Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Commuters Everywhere

If someone had taken me from one of the Chicago El's Loop stations and then plunked me right down in the D.C. transportation hub, Metro Center, I would have guessed that D.C. was the city with nearly 3 million residents and Chicago the city with 580 thousand--not the other way around. On the website I referenced in an earlier blog, whyihatedc, the blog's authors complain about the brusque nature of D.C. commuters, people who they say are unconcerned about nothing but coming and going as fast as possible. This is definitely true, and I still don't understand why people here rush to catch a train if the next one is coming a mere few minutes later. However, I can understand why people would run into each other quite frequently in the hub Metro stations: because there are a ridiculous amount of us converging and transferring from one train line to another in the big stations like Metro Center, Gallery Place, and so on.

On the left is Metro Center, but one would be hard-pressed to differentiate it from every. other. subway station in this city. Tourists, service workers, and Important People bump into each other here.

In Chicago, people seemed more spread out. Even the El's Loop stations, which serve the metropolitan area's ostensible hub, do not seem terribly crowded at all. In fact, D.C. is an inverse of Chicago: as I walked down the streets today, past huge government buildings that take up whole city blocks, I saw few people. On the other hand, on any given day in the Loop at around 5:30, I would have seen many people on the streets, but not as many in the train station. This seems a weird thing to harp on, but I guess it is another thing I miss about Chicago: there is evidence of human life on the streets, evidence of people talking, laughing, and enjoying (unhealthy) food. Here in D.C., there is evidence of people rushing around from train to train. I'm a little sad that I was subjected to the Midwestern inferiority complex when I was growing up, because, besides its aged public transportation, there is a whole lot to appreciate about Chicago that is lacking in this city of Northern Charm.


Anonymous said...

good point about the distribution of commuters along the subway system ~ wonder if transportation engineers could have addressed that better, or if it's just a geographic limitation that could not be overcome ~ or even an effect of more uniform working hours in government???

Elaine said...

ah, good point!