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Calling all CTA phone users: Be careful

The CTA finally got the message that its cell service is spotty, and the agency last week announced it is seeking information on how to improve its mobile network in the subways. Though the change likely will garner a happy reception from many, I'm not 100 percent on board.

For years, the CTA has been phoning in its cell service, which has been inconsistent at best in the Red and Blue line tunnels. The coverage needs to be better, but Going Public has some concerns about crime and etiquette.

Cellphones, particularly iPhones, are some of the top items stolen on CTA trains. In February, the CTA reported that while serious crime was down 19 percent in 2012, thefts were up 16 percent compared with 2011.

The CTA said many of these thefts were iPhones and other electronic gadgets being swiped. The act is so common that it has name: Apple picking.

For better or for worse, better cell service likely will encourage people to use their phones more on the train. That means there will be more opportunities for phone theft.

It was just two years ago that an iPhone theft turned deadly—a 68-year-old woman was killed at the Fullerton stop as a thief tried to flee the station.

No doubt, CTA riders should be able to use their phones on the train without fear, but that is not the system we currently have.

Crime aside, better cell service will mean more rider phone calls and text message alerts. Red and Blue line train rides may soon become a melody of conversation about Peter's soccer practice or who hooked up with whom after the Cubs game mixed in with ringtones that make Ray J sound good.

This may be music to some ears, but not mine.

Pass transit

Cafe Society, a program of the Illinois Humanities Council, is exploring the topic of Ventra, the upcoming fare payment system, from 5-6 p.m. Friday at Ron's Barber Shop, 6058 W. North Ave.

CTA stories

Waltzing Mechanics is presenting its 10th edition of "EL Stories," a play using real CTA rider stories, through June 22 at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. The show runs at 11 p.m. on Saturdays. Tickets are $15 at waltzingmechanics.org.

Stationary

A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note

This week: Merchandise Mart Brown and Purple line stop

Riders at the Merchandise Mart stop on the Near North Side saw a boarding change and some delays last week—but this will be nothing compared with what's coming at the end of the month. For part of last week, trains in both directions operated on the same Brown Line track between the Chicago stop and the Loop due to track maintenance. The CTA said the work was related to the Loop renewal project, which returns for its second and final phase on April 26. For the second 10-day period this year, Brown and Purple line riders will not be able to take trains over the Wells Street bridge, which connects the Merchandise Mart to the Loop as the Chicago Department of Transportation works to overhaul the 91-year-old bridge.

Next up: Washington Blue Line

tswartz@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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