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nomarandlee Aug 18, 2007 5:36 AM

Metra officials prod lawmakers
 
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/l...i_tab01_layout
Quote:

Metra officials prod lawmakers
They say funding for rail agency is falling by wayside



By Richard Wronski | Tribune staff reporter
10:25 PM CDT, August 17, 2007

Frustration at the General Assembly's inaction on transit funding boiled over Friday among Metra officials, who complained that their warnings of fare increases and service reductions were being ignored by legislators and Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

"This is crisis time," said Metra Chairwoman Carole Doris, releasing a four-page letter to Blagojevich and lawmakers outlining the consequences if they fail to cover a $226 million transit budget shortfall this year.

........Some legislators, including Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston), chairwoman of the House Mass Transit Committee, predict the 231-page piece of legislation, encompassing funding, transit agency reform and reorganization measures, will come to a vote before the end of August.....
More in link

The Cheat Aug 19, 2007 6:58 AM

I was in Chicago last week. Metra seems to work fine, but the CTA's L system is in need of major repairs. What's with all the slow zones?

See this article from January: Crain's Investigates: What's wrong with the CTA

Are they still spending "$130 million building a super-station under the Block 37 development on State Street that would anchor express service to O'Hare." Meanwhile the Blue Line has 6 mph slow zones?

Or the "Brown Line expansion, which has grown in cost from the $298 million estimated by the CTA in 1998 to $530 million today — not including $250 million needed to upgrade signals, structural steel and electrical substations."

And the "$37-million reconstruction of the Paulina connector" for the Pink line?

Track, signals, and other infrastructure is being neglected while flashy expansions and capital projects are going forward? What's up with that?

Edit: Here is a link to the slow zones map, which is updated regularly:
http://www.transitchicago.com/news/w...ticleid=107056

LaSalle.St.Station Aug 19, 2007 7:04 AM

The brown line was in danger of being shut down if fed funding was denied for this renovation. Thanks to the much maligned former guv Ryan, state money matched the Fed and its a go. Tons of progress has been made on the CTA in the last 20 years. much more to go though. Blue Line and Red Line North are next on the upgrade list.

VivaLFuego Aug 19, 2007 4:17 PM

Cheat,
CTA finally announced a plan to eliminate slow zones; of course at current they are most prominent because they are on the lines with the highest ridership (Blue, Red, and Brown), while those with lesser ridership are all in fantastic shape (Pink, Orange, Green). Basically, the latter lines would have been shut down completely if they hadnt been completely rebuilt over the last 15 years. Given that the new president was able to rearrange the capital budget in just a few months to accelerate the critical track repairs to the Red and Blue lines, there's definitely some concern that the previous CTA President was holding the track repairs out as a bargaining chip for more funding (<--speculation)

Anyway, Red Line slow zones are supposed to be substantially eliminated by Dec. 2007; Blue Line will be done by Sep 2007 in the subway, the portion in the expressway median will take at least a year because the work has to be contracted out (it's several thousand ties that have to be replaced, but the good news is that the portion between Addison and O'hare will be rebuilt to 70mph standard, i.e. what it was originally designed for, which should ultimately shave a couple more minutes off the running time). The Blue Line has been atrocious for about a year (~65 minutes travel time to O'hare when it's supposed to be about 40-45)....the Red slow zones have been annoying but overall the line has still been usable, at least (slow zones have added about 5 minutes to the end-to-end running time, Howard to Lake is presently about 40-42 minutes and should be around 35).

The downtown express station.....much-maligned, but the city forced CTA's hand on the project, because the development there was going forward and it represented the only opportunity in any of our lifetimes to build the connecting tunnels and an express station for service to both airports. Of course that $130mn could have gone a long way towards bus and railcar replacement, and track renewal....but in ~10-20 years when Chicago has high-speed airport express service to 2 major airports, will people remember the decision with fondness or disgust?

the urban politician Aug 19, 2007 8:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 3018960)
but in ~10-20 years when Chicago has high-speed airport express service to 2 major airports, will people remember the decision with fondness or disgust?

