Speak Not Of Senseless Things was uploaded to Flickr

Jefferson and Lake, West Loop

embiggen by clicking

I took Speak Not Of Senseless Things on December 12, 2010 at 12:25PM

and uploaded it on May 23, 2012 at 07:38PM

While Your Traces Disappear – Explored

While Your Traces Disappear
While Your Traces Disappear

Cool! Another photo has made it into Flickr Explore, and with even more favorites than the last photo got.  I take and process photos every day, or attempt to, and I always do the best I can to transform the images into art. But prior to these two photos making Explore, I hadn’t been selected since April 2012. I realize the Explore algorithm is mostly computerized, and that there is an element of chance in making the cut – but still. Odd. And nice. 

Funny, as I only sort of randomly selected this photo of the CTA tracks near Graceland Cemetery as a means to test new perspective tools in the Lightroom 5 Beta, and then tweaked the image a bit using the Google Silver Efex Pro plugin. The subject is a bit of cliché to tell the truth – high contrast black and white image of shadow perspectives, yadda yadda. I’ve taken many similar photos that didn’t get so much appreciation from Flickreenos. Still, I am happy with how this one turned out…

Click here for an embiggened version. 

Or here to purchase a print for your own wall.

Chicago train system: Called the L not the El

Station hopping shuffler
Station hopping shuffler

Since I was looking for this Chicago Transit Authority citation recently, I’m posting it here so I can find it easier in the future. Proper usage is important, especially if you know there is a proper usage.

As far as I could tell, Grid Chicago didn’t actually make this a blog post, but their Twitter conversation was picked up by a few outlets, including the Chicago Tribune:

You may have wondered, as you climb aboard a CTA train: Are you about to ride the “El” or the “L”?

Grid Chicago, a blog devoted to energy-conscious transit issues in the city, asked on its Twitter feed last week which usage people prefer — the single “L” or the longer “El.”

Among the responses came one from the official CTA Twitter account:

That’s not to say the “El” isn’t used, despite the fact that only parts of the city’s rail system are elevated. Time Out Chicago, a publication devoted to covering arts and entertainment in the city, is among those preferring “El.”

“El” can also be found in some book references. For instance, in his 1947 collection “The Neon Wilderness,” Chicago author Nelson Algren refers repeatedly to the “El.”

“She put her hat on the dresser and sat by the window, looking out at the night-fuming neon all the way down Congress to the El,” Algren writes at one point. Though, in fairness, some credit (blame?) East Coast editors for changing the usage.

(click here to continue reading Chicago train system: Is it the L or the El? – Chicago Tribune.)

I’ve had a few of my photos published by Grid Chicago – they are good people, and have a good mission. Check ’em out…

Did She Get the Job?


I wonder if she got the job? What did the job interviewer make of this interaction? Did they believe who they were talking to?

Rahm on the CTA

Rahm on the CTA

I hope this is real, and not posed, nor Photoshopped, because I love it. Look at the woman’s expression, and the woman sitting behind her… 

 As far as still mingling with us commoners, Mayor Emanuel still rides the L to City Hall, sometimes anyway…

Yes folks, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel still is riding the “L.” In fact, he says he rides the Brown Line twice a week from his home in Ravenswood Manor.

(click here to continue reading Mayor Rahm: King of the “L” | CTA Tattler.)

A Terrible Transportation Bill

Imaginary Anthropology
Imaginary Anthropology

The anti-American Republicans in the House are trying to gut public transit.

Add this to the list of Things I’m Pissed Off About…

The list of outrages coming out of the House is long, but the way the Republicans are trying to hijack the $260 billion transportation bill defies belief. This bill is so uniquely terrible that it might not command a majority when it comes to a floor vote, possibly next week, despite Speaker John Boehner’s imprimatur. But betting on rationality with this crew is always a long shot.

Here is a brief and by no means exhaustive list of the bill’s many defects:

¶It would make financing for mass transit much less certain, and more vulnerable, by ending a 30-year agreement that guaranteed mass transit a one-fifth share of the fuel taxes and other user fees in the highway trust fund. Instead it would compete annually with other programs.

¶It would open nearly all of America’s coastal waters to oil and gas drilling, including environmentally fragile areas that have long been off limits. The ostensible purpose is to raise revenue to help make up what has become an annual shortfall for transportation financing. But it is really just one more attempt to promote the Republicans’ drill-now-drill-everywhere agenda and the interests of their industry patrons.

¶It would demolish significant environmental protections by imposing arbitrary deadlines on legally mandated environmental reviews of proposed road and highway projects, and by ceding to state highway agencies the authority to decide whether such reviews should occur.

Where that $40 billion will come from is also unclear. The idea that oil revenues from increased drilling will provide it is delusional. Even if new leases are rushed through, oil will not begin to flow for years, and neither will the royalties.

In any case, none of this is good news for urban transit systems, including New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which, in 2010 alone, received about $1 billion from the trust fund.

