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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The CTA is crowded and slow. The Reader can fix it!

Posted By on 02.21.18 at 10:31 AM

This could all be better! - KEVIN TANAKA
  • Kevin Tanaka
  • This could all be better!

The Reader's archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we'll dig through and bring up some finds.

Today marks a quarter-century of color-coded el lines. Yes, back in the day, you didn't ride the blue or brown line. You rode the Douglas or the Congress or the Ravenswood, and if you wanted to get from the far south side to Evanston, you had to take the Dan Ryan and then transfer to the Howard at Lake Street.

Moral of the story (sort of): the el is annoying, but it used to be even worse.

However, that's still not good enough. In 2011, Ed Zotti, in consultation with Cecil Adams, the resident genius over at the Straight Dope, created his own comprehensive plan to revise the CTA train system.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Commuter is the first great movie of 2018

Posted By on 01.16.18 at 02:17 PM

Vera Farmiga and Liam Neeson in The Commuter
  • Vera Farmiga and Liam Neeson in The Commuter
The Commuter, which is now playing in general release, is top-shelf entertainment, with nail-biting suspense, captivating mystery, and loads of visual imagination. It confirms that Jaume Collet-Serra (Non-Stop, Run All Night, The Shallows) is one of the best genre directors working today. The film features one inspired set piece after another; Collet-Serra takes great pleasure in moviemaking, and his enjoyment is infectious. That the story is wildly implausible doesn’t detract from the immense satisfaction it has to offer. Rather, the narrative operates under a certain dream logic that’s wholly cinematic, and Collet-Serra delivers it with such emotional conviction that one gets absorbed regardless of the obvious plot holes. I’d be delighted if a more purely enjoyable movie gets released this year.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

How to charge your cell phone on the CTA

Posted By on 02.16.16 at 02:40 PM

Safer sources of power on CTA property are the outlets along the platforms of el stations, the covers of which are often unfastened. - CHRIS RIHA
  • Chris Riha
  • Safer sources of power on CTA property are the outlets along the platforms of el stations, the covers of which are often unfastened.

Metra commuters enjoy a number of niceties that aren't available to CTA straphangers: padded seats, onboard bathrooms, the right to savor an adult beverage during the ride.

To that list of Metra perks add the ability to legally charge cell phones and other electronic devices in stations and aboard the bi-level trains. The agency announced in December that riders can power up their gadgets for free at new charging stations in all five downtown depots, which also offer complimentary Wi-Fi. Located near ticket booths and waiting areas, the outlets have wall-style sockets as well as USB ports.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

So long, Rapid Transit Cycle Shop

Posted By on 11.10.15 at 01:30 PM

Rapid Transit's owners announced that they plan to close the pair of shops in the next two months. - JULIA THIEL
  • Julia Thiel
  • Rapid Transit's owners announced that they plan to close the pair of shops in the next two months.

At the end of last week local bike shop Rapid Transit, a 21-year-old industry veteran, announced on its website and Facebook page that it will close its doors soon. In an excellent piece on Streetsblog Chicago, John Greenfield reports that Rapid Transit has been struggling since the economic crash in 2008, and owners Chris Stodder and Justyna Frank say they don't have enough cash to make it through the winter. Both locations (the original one in Wicker Park, and a second one in University Village), will close within the next two months.

I was sadder to hear of its closing than I expected, considering that it hasn't been my local bike shop since I moved out of Wicker Park about three years ago. But it was my go-to spot for repairs and biking equipment for about five years before that, and the first bike store I ever went to when I first moved to Chicago. It's also where I learned how my bike worked; sometime around 2009 I took a three-part evening class Rapid Transit offered on how to tune up your own bike. The idea was that over the course of three weeks, the bike shop's mechanics would show participants how to overhaul their bikes. At the end of the class you'd have a completely tuned-up bike and know how to do the work yourself.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Afraid driverless cars will cause more sprawl? Don't be.

Posted By on 11.05.15 at 03:13 PM

Google's self-driving car - AP
  • AP
  • Google's self-driving car

It's easier than ever to be a futurist. Simply imagine what life will be like when driverless cars take over our streets and highways. Noah Smith, who's a professor of finance at Stony Brook University, took a run at the question in an essay for Bloomberg reprinted Thursday as an op-ed in the Tribune.

