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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Chicago Subway Revolt

posted by on April 16 at 15:02 PM

Despite what you may have read on Slogódespite what I’ve frequently written on Slogóit’s not all sunshine and buttercups in Chicago’s subways and on its elevated trains.

Frustrated passengers, stuck in a Blue line subway tunnel for about two hours, decided to take matters into their own hands by leaving the train and forcing authorities to evacuate thousands of passengersóand leading to a big mess under the streets of Chicago….

Commuters like Matt Wormley were heading home Tuesday night after the morning’s breakdown. Wormley was among the thousands riding four trains when officials say a circuit blew and caused the first train to stall.

“It was chaos; it was a mess. People were getting sick. They were angry,” Wormley said. “They said to wait for a couple of minutes and it ended up being two hours before they did anything,” he added.

When the folks trapped on that Blue Line trainóthe line that goes to Chicago’s O’Hare airportódecided to get off the train and walk to the next station, CTA officials were forced to shut the power off along a significant chunk of the subway system. Chicago’s subways are powered by an electrified third rail and touching the third rail isn’t just fatal in metaphor.

Here’s my favorite part of the story:

“The train in front of us had stalled and that was the extent of it, then the power went out, no air, people were passing out, throwing up,” said CTA rider Jay Miller. “Just happy to be out of there.”

CTA personnel then attempted to re-board passengers onto the train, but failed to do so, Huberman said.

Hm. I can’t imagine why CTA passengers would refuse to “re-board” a stalled, airless, dark subway car that stank of vomit. The nerve of some people.

Thanks to Slog tipper Terry.

RSS icon Comments


That's a pretty colossal fuck-up.

Posted by Greg | April 16, 2008 3:10 PM

If only Chicago had a monorail, they wouldn't be able to escape!

Posted by NapoleonXIV | April 16, 2008 3:18 PM

I want a subway in Seattle right now!! That sounds AWESOME!!!!!

Posted by Andrew | April 16, 2008 3:19 PM

I've been underground on stalled BART trains - which is about 200% nicer than the CTA (no offense, BART's just newer), and it suuuuuuuucks. Bad. I'd probably rip the doors off after 30 minutes. Exactly that just happened here a few months ago when a small track fire backed cars up in a tunnel - smoke coming into the car but the driver had either no idea or no plan to pull the train out.

I'd like to finish by saying that nothing terrible happens 99.98% of the time, so underground trains still rule.

Posted by Dougsf | April 16, 2008 3:21 PM

thankfully, seattle's system is going to be powered from overhead wires. that third rail thing has always scared me.

and of course we all know that disasters never occur when cars have problems.

Posted by Cale | April 16, 2008 3:22 PM

At least it's not the #36 downtown bus that had to endure a vomit-pile for 5 miles until a poor Metro-employee had to board and clean it between stops. Not quite glamrous enough for "Last Days" column or else I'd comment, but this has forced me to get my bike out of storage and start riding. Stinking #36!!!

Posted by yerbamatty | April 16, 2008 3:30 PM

The CTA is absolute shit. Those trains will soon be far beyond repair.

Posted by Hyde Park | April 16, 2008 3:40 PM


That's totally appropriate for Last Days.

Any Metro system should, but won't and never will, have a time limit for how long they keep people stranded before they evacuate passengers. Two hours is unforgivable.

Posted by keshmeshi | April 16, 2008 4:12 PM

Subways are great! Let's listen to Red Rossi and bankrupt the state to build them! And, heck, let's do it in earthquake prone areas!

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 16, 2008 4:28 PM

Sounds like Hillary Clinton's campaign!

Posted by Michigan Matt (soon to be Balt-o-matt) | April 16, 2008 4:36 PM

i still feel no existential rivalry with Chicago. none.

Posted by max solomon | April 16, 2008 4:49 PM

#9 - there are subways in Americas two most earthquake prone areas. In fact, engineers believe them to be one of the safest places to be should an earthquake occur.

Posted by Dougsf | April 16, 2008 4:57 PM

@12, there are no subways in Alaska.

Posted by joykiller | April 16, 2008 5:00 PM

@12: He's kidding. Will knows nothing about geology or engineering.

Posted by Greg | April 16, 2008 5:04 PM

I want teh subways to take me between my 40 to 100 story moderate income apartment buildings.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | April 16, 2008 5:11 PM

I was in one of those trains; I ride the blue line to work every morning. The delay was 45 minutes. Beats me how a train making me 45 minutes late would delay someone else for "two hours."

Posted by John Pontoon | April 16, 2008 5:17 PM


Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | April 16, 2008 5:25 PM

Hey Will, those subway tunnels will be safer if we use them to link 100-story residential towers together right? 'Cause 100-story residential towers are earthquake-safe, right?

Posted by Prodtrund | April 16, 2008 5:26 PM

#17 - probably in the same way that my "going to the drugstore across the street" just kept me away from my desk for a half hour (i.e. browsing magazines at the bookstore).

Posted by Dougsf | April 16, 2008 5:27 PM

11: Well I wouldn't worry about that. I doubt most Chicagoans give a shit about Seattle.

Posted by Jay | April 16, 2008 6:36 PM

I was trapped in a CTA subway once, last summer on a hot, horrible train. NOT FUN!!

Posted by scott in Chi-Town | April 16, 2008 6:37 PM

I fear for our crumbling infrastructure.

Posted by Dawgson | April 16, 2008 6:44 PM

I like to think of life itself, the trip from birth to death, as being a kind of subway ride that you're hopelessly trapped on. There is no side exit from the narrow tunnel that is the river of time. There is no train conductor to lead you out the emergency exit. You stay there, within the confines of the subway car that is the bounds of your lived experience, whose windows are the event horizon of your daily joys and sorrows, and it only ends one way, in one place. Two stations. No stops.

Thank you. I've got chap books you can buy on the table by the door. Thank you.

Posted by elenchos | April 16, 2008 8:03 PM

@23 Well, for other options you can step on the 3rd rail, jump in front, bust a window and stick yer head out, or look cross-eyed at the huge black dude holding up a blonde ready to spew chunks all over a packed (think sausage) Red Line from the Aragon 2:30 am New Year's Day.

I'd hate to think what would've happened had that one died. Revolting, indeed... a lot of fucked up people on that train.

Posted by drewl | April 16, 2008 9:43 PM

Sounds almost as plesent as my ride home on the 49 tonight.I don't know what's dumber, allowing dogs on the bus or being a street kid that has a dog that could eat a small house. And I used to ride the Traveling Homeless mean the Red Line at 4 A.M five days a week and on more then one occasion had a person throw a bottle of piss at me.

Posted by Bud Dickman | April 16, 2008 11:27 PM

elenchos, you are very... deep... today.

Posted by infrequent | April 17, 2008 8:37 AM

my sister was on that train. there were a couple of small fires on the train, and they tried to push the stalled train with the one behind it. which didn't work.

Posted by tim | April 17, 2008 10:48 AM

I have a love/hate relationship with the CTA. Having never lived in a large city, it's great to be able to come home at four in the morning, piss drunk, and not have to worry about driving or having someone else drive. On the other hand, sometimes its better to shell out the thirty bucks for a cab when the alternative is standing waiting for a bus for an hour and a half, in the dead of winter, piss drunk AND freezing to death.

Posted by Jennifer in Chicago | April 17, 2008 2:22 PM

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