t be able to activate it, either.” Or “Get on board with #Ventra! The new way to pay for some horrible crime you must have committed in a past life!” It seemed that someone out there really did understand the Ventra experience.

Best of Chicago 2013

Best new idea for public transportation

City Life No Comments »

Bus rapid transit on Ashland Avenue
Urban planners from across the country are watching Chicago to see if we can build the nation’s first “gold-standard” BRT corridor. The CTA wants to convert two of the four travel lanes on Ashland to bus-only lanes, with center-running buses stopping every half mile at median stations, creating an El train-like experience. Rush-hour bus speeds would be nearly doubled to 15.9 mph, which is what’s needed if we want to make transit an attractive alternative. However, the plan faces stiff opposition from residents who are freaked out about the street reconfiguration and the prohibition of most left turns. Who will win the battle of Ashland?
BRTChicago.com

Best of Chicago 2013

Best CTA success story

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The Red Line South reconstruction
When the CTA announced it was shutting down the Red Line from Cermak to 95th for five months to replace 10.2 miles of track, many predicted the $425 million project would cause major headaches for South Siders. However, if the work were only done on weekends it would have cost $75 million more and taken four years. The agency minimized the hassles for riders by providing solid alternative service, including frequent shuttle buses, so that many commutes were actually shorter during the rehab. When the line reopened on October 20, customers were rewarded with a ten-minute-shorter trip from 95th to Roosevelt on silky-smooth rails.

Best of Chicago 2013

Best guess about why the CTA decided to implement the new Ventra card system

Audience Choice, City Life No Comments »

The transit agency says it had no choice because Cubic Transportation Systems, the company that made the Chicago Card, stopped manufacturing magnetic strip cards. The CTA was glad to get out of the banking business by having Cubic take over managing the new Ventra machines. The agency stands to save $50 million in operations costs over the next decade. That’s great in theory, but the launch has been rife with glitches, including dozens, or even hundreds, of cards showing up in the mail for a single person. Hopefully, a few months from now these growing pains will be just a memory. VentraChicago.com

AUDIENCE CHOICE: Money Audience Comments: “A dare”; “Color coordination with Divvy”; “To encourage people to move to another city”; “To frustrate, confuse & anger their customers”; “some politician needed to make a deal for his brother-in-law”; “someone, somewhere, got a kickback”; “Because there’s nothing more amusing than a frustrated Chicagoan repeatedly running their torso into a locked turnstile”

Best of Chicago 2013

Best new CTA station

City Life, West Loop No Comments »

Green/Pink Morgan
Two attractive stations debuted this year, Yellow Oakton in Skokie and Green/Pink Morgan in the West Loop. The latter features sleek green canopies sheltering customers as they wait for their rides, plus a fully enclosed glass skybridge between the platforms, great for photographing the trains and skyline. Downstairs, sidewalks on both Lake and Morgan Streets have been widened to make room for the station houses and artistic, circular bike racks, the product of a design competition. The whole facility is an architect’s delight, and a relative bargain at only $38 million.

Morgan CTA station, 958 West Lake, transitchicago.com

Best of Chicago 2012