Commuting and Leisure and Socializing and Uncategorized05 Jul 2008 12:29 pm

The bike stays parked today and I take the train again. Evening plans that are a little, uh, “fluid”, inform this choice.

Herding cats with cell phones can actually work and the extended family ends up enjoying an 8 pm show of Cirque Shanghai at Navy Pier.

Horrific rush-hour traffic, Edens Expressway construction, and a severe storm in the north suburbs makes the drive long and miserable for the rest of the family. My wife gets there from a downtown appointment on her bike. I walk most of the way from my office and only jump the free “trolley” shuttle (really a bus, folks, who are we kidding here?) after showing a suburban family where to get it and looking up at the dark and threatening sky.

The shuttle is packed but the mood is cheery: everyone’s a tourist today and this vehicle represents a lot of cars not going to Navy Pier. Frequent, easy, pleasant, convenient. Did I mention “free” already? Who’s to argue with transit like this?

The ride home later that evening is different but informative for those of us not in a car.

The Metra blackout days because of Taste of Chicago mean that Nancy unlocks her bike and rides to the subway station where the CTA wisely still accommodates bikes.

I take a different path using the 124 Navy Pier bus that serves three Metra train stations: Millennium Park Electric Line, Ogilvie, and Union.

This bus earns its keep: it’s packed and democratic.

Young and old, Chicago’s variety of races and economics, and a man in a motorized wheelchair who maneuvered in on the ramp after the driver politely had passengers vacate the folding handicap seats to make room. People were accommodating and patient as he put the wheelchair in the space, turned it around, and parallel-parked it facing forward. Not simple but impressive.

More people packed in and the bus finally was underway. People talked noisily in groups and with the man in the wheelchair. The bus earned its keep and a little discomfort of crowding did not seem to bother anyone.

I got the train with time to spare but I admit to worrying about this. What if I missed the train? I would have had to wait another hour to get home.

But I didn’t, and managed to best Nancy’s time on the subway/el by only about 20 minutes. I avoided the heavy rain through the North Side and she was at least sheltered as she changed trains.

Now I’m thinking: Why do people drive? Why do people take the bus? Why do people avoid the bus?

Stay tuned, I’m working on this.

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