Opinion

An Ode to the CTA: Why The Phoenix Editorial Board Loves the CTA

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While far from glamorous, Chicago’s funky-smelling and wildly unpredictable public transportation system is part of the one-of-a-kind experience of going to school in this city.

The 72-year-old transit system is one of the largest in the country. We depend on the color-coded lines to get us through the city as we commute to class, internships or a fun Friday night destination with friends.

There’s nothing more authentic than riding butt-to-butt with complete strangers who read to themselves, listen to music, sleep or shout. Oftentimes, these strangers will do the unthinkable.

Sometimes the half-hour train ride from Loyola to the Lake Red Line station is enhanced by the smooth tones of a random man singing the entire way. He narrates everything happening on the train car and serenades you about the fact that two plus two does in fact equal four. It’s profound thoughts such as this which stimulates the mind on an 8 a.m. commute to class.

During baseball season, the drunk Cubs fans picked up at the Addison Red Line station on any given game day will ask you where you got your shoes or offer to teach you how to skateboard.

And sometimes the conductors will add a little personal flair to the robotic announcement: “This is Loyola. Doors open on the left at Loyola. This is a Red Line train to Howard.” If you’re lucky, certain conductors will remind you over the intercom to study hard to get through the rest of the semester.

The CTA U-Pass — included in Loyola tuition — allows unlimited rides throughout the city during the semester. Loyola students should take advantage of that.

Another thing students under-utilize is the 147 bus, which runs from downtown near Loyola’s Water Tower Campus up Lake Shore Drive to the Lake Shore Campus. It’s a fast way to get back-and-forth between campuses, and many of the stops near Lake Shore campus are just steps from class buildings and student apartments.

It’s riveting to know you can get to just about any part of Chicago using public transit. It’s just begging students to explore each of Chicago’s vastly different 77 neighborhoods. 

Whether it’s the familiar nausea-inducing jolt between the Wilson and Sheridan stations when the Red Line rounds a curve or the unidentifiable stench when getting off at Argyle Red Line station, there are some things we wish would change. But hey, the CTA wouldn’t be the CTA without a little character.

The CTA is dependable and runs all hours of the day and night. However, exercise caution while riding the train in the wee hours of the morning.

Getting stuck in traffic on Loyola’s intercampus shuttle can be avoided on the train if you don’t mind being packed like sardines with other commuters. They mostly get off at the Belmont and Fullerton stations anyway, so at least the claustrophobia is temporary. 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently proposed a new city budget that could increase the tax on ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft. 

This means getting around town could become a lot more expensive, a blow especially to us college kids. This is why we encourage students to take advantage of the public transit available just steps away from campus — and it comes with a few stories along the way.

Another added benefit? When you — inevitably — get sick and throw up in a rideshare, charges can amount to upwards of $200. When you ride the CTA while ill, it stops every few minutes so you can throw up in the trash cans and avoid unnecessary charges, even if it does add a little bit of embarrassment. 

The CTA has so much to offer to lift the spirits of commuters, such as live music at various stations in the Loop downtown and a train and bus solely purposed for spreading holiday cheer. 

At certain stations in the Loop, live entertainers belt out classics such as “My Girl” and “Midnight Train to Georgia,” making the commute home just a bit more bearable for commuters. As an added bonus, some will even have guitars or saxophones accompanying them, transforming a crowded train platform into a makeshift concert venue. Not to mention, one specific singer sounds eerily like  the “Stay With Me” pop star, Sam Smith.

Being environmentally conscious is at the core of Loyola’s values. If you’re not already convinced, riding the CTA is an opportunity to exercise that. Transportation accounts for 29 percent of greenhouse gas emissions — gases that trap heat in the atmosphere — in the United States. Moving more people with fewer vehicles on the road could reduce emissions and congestion.

A single person who swaps a 20-mile round-trip car commute to public transportation can reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 4,800 pounds, according to a report by the American Public Transportation Association.

Between the cost-efficiency, convenience and undeniable character, the CTA makes itself the premiere form of travel for Loyola students looking to get the full experience of living in Chicago.

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