^ Will Chicago ever have this?

Inquiring minds want to know! :cool:

One thing that gets me is if Daley ever plans to use this renewed Central Area TIF to build a transit line through River North/Streeterville as he and others keep mentioning

VivaLFuego Aug 19, 2007 10:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the urban politician (Post 3019320)
^ Will Chicago ever have this?

I think yes, but to what degree is definitely still up in the air. The operational decisionmakers are definitely hush about what the near term plan is (I doubt there is one, really). But a nonstop service will of course be feasible pretty quickly; with good scheduling (coordination of blue line, red line, orange line, and airport trains and re-imposition of rush hour skip-stop at least on the Blue, and assuming all slow zones are eliminated and tracks upgraded to 70mph where appropriate), nonstop service via the normal 2 track blue line could reduce travel time by perhaps 4-6 minutes. Combine this with baggage tagging and boarding pass printing at a downtown terminal and moderately spruced up rail cars, then there is a market for a premium fare for the nonstop airport trains. The best case is that someone comes up with $1-2 billion for a full express operation, making most of the Blue Line into a 4-track line and enabling express trains to make the trip in 25-28 minutes, and building the new Midway express terminal over Cicero to integrate directly with the terminal. Perhaps the express trackage from Jefferson Park to Rosemont could be included in the long rage New Start of extending the Brown Line west along Lawrence to link up with Blue, and the modifications at the O'hare station could be rolled into the O'hare Modernization Project...

Quote:

One thing that gets me is if Daley ever plans to use this renewed Central Area TIF to build a transit line through River North/Streeterville as he and others keep mentioning
Short answer is yes, this is still happening, though right now, signs seem to point to it being a BRT line, at least at first :-/
The Mayor has recently over the past year or so become a very big fan of BRT after his experiences in various Latin American countries. He's even hinted publicly that in some cases he feels it may have been more cost efficient for both capital and operationas to replace the old rotting L lines with BRT instead of spending twice as much on rebuilding the L (might have been a useful insight around, say, 1993, Rich...) At least let's hope that provides some momentum to expand the bus signal priority program to more key arterials, enforce parking/traffic regulations, and maybe some further investment in bus facilities (e.g. many LED shelter signs to tie into the CTA Bus Tracker system)

the urban politician Aug 20, 2007 12:50 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 3019479)
Short answer is yes, this is still happening, though right now, signs seem to point to it being a BRT line, at least at first :-/
The Mayor has recently over the past year or so become a very big fan of BRT after his experiences in various Latin American countries. He's even hinted publicly that in some cases he feels it may have been more cost efficient for both capital and operationas to replace the old rotting L lines with BRT instead of spending twice as much on rebuilding the L (might have been a useful insight around, say, 1993, Rich...) At least let's hope that provides some momentum to expand the bus signal priority program to more key arterials, enforce parking/traffic regulations, and maybe some further investment in bus facilities (e.g. many LED shelter signs to tie into the CTA Bus Tracker system)

^ To Daley's credit (and you would know this better than I, so I'll defer to you on this), didn't he discuss eliminating the L system in the early 90's for this very reason?

I say 'credit', but in reality I personally prefer trains over BRT and I'm glad Chicago chose rebuild them instead of tearing them down

the urban politician Aug 21, 2007 3:35 AM

Interesting video recently posted on the Metra website called "Metra Connects" that describes all of their 'new starts' projects. It's very professionally done, and touts the benefits of transit to the entire Chicago region. It would be nice to see the CTA make a video like this:

http://metraconnects.metrarail.com/

Attrill Aug 22, 2007 4:32 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 3019479)
The best case is that someone comes up with $1-2 billion for a full express operation, making most of the Blue Line into a 4-track line and enabling express trains to make the trip in 25-28 minutes, and building the new Midway express terminal over Cicero to integrate directly with the terminal.

