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-   -   CHICAGO: Transit Developments (https://skyscraperpage.com/forum/showthread.php?t=101657)

Beta_Magellan Jun 22, 2013 6:08 PM

From what I understand, it’s pretty much the combined result of fare increases and Clifford’s hiring of outside consultants (or maybe just one outside consultant).

1. Back in 2011, someone noticed that Metra was raising fares by 30% while simultaneously hiring a consultant for $225,000/six months, and decided to write their senators. Durbin and Kirk write to him, and I assume others do, too.

2. In 2012, due in part to the stuff from above, Brad O’Halloran, Metra’s then-new chairman, wants the board to have more oversight over things like hiring decisions and perks (Crain’s), and putting this online. He’s described as “reacting cooly” to this.

3. In its piece on Clifford’s departure, ABC notes:

Quote:

So it was Clifford's job to cleanse Metra of Pagano-era patronage and favoritism, and some think he did well toward that end. But Clifford's opponents - who grew in number - found the new boss to be abrasive, autocratic, unaware or unwilling to work with politicians who have say-so over Metra funding.
4. I’m not a Crain’s subscriber and hit my limit for articles, but it looks like there were contract issues, too.

5. Clifford resigns.

Based on this, I’d guess the big issue was that Clifford didn’t like the board hovering over him or constant political pressure on contracts and the like. Although I’m somewhat sympathetic, what did he expect when running a public agency, particularly one that’s been burned badly by its previous chief executive? There’s also an element of the board cutting off his head for stuff they approved (although I gather the board makeup has changed a bit since 2011), and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the political pressure was more patronage than good-governance oriented. Overall I don’t really have sympathy for anyone here.

emathias Jun 22, 2013 9:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ardecila (Post 6173761)
The dispute over Clifford is astonishingly vague in all the published accounts. I hope somebody like Ben Joravsky can shed some light on this.

Yeah, if Ben writes about it we'll know for sure that it was Rahm and Daley's doing ...

the urban politician Jun 22, 2013 11:19 PM

I'm just curious if anyone here has any pics of that new pedestrian scramble in the Loop in action? Life's been busy and I don't make it into the city as often as I'd like any more :( Thanks in advance if anybody is able to post some pics

pip Jun 23, 2013 2:43 AM

I don't have any pictures but I can speak from experience there the past few weeks at around 4-5 pm on Wednesdays.

It is a concept I was not familiar with so my natural reaction was not to look at the diagonal crossing of the intersection as a way to cross nor to look for a walk sign for diagonal crossing.

There are two I think CDOT people working the intersection in addition to recordered speakers say something at the diagonal crossing times- I didn't pay attention.

It is heavily used I will say that. I even used it but still haven't put it in my mind how to get to where I want fastest utilizing the diagonal crossing.

In conclusion I think it is a great thing to have but for me will take a little time to get used to.

It's a busy intersection and if this catches on it will be a great

denizen467 Jun 23, 2013 5:39 AM

^ Did Sylvester eat you before you finished the last sentence?

I have less interaction with it than (the late) pip did, but I think they installed additional don't/walk pedestrian signals to the traffic light poles at each of the 4 corners - giving each such pole 3 separate pedestrian signals spaced 45 degrees apart. Potentially this could be confusing in some cases; once could conceive of an eastbound driver glancing at "don't walk" on the diagonal axis, hastily mistaking it for a "don't walk" along the east-west axis, and making a right-on-red where there are in fact pedestrians about to enter the crosswalk believing drivers have been unambiguously cautioned to yield. So, slight customizations to the signage/signaling might be a smart thing to do. How about the diagonal ped signals being of a different kind, and having LED lettering saying "No Scramble 5pm to 10am" or something like that.

ardecila Jun 23, 2013 5:47 AM

Thanks for the summary. It sounds like this about management style and Clifford's refusal to play the game more than about any actual policy/operational decisions regarding the railroad.

I can't help but view this debate in terms of the conflict between transit-minded people and railroad-minded people, though. Clifford came from LACMTA where he was in charge of buses, and now he's running one of the most conservative, change-resistant commuter railroads in the country. His tenure was marked by serious improvements in on-time performance and a strong focus on customer experience (only small improvements, but surveys and plans to improve further). It wouldn't surprise me if he sought to increase frequency somehow and slowly shift towards a more transit-like operation, which IMO is much needed.