Ray LaHood, the transportation secretary, rightly calls this the “worst transportation bill” he has seen in 35 years of public service. Mr. Boehner is even beginning to hear from budget-conscious conservatives who believe that relying on user fees is the most fiscally responsible way to pay for all transportation programs.

(click here to continue reading A Terrible Transportation Bill – NYTimes.com.)


CTA Unaware of Its Photography Policy

CTA Gleaming

The Chicago Transit Authority apparently does not ensure that its own employees are aware of CTA photography policy, which reads:

The general public is permitted to use hand-held cameras to take photographs, capture digital images, and videotape within public areas of CTA stations and transit vehicles for personal, non-commercial use.

Large cameras, photo or video equipment, or ancillary equipment such as lighting, tripods, cables, etc. are prohibited (except in instances where commercial and professional photographers enter into contractual agreements with CTA).

All photographers and videographers are prohibited from entering, photographing, or videotaping non-public areas of the CTA’s transit system.

All photographers and videographers are prohibited from impeding customer traffic flow, obstructing transit operations, interfering with customers, blocking doors or stairs, and affecting the safety of CTA, its employees, or customers. All photographers and videographers must fully and immediately comply with any requests, directions, or instructions of CTA personnel related to safety concerns.

For everyone’s safety, do not use a camera’s flash if facing a person who is operating a train or bus.

Be respectful of others – CTA customers and employees.

Don’t stand (or cause others to stand) in the way of stairs, aisles, escalators or doorways.

Be careful! Your safety is very important to us, so stay away from platform edges and moving vehicles.

Be safe! Don’t inch backward with your camera to get a wider view – always look where you’re going.

While on CTA premises, all photographers and videographers must comply with all applicable rules, including but not limited to, this policy, all applicable laws, ordinances, municipal regulations, standard operating procedures, and administrative procedures. CTA personnel may evaluate the actions of a photographer or a videographer, and if a determination is made that the actions of a photographer or videographer are not in compliance with any applicable rule, CTA personnel may terminate the permission granted by this policy.


CTA facilities and vehicles are for the exclusive use of the CTA, its employees, and its customers. Any and all permission granted to photograph and videotape in connection with this policy is subordinate to the CTA’s obligations to its customers, employees and to the general public. Loitering at CTA stations for extended periods for the purpose of taking photographs or video is prohibited.


(click here to continue reading Photography & Video Policy | CTA.)

Cab 6570

Geoff mentioned (on Facebook) that he was told not to photograph in the El during his recent visit here:

I got hassled in Chicago because I took a photo in the subway station.

…The employee who accosted me said “We just took another tourist in the back for an hour. Please don’t make us do it again.” Do they really detain people?

I doubt very much the CTA even has a back room they use to browbeat tourists, but who would want to risk it?

Mysteries of time

This isn’t a new problem, but sadly, it keeps occurring. Olivia Leigh wrote about her experience with CTA harassment for the Chicagoist, back in 2007:

Take a quick look through Flickr, and you’ll see that the CTA is one of the most popular subjects for photographers’ lenses. Interesting architecture, intriguing people, and a nice dose of urban decay all beg to be photographed. We were similarly inspired last weekend while waiting for a brown line train at the Belmont “L” stop. After taking a photo of the view toward the end of the platform, and two snapshots of a glimpse down Belmont in between train cars, we were approached by a CTA employee who told me that us to stop taking photographs, as they were not allowed. We politely said we would stop, but we believed he was incorrect about the photography policy. His tone turned gruff quite quickly, and he said, “I know the rules. You can’t take pictures here. I work for the CTA.” We once again politely stated said that we understood, but said I did not believe that was the policy. The employee then said, “I could send you to jail for taking these pictures, so stop arguing with me!”

…We also asked Gaffney1 for her recommendations for photographers who encounter harassment while photographing the CTA. She replied that the “customer should ask for a supervisor or contact customer service if the employee does not know the procedures regarding photography. Additionally, if photographers “encounter an employee who is not as well versed in the policy as he or she should be…photographers should report the location, date, time and employee id # (if possible) to CTA customer service so that the employee can be retrained.” After hearing of an employee threatening to take a camera from a photographer, we asked if employees would ever have the recourse to seize cameras. Gaffney replied that employees “should not take any cameras,” and instead should notify the control center to call the police if there is “suspicious behavior” (so perhaps we could have gone to jail?).

If you think this sounds a trifle confusing, you’re not alone. While we applaud the CTA for never proposing a ban on photography, unlike some other major metropolitan transportation services, the policy is extremely vague, left to the subjective views of CTA employees who may not be properly trained on identifying suspicious behavior. Gaffney noted that people “take photographs all the time without incident”; however, the number of people who have had difficulties, nearly all of whom we would venture to guess are merely photography enthusiasts, are not insignificant.

(click here to continue reading Getting to the Bottom of the CTA Photography Policy: Chicagoist.)

