The Silent CTA

Evacuating a CTA train

The Red Line train I was on this morning hit someone at the North & Clybourne station (or maybe he hit the train — a cop at the scene said it looked like the guy had had a seizure and fallen into the train as it was coming into the station). As I was leaving the station the man was unconcious and bleeding, but still alive.

But I have to note that the cop’s vague suppositions were about a thousand times more information than the CTA gave us through the entire incident. We were trundling along the tunnel south of Fullerton when the train stopped, which isn’t that unusual these days. After a while, the power went out on the train, leaving just the emergency lights on. Five minutes later the conductor announced “This train is out of service.” He repeated that a few times, but that was all the information that was given. Later we found out that the front 3/4 of the train was in the station, so I’m sure they just popped their doors and left. But I was in the last car and we really didn’t have any idea how far into the tunnels we were. Everyone just stood around for a while and then someone popped the doors and a bunch of people got out into the emergency walkway on the tunnel and stood around some more. (In retrospect, we should have walked through the cars to get out. Maybe someone from the CTA could have reminded us to do so?) After even more noone-knows-whats-going-on waiting, the people waiting outside started to shuffle off towards the front of the train. I joined them and it turned out we were just a couple of car lengths away from the station.

I understand that early-on the conductor would have been concerned with the injured man and insuring his safety. But police and EMTs were on the scene early (the guy was bandaged and on a stretcher being carried out of the station by the time we were getting out of the train) and I really think the CTA fell down on the job here by not communicating better to those of us on the train.

There was also no information being offered in the station about how long the train would be out of service, whether busses would be routed to pick up the slack, etc. It’s not like the CTA doesn’t have accidents — you’d think they’d have procedures in place and could let people know the plan. Even if the plan is “we’re not going to do anything, you might as well walk to work” it’d be nice to know that, to save the milling-around I saw at the station. (I did, in fact, give up and walk to work. It’s a nice day out.)

And I’m certainly not trying to make this about the convenience of the rest of us CTA travelers, it’s about safety — if they can’t communicate instructions about how to safely get off the train when it’s nearly in the station and in no danger, what’s going to happen when the train’s on fire or something?

Update: The Tribune story, via CTA Tattler.

8 Comments so far

  1. Dan Telfer (unregistered) on July 24th, 2007 @ 1:09 pm

    Back in 1997, when I lived in the south suburbs and took the Metra back and forth to college, theaters, etc I was on a train that hit a guy. Same thing. We were stuck on board for about 2 hours, not moving. We were near the Calumet City station, I believe, and he’d fallen off the platform. 2 hours later, with nothing but “this train is stopped for an emergency”, we are all forced off the train. Metra employees are all lined up, brusquely signaling us in a specific direction. But pretty easy to spot, many of us see a surprising amount of gore. Many passengers cry out at the sight. Several of us pull a cop aside and say “What the fuck?! Why could you not warn us?” and the cop gave us a rushed but empathetic explanation.

    Apparently, anything a conductor (or any train company employee) can be used as evidence in a case against the train company if the family of the victim files suit. Apparently at some point it became a standard part of conductor training for Metra, CTA, Amtrak, whoever for them to say in case of a train striking a person, tell the passengers absolutely nothing.

  2. Cheryl (unregistered) on July 24th, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

    I know this is unbelievably picky, but he’s not a conductor. He’s a motorman.

  3. Fuzzy (unregistered) on July 24th, 2007 @ 2:30 pm

    So noted.

  4. Dan Telfer (unregistered) on July 24th, 2007 @ 2:54 pm

    But aren’t conductors the people in charge of things that go “choo choo”? I mean, that’s irrefutable logic.

  5. Kevin (unregistered) on July 24th, 2007 @ 3:26 pm

    Hey Fuzz, got your comment over at CTA Tattler. Now sure why the email me link didn’t work, but try me at


  6. Josh (unregistered) on July 24th, 2007 @ 9:42 pm

    I was on the Brown Line this morning when this happened, and they made quite a few announcements to patrons at Fullerton telling Red Line riders to get on the Brown Line as Red Line trains were being sent over the top. I don’t know if any Red Lines actually WERE sent over the top, but they made it very clear the Red Line wasn’t running.

  7. spudart (unregistered) on July 25th, 2007 @ 9:49 am

    I don’t know if you contacted the CTA directly about this incident, so I emailed the URL of this post to

  8. Alex (unregistered) on July 25th, 2007 @ 11:06 am

    Glad to read they are keeping up with old habits.. “We’re the cta, we don’t have to tell you anything.”

    Hope the guy who got hit is alright…

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