It’s called “the double-pass,” and as someone who has lived the bulk of his life along various stops on the Metra Electric and Rock Island commuter train lines (both at city and suburban locations), the routine has become a part of the character of going to a White Sox game.
I purchase a pair of tickets (one for the return ride home) to ride a Metra commuter train to the end of the line (Michigan Avenue for Metra Electric, Van Buren Street for Rock Island). Once I am in the heart of downtown Chicago, I walk a couple of blocks until I hit State Street and the Chicago Transit Authority.
ON “THAT GREAT Street,” I catch a Red Line subway train (I still think of it as the Dan Ryan Line) that takes me back south a bit until we hit 35th Street. When I get to stand on the CTA train platform that runs down the middle of the Dan Ryan Expressway, I get to see the colossus of a ballpark where the White Sox play 81 times each season.
But the backtracking of different train lines (the whole trip can cost just over $10) is a pain in the butt. It’s almost enough to get me to give up on watching baseball live (or else settle for the Joliet Jackhammers of the Northern League, as my all-time favorite minor league ballclub - the Springfield Capitals of the Frontier League - no longer exist).
Which is why I got my kicks this week when I learned Metra commuter railroad officials are going ahead with construction work on a new station at 35th Street. Located directly against the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology, the station also would be within sight – and walking distance – of U.S. Cellular Field.
From the years when I routinely rode the Rock Island line trains (which go from LaSalle and Van Buren streets to Union Station in downtown Joliet), I know the commute for a ballgame was particularly infuriating because as the train progressed north from places like Beverly and Mount Greenwood into the central city, it approaches 35th Street and one can see the stadium looming over the expressway and the train tracks.
IT WAS ALMOST enough to make those of us wanting to go to a ballgame want to hijack the train and force a Metra conductor to open the train doors so we could “hop off” right at the place where the Armour Square and Bronzeville neighborhoods meet (and where the White Sox’ stadium is located – Bridgeport is actually the next neighborhood over to the west of the stadium).
Yet those of us on board the train wanting to go to a ballgame would have to resign ourselves to passing the building by and waiting until we got downtown for a second train – one that would actually stop at the stadium and let us get off.
Now, assuming that no more regional politics interfere, 2008 will go into the books as the final season that those of us South Siders (both the city type and the south suburban ones who serve as an extension of the Great South Side) will have to do the double-pass in order to see a Sox game.
Now some people would argue that I should just drive to the game (my brother is one of those, he hates taking the commuter trains because he objects to the double-pass). I disagree, in large part because I hate having to pay for parking. A legal spot near the stadium can cost about $20 (an illegal one involves putting one’s car at risk, and isn’t worth it).
I ENJOY THE idea of being able to walk up to the building without going through the hassle of finding a parking space, and knowing I can just walk away from the building after the game without having to fight my way out of the parking lots filled with other motorists – all of whom want to get out of the neighborhood as soon as possible.
So I have learned to tolerate the double-pass.
But I will thoroughly enjoy being able to go to a ballgame and get off the train directly at the stadium, and know that after the game I can just walk to a train platform and catch a return ride home. I will no longer have to become a clock-watcher once the game gets into the seventh or eighth innings.
It is the reality of attending a weekday night game (of which there are many played each season) that one has to get out of the stadium by about 10 p.m. (10:10 p.m. – at the latest) if they are to catch a CTA train back north to downtown, then hustle over to the Metra station to catch the 10:55 p.m. train headed south – which will pass U.S. Cellular Field sometime about 11:05 p.m.
IT WOULD BE so nice to know I could just catch the train directly, and that the concept of missing the final inning of a game because I didn’t want to miss the 10:55 p.m. train (and be stuck on the “last train of the night” at 12:30 a.m. that wouldn’t get me home until a ridiculously late hour) is a thing of the past.
At a time when government officials in Chicago are always trying to urge people NOT to drive their cars everywhere and to want to visit attractions in Chicago, it always struck me as pathetic that it was the political people who stopped a 35th Street station from being built before now.
It is the politics of mass transit in Chicago that the CTA is perceived as a city-based system with a few end-of-the-line suburban stops, while Metra trains are perceived as suburban-based systems that take people to downtown Chicago – and nowhere else.
Politicos who think like that always saw it as a waste of suburban transit dollars to build a new train station in the city – even if it would be largely a suburban audience that would be able to enjoy it. Technically, even a rural audience could use the stop, if they were to take an Amtrak intercity train to Joliet, then walk to the other end of the station’s platform and catch the Metra train to 35th street.
JUST IMAGINE – A pair of trains could take you from the Statehouse in Springfield or the Illinois State University campus in Normal to U.S. Cellular Field. More adventurous people could use the railroad pairing to go from St. Louis’ Busch Stadium to “the Cell” – allowing fans of the two legitimate major league teams followed by Illinoisans to be joined at the track.
The point is, you won’t have to imagine it. Eliminating the double-pass will become reality as of 2009.
Basically, a league championship and World Series title for a Chicago major league team was the ultimate fantasy for many a South Sider. Getting to avoid the double-pass to go to a game is the second-best thing.
Now if we could just lose that mope in the blue jersey who insists on yelling “Sox stink” the entire game, then U.S. Cellular Field would truly be a baseball paradise.
EDITOR’S NOTES: Metra officials hope to accept bids for the actual construction work of a new (http://www.southtownstar.com/news/880933,0407metrasox.article) commuter train station later this year.
Here’s hoping that this information provided by Metra about the easiest way to get to a White Sox game (http://metrarail.com/Special_Promotions/baseball2008.html) will soon be obsolete.