The board's stated excuse basically says that Clifford pissed off too many people to secure funding; I don't know if this is true, since the elected officials in charge of getting funding from the state and Federal gov'ts weren't the people impacted by Clifford's reforms/management style. Unless Clifford simply didn't approve the elected officials' patronage requests?

In recent years, I've seen established, friendly and helpful Metra personnel (conductors and station agents) replaced by younger "train nazis" with a chip on their shoulder. Last summer I was thrown off the train just because the conductor didn't like my look (I'm hardly a threatening guy, but I guess the conductor mistook me for some other troublemaker). A few days ago I saw a different conductor get into a shouting match with an elderly man because he couldn't find his reduced-fare card. Granted, these were on UP lines and thus the personnel were employees of UP and not Metra. I just hate the feeling of being treated like shit. CTA employees are usually just impersonal but I've seen several drivers help out tourists/unfamiliar riders.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Beta_Magellan (Post 6174194)
From what I understand, it’s pretty much the combined result of fare increases and Clifford’s hiring of outside consultants (or maybe just one outside consultant).

1. Back in 2011, someone noticed that Metra was raising fares by 30% while simultaneously hiring a consultant for $225,000/six months, and decided to write their senators. Durbin and Kirk write to him, and I assume others do, too.

2. In 2012, due in part to the stuff from above, Brad O’Halloran, Metra’s then-new chairman, wants the board to have more oversight over things like hiring decisions and perks (Crain’s), and putting this online. He’s described as “reacting cooly” to this.

3. In its piece on Clifford’s departure, ABC notes:



4. I’m not a Crain’s subscriber and hit my limit for articles, but it looks like there were contract issues, too.

5. Clifford resigns.

Based on this, I’d guess the big issue was that Clifford didn’t like the board hovering over him or constant political pressure on contracts and the like. Although I’m somewhat sympathetic, what did he expect when running a public agency, particularly one that’s been burned badly by its previous chief executive? There’s also an element of the board cutting off his head for stuff they approved (although I gather the board makeup has changed a bit since 2011), and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the political pressure was more patronage than good-governance oriented. Overall I don’t really have sympathy for anyone here.


Beta_Magellan Jun 23, 2013 4:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ardecila (Post 6174631)

I can't help but view this debate in terms of the conflict between transit-minded people and railroad-minded people, though. Clifford came from LACMTA where he was in charge of buses, and now he's running one of the most conservative, change-resistant commuter railroads in the country.

This was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw Chicago’s representative on the Metra board abstained, but that says more about me than the actual situation here—it’s a very, very optimistic read on events. First, he raised fares to preserve existing service levels—I doubt increasing frequencies was ever on the table. Based on his LinkedIn profile the bulk of Clifford’s experience was with Metrolink, which is very much a big, old-fashioned American commuter railroad (and his experience running bus service was in the Gateway Cities, which is overall more suburban, not high-frequency-grid-building West Side). While I’ve heard their fare collection and staff productivity is a lot better than Metra, they’re still a diesel-powered, long-distance commuter-focused, SWS/NCS-level frequency (and, per line, ridership) railroad.

For what it’s worth, the contractor he hired, George Avery Grimes, is very much a railroad person.

Quote:

The board's stated excuse basically says that Clifford pissed off too many people to secure funding; I don't know if this is true, since the elected officials in charge of getting funding from the state and Federal gov'ts weren't the people impacted by Clifford's reforms/management style. Unless Clifford simply didn't approve the elected officials' patronage requests?
I read that more as being dismissive of political concerns. An element of that almost certainly comes from hiring people outside the patronage loop (edit: a little digging shows O’Halloran, the head of the Metra board who’s been posing as Mr. Open Government for the past few months, probably has a fair amount of that surrounding him). I also got the impressions was that he didn’t take politicians’ concerns seriously—the main one I found, the letter from Kirk and Durbin, asked why he was hiring an outside contractor when raising fares. From what I gleaned from those articles, Clifford’s response was along the lines of, “I’m the chief executive and I can hire who I want.” He’s right, but to an elected representative who’s received a ton of phone calls complaining about raised fares while some guy’s just gotten a big contract (and people do contact their reps about such things), that sort of response looks a like like hauteur.

The fact that the Metra board wanted to have more oversight over hiring decisions probably compounds this, since the two probably assumed the worst of each other (with reason). From Clifford’s perspective it’s the board wanting to keep politically-approved appointments okay while not allowing outside blood, while from the board’s perspective it’s making sure Clifford doesn’t go around throwing contracts to his old friends when they’ve got a ton of politicos on the phone yelling about the latest fare increase. Add in an argument over a new contract and you have a recipe for departure.