The Blue Line express plan was actually Kruesi's last gasp attempt to keep this idea alive, and also in the hands of the CTA. The best route for an express train would incorporate existing frieght and Metra lines. One good route to O'Hare is along the Metra UP-NW line to the MD-N line - check it out on Google Earth or something. You basically need a tunnel connecting the downtown station to the Ogilvy Station and then a connector from just after Gadstone Station to O'Hare (could be elevated over the Blue Line in the median). The majority of the rail would be along an existing 3 track ROW that has much wider turns than the Blue Line. Following the MD-N line could work as well.

Compare that to expanding the Blue line to 4 tracks where you'd need to:
  • Expand the tunnels between Grand-Division and Logan-Belmont to 4 tracks
  • Build a connector from the Blue Line after Grand to the new station
  • Buy and tear down a lot of buildings through Wicker Park and Logan Square (which makes the project DOA)
  • Either tear up the Kennedy or build above it for at least twice as far as the NW Metra plan

The Metra rails also have far fewer turns and are all at grade (no dropping in and out of tunnels). You could run a train at close to 100 MPH for much of the run.

From what I understand this was the original plan, but Metra wasn't interested and Kruesi wanted to do it.

Another ROW (that has been abandoned) is the old Short line rail where Madigan wants to put a tollway - it is perfect for an O'Hare - Midway connector.

Another option would be to use the NCS Metra Line, you would just need to connect from the existing O'Hare transfer station directly to the airport.

It seems kind of crazy to me to build a lot tunnels and tear up a bunch of neighborhoods when there are so many existing freight lines that connect O'Hare to downtown.

ardecila Aug 22, 2007 5:06 AM

The current plan would only add express tracks to the Blue Line between Addison and O'Hare. From there to downtown, it would either use existing tracks, or use UP-NW tracks.

VivaLFuego Aug 22, 2007 2:12 PM

^Attrill,
Yes, when I say "predominatly 4-track line" there would still be a few points where trackage is shared (e.g. from the Airport Express station to around Chicago Ave., and again from Rosemont to O'hare). Using the MD-N or UP-NW ROWs is, for the time being, a pipe dream, becuase the railroads weren't consulted on it and have no reason to agree to reducing their own capacity to allow for Airport Express trackage. If they sold air rights for an elevated structure, it would be quite expensive as it would have to be high enough in most places for a double-deck trailer bed to clear. And for the portion from Jeff Park - Cumberland in the I-90 median, no one has gotten any sort of approval/agreement from IDOT that they are the least bit interested in losing their inside shoulder for the project.

The only proposed express trackage that doesn't have major legal hurdles are the passing tracks that would be constructed along the Milwaukee El near Damen and California, as they would extend over the alley which is owned by the city. Those alone would allow for airport trains to jump ahead of one local train, so could theoretically gain a travel time savings of about 1 headway (4-8 minutes).

I always liked using the NCS as the airport express route, with a branch into the terminal as it crosses I-190 and further developing the O'hare Transfer station by connecting it to the people mover and also rerouting the Milwaukee Hiawatha trains there....but for whatever reason, the CTA route is what CDOT seems to have decided on in the late 1990s. I think the primary driver was that Block 37 was the most logical location for an express terminal that would be able to serve both airports.

Chicago3rd Aug 22, 2007 2:13 PM

Brownline Reconstruction - Addison Stop
 
Looking North from the southeast side of Addison
http://wilbsnodgrassiii.smugmug.com/...86684230-M.jpg

Looking North from the southwest side of Addison
http://wilbsnodgrassiii.smugmug.com/...86684240-M.jpg
http://wilbsnodgrassiii.smugmug.com/...86684246-M.jpg

Mr Downtown Aug 22, 2007 3:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 3024332)
the CTA route is what CDOT seems to have decided on in the late 1990s.

Two reasons, I think. First, having an airport terminal at Block 37 helps to reinforce the traditional Loop as the center of the CBD, while having it at CUS helps accelerate the trend for offices to move west.

