I believe strongly that slowing climate change and providing broad-based economic opportunity must include substantial improvements in public transportation. I also belive that Chicago's public transit system ranks second in the country for its reach and convenience, after New York's but ahead of San Francisco, Boston, and Washington, which are also pretty good.
That said, the CTA still frustrates the ever-lovin' out of me. This week provides a crystal-clear example.
On Tuesday and again on Thursday, I had to travel from my office to a client's office in Lincoln Park. Their office is within 1 km (0.6 mi) of four El stops, two of which are served by three transit lines. In the rush periods, one of those lines—the Purple Line—goes directly from their closest El stop to mine. So during rush periods, the trip takes about 40 minutes door to door.
Outside of rush periods, however, I need to change trains twice. Or, in the alternative, I can change trains once and then catch a bus at Howard. In fact on Tuesday I did just that, because I was going home to let Parker out instead of returning to my office. As a consequence of the CTA's horrible mid-day schedules and a broken-down bus (not to mention the CTA's complete refusal or inability to provide any information about this), I spent more than three hours riding on or waiting for CTA vehicles.
Yesterday I drove to their office, which required spending a total of 50 minutes in my own car, choosing my own route, listening to my own radio station.
By the way, as a client-serving professional, I get paid by the hour. That means, had I driven on Tuesday, I could have billed two more hours for the day. Given that calculus, why on earth would I ever take the CTA during the middle of the day again?
Now, I own a car, so this was merely a bad choice and an inconvenience on my part. But for the hundreds of thousands in Chicago who don't own cars, or who live outside the CTA's service area, it's not a choice. How much economic opportunity is lost every day because people have to spend time waiting for buses and trains? How much is lost to people who live in the suburbs where buses run once an hour and trains only go downtown?
Later: Why insecure, incompetent, and authoritarian almost always go together. And yes, it's related to this post.