Battle of the Two Trains

There are two train systems in Chicago, the Metra and the “L”. If you had to choose which one would you pick?

According to, Chicago has a working population of over 1.2 million and 26 percent of them commute via public transportation. About 320,000 Chicagoans are taking the train or a bus from point A to point B.

The Metra Rail website shows that in 2010 there were 81.4 million passenger trips. The Metra has 240 stations with 702 weekday trains, 296 Saturday trains and 163 Sunday trains.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA,) recently announced they had their highest ridership level in 22 years.  According to the CTA website, the “L” had 231.1 million rides in 2012.

So now begs the question, which one is the better ride?

You Want to Catch the Train

During the week the Metra came come about every 20 minutes to every hour depending on the day and time, on the weekends a train comes every hour to two hours. An exact schedule is posted online with times of departure and arrival.


The Union Specific Northwest Metra Line speeding through the Park Ridge stop.

“The schedules seem fair enough,” says Ryan Goodman, a Metra rider. “However, I could imagine trains stopping more frequently at my location and perhaps offering more express service.”

The “L” comes every five minutes to ten minutes during the week and weekends, with no set schedule of when you will leave and when you will get where you’re going.

“The L is very convenient,” says Michael DeSantis, an “L” commuter. “The most convenient part is the train tracker on my phone. It helps me know when trains are coming so I don’t have to wait for an unnecessary amount of time.

You Like Convenience

The Metra has 239 stations in the counties of Cook, DuPage, Lake, Will, McHenry and Kane, but there are only five downtown Chicago stations.

“I am fairly lucky as it pertains to location relative to the train station,” says Goodman. “I live only two miles to my station which is about 5-10 minutes depending on traffic, lights, and other trains.  And once I make it downtown, my office is only one block from the train station, so I am guessing it doesn’t get much better than that.”

“The Metra does not have as many stops as the L,” says DeSantis. “I can get closer to where I need to be on the L versus the Metra. During the Chicago winter’s you have to walk to the Metra station which can be far compared to an L stop which is almost at every other block.”

The “L” has about 140 operating stops, with all of them staying in the Chicagoland area.

Blue Line

The CTA Blue Line getting ready to pull out of the Cumberland station.

The Metra website states, “In some cases, Metra can take you practically to the front door. In other cases, your destination can be easily reached via connecting Pace buses and/or CTA buses and trains.”

Inside the Trains

Convenience is one thing, but comfort and safety is important too.

“You sort of need a thick skin to take the “L” just to ignore things around you that may make you feel uncomfortable,” says DeSantis.

According to the Chicago Tribune, theft is ranked the number one crime on the train and the robbers target riders carrying smartphones and tablets.

“I was taking the red line and this guy was sitting by the seats right next to the door on his iPad,” says DeSantis. “There was this teenager who was standing by the door like he was going to get off at the next stop. He was eyeing the guy’s iPad and the next stop came and the kid didn’t get off. He was standing there with the doors open then just as the announcer said “doors closing” the teenager grabbed the guys iPad out of his hands and started running.”

The Chicago Tribune also says that the CTA plans to put “crime fighting surveillance technology” in more than 800 of the older train cars.

The Metra, on the other hand, has its own police force called The Metra Police Department.

“I think having the train conductors walking around the whole time contributes to not having any crime,” says Joanna Wesoly, a Metra commuter. “I feel very safe on the train and if I’m ever tired, I can fall asleep knowing my stuff is not going to get taken. Plus, everyone is nice enough so if you fall asleep, they will wake you up.”

According to Metra’s website, they have over 100 sworn officers who are responsible for all of the lines and stations.

“I haven’t witnessed any crime on the Metra,” says Goodman. “I feel very safe on my daily commute.  Comfort, however, is another matter.  I don’t usually like vinyl seats or sitting that close to other people, but if they only had leather recliners…”

Show Me the Money

With the economy the way it is, everyone is looking for ways to keep money in their pockets.

“If prices for the Metra went up, I would rather drive than pay money to sit in a box for two hours,” says Wesoly.

The CTA has just raised their fares, which caused a lot of people to stock pile passes before this happened.

As of January 14, 2013 one-day passes cost $10, instead of $5.75, three-day passes went from $14 to $20, weekly passes from $23 to $28 and 30-day passes will now cost $100, which is a $14 increase.

The Metra costs  $4.25 for a one-way ticket, $42.50 for a 10-ride ticket and $121 for a monthly pass.

