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emathias Sep 23, 2009 6:43 PM


Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 4468685)
1) restoring the Paulina Connector
2) Block 37
3) the Dan Ryan connector subway

I accept your point about different agencies, although it sort of goes to a larger issue of a lack of coordinated long-term planning. To your other points:

1) While this is a Good Thing as it's a portion of the Circle Line, it didn't really add any new service for downtown, did it? It did increase frequency of service on the Douglas Branch, as well as for the Ashland and Clinton stops on Lake, but it did so at the expense of rush hour capacity in the Loop and I think overall it hasn't really enhanced mobility downtown significantly, if at all. If it ends up being a precursor to the Circle Line, or even just a station at Madison, great, but in and of itself it's not so exciting.

2) This isn't even completed, and there are no plans for it to be completed, and even if it was completed, it wouldn't add much new service. Although, I would LOVE to see the CTA create the Lake Street portal and route Green Line trains through the subway instead of over the Loop, which would free up capacity on the Loop during rush hour. I would think with the new signals and switches, that would be doable without causing too much chaos in the Red and Blue Line schedules. I actually think a West Loop express to the airports would make more sense, and that building a double-cross between the Blue and Red under Block 37 would have been a lot more valuable in the long term, and opened up some interesting Red/Blue routings.

3) You're citing a 20-year-old project that created no new service and allowed the CTA to better match ridership between branches to save costs as evidence of downtown investment? This is another one of those "could be helpful" things that, at present, isn't really adding much benefit for the central area per se.

For the cost of the Orange, Yellow and Red Line extensions, you could make a lot of progress on the the Clinton Street Subway and West Loop Transportation Center, both of which benefit downtown and outer neighborhoods. Or even revive the much-needed West Loop/Streeterville/McCormick Place portion of the 1968 Central Area Transit Plan. Either of those would not only benefit the Central Area, but would create potential for tie-ins for expanded rail service in a number of neighborhoods. If the Central Area Transit Plan portions I mentioned had been built in the 1970s, we'd now be talking about expanding the McCormick branch to Hyde Park, and maybe punching the Streeterville Branch north to Fullerton. But those aren't even options now, because of the lack of vision when it was first (and second and third) considered.

Most of the outlying neighborhoods in Chicago are built to a density that works very well with buses. It just amazes me that we're spending billions of dollars to enhance rail service in areas where existing bus service is either adequate or capable of being made adequate with far less expensive projects. I don't have a problem with the projects, per se - I am always glad to see more rail routes - and if the region had figured out how to do those AND build new routes in the central area, I'd have zero complaints. But if we can only invest in one or the other I think it's just plain mismanagement to invest in rail solutions in relatively low-density areas while doing nothing beyond generating constantly-changing plans for the densest, most economically critical portion of the city.

ardecila Sep 23, 2009 11:59 PM

Well, it's not like the projects don't have a decent rationale. The 95th Terminal station is indeed overcrowded, and heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic there slows down operations. Roseland, Auburn-Gresham, and West Pullman (and Altgeld Gardens) are all areas of transit dependence with a convenient ROW linking them all.

Bus congestion is also an issue with the Orange Line's Midway terminal, which was supposed to go to Ford City from the start, but got cut back (the destination signs on Orange Line trains have had a Ford City label for years).

Of course, full-blown line extensions are far more expensive than rebuilding the terminals to better manage large numbers of pedestrians and buses.

VivaLFuego Sep 24, 2009 5:06 AM

^emathias, I don't disagree with your reasoning, but remember, WLTC and the ever-changing downtown circulator are and always have been City of Chicago projects, not CTA projects :)

ardecila Sep 25, 2009 12:00 AM

Isn't that the whole gist of his post? If CTA was really interested in improving service downtown through capital spending, then they would have jumped on board with these projects.

The fact that city government is pushing these projects with little to no reciprocation by CTA is evidence of how at-odds their respective goals are.

VivaLFuego Sep 25, 2009 1:10 AM


Originally Posted by ardecila (Post 4473231)
Isn't that the whole gist of his post? If CTA was really interested in improving service downtown through capital spending, then they would have jumped on board with these projects.