Are We Really Free

The CTA system has a great attraction for photographers, both tourists, and residents. The tracks, trains, buses and stations define the city, both good and bad, and it is a shame that the CTA employees are giving the city a bad name by being jerks. For the record, I’ve taken hundreds2 of photos of various aspects of the CTA infrastructure and employees/passengers, and have not yet gotten more than a dirty look or two. I guess my time will come, eventually, we’ll see what happens when employees are contradicted by facts. They are not always pleased.

Station hopping shuffler

  1. CTA Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Noelle Gaffney []
  2. or more – after a while, hard to keep track []

CTA Apple Station A No Bid Process, So?

Apple Blues

The CTA accepted Apple’s offer, as presented, without soliciting other bids, probably because no other corporation was offering anything. Why would there be a bidding war for the (formerly) decrepit North & Clybourn El stop? Theoretical money isn’t the same as the actual money Apple spent.

The Chicago Transit Authority announced last month that it is looking for a consulting firm to help develop a “revenue-generating corporate sponsorship program” — a plan to sell private companies the naming rights to CTA train lines, train stations and bus routes.

The consultant will determine which of the agency’s assets might attract sponsorships and what the naming rights would be worth, according to a request for proposals issued by the CTA. Public bidding would be central to the consultant’s work, the CTA said, to assure “transparency and increased competition.”

But there was no such bidding last year when the CTA agreed to let Apple spend nearly $4 million on renovation of the North and Clybourn train station. The CTA agreed to let Apple turn an unused bus driveway into a plaza and to renovate the inside of the station to the company’s specifications. In return, Apple was given the rights to lease the plaza space for no charge for at least 10 years, to advertise anywhere in the station at rates set by the CTA, and to purchase station naming rights if the agency ever sells them.

(click to continue reading Competition Wasn’t Part of CTA’s Apple Deal – NYTimes.com.)

Now that Apple was so successful in refurbishing a station in their chosen manner, future similar CTA station deals will have more public bidding processes, I don’t have a problem with that. I also don’t care if private businesses adopt other train stations, and clean them up in exchange for naming rights or whatever. What’s the harm? The oft-criticised parking privatization sold off future Chicago revenue streams to a for-profit corporation for 99 years, the Apple CTA station is a quite different scenario.

A Clemency of Elders

Under the CTA tracks.

A Clemency of Elders

Van Buren

Looks better if you embiggen: decluttr

I honestly don’t remember the reference the title refers to, could be anything. Titles are created on the cuff, based on what I’m reading, hearing, or otherwise improvisationally.


CTA Apple Stop

Apple store

Apple has so much cash in their corporate coffers1, they can afford to spend a little money fixing infrastructure. In a country that cared about people more than foreign wars, the Chicago Transit Authority would have enough budget to maintain its own stations, but we don’t live in such a magical place. Infrastructure investment for public transit2 is not a priority, unfortunately.

Nevertheless, I salute Apple for doing this, no matter their motives. I would applaud other corporations for jumping into this breach, and sprucing up other stations, shoring up bridges, etc. Too bad they mostly only focus on naming rights for stadiums.

Even while the neighborhood took on a high gloss, the CTA station looked the way it had for decades — like the stop closest to the poverty of the Cabrini-Green housing project.

Now this woman stood gawking at the Apple Store and the plaza that linked it to the station.

“The plaza just knocked my socks off,” she said. “A plaza, with seats. Like these guys weren’t so terrified of homeless people sitting down that they weren’t going to let anyone else sit down, either. And a fountain, that instant supplier of peace. It made me want to sit down on a nice day with a cup of tea and a book. OK, in gratitude to Apple, it should be an iPad, but whatever. I say thank you to Apple.”

Exactly the effect Apple intends.

There’s reason to be grateful to Apple for the metamorphosis of this patch of Chicago. Apple has not only built a store more stylish than anything nearby, it has invested close to $4 million in the North/Clybourn station.

It’s the equivalent of mowing the neighbor’s weedy lawn — and paying the neighbor to let you.

Outside, the station has clean new brick, big new windows and a sleek new look, partly 1940s and entirely 2010.

The inside isn’t stylish, but it’s improved. Someone has scrubbed the red concrete floors, brushed red paint on the old railings, tried to wipe the grime from the escalator stairs.

(click to continue reading CTA station is the apple of computer giant’s eye, Mary Schmich says – chicagotribune.com.)

Apple Logos

  1. over $50,000,000,000 last time I looked []
  2. Amtrak, CTA, et al []

Caught Without A Ticket

Caught Without A Ticket

I know I’m probably repeating myself1 but the shadows under the El tracks were just too richly inviting to ignore. Franklin Street, Little Hell2 area. Shot using a Tokina 12mm-24mm lens, converted to black and white in Photoshop with the help of Alien Skin’s Exposure 3 plugin.

better in Lightbox

  1. I repeat myself under stress, I repeat myself under stress []
  2. aka River North []