Second, I talked with someone at one of the big transportation engineering firms (Edwards & Kelcey, maybe?) who said they ran simulations on both MILW-W and Blue Line, and everyone was surprised that Blue Line gave travel times just as fast.

It certainly seems like we need a downtown-O'Hare-Northwest Tollway rail corridor of some kind. I guess it seems a little shortsighted to cobble it together from the Blue Line, with the narrow ROW, tight turns, and close tunnel clearances. It's hard to see how that--with the restrictions on railcar size--will ever be suitable for any line running 30 miles or more.

nomarandlee Aug 22, 2007 6:49 PM

via a Moving Beyond Congestion e-letter I just got....

Quote:

Join
Mayor Richard M. Daley,
DuPage County Chairman Robert Schillerstrom,
House Mass Transit Committee Chair
Representative Julie Hamos,
House Mass Transit Committee Minority Spokesperson
Representative Sid Mathias
and
fellow advocates in support of transit funding and reform.

Tuesday, August 28th, Rally begins at 11:30 a.m.
James R. Thompson Center - outdoor plaza
100 W. Randolph - Chicago, IL


Dear Partner for Transit:

Join elected officials, representatives from the civic, business and labor communities and transit advocates from across the region in support of Senate Bill 572 on Tuesday, August 28th at 11:30 a.m. at the Thompson Center's outdoor plaza, Clark and Randolph streets in Chicago.
The General Assembly must act quickly to avoid fare hikes and service cuts that are scheduled for September. Show your support for transit investments and urge elected officials to act now!

Support Senate Bill 572 and Save Mass Transit!

For more information on how you can save mass transit please visit: http://movingbeyondcongestion.org/

Busy Bee Aug 22, 2007 6:54 PM

Bloomingdale ROW.

nomarandlee Aug 22, 2007 7:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 3024332)
^

I always liked using the NCS as the airport express route, with a branch into the terminal as it crosses I-190 and further developing the O'hare Transfer station by connecting it to the people mover and also rerouting the Milwaukee Hiawatha trains there....but for whatever reason, the CTA route is what CDOT seems to have decided on in the late 1990s. I think the primary driver was that Block 37 was the most logical location for an express terminal that would be able to serve both airports.

Using the NCS always seemed to make the most sense to me though an endpoint of should it terminate at the O'Hare transfer station or split off and merge with the blue line into the T2 would be an open question? I am not sure how difficult or complicated it would be to construct the portals around the Fulton Dist. where they cross and could join or the issue of electrification but I would think long term it would be a lot cheaper and less obstructed then the blue line route. I do remember someone claiming that the NCS route has capacity issues (even though it is pretty underused by Metra as of now) or something which I am not sure is true.

If the city was insistent on B37 as the center wouldn't it make more sense for the it to start there join somewhere in the Fulton District where the blue line and the NCS cross?

Having two express stations at both Union and B37 would be nice eventually but I guess one has to work first before you go to two.

One of the only advantages I see towards the blue line route is if also made stops at say at an intermodal Jefferson Park station to pick up near north residents.

Mr Downtown Aug 22, 2007 7:42 PM

Blue Line could also stop at Cumberland to serve--and encourage office development there (inside the city limits).

As for Bloomingdale, I'm not really sure how that helps. If you route airport trains along the Red Line to North/Clybourn, then west over the Bloomingdale Corridor to Pacific Junction, it seems like you're just trading Blue Line congestion for Red Line congestion.

http://img516.imageshack.us/img516/8...alecorrel9.png

mikeelm Aug 22, 2007 9:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by The Cheat (Post 3018614)
I was in Chicago last week. Metra seems to work fine, but the CTA's L system is in need of major repairs. What's with all the slow zones?

See this article from January: Crain's Investigates: What's wrong with the CTA

Are they still spending "$130 million building a super-station under the Block 37 development on State Street that would anchor express service to O'Hare." Meanwhile the Blue Line has 6 mph slow zones?