The fact that city government is pushing these projects with little to no reciprocation by CTA is evidence of how at-odds their respective goals are.

No - my point is that's simply not how it works. Of course CTA staffers attend meetings at the City about CDOT projects, and city staffers attend meetings at CTA HQ about CTA projects. It's not like there isn't constant exchange of information, updates, input, insight, and so forth for any of these initiatives. I'm not sure what you mean by "jumping on board" or "reciprocation" - it has much more to do with City Hall wanting to own any and every capital improvement downtown, with the exception of when CTA's ownership allows it to tap different funding sources (i.e. CTA paying for the subway track renewal projects via bonding and stimulus funds vs. CDOT taking decades to rebuild downtown subway stations with formula-based CMAQ grants from the Feds).

If anything, I think the entire weird arrangement is just an argument in favor of *gasp* regional-level planning. But the one thing everyone agrees on is that RTA isn't equipped to spearhead these projects (and besides, RTA power is now skewed heavily towards the suburbs, the city would lose out in such an arrangement). Meanwhile CMAP (formerly NIPC and CATS) still struggles immensely to be taken seriously and listened to because of its relatively low visibility and general lack of binding decision-making power, though CMAP would be the best agency to handle conducting and prioritizing the planning studies for large capital projects before handing off design/construction to the actual operating agency e.g. CTA, IDOT, and so on.

OhioGuy Sep 26, 2009 3:10 AM

Residents protest Yellow Line extension


September 24, 2009

Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen urged the CTA to drop its plans to build a train station in the Niles North High School parking lot as the terminus of an expanded Yellow Line.

Van Dusen still maintains that some kind of public transit expansion in Skokie is needed to address future roadway congestion, but he now agrees that the CTA should abandon the Niles North plan, which the CTA has labeled the locally preferred alternative.

The mayor made his statement at Wednesday's CTA town hall meeting at Oakton Community Center after hours of heated testimony from a room of 300 interested persons. More than 50 of those citizens spoke, most of whom lambasted the plan and expressed incredulity that the CTA and the mayor even entertained the idea in the first place.

The concerns identified Wednesday night by residents included security, student safety, the likelihood of drawing more people from outside the high school to the campus, additional noise and the possibility of more criminals taking the train to appear at the nearby courthouse. And a smattering of the “not in my backyard” objections.

High school parents Wednesday said that the Niles North principal delivered an automated phone call message to all school parents urging them to come to the meeting and express their concerns.

By the time many finished impassioned pleas to scrap the plan, the mayor went on record for the first time to support them.

“I think we've all heard the sentiment of the residents, and I would urge the CTA to reconsider the Niles North alternative,” Van Dusen said to thunderous applause. “The residents I think have articulated reasons why they are so concerned. I can't express it any better than they have.”

While Van Dusen said that the Niles North plan should be scrapped, he said it's imperative that the village and the CTA prepare for expanded transportation to the Old Orchard area.

The CTA Board voted in August to support extending the Yellow Line tracks 1.6 miles north with elevated train tracks that would end in the Niles North parking lot with a bus terminal.

Under the plan, which has been estimated to cost as much as $270 million, the tracks would head northbound along abandoned railroad tracks from Dempster to Golf Road. At Golf, the alignment would curve east and parallel the east side of the Edens Expressway. The CTA, as part of its plan, also wants to build a parking garage that would be shared by high school and public transit drivers. The extension would open in 2016.

The Dempster Street station would be completely rebuilt to accommodate greater activity. Van Dusen would like the CTA to consider two other finalists for CTA recommendation. One would extend the Yellow Line but end the tracks west of the Edens, a plan many residents booed at Wednesday, while the other was a rapid bus transit system.

Projections show that roadway traffic in the future will increase 25 percent, the mayor said. “That will be strangulation. It will deter economic development.”

Van Dusen said that ridership on the Swift is 18 percent higher than the Brown Line. And developers interested in coming to Skokie often ask whether the Swift will be extended, he said. “We've got to find a way to extend it. There is an appetite if rapid transit is convenient and affordable to use.”

The mayor had pushed for an expansion of the Yellow Line, commonly called the Skokie Swift, from Dempster Street to downtown Skokie and to the Old Orchard area for years. While an Oakton Street downtown Skokie station is being built, expanding the line north — to Westfield Old Orchard, National-Louis University, the Skokie courthouse, the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center and Skokie Hospital has always been more controversial.

