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Frankie Feb 15, 2007 9:51 AM

CTA to bolster bus service during Brown Line work

By Jon Hilkevitch
Tribune transportation reporter
Published February 14, 2007, 8:53 PM CST

The Chicago Transit Authority outlined plans Wednesday to flood crowded North Side streets with more buses during rush hours when service on three rail lines is slashed this spring to accommodate reconstruction of the Belmont and Fullerton stations through 2009.

CTA Chairwoman Carole Brown, raising concerns about the plan, said other options are being explored to cope with a 25 percent reduction in track capacity on part of the rail corridor serving the Red, Brown and Purple/Evanston Express Lines through the Lincoln Park and Lakeview neighborhoods.

Public input will be sought at four community meetings in March, officials announced at the transit board's monthly meeting.

Bus bunching—buses plodding through their routes bumper to bumper due to traffic congestion—is already a serious problem for the CTA, and a major frustration among riders. Adding more buses to the mix could exacerbate the logjam.

Bus reliability is another wild card.

Brown complained that she saw four CTA buses broken down on the street, with passengers inside, while she was driving home from work on Tuesday.

About 1,000 of the CTA's 2,165 buses are more than 12 years old—the age that the Federal Transit Administration recommends buses should be replaced, William Mooney, CTA vice president of bus operations, told the transit board.

And about two-thirds of the CTA's 12-year-old buses did not undergo the recommended midlife overhaul, Mooney said.

Bringing into question when the three-track rail operations, scheduled to begin April 2, would actually begin, Brown said none of the recommendations made so far by the CTA staff is binding. The work will begin only when the CTA board is confident that commuters won't be left facing a desperate situation, she said.

"I am not resigned to anything until I know that every question that we've been faced with has been answered and everyone is comfortable with it, and until I know that we've done all the signal and [track] switching testing that we can do," Brown said.

But the transit authority board appeared to accept the conclusion of the CTA staff that running more trains or shifting the flow patterns of trains during peak commuting hours—similar to how the reversible lanes operate on the Kennedy Expressway and Lake Shore Drive—were not viable options.

Switching trains between tracks to favor the southbound flow in the morning and northbound in the evening would require trains to slow down to 15 miles per hour at the crossovers, lengthening running times, said Patrick Harney, executive vice president of construction, engineering and facilities maintenance.

In addition, Red Line trains would get stuck waiting behind Brown and Purple Line trains berthed at stations, he said.

The CTA plans to operate 24 fewer trains during the evening rush and nine fewer trains during the morning rush when one of the four tracks is shut down between Addison Street and Armitage Avenue to make room for crews installing elevators and expanding platforms at the Belmont and Fullerton stations.

Service would be increased on seven CTA bus routes during the morning and evening rushes in the hope that some of the 185,000 CTA customers who use the three train lines each day would shift to buses, transit officials said.

A total of 42 bus routes serve the area affected by the $530 million Brown Line station and track reconstruction project.

CTA officials made it clear that the riding public's cooperation will be key.

North Side rail commuters are being advised to alter their travel times, if possible, particularly between about 7:20 and 8:20 a.m. for southbound travel, and between about 4:50 and 5:50 p.m. for northbound travel. Those are the times that passenger demand is expected to outstrip the capacity of CTA rail operations on the Red, Brown and Purple Lines due to the shutdown of one of the four tracks.

Here's how the bus strategy proposed by the CTA staff would work:

During the 3 to 6 p.m. evening rush, when the worst of the crunch is expected, northbound service on the No. 147 Outer Drive Express bus route would be increased to every 2 1/2 minutes to 5 minutes, from the current interval between buses of 5 minutes to 10 minutes, the CTA said.

Evening northbound bus service would also be beefed up on the following routes: No. 11 Lincoln/Sedgwick, No. 22 Clark and No. 148 Clarendon/Michigan Express, officials said.

Southbound riders in the morning would notice smaller changes in bus schedules overall between 6 and 9:30 a.m. The wait between No. 134 Stockton/LaSalle Express buses would be 3 to 10 minutes between Belmont and Adams Street/Wacker Drive, compared with every 4 to 10 minutes now, officials said.

Morning southbound bus service would also be increased on the No. 11, No. 22, No. 135 Clarendon/LaSalle Express and No. 151 Sheridan, officials said.

