W1D2 Busses for buses

I probably should start writing this now, because sure as heck I’m not going to want to write it after I go to see the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks and somehow make it back home. At least that’s the plan. And we already know how those go.

In my defense, I should note that it is possible that I conceive of a plan and carry it out and nothing goes wrong. To wit: I took myself to the Bronx Zoo (it is a delightful day here) by bus and back again, and it all went smoothly, despite some challenges.

This is the part of the show where I compare my relatively nascent knowledge of the MTA with the CTA and try to figure out my ETA without upsetting the people in my PTA who worry about their kid’s GPA.

On Chicago Transit Authority (“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” – sorry, that was just mean) buses and trains, each upcoming stop is announced clearly and professionally by a recording, which I think is triggered by GPS location. Some of you may remember that it took me three weeks to figure out why the bus voice always said “Green” as it pulled out of the Halsted train station. This is really awesome, and I’m sure that a lot of money was put into it. Oh my gosh – this just in: you can actually hear recordings of what it was like before the prerecorded message days! There are some really dedicated people in this world.

Some of you may be wondering, “Just how does someone get a voiceover gig like that?” From the same source:

The voice in the announcements on the “L” is that of Lee Crooks, a professional voiceover artist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Crooks was chosen from among a half-dozen potential voices, male and female and of a racial mix, CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney told the Chicago Tribune. An Americans with Disabilities Act advisory committee and CTA’s executive committee voted for the winner, which in this case was no contest. “The voice selected was the No. 1 with both groups because it was clear, easy to understand, friendly but also professional,” Gaffney said.

The Big Apple did not let this go without a response. Although the training has not completed yet, all drivers here are learning diction using the great Athenian orator Demosthenes’ pebbles in the mouth technique. [Naturally, there is some controversy surrounding whether this actually happened – in this 1967 response to a letter in the Lancet, (People! Do you see what lengths I go to to provide you with the facts?) Saul M. Bien (who really knows about The Pressure Gradient In The Periodontal Vasculature) postulates that actually Demosthenes was using a smooth flat pebble as an palatal obturator to compensate for his cleft palate. Makes sense to me.] Since they are only part way through the training process, some acumen must be exhibited on the part of the rider in interpreting which stop is coming up. For example, one has to discern that “eat hop and hop” means that the Bedford Park Boulevard stop is next. Further, until training is complete, you can expect the drivers to be somewhat shy about announcing stops, and may only announce every fourth or fifth one.

Another difference in the systems is that every CTA bus is equipped with a bike rack capable of holding two bikes – if it’s already full you are SOL (Sure Out of Luck), and have to wait for the next bus. The MTA has one-upped the CTA by not having any bike racks on buses. You can, however, bring your folding bike onto the bus. Ellie would like to mention, at this point, that she does not fold, and has never even been to a yoga class.

You may think I am disparaging the MTA. I am not. One of the ways that MTA buses are superior to CTA, is the routes themselves. Let us compare. In order for this to be a fair comparison, I chose the same route number from the two cities: 8, which is the bus I rode most often in Chicago.


You see, while the CTA drivers have to go only north-south or east-west, the Bronx driver have to be able to go all wackadoodle all over the place. They’ve got better things to do than learn diction – they have to figure out where to go next. That’s why I had to leave the word “legend” on the Bronx map – those drivers are legends! This also indicates the level of intellectual achievement which must be obtained by Bronx bus riders. Let’s say you want to go south. In Chicago, you simply stand on the west side of the road (sun in your eyes in the morning, sun at your back in the evening) hop on the next thing that says bus, and poof you are on your way. Things are different in the Bronx. If you want to go south, as I did yesterday, it does not suffice to stand on the west side of the road and catch a south facing bus. You could end up anywhere, including Riverdale or even Spuyten Duyvil. No. You have to keep your wits about you here. Your bus could be facing in any direction. Just get on, and when you get somewhere, pretend that that’s where you are meant to be.


Well, I’m going to see some fireworks. Although, who knows, I may up at the beach.

(Re: the title – see this)


One thought on “W1D2 Busses for buses

  1. Love the maps. A big drawback to commenting on @WordPress is its inability to include graphics. ☹

    Anyway, two reactions:

    Toward the end of his professional life my father ran an outlet store outside of which a sign read “Busses Welcome.” I couldn’t help but point out to him the somewhat salacious element in the sign. He fixed it post haste.

    A million years ago, when I lived in NJ, I visited a girl who lived in Hicksville, NY—on Long Island. The way to get to said burg was to take a bus to the Port Authority Station, and then take a train to Hicksville. Soon after I got on the train, the conductor took my ticket and said, “Changamaka.” (The “g” was soft.) I had no idea what the freak he was talking about, but I knew it had something to do with my successful—or unsuccessful—arrival in Hicksville. After a great deal of thought, I came to the conclusion that I was to change trains at the Jamaica station in order to arrive at my final destination. To this day, I’m pretty proud of myself—while continuing to wonder how the heck I was able to figure this out at the tender age of fifteen.

    Hope you enjoyed the fireworks. Madison’s fireworks were last night and were the best they’ve ever been—but I say that every year.

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