But the CTA's official support for the Niles North plan this summer ramped up the controversy.

“I don't think that if I had a child going into Niles North in six years, that I'd be very happy to know that they'd be willing to put a parking lot in my child's school let alone a major CTA line with drop-off,” said high school parent Gabriela Tidhar. “I don't think there's any school in the state or the North Shore that has a parking garage probably due to safety and security reasons.”

Despite repeated requests from CTA officials to hold the applause, citizens throughout the night gave loud support to speaker after speaker who challenged the Niles North plan. CTA officials did not respond to the speakers, but a spokesman before the hearing said that the plan is not set in stone.

Although the CTA held two public hearings prior to the CTA Board vote to support the plan, residents had to deliver questions by writing them on cards.

At the first hearing in 2008, before the plan for a Niles North station was developed, a CTA spokesman said most people who submitted cards supported expanding the Yellow Line to the Old Orchard area. But no more than two or three people voiced support for the plan at Wednesday's meeting.

Skokie Village Trustee Randy Roberts kicked off public comments by embracing an expansion of the Yellow Line.

“I'm here tonight to speak in favor of the expansion of the Skokie Swift,” Roberts said, “although I want to say from the beginning that I'm not wedded or committed to this specific alternative that the CTA has chosen. I think this is the biggest public works project in the history of the village. The economic development to our village, the lessening of traffic congestion and the reduction of environmental pollution would make us a first-class village.”

He was followed by parent Debra Yampol who also supported an expansion.

“We don't drive and we're not in a position to be buying a car,” Yampol said. “To have a way where (students) can get to school and sleep a little bit longer, get home a lot faster, have a much more direct route to me is a really positive thing.”

But these first two speakers proved to be the exception. Even if the CTA abandons the Niles North plan, many residents still oppose a Yellow Line expansion along the same route because they say trains would travel too close to many homes in five different neighborhoods.

“The concerns of the Yellow Line extension that we heard here tonight are so many and they're so obvious that we should also be addressing another concern,” said Marda Dunsky, who has helped organize and mobilize opponents of the plan.

“How did we get here? How did this happen? How has this gotten this far with so few residents knowing the details of the proposed expansion and with the CTA Board having already approved it?”

Parent Lisa Lipin called the plan “a dangerous and unwise proposition for our community.” Lipin said the combination of student and public transit parking poses safety and legal questions since part of the plan is to run a bus from school grounds to the courthouse.

“The Illinois criminal code prohibits registered sex offenders from coming 500 feet of a school as well as a park,” she said.

Opponents of the plan have also been urging Niles Township High School District 219 to take a strong position against it.

Superintendent Nanciann Gatta Wednesday said the locally preferred alternative is not District 219's preferred alternative.

“We have extremely limited space on the Niles North campus,” which is attended by 2,200 students, she said. “The site is landlocked and we're already challenged by inadequate parking for staff and students and a very confined area to accommodate school buses and other vehicle access.”

Parent Irma Katz asserted there are other spaces in the Old Orchard area that would be more appropriate for a train station than on Niles North property.

The CTA recorded all comments Wednesday night and will accept written comment through much of October before releasing a report either in late 2009 or early 2010. Whether the CTA will abandon the proposal for a Niles North High School station was left unclear by the end of the spirited meeting.
I personally support the extension of the yellow line to Old Orchard...

ardecila Sep 26, 2009 4:00 AM

I do too, but CTA needs to build the station closer to the mall, for cripes' sake. Extend the line 2 blocks further east from the current (planned) terminal, to place the station on Old Orchard property. I know the mall management doesn't want it on their property, but it makes the most sense there, and there's always eminent domain.

VivaLFuego Sep 26, 2009 6:02 AM

Based on that meeting, my ideal outcome at this point would be to eminent domain the school parking lot, bulldoze it, then just pull the plug on the entire project and sell the land for redevelopment specifying that the only allowable uses as part of a responsive bid to buy the land include an adult book superstore / strip club megaplex, halfway house, methadone clinic, or some combination thereof.