“I would never take the Metra,” says DeSantis. “The Metra is more expensive and I save money by taking the “L”. I can put up with the lack of cleanliness on the L for the convenience and ease of it.”

“I think they should charge more as they can barely operate with the fees they currently charge,” says Goodman about the Metra. “They can’t offer additional trains or extra cars if they can barely meet their operating costs.  There is enough legitimate demand to avoid taxpayer subsidies.”

Decisions, Decisions

The Metra offers a safe, cleaner, and comfortable way to travel, but the costs are high and it might not get you exactly where you need to go.

While the “L” is convenient and cheaper, you never know what kind of ride you will have and what kind of people you will encounter and hold on tight to your belongings.

It truly is a matter of preference and what you need as a commuter. There is no right or wrong answer, which train is better rests solely in the hands of each individual commuter.

A classmate talks to me about her relationship with God.

This is a close-up of my dog Payton, he is a pitbull mix. I used the rule of thirds in order to take portraits of him. The background is dark which helps highlight the subject.Close

This is a wide shot of Payton continuing with the rule of thirds theme.

This is a medium shot portrait of Payton, using the rule of thirds to focus your eye on him.


This is Payton’s face on my lap, I thought this one would be a good one to edit and play around with.
Edit - Original

This is the edit of the one above. I sharpened it, added more color and cropped it. Edit


Bed Sheets Aid Prison Break

Two men escaped from the 15th floor of the high-rise federal prison in downtown Chicago using knotted bed sheets in the middle of the night.

Convicted bank robbers, Joseph “Jose” Banks, 37, and Kenneth Conley, 38, vanished from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in the middle of the night through five-inch windows.

“You see they managed to get the bed sheets and tie them together, there’s a bit of a fashioned harness that they made there,” said CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, a former FBI deputy director on CBS News. “The question is what kind of help did they have from the trustees in the prison supplying the sheets and then you have to go to the less comfortable question, what about from staff or corrections officers. This is nothing something they dreamed up in 10 minutes.”

The two were last seen in their cell at 10 p.m. and weren’t discovered missing until over four hours later, when workers spotted the bed sheets dangling. 

A surveillance camera caught the two escapees getting into a downtown taxi around 2:41 a.m.

“They may have received help getting rid of their prison jumpsuits because when they were seen entering a cab, they were wearing gray sweatpants and white T-shirts, said Miller on CBS News. “Somebody in a car, somebody in a van, somebody waiting with clothes (was there.) Inside help. Outside help. And it’s interesting.”

When they were discovered to be missing, their cell was full of evidence showing a very precise, planned out escape. There was clothing taped together under blankets on the bed to look like bodies and bars in the mattress.

After the Escape 

Banks was caught two days later on the North Side, while Conley was caught over two weeks after the escape in South Suburban Palos Hills wearing a disguise. 

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, FBI spokeswoman Joan Hyde said the bureau has received numerous tips from the public, but said she could not disclose what led agents to the location of the arrest.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions as to how the guards didn’t see any of the escape. 

History Repeating

Conley and Banks did not have a relationship before coming the prison. Banks was serving an 80-year sentence with Conley serving 20 years. Bank, however, is one of the most successful thieves in Chicago’s history. He is suspected in at least 20 different robberies around the city.

Prosecutors dropped escape charges against Banks, but Conley was charged an additional five on top of his original sentence. 

This is the second escape in the 37-yeard old prisons history.

Authorities say this is similar to a breakout in 1985 were two convicted murders escaped using a weight to break their cell window.  The two convicts Bernard Welch and Hugh Colomb, also used bed sheets and electrical cords to climb down the building.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, a union official said further investigation showed that a staffing shortage at the jail contributed to a series of security confusions that made the escape possible.

View Map of Burglaries in Chicago in 2013.Image

The Maine South Hawks freshmen A team remains undefeated with one tie as they battled for a win against the Evanston Wildkits freshmen A team Saturday at Murney Lazier Field.

The Hawks win in a low scoring game 15-8, regardless of both teams combining for 12 dropped passes in the first half alone.

Bitter cold winds on Saturday and temperatures in the upper 30’s effected the passing game. Maine South had five of the dropped passes while Evanston provided the other seven.

“It was cold, but I just had to play through it,” said Maine South wide receiver Jonathan Arenas. “Eventually you just stop thinking about it.”

Evanston controlled most of the first half with quarterback draw plays and quick slants resulting in multiple drives ending in Maine South territory.

However, Maine South was able to stop further damage with key defensive plays from their defensive line. Maine South defensive line put consistent pressure on the Evanston offense forcing them to make plays.

