BlathrWayne Lorentz

Showing blathrs with the tag “Transit.”

L of a shop

Wednesday, August 10th, 2022 Alive 18,733 days

A boarded up kiosk in the CTA Red Line Monroe station

I was surprised to learn recently that a good number of people in Chicago donʼt know what this is. And many people donʼt even notice that theyʼre there.

Iʼm old enough to remember when these underground kiosks thrived at CTA stations all over Chicago. Some were newsstands. Some were Dunkinʼ Donuts shops. Some sold other kinds of food to passengers. I always thought that was funny, because at the time, you werenʼt allowed to eat or drink on a CTA train. But the CTA was happy to sell you both inside its own stations.

I remember lines at the Dunkinʼ Donuts kiosks would sometimes be long enough to block the turnstiles.

Today, theyʼre all boarded up with stainless steel plates. Some, like this one, are decorated. As if to pretend that they never existed at all.

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Way way wayfinding

Wednesday, August 10th, 2022 Alive 18,733 days

The CTA Red Line Lake station

This is an example of wayfinding done right.

With a mere glance out the door of a subway train, I can see three signs telling me that this is the Lake station.

The signs are large, clean, and clear, with very high contrast.

Itʼs remarkable how many transit agencies and airports, large and small, forget the importance of wayfinding, communication, and consistent design.

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Generational dirt

Wednesday, August 10th, 2022 Alive 18,733 days

The CTA Red Line Chicago station

Iʼm pretty sure I recognize all of this dirt from the last time I lived in Chicago about eight years ago.

Thereʼs no reason for any CTA station to look like this, especially considering that it has fewer passengers now than in recent years.

If the CTA canʼt handle basic sanitation, how poorly run are the rest of its operations? More to the point — How are passengers supposed to feel safe, if they canʼt even feel clean?

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A life in transit

Sunday, August 7th, 2022 Alive 18,730 days

My retired transportation cards

I have a bad habit of holding on to transportation cards; especially if they have leftover money still loaded on them.

  • Ventra (Chicago)

    The grey Ventra card was the first one. It also functioned as a MasterCard debit card with the idea that it could be of benefit to poor people and the many thousands of Chicagoans who canʼt or donʼt have a bank account. That didn't really work out, and eventually it was migrated into the more common blue transit card.

    Amazingly, I was able to use the blue Ventra card on my most recent trip to Chicago. It had about eight dollars on it when I last used it, and 11 years later, that money was still available, and it worked fine. It turns out that it doesnʼt expire for 25 years.

  • Akbil (Istanbul)

    More durable than a card, and you can hang it on a keychain, I got an akbil to get around Istanbul. The akbil system has since transitioned to a boring plastic card like most of the rest of the world, and the money that I had left on this has now expired.

  • Amtrak (United States)

    This was just a rewards card, like a frequent flyer card. I earned quite a few points going back-and-forth between Chicago and Saint Louis; Seattle and Vancouver; Saint Paul and Chicago. But since Amtrak discontinued service to Las Vegas, I stopped using it and the points expired.

  • Oyster (London)

    I think this is the oldest of the bunch. I have no idea if thereʼs any money left on it.

  • Orca (Seattle)

    Orca bills itself as a single payment solution for getting around the entire Puget Sound area. But I seem to recall that it wasn't actually accepted everywhere. That may have been fixed by now, but I seem to recall that when I was using it, it was only valid on ferries, and Sound Transit buses and trains. I remember using paper transfer tickets on Seattle city buses.

    I have no idea if thereʼs any money on this one, either.

  • Do It All (Singapore)

    This card is supposed to do it all. I don't know if it did. I only used it on trains, and perhaps a cable car to Sentosa Island.

    Thereʼs probably money left on it, if it hasnʼt expired.

  • Octopus (Hong Kong)

    I've noticed that a lot of transit cards are named after sea creatures.

    I had money on it, but that was probably forcibly expired as Hong Kong was crushed under the mainlandʼs thumb. At least I still have my Hong Kong money with the image of Queen Elizabeth Ⅱ on it.

  • T-Money (Seoul)

    A good number of transit cards are also positioned as general-purpose payment cards. My observation was that T-Money achieved this most thoroughly, and early.