Or just kill the project now and stop wasting anybody's time and money. Either way.

the urban politician Sep 26, 2009 7:22 PM

^ Yeah, I mean if they don't want mass transit then to hell with it.

As they say, be careful what you wish for...

Will they regret this decision in 20-30 years? I know some people in Georgetown, Washington DC regret blocking a station in the DC Metro when it was being built in the 60's/70's.

Anyhow, this means one less competitor for other projects such as the Orange/Red Line extensions, Carrol Ave subway, Monroe Transitway, Airport Express, etc etc (projects that I'm more interested in seeing get done anyhow).

Chicago Shawn Sep 26, 2009 8:06 PM

Yeah, to hell with it. Any other alternative will cost more, or will be just a waste of money. Screw it, they deserve their plight when traffic grid-locks their community in the future. Plenty of other uses for that money.

I am actually considering a personal boycott of all Skokie businesses. If they don't want "dirty and dangerous" public transit riders arriving in their community, then I guess they don't want the additional sales tax revenue from them.

VivaLFuego Sep 26, 2009 11:57 PM


Originally Posted by Chicago Shawn (Post 4476285)
I am actually considering a personal boycott of all Skokie businesses. If they don't want "dirty and dangerous" public transit riders arriving in their community, then I guess they don't want the additional sales tax revenue from them.


Wait, you mean people other than registered sex offenders on their way to court use public transit?

What haven't you told us, Shawn??!!

Nowhereman1280 Sep 27, 2009 4:15 AM

Wow, I never realized that Skokie is straight up racist and classist, not even trying to veil their discriminatory opinions. They are basically saying "I don't want the yellow line because 'inner city' (aka black) people might get a job here and commute out. Everyone knows that means that they will rob our children." Thanks for being completely ignorant Skokie.

LaSalle.St.Station Sep 27, 2009 5:24 AM

Shouldn't the cta's first priority be to expand to non service areas of Chicago first ? and then expand into the burbs?

Mr Downtown Sep 27, 2009 2:24 PM

^CTA is not a city agency. It's an independent municipal corporation whose service area includes about three dozen Cook County suburbs. The constant funding problems and friction between city and suburbs about "our transit system" and "their transit system" has prompted CTA in recent years to see the inner suburbs as a particularly important constituency.

the urban politician Sep 27, 2009 2:51 PM


Originally Posted by Mr Downtown (Post 4477152)
^CTA is not a city agency. It's an independent municipal corporation whose service area includes about three dozen Cook County suburbs. The constant funding problems and friction between city and suburbs about "our transit system" and "their transit system" has prompted CTA in recent years to see the inner suburbs as a particularly important constituency.

^ All the more reason why Chicagoland badly needs a unified mass transit agency, on the order of NYC's Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

CTA/Metra/Pace all wrapped in one.

bnk Sep 27, 2009 3:28 PM


Thought that was the goal of the RTA

the urban politician Sep 27, 2009 4:49 PM

^ Seems like RTA has failed.

The State needs to want to do this. So far all we've seen is mere piddling, piffling, and misdirection--a theme that defines how Illinois & Chicago leaders and their citizens have generally tended to address their mass transit problems.

Busy Bee Sep 27, 2009 4:59 PM

Maybe SNCF can come in and run it. :)

Mr Downtown Sep 27, 2009 6:37 PM

You think all is sweetness and light between the MTA and NYCTA?

It's the eternal battle between basing service levels on who's paying for it and basing service on who's using it. It's a constant battle, worldwide, and in each city the pendulum first swings one way, toward having a big unified agency, and then swings the other way, toward breaking it up into smaller operating agencies. Thirty years later, it swings back the other way.

Via Chicago Sep 28, 2009 3:00 AM

Eisenhower Expressway expansion project is the next big thing

About seven miles could get wider from Mannheim Road to Cicero Avenue

After promises for years that studies were in the works, preliminary engineering is finally under way for the Eisenhower Expressway expansion project, the next huge highway reconstruction planned for the Chicago area.

Several years of intensive planning, and more than $1 billion in cold cash, will get the job done.
If this still entails demolishing entire city blocks in Forest Park, Oak Park, Chicago, etc...Im truly dead set against this.

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