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Operation Zero Ridership

Secret memo reveals CTA plans!


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December 30, 1992

To: Robert Belcaster

President, Chicago Transit Authority

Fr: William Wormwood

Vice President, Department of Deconstruction

Re: Year End Review of Operations

Attached for your approval is the revised final draft of the Department of Deconstruction's Year End Review. I'm confident you will be as surprised as I was to see how successful we have been. As the chart on page 43 indicates, (1) ridership is down, (2) revenues are down, and (3) passenger confidence in CTA reliability is at an all-time low. If 1993 proves half as successful, I predict we'll meet the mayor's goal of zero ridership long before the target date of December 31, 1999.

Following is a summary of the report's highlights.

1. Fare Chaos. As you no doubt remember, between April and July we made no fewer than five announcements regarding "experimental fare" plans, each more confusing than the last. In April we came up with the plan in which all fares were cut by 50 cents but transfers were eliminated. Three announcements later, in late June, this plan had mutated into a complicated three-tier structure with different fares for rush hour, off-peak, and weekend buses and trains. Finally, as you may remember, this operation was successfully completed with the "That and a quarter will get you a ride on the el" program, which has put the bother back into CTA travel by guaranteeing that even pass users have to worry about having exact change.

2. Rider Amenities. This year we began a program of auditioning all subway musicians to ensure that only loud, off-key performers with tiny repertoires are allowed on the platforms. Also this year we enhanced and standardized the performance of the Dementia Detail by providing each actor with one of 35 completely scripted rants (for example, from Rant 4, Religious Psychotic: "Jesus loves me, did you know that? Did you know that? He loves me. Yes. Yes. HEY, YOU, LISTEN TO ME, YES, YOU. JESUS LOVES ME! PUT DOWN THAT FUCKIN' PAPER! JESUS CHRIST LOVES ME!")

In a related pilot program we have trained several solicitors to conduct fund-raising campaigns on the Ravenswood lines. Sample spiel: "We're collecting money on the els today to keep kids off the streets!" This program is designed to make riders feel guilty if the don't cough up enough money to raise the price of a ride to cab-fare level.

3. The No Apologies Policy. Several of our fellow executives were skeptical about our Noncommunication Skills training and particularly the "No Apologies" workshops we held in September and October. However, I believe the program proved its mettle on Election Day this year, when CTA employees faced with two-hour delays on the Dan Ryan line during the morning rush hour steadfastly kept riders in the dark. One conductor, without explanation, told all passengers to get off the train at 35th Street. A moment later, the conductor in the train behind invited all those commuters to squish into his already crowded train, which then remained standing for 45 minutes between stations. On November 9, Tribune transportation reporter Gary Washburn described in detail the events of that day and blasted the CTA for providing "no explanation of what was going on." (Commendations have been issued to the appropriate employees.)

To give credit where it is due, I should point out that the Election Day fiasco and the publicity it engendered probably would not have been possible without the exemplary work of our colleagues in Loudspeaker Distortion. I hate to think how much less chaotic things might have gotten if commuters waiting on the platforms hadn't been clearly told: "CLICK, CLICK, GREEEEEEEEP! GZZZRACKLE, SQUAAAWWWK! AAAAAEEEEYYYEEE! HAVE YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE! CLICK, CLICK, GZZRACKLE, ATTENTION PLEASE! GZZRACKLE, CLICK, CLICK, CLICK. SQUAAWK! UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. Thank you."

In the year ahead you can look forward to several new initiatives from our department, including expansion of the Flapping Windows program as we discussed last month. I've been talking with some of the bright young people down in Maps and Signs and I think we'll have some innovative proposals soon. And, of course, we're all looking forward to the launch of Operation Vomiting Drunks.

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