Extra buses would be staged at points along routes in both the morning and evening rushes. It would allow the CTA to respond quickly to problems, including the bunching of buses on portions of routes, and to make adjustments as commuters looking for the best way to get to work and home change their travel patterns, said Richard Winston, CTA executive vice president for transit operations.

jhilkevitch@tribune.com



Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune

Frankie Feb 15, 2007 9:53 AM

CTA card machines added to 2 Metra stations

Tribune staff report
Published February 14, 2007, 8:22 PM CST

The CTA's transit-card vending machines will be available at two more downtown train stations that are used by Metra riders, officials said Wednesday.

The machines will be installed at the Ogilvie Transportation Center and the Millennium Park Metra station, where Metra and South Shore Line trains operate, under an agreement between the two transit agencies.
tory

Customers will be able to buy magnetic-strip transit cards and add value to the cards as well as to Chicago Cards, the CTA's version of a "smart" card.

The transit-card vending machines are expected to be installed in late spring.

Both Ogilvie, at Madison and Canal Streets, and Millennium Park station, at Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue, connect travelers to downtown CTA bus and rail service.

CTA transit card vending machines are already at Chicago Union Station and Metra's LaSalle Street Station.



Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune

Taft Feb 15, 2007 12:44 PM

Commuting by car vs. CTA
 
By Kyra Kyles
RedEye
Published February 15, 2007

If riding a bus or a bike aren't exactly the answers you were looking for as daily alternatives to the Brown Line come spring, maybe you're considering trading your Chicago Card in for car keys.

Although jumping in a car to go where you want when you want to may seem appealing, it may not be as easy as you think. And it's certainly more expensive than taking the CTA.

Local car-sharing services such as Zipcar and i-Go are supplements, not alternatives, to the CTA when it comes to your daily commute, company representatives said.

"If the Brown Line is not working well and you have an important off-site commute during the day, i-Go would make sense," said i-Go CEO Sharon Feigon. "But this is not a replacement for the daily commute because the cost of rental and parking downtown would be too great."

Joining i-Go costs $75 to start, and then members pay $6 per hour and 50 cents a mile or $8.25 per hour (25 free miles) to drive one of approximately 120 cars parked in 32 neighborhoods, Feigon said of the Chicago-based non-profit. Most members, Feigon said, rely heavily on public transit.

It's a similar story at Zipcar, a national company which launched in Chicago last summer and operates more than 130 cars in 20 neighborhoods, according to spokesman Tobia Ciottone.

Members—who pay a $50 annual fee and a $25 one-time application fee—might not want to reserve cars that range in price from $9 to $12 an hour, plus pay downtown parking rates, Ciottone said. Most members use the cars on weekends, he said.

"Our most active neighborhoods are on the North Side," Ciottone said. "It's very practical for shopping, weekend trips or if you have a business meeting you just can't miss and it's a little far out."

What about hitching a ride with another driver? The possibility exists at craigslist.com, which features an area for ride-sharing postings. While most local posters are focused on long distance, out-of-town travel, according to Jim Buckmaster, Craigslist's founder and CEO, Chicago could start imitating other cities like San Francisco and New York, which showed a spike in local ride-sharing ads during those cities' transit strikes.

Buying your own car is an option, but costs are much higher than the sticker price—and way beyond CTA fares.

Before you visit the dealership, check out these car ownership calculations from cars.com. For this ownership experiment, RedEye chose one of the least expensive 2007 vehicles, a four-door Chevy Aveo sedan.

But the $12,010 price tag doesn't factor in insurance, financing charges, maintenance, gas or "opportunity costs," which cars.com defines as the interest you would have earned on your money had you not owned and operated a vehicle. Those factors add more than $30,000 over a five-year stretch to what you paid for the car.

Taft Feb 15, 2007 12:48 PM

^^

Normally, I wouldn't post from the Red Eye, but I think this one is interesting. A transportation columnist is giving recommendations on how, if you wanted to, you can use a car for your commute. This is the first article of this kind I've seen and I wonder if this indicates a shift in public opinion on the viability and ability of the CTA.

What do you think? Is this an sign or just a mediocre article?

Taft

VivaLFuego Feb 15, 2007 3:19 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by OhioGuy (Post 2632737)
Three F*CKING years of 3 track operation!?!?!? This sucks! Why the HELL did I spend lots of extra money for an apartment near the brown line when I'm gonna have to put up with this sh*t for the next several years??? I just moved here and I guess this is my "welcome to Chicago" present. I'm pissed. :hell:

You'll only notice serious problems if you're riding southbound between 730-9am, or northbound between 430-6....otherwise there's still ample capacity.