Or the "Brown Line expansion, which has grown in cost from the $298 million estimated by the CTA in 1998 to $530 million today — not including $250 million needed to upgrade signals, structural steel and electrical substations."

And the "$37-million reconstruction of the Paulina connector" for the Pink line?

Track, signals, and other infrastructure is being neglected while flashy expansions and capital projects are going forward? What's up with that?

Edit: Here is a link to the slow zones map, which is updated regularly:
http://www.transitchicago.com/news/w...ticleid=107056



The CTA should take care there infastructure
before spending all this money on other things.

cyked3 Aug 23, 2007 2:15 AM

I am really interested in this project -- it would establish downtown Chicago as a international business center with a density of professional services and transportation access without parallel anywhere around the world. Plus, it would be a great amenity for downtown residents, and folks near downtown that live near transit.

I had heard that there would only need to be two sets of passing tracks built along the Blue Line for the express train to have a 30 minute run time. That makes sense to me. With effectively train scheduling and if the headways on the Blue Line are every 4-8 minutes as someone said earlier, this seems doable if the typical run time is 45 minutes. Being able to check your bags downtown would be a big plus.

I don't like that the timeline and funding sources on this project are so hazy. Maybe the Central Area tax increment financing district can take care of that.

Attrill Aug 23, 2007 3:03 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 3024332)
^Attrill,
The only proposed express trackage that doesn't have major legal hurdles are the passing tracks that would be constructed along the Milwaukee El near Damen and California, as they would extend over the alley which is owned by the city. Those alone would allow for airport trains to jump ahead of one local train, so could theoretically gain a travel time savings of about 1 headway (4-8 minutes).

I always liked using the NCS as the airport express route, with a branch into the terminal as it crosses I-190 and further developing the O'hare Transfer station by connecting it to the people mover and also rerouting the Milwaukee Hiawatha trains there....but for whatever reason, the CTA route is what CDOT seems to have decided on in the late 1990s. I think the primary driver was that Block 37 was the most logical location for an express terminal that would be able to serve both airports.

There are a couple short sections (one between Damen and Western and another between Western and California) where the alley could be used for 1 extra track, but that leaves about 90% of the rail shared with the Blue Line. I'm sure a construction company can put together a report that shows how one or two small passing areas could allow for fast express service, but I'm skeptical - even before the the slow zones were instituted there were plenty of slow downs on the Blue line just to keep the cars spaced apart at rush hour. I'm not sure how they could incorporate one or two slow zones to offer a serious express train.

I think the Blue Line has to increase it's capacity just for regular commuters. Currently on the inbound morning commute you can't get a seat after Logan Square or California, and after Western or Damen you may need to wait for two or three trains before you can even force your way on. Adding an additional express line running on the track seems like a nightmare.

I really like the NCS as well. I'm not sure of why the freight lines aren't being looked at more seriously. I've talked to a friend who works for CDOT and he thinks that the plan has never even been seriously presented to the freight lines or Metra, and Kreusi saw it as a big money maker for the CTA if it ran along the Blue Line. Other options were proposed but never seriously considered. I find it very hard to believe that the Blue Line is the best option when there are so many freight/commuter rail lines running from downtown to within half a mile of O'Hare.

From what I've heard all plans for this are basically dead. Kruesi pushed the privately run express service for a few months before he got canned, but no one else in any trans authority backed him on it. The official line on the Blue Line plan is that it's "shelved" - but since Kruesi was canned it is pretty much dead. There needs to be a serious push for a true express line using one of the existing rail lines - however it happens there needs to be real express trains between O'Hare/Downtown/Midway.

The Bloomingdale line won't really add anything to this, it could be great for the proposed Circle Line, but it looks like it is well on it's way to becoming a park/bikeway. I'd prefer to see it in the Circle Line, but the bikeway and park is a great use for the ROW as well.


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