At halftime Maine South’s coach Scott Tumilty let them know why this wasn’t an acceptable effort. “They are playing harder. Nobody is mad. Nobody is focused.”

It’s no surprise that both teams came out working the running game the second half.

Despite the first half struggle Maine South quarterback Brian Collis and surging receiver Arenas came out at half time connecting with over seven catches.

“I just put everything I had into each route,” said Arenas. “I wasn’t thinking about anything other then the play I was about to run.”

Maine South scored with a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and tied the game after completing a pass to the running back Julian Hudson scoring a necessary two-point conversion.

Both defenses buckled down creating a lot of turnovers with the game tied 8-8, until a minute left in the fourth quarter.

Maine South had the ball with 20 seconds left in the game. They lined up for their first field goal attempt of the season.

The ball is spiked and with time running down, Maine South fakes the field goal and completes a touchdown pass to Hudson.

Despite Evanston having a lot of size on Maine South, once they got fired up, there was no stopping them.  They kept their undefeated season alive.

“We came back and played with heart,” said Coach Tumilty. “ We should have started the game with the same mentality, but we won.”


GAME NOTES: Three of the Maine South players are out due to injuries- Salvatore Milazzo, offensive and defensive lineman, is out for the entire season with a broken wrist. Dominic Loise, offensive guard, is out for the rest of the season with a fractured vertebra. Nicholas Cecala is out for the season with a severe concussion.

I think with the Internet constantly changing and the world of journalism constantly evolving it’s hard to keep up and keep viewers happy. When searching the web I came across four different examples of good sports storytelling.

The first one comes from PBS and it’s similar to the NCAA article I spoke about in my last blog; it is called Football High.  It’s about a topic that in my opinion does not get as much coverage as it should.

It talks about how far high school athletes are being pushed and at what cost. This has a video that presents the issues and stories of people who have experienced the effects of playing football in high school. It also has links below the video that offers you the option to look further into the story.

There is a Q&A article, a full interviews link including everything we didn’t see, a video and story about a popular high school quarterback and another article and video that looks even more to the beginning of football, pee wee. This site is a great example of giving the reader everything it wants and an example as to what viewers should be getting with every story.

Everyone has a different preference in how they like to view information. I think does a great job presenting information in a creative, visual way.

It’s interesting to me how they compare soccer players with some of America’s most beloved players from other sports. It helps readers relate and understand the information they are trying to get across. It’s an easy and fast way to get information about the different salaries of players and sports.

If you are a basketball fan, then I know you have had the discussion who is better LeBron James or Michael Jordan. It would be very easy for me to give you my opinion on it, but I found an article that did a nice job of not only arguing the point, but also showing stats, visuals and video to go along with it.

The featured columnist does a good job of trying to put whatever debate is being had to rest and so eloquently states, “James will never be Jordan, but don’t let that take away from who James is.” Aside from what the article is about, it gives viewers stats to compare and visuals to look at that break up the article and give it a leg up from the rest.

Lastly we have the NBA slam dunk contest break down. This site not only presents its data in a unique way, it also allows you to watch the video of the player you select and their dunks.

You search by year and then each dot is a player and it gives you the player, year, dunk, round and score. It’s a whole lot easier to sift through information and it presents it in a more enjoyable way. This is exactly what users want fast, easy and accessible information.

After watching the PBS Frontline video, Money and March Madness, you have the option of clicking the four links below to find out more. The links below go into greater detail; details that would take the video to a place where viewers would just stop watching.

The lawsuit is a complicated process, with a lot of details and terms that aren’t well known to the average viewer. The lawsuit link gives readers the ability to see the actual documents shown in the video, like the student athlete statement that needs to be signed by the players and the NCAA Division I manual.

The sponsor chart is a unique, visual aspect that shows the amount of teams sponsored by companies like Nike and Adidas. It gives actual values that would be too much to take in by listening alone.

The discussion link gives a place for fans to go and share their feelings on the topic, which is something you can’t get from the video and articles alone.

The sound bites in the video are chosen by the creators; they think the clips they provide are best of what they have, but I say let the viewers be the judge of that. The interviews link lets the viewers go and see what was edited out of the video. It helps with that question we ask in our heads  “why didn’t they ask this or that?”

The links below really provide additional detail to the viewers that they would never have access to otherwise. It gives the readers the option to look more into the topic if they choose to. It really enables us, as the viewers, to make up our own minds about the situation and gives us the ability to say, “I looked at all the information that was given and made up my own mind.”

To see more go to Money and March Madness