Saturday, July 08, 2017

Don't let public transit make Chicago a Go or No Go




A wild Garlic named Chicagoua grew here in abundance once, which is believed to have given the windy city its legendary name. Probably the same onion genus species left its pungent taste in the form of Chicago's pathetic public transit system, easily one of the worst among world's premier cities. What a Greek tragedy for a metropolis of phenomenal skyscrapers and iconic museums, thriving on the banks of the soul-stirring Lake Michigan.

Mention the acronym CTA and most commoners would sweat profusely, cursing the mass transit operator of mass disruption and massive distress. Our sojourn here, during a whirlwind Midwestern tour, proved a nightmarish trailer of their day to day plight.

Fed up of the frequent bus bunching horrors, we preferred long walks to practically every destination. And the much-publicized Ventra card is everything a card should not be. To escape the torture of single-ride tickets priced higher than normal, scanner problems, rush hour traffic, rude staff and non-existent refunds, we shifted base from the bustling downtown Airbnb accommodation to a deserted Mount Prospect Hampton Inn. We found METRA trains and PACE buses more convenient and comfortable. Now, Mount prospect may not be the ideal base camp for someone like me who needed to be downtown every single day, and also given the lack of quality Indian restaurants in the region. Yet, the Metra did a fairly good to and fro job for us. Trains were almost on time, every time, and never overcrowded. We even enjoyed seated naps on occasions and the conductors were invariably friendly, so was the ticket counter staff at Mount Prospect station. Even the RTA PACE buses were our faithful wheeled friends for quick visits to Des Plains or Arlington Heights. The experience with the 606 (Rosemont CTA station to Mount Prospect) was not great though. And the connectivity is a big issue. A car ride from Mount Prospect to Naperville takes 45 minutes while the train would cover the same distance (read displacement) in two hours (Mount Prospect - OTC - Union Station - Naperville Station) Why can't they ply cost-effective buses for these routes? Beats us. Areas like Lemont Road in Homer Glen seem more remote than they actually are, thanks to the pathetic public transport options. Ditto for the Ernest Hemingway Foundation at Oak Park.

Given that Chicago holds a definitive edge over other US cities, thanks largely to its spiritual connect with Swami Vivekananda, the city authorities must strive to make life easier for commuters and tourists alike. We appeal to the Mayor of Chicago: please don't allow the public transit system reduce Chicago to a Go or No Go decision. We hope the Illinois budget deficit is not the root cause of Chicago's transport woes. We also hope Trump's federal spending cuts won't pose a new hurdle, given that much of what ails the system has little to do with money. It merits a mindset change which money cannot buy.

Notwithstanding its transport woes, we absolutely love Chicago downtown and suburbs. Hope things change for the better in 2018 during our next sojourn...I hope Chicago rises to the occasion for the sake of its awe-inspiring landmarks:

Like the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Fullerton hall where Swami Vivekananda delivered his historic 'Sisters and brothers of America'...

Like the architectural wonder Millennium Park, and the Anish Kapoor-created Bean besides the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the Crown Fountain, and the Lurie Garden. (The Bean could do with some cleaning and wiping given the countless pairs of hands that dirty it on a daily basis)

Like its bustling Mag Mile, which rose like a Phoenix after the great fire of 1871, or the assortment of stores, retail chains, restaurants, commercial complexes and hotels in the vicinity...

Like the Sky Deck and its incredible history - its transition from Sears Tower to Wills Tower and the awesomely bundled tube design that greets wind and gravity with equal solidity...

Like the Oriental Museum with its Middle East antiquities, Mesopotamian exhibits and the Suq shop...

Like the Smart Museum of Art, brainchild of brother David & Alfred Smart, housing the Medicine Buddha, La Sainte Face, Cha Cha Couple and Burning House...

Like the Ed Paschke Art Centre and Memorial Way narrating the wonderful life and judiciously blended Howard Street Studio display. Borrowing Paschke's words for our plea: "Love it or hate it but don't be indifferent to it.”







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