Edit: I think I should restate that I think that to a great extent the Board’s having Clifford’s head for their own mistakes, since they approved the policy Clifford ended up getting heat over. Scanning some other places, I think it’s unfortunate his main legacy in the memories of riders will be fare increases (the board’s fault) and the high cost of the contract buyout (cheaper than a lawsuit), especially given his improvements in stuff like OTP.

Quote:

In recent years, I've seen established, friendly and helpful Metra personnel (conductors and station agents) replaced by younger "train nazis" with a chip on their shoulder. […] Granted, these were on UP lines and thus the personnel were employees of UP and not Metra.
Holy sh!tsnacks! Attitude is one thing, but being kicked off a train is another. I can’t imagine that sort of attitude working on Metra Electric (the only Metra line I took semi-regularly).

Nexis4Jersey Jun 23, 2013 9:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ardecila (Post 6174631)
Thanks for the summary. It sounds like this about management style and Clifford's refusal to play the game more than about any actual policy/operational decisions regarding the railroad.

I can't help but view this debate in terms of the conflict between transit-minded people and railroad-minded people, though. Clifford came from LACMTA where he was in charge of buses, and now he's running one of the most conservative, change-resistant commuter railroads in the country. His tenure was marked by serious improvements in on-time performance and a strong focus on customer experience (only small improvements, but surveys and plans to improve further). It wouldn't surprise me if he sought to increase frequency somehow and slowly shift towards a more transit-like operation, which IMO is much needed.

The board's stated excuse basically says that Clifford pissed off too many people to secure funding; I don't know if this is true, since the elected officials in charge of getting funding from the state and Federal gov'ts weren't the people impacted by Clifford's reforms/management style. Unless Clifford simply didn't approve the elected officials' patronage requests?

In recent years, I've seen established, friendly and helpful Metra personnel (conductors and station agents) replaced by younger "train nazis" with a chip on their shoulder. Last summer I was thrown off the train just because the conductor didn't like my look (I'm hardly a threatening guy, but I guess the conductor mistook me for some other troublemaker). A few days ago I saw a different conductor get into a shouting match with an elderly man because he couldn't find his reduced-fare card. Granted, these were on UP lines and thus the personnel were employees of UP and not Metra. I just hate the feeling of being treated like shit. CTA employees are usually just impersonal but I've seen several drivers help out tourists/unfamiliar riders.

A Lot of agencies and companies are facing huge shortages due to baby boomers retiring so they appear to be hiring just about anyone. Recently i've noticed similar incidents , a Conductor in attempting to wake an elderly slapped him with his newspaper. Another Conductor always acts like she owns the place ,barks at passengers and chats with friends.... Of course this isn't limited to Conductors , Ive had several light rail operators terminated for texting , breaking the rules while street running...of course being labeled a rail snitch in the process. A lot of these younger employees work these jobs while still in college.... I would say a decent majority of these younger employees just see this as job...unlike some of us who want to build a career in transportation.

emathias Jun 25, 2013 3:16 PM

I saw a Ventra device on a bus this morning lit up. I've seen them on the buses for the past few months, but this was the first time I saw one lit up.

Is the CTA about to go live with it, finally?

Beta_Magellan Jun 26, 2013 4:24 AM

Streetsblog/NewCity has a mostly substance-free interview with Bob Fioretti, although it does include the tidbit that he’s received nine-to-one opposition to Ashland BRT and that he wants to “do a few more studies” (i. e. study it to death, which is no surprise coming from him).

I have no idea of how much real bearing this has on BRT, I’m increasingly worried that it will either end up X9: Part Deux or quietly shelved.

ardecila Jun 26, 2013 4:46 AM

I don't know. This isn't a condo project that Fioretti can just tank with his prerogative. It has the full support of the Mayor. Fioretti's probably a lame duck anyway, since his ward has shifted so much. In the new 2nd Ward boundaries, there are only three blocks' worth of the initial Ashland BRT segment, and only half of those because Ashland is a ward boundary.

The initial BRT segment falls mostly within the wards of Moreno (1), Burnett (27), Ervin (28), and Solis (25). Out of those, Moreno's probably the only one who might object. The other three aldermen represent wards with high transit-dependent populations and without strong communities of uppity business owners or condo dwellers. Moreno's kind of a wonk on transportation and development, too, so he will probably try to sell it to his constituents rather than pander.

