CTA bus drivers who are alert make city streets safer

I read the Feb. 8 article “Woman sought help in vain” about the robbery and assault of a woman going to work with a now familiar feeling of sorrow and alarm. I’ve lived in Chicago for 45 years and I have never felt as vulnerable as I do now. My neighborhood, like others, has had an unprecedented increase in these armed robberies. This is bad enough. But the purely gratuitous beatings that often accompany them fill me with despair.

Like the unnamed victim, I am a CTA rider. It’s my sole method of transportation, and in my many years of public transportation use, I’ve observed a lot of bus drivers. While I know the bus driver’s primary responsibility is to drive the bus safely, it is obvious that some drivers’ peripheral vision and awareness of what is happening on the streets is better than others. Many drivers do notice frantically waving passengers running to catch the bus and wait the few seconds it takes for the passenger to board. Other drivers, not so much. It often seems they are ignoring anyone who might be trying to catch the too-often infrequent buses. Many times, I’ve been close enough to bang on the side of the bus to try and get them to wait another few seconds at the stop and have been ignored.

The attentive drivers are obviously a credit to the CTA. Moreover, I’ve had two personal experiences where actual assaults were observed from the bus, and the bus driver’s intervention caused the attacker to flee. As exclaimed by one of the passengers: “This bus saved that man’s life!” Perhaps an exaggeration but certainly the driver’s attentiveness was crucial.

It won’t stop this wave of senseless crimes, but all of us need to be attuned to what’s happening on our streets, and if something happens, help however we can. That includes bus drivers. This would go a long way to fulfilling the CTA’s goal of improving public transportation and could have invaluable public safety benefits.

Marjorie Isaacson, West Town

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Hats off to Tom Skilling

As a country music announcer, I was urged to practice audience relatability, or speak to my audience as if addressing them personally instead of as part of a larger crowd. I assume the same applies to some degree in TV. Tom Skilling, WGN’s retiring meteorologist, figured that out long ago.

Charisma, I’ve noticed, comes in two forms: There’s John F. Kennedy, Muhammad Ali-type charisma, then there’s the Tom Skilling variety. In today’s world, there’s room for both.

There are people who can clearly explain complex things — like weather — to people like me. They educate and do not intimidate. In this politically partisan, speak-now-and-think-later society, that’s a gift.

Add Skilling’s name to a short list of those with the same gift: Orion Samuelson, Ray Rayner, Harry Volkman, Wally Phillips, Fahey Flynn, and TV artist Bob Ross. If you’re familiar with them, consider yourself lucky. If not, Google them. We need more of their kind — and not just on the air.

Jim Newton, Itasca

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