"The technology is advancing rapidly, and major companies are racing to bring products to market," writes Smith. When they get here, Smith expects a "profound impact on the way our society is organized," but he sees tomorrow recapitulating yesterday. "When technologies lower transport costs," says Smith, "they make it easier to live far away from where we work, play and meet." This was certainly true when the automobile caught on.

Smith goes on: "With driverless cars, people won't be forced to live near downtown Chicago in order to work there. They will be able to shop at trendy New York boutiques while living in the distant suburbs. Cities may become places where no one lives but everyone works and meets."

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Think of it as a 52-story storefront

Posted By on 02.16.12 at 12:41 PM

Did Mom and Pop build this?
  • Did Mom and Pop build this?
If the trains arrived too quickly at the State and Grand subway station to give me time to wander around the platform examining things, or if the new Area Cultural Map the Chicago Department of Transportation has hung on the platform walls of the remodeled station weren’t so darned attractive, I wouldn’t be writing this.

But the trains don’t and the map is. The station is so much bigger and brighter and cleaner than it used to be that it’s replaced foreboding with excitement in the hearts of visitors stepping out into Chicago there. And the map adds to that excitement—it’s a handsome guide to the neighborhood’s architectural wonders that explains where to find them and why they’re worth going out of your way to see.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Why Rahm and Forrest blame the unions—because it works

Posted By on 12.16.11 at 02:30 PM

It was after 8 PM and I was on the Grand Avenue Red Line platform, and I’d been waiting a while, wondering if another train would ever show up …

I realize, given the nature of our existence, that lots of stories start this way. That is to say, given our existence in Chicago, which is to say, given the fact that the CTA isn’t quite reliable.

Bottom line: I wasn’t too surprised when ten minutes of waiting became 12, then 15.

Eventually a muffled voice came over the PA system to inform us what was going on:

“Hsxawc faoaknt xbt aybalf!”

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rainy biking on the Lakefront Trail

Posted By on 11.08.11 at 12:44 PM

Biking in the rain can be kind of fun in the summer, but the colder the weather gets, the less pleasant it becomes. For the last couple hours of work yesterday, I had the same internal debate I always have when the weather's dicey: to bike or not to bike (in this case, from the Reader office in River North up to west Rogers Park, then home to Ukrainian Village later in the evening). As usual, this involved obsessively checking (even though I know how often it's wrong) to see what the odds of rain would be later in the evening, as well as figuring out possible routes via public transit. I also considered going home to get my car first, how much longer that would take, and how much sitting in traffic on the way up would make me hate the world. And as usual, biking was the fastest and most convenient option, so I took my chances that my ride home would be rainy.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Stories of the el: Oh, L No!

Posted By on 10.05.11 at 12:23 PM

  • Image from Keith Levit on Shutterstock
The prize for best website name I've seen in a while goes to Oh, L No!, a newish site that collects stories of the Chicago el. There are about a dozen so far, ranging from one person's recollection of a 2 AM striptease on the Red Line to a song (to the tune of the Folgers theme song): "The best part of waking up, is urine on the L." The stories can be sorted by el line, though there aren't enough yet to make sorting strictly necessary. You can also follow them on Twitter and participate in a poll on whether it should be spelled "L" or "el" (spoiler alert: "el" is currently winning).

Via the Windy Citizen.

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Open Streets on State Street

Posted By on 10.03.11 at 02:24 PM

The first Open Streets on State Street shut down seven blocks of State (from Lake to Van Buren) to vehicles on Saturday, opening up the streets to pedestrians, cyclists, and skaters. From 10 AM to 3 PM, there were break-dancing demos, yoga and zumba classes, a dunk tank, bouting by the Windy City Rollers, play areas for kids, a skate park, and activities like foursquare, hula hooping, and relay races. Even the Bucket Boys were out, drumming away. I don't know if they were part of the official lineup, but they drew a pretty good crowd—as did the event overall. It was a cool, sunny day, and people seemed to be enjoying wandering the streets. More photos after the jump.

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