Beta_Magellan Jun 26, 2013 5:02 AM

:previous: I was curious about this—I usually don’t associate Fioretti with any neighborhood on Ashland. Moreno’s generally pretty pro-transit (and, for an alderman, pro-density—I recall him rejecting a ton of single-story proposals for Ashland/Division), and a quick Google search shows he hosted an Active Trans event that featured a BRT presentation, so it’s likely he’s mostly on-board.

the urban politician Jun 26, 2013 5:06 AM

If Rahm can hammer through the new parking meter deal and closing 50 schools (which are orders of magnitude more controversial), he can hammer this through as well. I'm not worried

untitledreality Jun 27, 2013 2:40 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the urban politician (Post 6178034)
If Rahm can hammer through the new parking meter deal and closing 50 schools (which are orders of magnitude more controversial), he can hammer this through as well. I'm not worried

Same here. No way Rahm lets some dickweed Alderman get in the way of this.

jcchii Jun 27, 2013 3:42 PM

ventra in august

emathias Jun 28, 2013 8:26 PM

I don't recall seeing it discussed here, but Center for Neighborhood Technology had a document last month about TOD in the Chicago area.

Particularly sad is page 10

Download it here

Quote:

CHICAGO (May 7, 2013)—While Chicago has made significant investments in transit-oriented development (TOD) over the past decade, the region has not seen the same levels of success as other major US metropolitan areas in the successful development of transit zones—the land areas within one half-mile of passenger rail stations. Whereas peer cities like New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and San Francisco saw positive growth between 2000 and 2010, Chicago actually saw a decline in development. A report released by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) recommends a series of policy actions Chicago leaders can take to get transit-oriented development on track, and to improve the region’s economic, environmental, and social sustainability.

In the report, Transit-Oriented Development in the Chicago Region: Efficient and Resilient Communities for the 21st Century, CNT researchers evaluated the dynamics of the Chicago Region’s 367 fixed Metra and CTA rail stations and station areas between 2000 and 2010.[1] Using the National TOD Database, a first-of-its-kind web tool developed by CNT that provides access to comprehensive information about more than 4,000 transit zones across the United States, researchers identified the transit zones that performed well: those that anchored vital, walkable communities that possess an affordable, high quality of life with minimal impact on the environment.

...

ardecila Jun 29, 2013 1:43 AM

Most of the transit-shed decline is due to the demolitions of CHA projects, which tended to sit right by transit stations. IIRC over 18000 units were removed from the market.

The upside is that this gives Chicago plenty of land with convenient transit access for development, and smart planning could make it dense. But the CHA projects themselves were very dense and so far, the powers that be are pursuing lowrise housing models with tons of wasted open space (look at the amount of open space in the site plan for Oakwood Shores, for instance).

The suburbs have only seen minor gains aroud Metra stops, and it's unclear to me whether the quality and frequency of Metra service is actually enough to attract significant housing growth.

the urban politician Jun 29, 2013 12:13 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ardecila (Post 6181582)
But the CHA projects themselves were very dense and so far, the powers that be are pursuing lowrise housing models with tons of wasted open space (look at the amount of open space in the site plan for Oakwood Shores, for instance).

^ Well, of course it's not dense. Why would you tear down CHA towers and replace them with more towers? Also, there is a lot of open space because land is cheap, you know, since nobody wants to live in a gang infested warzone and all..

ardecila Jun 29, 2013 5:25 PM

Doesn't change the fact that the development is short sighted. We shouldn't be building single-family townhouses next to L stations.

The former Cabrini Green is not a gang-infested war zone, and it's certainly not a place where "nobody wants to live" either; it's surrounded by the city's most successful neighborhoods. Same goes for ABLA/Roosevelt Square. Henry Horner is one of the worst examples, since the Green Line is right there, but it does border East Garfield Park and the United Center wasteland.

The Green Line, actually, is the locus for much of the flawed CHA redevelopment, but its reputation will drastically improve in coming years due to Morgan and Cermak stations.

the urban politician Jun 29, 2013 5:37 PM

^ I don't disagree in premise, but in areas where there is actually a demand for people to live (ie former Cabrini Green) I can understand complaining about lack of density.

But along the 63rd branch of the Green Line....just be happy that we are seeing something other than vacant fields..


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