Also, I don't think it will be as bad as people fear, I mean yes there's currently alot of crush-loaded rush trains but there's also a fair number of Browns and Reds leaving the loop during rush hour that are at maybe 60-70% capacity.....basically now every train will be packed to the gills. The key to making this work is dealing with the damn switching problems (like the fuckup today at Howard) and removing all slow zones on the red and brown line south of about Addison. As I understand it, a contractor will finally be replacing the ties in the subways (Red and Blue) over the next 3 months or so, which should finally get rid of the slow zones in these portions. The ties down there are the original wood ties from the 1940s.

Chicago3rd Feb 15, 2007 3:26 PM

^^ Why can't we just hire out of town public transportation project corrordinators who are internationally renowned for working on such projects? We know we cannot trust Krusie and his gang. They cannot even run the bus system (funding aside...they cannot even run and control what they have now). Then at least I will know that competent planners have come up with these solutions.

Taft Feb 15, 2007 3:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chicago3rd (Post 2633632)
^^ Why can't we just hire out of town public transportation project corrordinators who are internationally renowned for working on such projects? We know we cannot trust Krusie and his gang. They cannot even run the bus system (funding aside...they cannot even run and control what they have now). Then at least I will know that competent planners have come up with these solutions.

As much as I back the CTA, I do think it is time for Kruesi to go. I don't think he is incompetent or completely corrupt, but we could do much better.

To his credit, though, they seem to be trying a lot of new strategies with the buses. From the "stop on the far side of the light" strategy to the work they are doing on bunching, they are at least making attempts. To be honest, given how bad traffic in the Chicago area is, I'm surprised people expect much more from a bus system. Unless the city makes dedicated bus lanes (not a bad idea, IMO), fighting with traffic will always cause delays and some degree of bunching.

Taft

brian_b Feb 15, 2007 3:45 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Taft (Post 2633441)
^^

Normally, I wouldn't post from the Red Eye, but I think this one is interesting. A transportation columnist is giving recommendations on how, if you wanted to, you can use a car for your commute. This is the first article of this kind I've seen and I wonder if this indicates a shift in public opinion on the viability and ability of the CTA.

What do you think? Is this an sign or just a mediocre article?

Taft

I think it's a mediocre article, mainly because the author doesn't spend enough space developing the cost aspect of switching to a car for the commute. The idea of driving instead of taking transit is a valid idea. I mean, really, your core considerations for your daily commute are cost, convenience, and time. It is a good idea to examine all options to determine the best fit for your particular situation. Now, before I make any enemies on this board, I have to say that when you do the math, most people on the northside commuting to downtown are going to find that it is still in their best interests to use transit despite the 3-tracking.

brian_b Feb 15, 2007 4:03 PM

One thing that I expect to happen with the 3-tracking (if it turns out to be a disaster) is an emergence of private "bus" clubs - where someone leases a Dodge Sprinter 10-passenger van and drives club members to and from the Loop on a preset schedule. It would only take a couple waves a day to make it profitable if you aren't licensed/registered/insured. I think.

j korzeniowski Feb 15, 2007 5:42 PM

Quote:

Brown complained that she saw four CTA buses broken down on the street, with passengers inside, while she was driving home from work on Tuesday.
nice one.

VivaLFuego Feb 15, 2007 5:43 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chicago3rd (Post 2633632)
^^ Why can't we just hire out of town public transportation project corrordinators who are internationally renowned for working on such projects? We know we cannot trust Krusie and his gang. They cannot even run the bus system (funding aside...they cannot even run and control what they have now). Then at least I will know that competent planners have come up with these solutions.

CTA's Planning division, particularly in regards to Bus Operations, is very highly regarded in public transportation and academic circles, and works very closely with MIT and the Urban Transportation Center at UIC....

And as Taft alludes to, what do you expect of the bus system? What are you comparing it to? Did you even live in Chicago in the 80s and 90s? Do you know what public transportation has historically been like here? Please realize also that metro areas like Paris and London have per capita subsidies nearly 4 times greater than in Chicago...hell even LA gives twice as much as us....so in terms of comparison, would you even say our bus system is worse than New Yorks? I think we have the best big city bus system in the country, while at the same time having the worst subsidy.

And "this project", I assume you mean 3-track, how else do you propose they do this?

