Sunday, April 17, 2016

The CTA-team

One of the questions I'm asked frequently as an urban mom is how we get around in such a big city. While we do still have a car, it's often the least practical option for transportation given traffic and the availability of parking at our destination. That's why we make our way on the CTA!

We're lucky enough to live within walking distance of three different "El" stations and have a bus line that stops at our back door. The station in the picture is next to B's school and we can zip downtown on the green line in less than ten minutes. We have a friend with us in the picture because she comes along on Tuesdays to ballet class. Urban carpooling at its finest: the green line is my minivan.

The Little Dragans love the CTA. What was B most excited about when she turned 7? Getting her student card.

Kids 6 and under ride free, but 7 and up need a pass, although it is heavily discounted on school days. Cheezits are always optional, but highly recommended.

Like most things in my life, I try to turn our frequent trips into learning opportunities disguised as games. When we're riding on the CTA one game is "How Many Stops?" Before we board a train, the kids race to answer questions about which line we're on, how many stops until our destination, and what our stop is called.

Little Guy is really good at this game and can even tell you alternate lines that you can take in the Loop. The purpose of the game is to help them be aware of their surroundings, but there's a safety motive, too. If we should ever be separated (*currently knocking on wood that this never happens!!*) I want them to be able to tell someone where they were going.

When we're on one of Chicago's elevated trains, this is how we ride:

There's a lot to see out there, and we wouldn't want to miss a single thing! Headed into the Loop we're treated to a passing view of some really interesting murals on the sides of the buildings and they are a huge hit. Here are two of our favorites.

Hebru Brantley's  Chi Boy is one of his recognizable characters adding energy and movement to the positive narrative that he brings to street art around Chicago. As the train travels north, Chi Boy actually flies into view! It's difficult to get a sense of the size of this mural from this photo, but it is impossible to miss. Brantley has created such a memorable aesthetic that the Little Dragans can pick out his work anywhere. 

This photo-illustration entitled Moose Bubblegum Bubble by Jacob Watts makes us laugh and creates a wonderful tension just as the train begins its curve into the Loop. As the moose disappears behind us, what will happen? Will the bubble pop leaving bits of bubblegum stuck to his antlers? Our anticipation builds and mirrors the feeling that something is just about to happen as we enter the bustling heart of the city.

It's not always so picture perfect on the CTA. Grant and I can both regale you with tales of unpleasant travel companions, indescribably horrific odors, and the occasional mugging. Just last week Grant's bus driver stopped the bus and exited the bus in the middle of Clark at rush hour with no explanation. 

Growing up in a town of 900 people, I'm sure I never envisioned my future life having anything to do with bus schedules or educating my children about train stops. The blue haze on the mountains I once watched from the reverse seat in the way, way back of our family's station wagon has been replaced by street art and occasional glimpses of the lake between rows of skyscrapers. I choose to enjoy this adventure on the CTA, and happily answer those who ask that getting around in a city is an exciting challenge. If 1.6 million riders PER DAY can do it, so can we!


Hi! Me again...B! When you use the CTA it's fun to look out the window and see the city. That's exactly what you should do! My favorite thing to see is the big buildings of the city because sometimes you can see people inside the windows. What's yours? Leave a comment below!

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