Friday, October 4, 2013

Do we really need to read text messages while riding underground the city?

I'd bet that when the subway tunnels were built in the early 1940s, no one thought they'd ever have to be upgraded for an improved communications network. You want to talk to someone? Use a payphone! Photograph provided by CTA Historical Photo Connection
Perhaps this is a generational issue, and I’m just on the wrong side of the equation. This definitely is a move being contemplated by the Chicago Transit Authority for people not like me in mind.

But I can’t really comprehend the need for an upgrade of the underground wireless network that currently exists in the tunnels that are used by elevated trains for those moments when the track drops down from being an “el” to being a “subway.”

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE reported Thursday that CTA officials are seeking bids from telecommunications companies to see who could install an improved system the cheapest in the 12 miles of track that run as subway along the Red and Blue lines.

It seems that the current system that has been in place in recent years merely allows for someone to use their cellular telephone or smartphone while underground to actually make a telephone call.

For sending text messages or trying to read something off the Internet, it just isn’t capable of handling such tasks.

Which means people who are in the process of transporting themselves via the “el” from one point to another have to actually wait until the train pops out of the portions where it is subway.

OR, A MORE radical thought; they have to wait until they actually get to their destination and leave the underground stations before they have full access to the many services a smartphone can offer – but which all too often are wasted on such trivial tasks.

CTA officials told the Tribune that people riding an “el” train during its moments of being a subway to refresh Facebook feeds or watch podcasts.

Personally, in those moments when I ride underground on the “el,” I’m more focused on paying attention to the people who happen to be surrounding me on the train. I’d think paying too much attention to one’s little device would be a sure-fire way of making myself a target for someone who might have “robbery” on their mind.

At the very least, I’d think it would be advertising myself as someone who has a smartphone worth stealing. I’d feel more secure reaching into my wallet and waving around whatever dollar bills I happened to have in my possession at that given moment.

EVEN IF THAT weren’t the case, I can’t help but wonder what could be so important that it couldn’t wait a few minutes (because most of the “el” system is above ground, which is why we call it the “el” even when it is underground)!

There are times when I think some of my Facebook friends do little more than put narcissistic thoughts about themselves out there for all to see – although I’m sure some of them probably think I’m posting dreary, dull stuff.

Or maybe they think I’m as full of myself as I think they are of themselves.

The point being that maybe we’d all be a bit better off if there were moments when we weren’t fully accessible at all seconds of the day.

GUESS WHAT? IF you had to wait a few minutes before you could read this particular commentary, it wouldn’t change the overall stance. The point being made would remain the same!

But it seems this is the direction the CTA is headed. The Tribune reported that officials hope to have an improved system in place by next summer.

Although I should admit one potential plus to this trend – the fact that the last time I rode a subway/el (Saturday, I used a train/bus combination to get to the Criminal Courts building and back for the duties I do for a suburban daily newspaper) there were no newspapers or other paper scattered around the train cars.

I’m just not sure that litter-free railcars justify the cost of a communications upgrade.


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