One of the reasons for me moving to Chicago was to reinvigorate myself - to recall and to do the things I used to love doing, and to try new things. The list will continue to grow, but the one thing I am doing in Chicago is riding the CTA bus. I never took the bus in DC. I took the Metrorail (subway), but not the bus. I actually don't know ANYONE in DC who took the bus. It seemed to be an unspoken rule that the bus line was a "lower" form of transportation (people actually cringe at the suggestion of taking a public bus anywhere in the city). The Metrorail, DC Cab, bicycle, skateboard and Vespa-esque scooter were the only ways to get around town if you didn't own an automobile or use shoe leather.
But in Chicago, everybody hops on the bus at some point. I live between two major buslines running north and south - #36 Broadway and #22 Clark. The Broadway bus drops me off a block from The BF, and the Clark bus drops me off a block from my house (going to his place I take #36, coming home I take #22 - I'm lazy like that). Both run practically parallel through the North part of the city. The bus has actually been a really great way for me to familiarize myself with the streets between Andersonville and Boystown (roughly 30 blocks or so), and the shopping/restaurant/neighborhoods districts along the way. I take the EL alot too (Chicago's railway/subway system), but that's mostly for downtown or Loop trips.
I have noticed, however, something unusual about riding on the bus. Everyone who sits near me smells either like cigarettes or a burrito (does everyone either exits a bar or a Taco Bell before jumping on the #22?). I also wonder why it is impossible for some to egress the vehicle through the back door, as requested via PSA every so many miles. It definitely speeds things up to have exiters leave out the back while enterers load in the front (if I can fit through the back door - just about anyone can).
Another thing I have found is that the drivers are by and large a pretty friendly bunch. I have seen them offer to wait for commuters who need to get change from a store. I have seen them wait for pedestrians who need to cross a few lanes of traffic to board the bus. One time, I saw a driver politely wake an older man on the bus to ask him what his stop was so he would not miss it. I can honestly say I doubt I would ever see this type of behavior from DC bus drivers. In DC, I saw people chasing buses pulling away from bus stops, pounding on the door to get on as the bus continue to drive away (maybe this is just another example of midwestern politeness).
A bus/EL ride in Chicago is $1.75 no matter where you are going. In DC, the price starts at $1.35 and then escalates from there, depending on how far you are going or whether it's Rush Hour (I love how DC calls its Rush Hour fare the "regular rate" and all other times are "reduced rate", when e'erbody knows that the Rush Hour rates are increased).
God, this blog turned out longer than I expected. In any event, I move forward in trying new things out here. And right now I am late for a dinner date. Rest assured, I will be taking the bus to get there.
** "Bus Stop"; The Hollies