Chicago Shawn Feb 15, 2007 5:48 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Frankie (Post 2633337)
Brown complained that she saw four CTA buses broken down on the street, with passengers inside, while she was driving home from work on Tuesday.

This pisses me off. Why the hell is she driving home from work? This is part of the problem, how can these officials really know the degree of what the public deals with if they don't use the system for thier daily commutes? Given the obsurdly high salaries of the board, there should be more requirements to hoding the job, such as mandatory use of the system you represent. I don't think that is asking too much, after all city employees have to live inside city limits, the CTA should have thier own similair stipulations. If they complian that they can't get to work in a reasonable time, well welcome to our world, now work harder to fix it.

Chicago Shawn Feb 15, 2007 5:53 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 2633946)
CTA's Planning division, particularly in regards to Bus Operations, is very highly regarded in public transportation and academic circles, and works very closely with MIT and the Urban Transportation Center at UIC....

And as Taft alludes to, what do you expect of the bus system? What are you comparing it to? Did you even live in Chicago in the 80s and 90s? Do you know what public transportation has historically been like here? Please realize also that metro areas like Paris and London have per capita subsidies nearly 4 times greater than in Chicago...hell even LA gives twice as much as us....so in terms of comparison, would you even say our bus system is worse than New Yorks? I think we have the best big city bus system in the country, while at the same time having the worst subsidy.

And "this project", I assume you mean 3-track, how else do you propose they do this?


I agree our bus system is very good, and its all run by the CTA. The majority of NYC's buses outside of Manhattan are run by private companies. The problem is that the city has no long stretches of deicated bus lanes. This is what causes the bunching and slow speeds, as indicted above. I wish the city would remove all on street parking from busy streets and convert the space into restricted lanes for public transit. If fact, perhaps they should do this now along Clark and Lincoln for the aditional buses.

Busy Bee Feb 15, 2007 6:06 PM

Quote:

The majority of NYC's buses outside of Manhattan are run by private companies.
That's not exactly true. In fact, with the exception of just a few routes in the Bronx(Bee-Line), MTA Bus now has sovereignty over all bus operations in all five boroughs. This is only recently true, since independent operators such as Liberty Lines, NY Bus Co., Green, Queens Surface, Triboro Coach,
and Command having been taken over by the MTA last year. Regrdless though, even previous to the takeover, the MTA ran the lion's share of bus lines in NYC.

This is off-topic.

Chicago Shawn Feb 15, 2007 6:21 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Busy Bee (Post 2634012)
That's not exactly true. In fact, with the exception of just a few routes in the Bronx(Bee-Line), MTA Bus now has sovereignty over all bus operations in all five boroughs. This is only recently true, since independent operators such as Liberty Lines, NY Bus Co., Green, Queens Surface, Triboro Coach,
and Command having been taken over by the MTA last year. Regrdless though, even previous to the takeover, the MTA ran the lion's share of bus lines in NYC.

This is off-topic.

Oh, I didn't know that happened last year, thanks for the correction.

j korzeniowski Feb 15, 2007 6:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chicago Shawn (Post 2633959)
Why the hell is she driving home from work? This is part of the problem, how can these officials really know the degree of what the public deals with if they don't use the system for thier daily commutes?

bingo.

VivaLFuego Feb 15, 2007 6:41 PM

^ Having watched several recent board meetings, I'm getting this sense of fatalism on the part of the board, I mean they definitely are fully aware that much of operations, especially on the rail side, have gotten disastrous but they also know there's not a damn thing they can do about it now without a bigger budget.....other than massive service cuts or fare hikes, both of which would go over ever-so-well in the political sphere. So, they pass a 2007 budget with a $110 million deficit (under guidance of RTA) without a clear sense of where that money might come from, and put off the problem for another few months.

Again, these are just my perceptions, so I don't want to imply I have any -actual- knowledge of what the board is thinking or knows. If it were up to me, each year for the past decade CTA would have been cutting service 3-5% to keep the budget balanced while still maintaining decent service quality, until people realized that high quantities of high quality transit costs alot of money. But I recall that Frank Kruesi has made statements something to the effect of the quantity of service is key to maintaining transit's constituency (i.e. high ridership numbers), which is why CTA has been so reluctant to cut service levels for so long. But the problem with this strategy is that now, in order to balance the budget, we'll be looking at service cuts in the 20+% range in one swoop. Does anyone really think Springfield is gonna pass anything for transit this Spring? I sure don't. This gets dealt with in 08 at the earliest, probably 09, which means 08 is gonna SUCK because the budget will be so out-of-whack by then that the only option is massive service cuts.

