CTA Homeless Harassment Update

(Photo: The Chicago Transit Authority’s holiday train––no room for the homeless? Credit: morydd.)

No, the Chicago Transit Authority has not yet budged from its thinly veiled discriminatory policy of throwing homeless people out of the ‘L’ system at terminals.  Over the weekend in these pages and on my Huffington Post Chicago byline I posted a series of questions about the policy that I had submitted to CTA’s media relations department along with the seriously spin-meistered answers that I received back.

Yesterday, those posts unexpectedly made waves locally and nationally.  I awoke to coverage of the story in Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax Blog, the most important and widely read political blog in the State of Illinois.  I was next contacted by popular citywide newsblog Chicagoist which featured the story and in turn tipped off a slew of other coverage–not to mention comment wars–on sites including Chicago’s NBC 5 and the web-based Chicago Examiner, major transit industry resource site TransitTalent, Seattle-area indie newspaper The Stranger,  national feminist blog Bitch Ph.D., the Progressive Rockies blog Colorado Hummingbird, and socioeconomic pundit Marco A. Garcia.

(Oddly, CTA Tattler, Chicago’s main independent transit blog, remains silent on the issue.)

The whirlwind day culminated with a studio interview by Outside the Loop RADIO, the independent weekly news and features program hosted at WLUW 88.7-FM, Loyola University’s community radio station. (Check for my interview Friday, November 28th at 6 p.m. or visit their website to download it to iTunes.)

(UPDATE: And today, M. Leblanc of the aforementioned Bitch Ph.D. was interviewed about the signs by WBEZ Chicago Public Radio’s community radio project, Vocalo.)

All that’s the good part.  The bad part is that as of this writing, the CTA still intends to throw homeless riders off trains and into frigid Chicago winters at rail terminals, seemingly just to assuage the sensibilities of a minority of ‘L’ riders who don’t want to be reminded that they share the planet with individuals less fortunate than themselves. Not for nothing, those riders can move to another seat or another car a lot more easily than a homeless rider can wave a magic wand and instantly find a home or a job.

Let me be as clear as possible: this is a human rights issue.

In my opinion the CTA has made a covert and discriminatory decision to remove homeless riders from trains and is trying to hide that decision behind a policy applying to all riders (“No continuous riding”) that–as the CTA told me in writing–it has no intention of applying to everyone.

What it clearly looks like the agency does intend to do is eject the homeless into zero-degree Chicago winters in far-flung corners of the city without any care for their physical safety (such as whether they have the means to get to a place of warmth or shelter).  Causing pain and hardship like that to fellow human beings for no good reason is a pretty bad way for the Chicago Transit Authority to ride into the holiday season.

I ask my readers to think about needlessly shivering Chicagoans the next time you see the CTA Holiday Train roll by.  Decide for yourself which image of Chicago you’d like the CTA to portray to the world.

Especially a world to which Mayor Daley is attempting to pass off Chicago as an enlightened, Progressive, 2016 Olympics-ready city.

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