Public Safety While Commuting in Chicago

As college students are forming into career-ready adults, many times our most frequent way of transportation will be public. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is the public transportation system operated through the Chicagoland area by bus and train. The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is one of the Chicagoland universities that has a higher statistic of students commuting to class rather than living on-campus. The university even offers a “Commuter Resource Center” because of its high rate of commuter students.

                                                                           Image taken from Google, depicting CTA train routes

Unfortunately, traveling via public transportation isn’t always the safest, most comfortable, or suitable situation. The “Stop Street Harassment” organization conducted a study and found of the 168 neighborhoods surveyed throughout Chicago, 86% of the women had been sexually harassed verbally, leaving 60% of the women feeling unsafe walking and commuting around their city.

“I usually take the CTA to work each morning. Whenever I board the bus, I go straight to the back to get a seat because it gets super crowded in the morning. I did as I usually do and rode to my stop near my work. When I got off, I realized my pants were feeling wet, and the smell was inevitable. The seat on the bus was drenched in urine. I had no choice but to continue my day at work looking and smelling like this,” said a mortified Marissa Valdez. 

Savanna Torres described how she was on her way to high school while standing by the train doors, a man pressed her up against the glass. “He was leaning into me, not saying anything. I was using my bookbag to push him off. I kept trying to convince myself he was doing it on accident, but it was evident he wasn’t by the way he was staring into my face.” Even though this wasn’t her planned destination, Torres ran off the train on the next stop.

On the Blue Line train, Anna Rubino witnessed a man next to her pull down his pants and start masturbating.

Megan Rowe was riding the escalator after exiting the Blue Line when a man turned around and started grabbing his genital area and thrusting toward her. Luckily Rowe and the man reached the end of the escalator and were in view of the public again. Simply while walking down the street, many women can agree they have heard over and over again sexual slurs being called out to them.

Men aren’t always the perpetrators when it comes to harassment on the CTA. Mariah Rodriguez recalled a time where she waiting for the Orange Line to return home from class and a group of girls threatened her. “There was a small group of girls who had to be no older than 15 years old. They kept being obnoxiously loud and screaming at this older man, which seemed like they were trying to intimidate him. I was looking in their direction to see what was going on, and they approached me. One of the girls told me ‘you keep giving dirty looks; I’ll steal your phone right now.’ I just laughed and continued to wait for my train.”

Like Rodriguez, girls, boys, men, women, elderly or young, should not fear for their life or feel uncomfortable when using public transportation or being in public in general. Though not all scenarios will easily be solved by “laughing it off” or “ignoring it” the CTA implements prevention tactics.

The CTA continuously campaigns the idea of “if you see something, say something.” Be it a suspicious package, harassment, un-clean areas, it is better to report suspicious activity to prevent potential unwanted circumstances. Prevention tactics, an increase of security, and overall more time dedicated to the safety of the public can help lessen the chances of public harassment and civilians feeling unsafe in and around their own neighborhoods.