....just my take on it.

Chicago3rd Feb 15, 2007 9:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 2633946)
CTA's Planning division, particularly in regards to Bus Operations, is very highly regarded in public transportation and academic circles, and works very closely with MIT and the Urban Transportation Center at UIC....

I have lived in SF during the bad days and Portland and San Antonio and the bus system her ranks below all three cities. So I don't know where this propoganda is coming from.


Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 2633946)
And as Taft alludes to, what do you expect of the bus system? What are you comparing it to?

Do you work for the CTA?

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 2633946)
Did you even live in Chicago in the 80s and 90s? Do you know what public transportation has historically been like here?

This goes to prove CTA sucks. You make it relative to itself not to the standards of other cities in the U.S. or the world. And you gave those who claim we are not a world class city even more ammunition to use against...us.
Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 2633946)
Please realize also that metro areas like Paris and London have per capita subsidies nearly 4 times greater than in Chicago...hell even LA gives twice as much as us....so in terms of comparison, would you even say our bus system is worse than New Yorks? I think we have the best big city bus system in the country, while at the same time having the worst subsidy. And "this project", I assume you mean 3-track, how else do you propose they do this?

We need more funding. I have stated that over and over. But I am not willing to support more funding until we have an open CTA with professionals who are top in the country running both operations and infrastructure.

And as stated...CTA cannot even run and manage its system now....why would throwing more money into a hole fix it.

Daley hasn't said crap about it in his election campaign nor has does he have any information on the his elections page. Wonder why. Two reasons...it sucks and he doesn't give a damn.

Blanket statements....trying to wash this topic away will not work anymore.

Chicago3rd Feb 15, 2007 9:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by j korzeniowski (Post 2633945)
nice one.

There should be no parking spaces at CTA bus barns for drivers unless they are working the close or opening of the routes. They all need to use CTA to get to and from work.

Taft Feb 15, 2007 10:03 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chicago3rd (Post 2634414)
I have lived in SF during the bad days and Portland and San Antonio and the bus system her ranks below all three cities. So I don't know where this propoganda is coming from.

None of those cities face the traffic nightmare that is Chicagoland. If the buses share the roads with all other vehicles, and those roads are crowded, there is a limit to the efficiency of the bus service on said roads. This isn't rocket science. Do you disagree with me on this?

The CTA can do thing to help (like the aforementioned "after the light" stops, slowing buses to prevent bunching, etc.), but with crowded streets, there is a limit imposed on them. Who *could* help the bus service considerably? Daley/the city. They could create more bus-only lanes, eliminate parking on artery streets, etc. But they'll never do it: touching parking/car routes in this town is political suicide (or so conventional wisdom goes...).

And finally, do you know *anything* about the employees of the CTA? I'm not talking about a union bus driver here. I'm talking about the planners, the organizers, etc. Do you know anything about their level of talent? Their dedication? The esteem in which they are held by other transit organizations? People talk big about how the CTA sucks after seeing some union slob screw around on his bus route. But do you really think that one guy reflects the quality of all employees across the entire organization?

Quote:

Do you work for the CTA?
Does it matter? Do CTA employees opinions matter less than yours? Do you assume everyone at the CTA is an incompetent, lazy, corrupt jerk?

Quote:

We need more funding. I have stated that over and over. But I am not willing to support more funding until we have an open CTA with professionals who are top in the country running both operations and infrastructure.
I hear this over and over. Yes, better transparency and more competent management would be a good thing. But have you ever heard the phrase "cut off your nose to spite your face." This line of thinking basically says, "we know the CTA needs cash to operate properly, but we aren't going to give them that money and we'll let everyone suffer until we like who's running the agency." Its just crazy.

And read that again: the CTA isn't funded properly, but we expect them to perform better before we give them the required funds. Does that sound backwards to anyone else? Talk about setting the bar impossibly high!

Quote:

Blanket statements....trying to wash this topic away will not work anymore.
Nobody wants to brush this topic aside. I myself want to try to find tenable solutions to our current situation. Firing all CTA management isn't a solution I think would work. Turning over control to the RTA isn't a solution I think would work.

Replacing Keruesi, coming up with even more innovative strategies and getting proper support and funding from the city, county, state and federal governments is a solution I think would work. Obviously you disagree. But I've seen precious little evidence to back up your viewpoints. Mostly, I just hear whining.

Taft


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