Lessons from a CTA journey

The end is here.

Every week since April 2009, I took a different CTA bus in an attempt to ride every route from end to end. The project ended Thursday after 139 routes.

After more than 2 1/2 years of riding buses, I have picked up some wisdom (and a deep appreciation for personal space).

>> Some bus drivers aren't just drivers—they also serve as confidants. It's interesting to watch the dynamic between rider and driver. Many riders ignore drivers while some chat away with them as they steer the bus. On one University of Chicago route, a bus driver asked riders about a female rider who wasn't on the bus. The riders said she was running a few minutes behind. The driver waited for her.

>> If bus drivers are driving faster than their schedule, some will stop at green lights just to get back on schedule. This can be frustrating to riders who just want to get to their destinations.

>> Customer service as a whole is good. Bus drivers are multitaskers. They have to drive the bus, watch traffic and help riders who need assistance amid noise and crowds on the bus. Very few times did I see a rude driver.

>> Riders, on the other hand, aren't always polite. There are riders who throw their food on the floor, yell at the driver or other passengers, loudly talk or play music on their cellphones and bang on the windows if they miss their stop.

>> Priority seating is intended for the elderly and people with disabilities, but even if you fall into these categories there's still some dispute over who should sit where. After suffering a stress fracture last year, I became acquainted with the priority seating system and witnessed arguments over who in that area was "more disabled" and deserved the coveted seat at the front of the bus next to the space where bags can be placed.

>> There are few amenities at CTA stations that double as bus depots such as the Midway Orange and 95th Red stops. There are a couple of heaters to share at the 95th Red Line stop, and while riders can wait for their bus inside the Midway stop, it can get pretty chilly in there as well.

>> There are some oddly placed bus stops. The No. 54B South Cicero travels between the Ford City Mall and Cermak/Kenton, a nondescript stop by an auto store and blocks away from the Cicero Pink Line. The No. 152-Addison travels on Addison Street between the lake shore and a Cumberland Avenue stop by Schiller Woods.

>> CTA buses are the cheapest and easiest way to get to know Chicago. And if you decide to ride all of them, just remember that patience and hand washing go a long way.

"L"-ebrate New Year's

The CTA will again offer New Year's rides for a penny from 10 p.m. Saturday until 4 a.m. Sunday. To avoid paying full fare, riders should pay the fare with a penny and not with their Chicago Cards. Meanwhile, Miller Lite is offering free shuttle service in the Loop and on the North Side from 7 p.m. Saturday until 2 a.m. Sunday. Visit for information.


My pledge to ride every CTA bus line concludes. I rode the No. 85A-North Central last week and boiled my review down to a tweet.

@tracyswartz 17 mins from Jefferson Park Blue Line to Touhy/Lehigh. Runs about every half an hour. Bus fills quickly with CTA employees. Stops by Metra.

139 routes down, 0 to go!

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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