    It seemed like you could use T-Money anywhere in Seoul. Its acceptance was probably wider than even Visa or MasterCard.

    Since T-Money is more like a bank account than a transit card, there's probably money left on it.

  • Suica (Japan)

    Suica is one of two major transportation cards in use in Tokyo, and adjacent areas of Japan. The other one is Pasmo.

    How to choose between the two? Easy — Pick the one with the cute penguin on it.

    Suica has a unique set-up process, where you can create your account and login at the ticket vending machine, and it prints your name on the back of the card. Pretty nifty.

    Thereʼs very likely money on this one, since itʼs not that old.

  • Zipcard (United States)

    When I lived in cities where I didnʼt need a car all the time, I used ZipCar to bring home major purchases that wouldnʼt fit on transit, or to take longer trips.

    The interesting thing about the ZipCar process is that you tap the card on the car to unlock it and get the keys.

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Laissez les bons temps spamer

Friday, August 5th, 2022 Alive 18,728 days

E-mail unsubscribe confirmation. Maybe.

This e-mail from the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority reads “You unsubscribed.” It also says “You will receive an email update when new information becomes available.”

So, am I unsubscribed, or am I going to receive e-mail updates?

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Electrifying

Monday, July 25th, 2022 Alive 18,717 days

The roof of a Houston Metro light rail train

Have you ever wondered what the top of a light rail train looks like?

Youʼre welcome.

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Ride 'em, cowboy

Saturday, February 26th, 2022 Alive 18,568 days

A cowboy taking the train to the rodeo

Thereʼs a stereotype along the lines of “People in Houston wonʼt ride transit.” If that was true, then Metro wouldnʼt have had two million disembarkments at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo a couple of years ago.

My observation so far has been that the people who are most against transit in Houston are people who donʼt live in Houston, or if they do, they live on the fringes, and not in the actual city part of the city.

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Note to self: Let it go to voice mail

Friday, February 4th, 2022 Alive 18,546 days

Fire trucks. Many many fire trucks.

One of the work-from-home workforce in my building answered a call from his boss while cooking lunch. You can see the rest.

When we evacuated the building, I grabbed my work laptop, but not my shoes, so I ended up working the rest of the day from Day 6 Coffee in my pajamas and slippers. However, this being downtown Houston, I was the least-oddly dressed person there.

Interestingly, both the Metro Green and Purple line trains were suspended because the nearest johnny pump to my home is across the street, and the firefighters had to run hoses across the train tracks to connect to my buildingʼs risers.

That train isnʼt going anywhere
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So, can I ride for free?

Saturday, October 30th, 2021 Alive 18,449 days

A broken Metro ticket machine

When it comes to transit hardware malfunctions, I guess itʼs better that the ticket machine fails than the train.

Although, I think I havenʼt seen a parity error in 30 years.

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City of disrepair

Tuesday, October 19th, 2021 Alive 18,438 days

A broken embedded railroad crossing signal along Main Street in downtown Houston

Iʼve long moaned about how Houston is a city that would rather spend a lot of money tearing things down and rebuilding them, than spend a little money maintaining what it already has. Since Iʼve returned to the city, I see it over and over again.

This is the latest example. These are warning lights that were embedded into the stop lines of streets that cross Metroʼs Red Line downtown. They were pretty neat when the train first ran, taking the flashing lights usually hanging beneath a grade crossingʼs crossbuck, and putting them into the street, itself, nice and tidy. The resulting wigwag light pattern both alerts drivers to the approach of a train, and also lets them know where to stop.

That is, if theyʼre working. Which theyʼre not. None of them work anymore. I wrote to Robert Gallegos, my elected city councilman asking what happened to them.

Not only did he not respond to my letter, his office didnʼt even acknowledge its receipt. Having previously lived in Chicagoʼs 42nd Ward under its very responsive Alderman Brendan Reilly, Iʼm surprised that a local politician would simply ignore a constituent. I guess Mr. Gallegos doesnʼt need my vote.

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What did Brown do for you?

Sunday, October 3rd, 2021 Alive 18,422 days

A plaque inside a Metro train car

While I agree that the former mayor Brown deserves to have a train car dedicated in his honor, I donʼt like when these sorts of awards are bestowed on people while theyʼre still alive.

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