Talk, Forrest, talk! The CTA chief responds to our transit questions


Steven and Forrest Claypool.

Yesterday the Chicago Transit Authority gave a handful of transportation bloggers the opportunity to meet with CTA President Forrest Claypool at the agency’s headquarters and ask him about the state of the agency and its future projects. Steven and I were joined by our colleagues Patrick Barry, filling in for Kevin O’Neil from CTA Tattler, and Kevin Zolkiewicz from Chicago Bus, who also contributes to Grid Chicago.

During the freewheeling 45-minute discussion Mr. Claypool patiently answered any and all of our queries about the transit authority’s sometimes controversial decisions. He was particularly candid about the upcoming Jeffery Corridor Bus Rapid Transit initiative, volunteering his opinion that this pilot project isn’t really bus rapid transit, but rather a step in the right direction. Here are a few of Steven’s and my questions and Mr. Claypool’s responses.

Continue reading Talk, Forrest, talk! The CTA chief responds to our transit questions

Adham Fisher smashes the nine-hour barrier for riding the entire ‘L’ system


Forrest Claypool and Adham Fisher at the Linden station centennial.

It was supposed to be just a friendly CTA riding race, but it wound up being another record-breaking event. Leicester, England, native Adham Fisher was in Chicago last week for the last leg of his North American tour, after making record attempts in NYC and Toronto. On Thursday he set accomplished his goal of reclaiming the Chicago ‘L’ racing title, visiting all 143 stations in 9:06:48. Saturday Danny Resner and I, who held the record at 9:30:59 until two other teams broke it this month, squared off against the Brit in a head-to-head competition. Since it was the weekend, we assumed that the system would be running slowly so stakes would be low. We were wrong.

Continue reading Adham Fisher smashes the nine-hour barrier for riding the entire ‘L’ system

Fisher sets new CTA record; ‘L’ race this Saturday at Linden centennial


A CTA racer’s summit: Fisher (wearing a t-shirt based on the honorary station sign the CTA sent him), minutes after setting the new record, meets up with Bielaski, Greenfield and Resner to toast his triumph.

Adham Fisher has done it again. In March 2011 the globetrotting Leicester, England, native set the world record for visiting all 143 CTA stations by train, only to have the title stripped from him by Chicago residents Danny Resner and yours truly last February 3. On April 6 Chicagoans Kevin Olsta and Scott Presslak beat our time, but were bested five days later by locals Rob Bielaski and Ben Downey, who brought the winning time down to 9:08:56.

Continue reading Fisher sets new CTA record; ‘L’ race this Saturday at Linden centennial

Resner and Greenfield reclaim the CTA riding crown from the British champ


[This piece also appears in Time Out Chicago magazine.]

Adham Fisher seems like a stand-up guy. But the title of fastest Chicago ‘L’ rider being held by a Brit? Bloody mad.

Last March, the native of Leicester, England, came to town and set a new record, racing around all 143 CTA train stations in 9 hours, 36 minutes, 33 seconds. Earlier this winter, Danny Resner, a recent college grad and Grid Chicago reader, asked me to join forces with him to bring the title home. We would follow the same rules Fisher used: you have to stop at every station by train but you don’t have to step on the platform, and taking buses or running between stations is allowed.

Continue reading Resner and Greenfield reclaim the CTA riding crown from the British champ

This week in CTA news: Changes to Red and Purple line stations plus faster service to airports


The Morse Red Line station would be affected by the CTA’s plan. In the two Modernization scenarios, it would become accessible. Photo by Eric Rogers. 

On Monday and Tuesday, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) held identical meetings about the Red & Purple Modernization Project it started planning (at least with the public) last year. According to the CTA’s website, the project “would help bring the existing transit line into a state of good repair, reduce travel times, improve access to job markets and destinations, and provide improved access to people with disabilities”. The project area is in two areas: on what’s called the North Side Main Line, the four tracks from Belmont to Howard, and on the Purple Line-only tracks from Howard to Linden in Wilmette, Illinois. Continue reading This week in CTA news: Changes to Red and Purple line stations plus faster service to airports

Javier Perez’s full speech to the CTA board

It’s probably too late for me to post this, seeing as the Chicago Transit Authority board approved the budget on Tuesday, but here is the full text of Javier Perez’s speech to the board on November 7, 2011, which I wrote about in “There is no typical CTA rider“. But it’s not really too late because the union workers and the management haven’t agreed to the concessions the CTA budget depends on.


Javier Perez, trustee of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241, speaks while Gregory P. Longhini, Assistant Secretary of the Board, moderates.

Good evening to the public, our riders, the Board and membership of Locals 241 and 308. Good evening Chairman Peterson, Mr. Claypool and members of the public and community groups.

At the last hearing I addressed what I called Mr. Claypool’s myths attacking CTA employees and ATU [Amalgamated Transit Union] members. If CTA’s Budget is based on these fables there are big problems ahead for all of us. A house built on sand will not stand and a budget built on myths will not survive.

Most employers faced with an expanded customer base, increased revenue and being able to do so with more productive employees would be ecstatic. Most employers would reward or at least congratulate their employees for doing more with less. In fact the former head of the CTA did so.

International Vice President Marcellus Barnes* and I had a brief meeting with Mr. Claypool, we both left with hope that there was a change we could believe in.

Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, we heard the mthys and saw the tired old tactics that have failed the public. Tactics that Governors Walker [Wisconsin] and Kasich [Ohio] have obtained a lot of press for but with no results.

Tactics that seek to scapegoat CTA employees, some who fall into the group called the greatest generation, and also blaming other employees who served their country in Vietnam, and some who have served or with sons and daughters currently serving in the Middle East. As the John Fogerty song says “we are not the fortunate one”. We are the 99%. All our members who served and others are the employees who have made the CTA more productive.

Some may find it in vogue to scapegoat public employees be they bus operators, maintenance, general office personnel, teachers, firefighters or police. Some may find it in vogue to scapegoat and decry public investment. Let all remember, the moon landing, the federal highway system, the Internet are but a few examples of how public employees and public investment has helped our country grow and create jobs while doing so.

The Chicago Transit Authority, a musical group now known as Chicago once asked, “Does anyone really know what time it is?”
Isn’t time to leave the scape goating behind?
Isn’t it time to work in partnership with all CTA employees and the Chicago community?
Isn’t time to roll up our sleeves and work together to help our nation reduce our dependence on foreign oil?

We the members of Lcoal 241 in concert with Local 308 and other CTA employees are the artery that carries the life blood of Chicago.

Together we can be innovative and creative in providing a service built on a sound budget. We invite you to belly up to the table. Whatever your choice Local 241 and our sister Local in concert with the public know that together we can and together we will.

*Barnes is also a trustee of Local 241.