Reflections from Alex: A CS BSN Student

Surviving the CTA

With seven different train routes and hundreds of different bus routes, riding public transportation in Chicago can seem very intimidating at first. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago my whole life, and I was the girl who drove her car everywhere. The only bus I had ever taken was the school bus, so when I moved to the city for the semester I was rather nervous. I was also born a little directionally challenged so that really did not help the situation at all. After being in Chicago for almost two months now, I have become much more comfortable navigating and riding the CTA. I have actually learned to enjoy my commute to work and school, as it provides me the time to read or reflect on the events of my day. I have definitely had a few bumps a long the way and I am hoping if you are reading this you can learn from a few of my mistakes.

I have quickly learned that there are certain unspoken rules when riding public transportation. When getting on the L, always let the people getting off the train go first. Not only is it polite, it will save you from colliding with a stranger. I have noticed that regardless if your train is coming in two minutes or fifteen, people speed walk in the subway station and climb the escalator stairs. If you are walking at a normal human speed, be prepared to get passed. The city operates with high energy and vitality all of the time, which is something that I love about it. Take notes on the next point, which is the bus driver will not wait to start driving before you sit down! I literally fell on someone because I just was not quite prepared for the sudden take off. Let me save you that awkward apology: sit down as soon as you get on the bus. Also, before getting on the bus, make sure you are on the right side of the street. One day I was in a rush to get home and two stops later, I realized I was actually going in the wrong direction. When getting off the bus, make sure you pull the cord at the right stop. I pulled the cord on my way to work one stop too soon and the bus driver pulled over and nobody got off. Everyone just looked around like who is supposed to get off here? All I could do was look around and act like I had no idea who pulled the cord, but I think people knew my secret. Not only will you pull the cord at the wrong stop, you may completely miss your bus stop and not even realize it and that’s okay! Don’t panic, it happens to the best of us and it might just require you to walk half a mile back to where you were actually trying to go, which is what happened in my situation.

Although I have made errors along the way, I have a newfound confidence traveling in the city. It makes you think differently and more independently. It is convenient to get to and from places easily, and you meet and see people from all walks of life. Getting lost is part of the adventure and exploring the city is how to learn it best. I hope you can take something away from my crash course on surviving the CTA.