Street Smart Chicago

Common Sense: Forget the Flowers

City Life, Edgewater, Essays & Commentary, Green, Transit No Comments »

Chicago is being touted as a green city, but if you look at the facts it’s a bunch of crap. We’ve got the organic bars and cuisine, even some pricey eco-friendly dwellings, which is all just peachy, but what about those fucking potholes? I live in Edgewater, close to Devon, and every time I’m in a car there’s so much bopping up and down, I feel like I’m traveling in a horse and buggy. And the Red Line is a fucking nightmare. Read the rest of this entry »

Common Sense: No Room for Kicks on Route 66

City Life, Essays & Commentary, Transit No Comments »

Ever been stuck in someone’s armpit while jammed between a giant baby stroller and a year’s worth of two-ply that somehow makes the bumpy packed bus route along Chicago Avenue soothing? If so, my dear neighbor, you must be the fool carting the toilet paper or the baby stroller onto a packed rush-hour bus, all aboard Chicago’s Westbound Route 66. ??Aboard this cutthroat commute the bus driver won’t tell you to wait for another bus because you won’t get a seat, let alone a handle or even a corner to hover. Plus, neither you nor the driver has the common sense to remember yesterday’s grueling journey. Read the rest of this entry »

Common Sense: Block 37, Where Are You?

City Life, Essays & Commentary, Transit No Comments »

We all know the CTA, for the most part, is a mess. In the last few years, the system has began to choke on its own negligence—derailments, slow zones, investigations, budget crises and threats to cut bus lines (all coming at a time when more and more Chicagoans are turning to public transportation as a means to avoid skyrocketing gas prices). But never have the CTA’s—and Daley’s—disregard for civic necessity became more apparent than with the recent Block 37 debacle.
Read the rest of this entry »

To El and Back: Andy Seifert takes on every CTA stop in one weekend

City Life, Transit No Comments »


Jackson – Red: Miss Flow is grooving at 8am, her Arizona Iced Tea bumping along with the bass that pulsates from her Crate amplifier. A Karaoke version of Alicia Keys’ “No One” echoes throughout the subway as Miss Flow brings it hard to six utterly uninterested riders, their hands holding up their faces in a futile effort to stay awake.
“Good morning, ev-ray-bahh-dee,” Miss Flow sings, still in Alicia Keys’ mode. “Happy Friii-day, enjoy your daaa-aaayyyy, yeah yeah.”
Though nobody really seems to dig Miss Flow, she’s apropos of the subway and a friendly beginning to my weekend, to my upcoming ordeal. For the next two days, I will ride to the ends of every track the CTA offers, take in every station and every train I encounter, and watch people do and say foolish, outlandish things. Everybody has their own “El story” that they effortlessly come across. I want to find a couple for myself.
The goal: Ride to and stop at every single El station over the course of two days while documenting the individual behaviors of typical riders to the shocking actions of…well, other typical riders. I also have two secondary goals: 1) Figure out why the El is such a haven for insane conduct, and 2) Don’t die. What follows are observations and encounters from my weekend, which was coincidentally on the 116th anniversary of the El’s first service.
Read the rest of this entry »

Have a Car-Free Summer: Two If By Sea, a pair of ways to take the river

City Life, Green, Loop, Transit No Comments »

For office workers who need to get from downtown Metra stations to their jobs elsewhere in the Loop, a ride on a water taxi provides a pause that refreshes.

“It’s so peaceful,” say Patrick Giordano, an attorney who practices energy law. “And the environmental benefits are very important.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Have a Car-Free Summer: Metra-sexuals, No one needs a license for love

Bicycling, City Life, Green, Love & Sex, Transit No Comments »

It might seem like living car-free would make dating difficult. But as Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay’s steamy El-train scene in “Risky Business” shows, alternative transportation can actually rev up your love life. Here’s testimony from Chicagoans who really get around.

Read the rest of this entry »

Have a Car-Free Summer: Did someone say something about the price of gas?

Bicycling, City Life, Green, Transit No Comments »

Next month, I’ll mark four years of car-free living. The first year was one of adjustments, of fine-tuning my transit practices to a mix of CTA, walking, taxis and car-sharing. But over time, I’ve come to enjoy new ways of living in and around Chicago without the burden of a vehicle. This summer, for example, I’ve made a commitment to bicycle-commute at least one day a week, even though I have a monthly CTA pass. I plan to explore golf courses accessible via public transit, and have enjoyed traveling to and from family barbecues in suburbia via Metra, where I’ve been able to enjoy a beer or three, even on the train, without concerns about mixing drinking and driving. Speaking of which, I hear the price of gas has topped $4 a gallon, but haven’t had the chance to experience that one myself…

We’ve put together some insights into having fun in the city this summer without pumping the tank yourself, but really, it isn’t hard. Just combine your train schedule or a bicycle with your imagination and you might just find yourself joining me among the car-less. (Brian Hieggelke)

An Exodus to Zion

Life Around the Edge

Metra-sexuals, no one needs a license for love

Two If By Sea, a pair of ways to take the river

Have a Car-Free Summer: An Exodus to Zion

Bicycling, Green, Transit No Comments »

By John Greenfield

There’s a bunch of state parks near Chicago accessible by commuter rail and/or bicycle including Indiana Dunes, Chain O’ Lakes and Kettle Moraine. But the easiest, oddest camping trip you can take without a car is a weekend excursion to Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, hometown of the band Local H, near the northeast corner of the state.

Strap your gear to your bike and catch Metra from the Ogilvie Center, 500 West Madison, or points north ( Alternately, you could bring a backpack and hike two miles from the Zion station to the campground, but a set of wheels is useful for sightseeing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Car Free: A year without wheels

Bicycling, City Life, Essays & Commentary, Green, Transit No Comments »

By Brian Hieggelke

“Sod the streets at once. Rip up all city streets with jackhammers and use the junk-asphalt (after melting) to create a huge parking and auto-storage lot on the outskirts of town, preferably out of sight… All public movement would be by foot and a fleet of bicycles, maintained by the city police force.”
—Hunter S. Thompson’s platform for his run for Sheriff of Aspen, Colorado, 1970

My cell phone rang at the office early one morning. A colleague, May, was calling to tell me she’d be quite late to work—her car had broken down on South Lake Shore Drive, in the far left lane, and she was waiting for a tow truck. Her day was off to a rather harrowing start.
A few minutes later, June, another colleague, rushed into the office, wide-eyed and upset. Her morning had been much worse. On her way to work, another driver had nearly run her off the road. When June swerved around to avoid a collision, she ended up in front of the other car. That driver lost it. Deciding she’d been cut off, she pulled up beside June, nearly running her off the road, and started screaming, “I’ve got a kid in here.” Moments later, she bumped her car into June’s, then fell back and started ramming into June’s car until a police officer, who’d seen the whole incident, interceded. “Lady, that’s road rage,” he scolded the vehicular aggressor. “I could arrest you for attempted murder.” Instead, he booked her for battery, and told her to find a relative to pick up her kid. She was going to jail.

Although I sympathized with my co-workers’ plight, I don’t ever have mornings like this. I no longer own a car.
Read the rest of this entry »