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TransitEngr Sep 14, 2007 1:11 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Busy Bee (Post 3054023)
I'm no expert of electric heavy rail power supplies, but i always thought that you had to slip part of your body underneath it, either touching the underside or the back of the third-rail "hood." I've always thought this because I've seen pictures of people walking and resting on the third-rail. Is there an expert out there? Maybe Viva knows, or drop an email to the fella that runs Chicago-L.org

We don't have 3rd rail "hoods" in Chicago. I've seen them in DC and Atlanta.

The train car contact shoes sit directly on top of the 3rd rail here.


Thanks for the suggestion about e-mailing Chicago-L.org... Cheers!:cheers:

Busy Bee Sep 14, 2007 1:46 AM

Yeah, I guess I never noticed that they were unprotected in Chicago. Learn something everyday.

Busy Bee Sep 14, 2007 1:48 AM

Yeah, I guess I never noticed that they were unprotected in Chicago. Learn something everyday.

ardecila Sep 14, 2007 1:54 AM

Read this FAQ question at Chicago-L.org

Basically, it's very difficult for a person to ground the 3rd-rail up on the elevated structure, because the wooden ties and the 3rd-rail supporting dowels are all non-conductive, so long as they are dry. Down in the subways, on a solid-fill embankment, or on the ground, the 3rd-rail is much more dangerous.

TransitEngr Sep 14, 2007 12:24 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ardecila (Post 3054088)
Read this FAQ question at Chicago-L.org

Basically, it's very difficult for a person to ground the 3rd-rail up on the elevated structure, because the wooden ties and the 3rd-rail supporting dowels are all non-conductive, so long as they are dry. Down in the subways, on a solid-fill embankment, or on the ground, the 3rd-rail is much more dangerous.

Thanks, I'll continue to do a little research. But for the most part it looks like I'll be in greater danger at the CTA safety training (required to step over the 3rd rail in a yard) vs. my actual work up on the "L".

Chicago3rd Sep 14, 2007 1:15 PM

No more phony fixes - Chicago Tribune Editorial 2007-09-14
 
The Chicago Tribune editorial is recommending the RTA not take the advancement offered by Gov. Bagofnonsense. I agree at this point. Bogofnonsense is NOT doing this to help out the "people" on the public transportation system here in Chicago, rather he is doing it to let himself and the legislators, who have had 11 months to work on this, off the hook for a few more weeks. We need to have change and that can only occure when the people get mad enough to make change. On this rare occasioin I agree with the Tribune.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/o...,6905707.story

VivaLFuego Sep 14, 2007 2:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TransitEngr (Post 3053980)
I know this is not PERFECTLY on topic.... but I am working on a new transit station for CDOT. CDOT will finance the "L" station and build it for the CTA... obviously the CTA willl be the operator. Once this is cleared by the Alderman and the Mayor... then I'll tell you guys about it. It's nothing terribly fancy.

Anyway... so I have to surpervise my survey crew when they conduct their Track Level (up on the "L") survey.

I have to undergo the CTA safety training course and I have a few questions.

1. How dangerous is the 600Volt 3rd rail? If one trips and lands their hand (or any exposed skin... face, etc.) on the 3rd rail... does it have the potential to kill?

2. I know I have to wear rubber work boots (obviously no steel toe) to the training and any other time. Does anyone recommend any specific brand or type of boot that's electrically isolated for increased safety?

Thanks,
TransitEngr

Ardecila's explanation is pretty good. It definitely has the potential to kill, but the L will be the safest of any (obviously subway and embankment ROWs will have the most potential for grounding). The training is alot of fun though, at least it was for me. Just be careful and you'll be fine. While you're up there, trains are required to slow down to 6mph, and it's a real treat to stand right next to one of these beasts rumbling by, and even better to be on the catwalk between 2 of them passing eachother.

Marcu Sep 14, 2007 3:13 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chicago3rd (Post 3054423)
The Chicago Tribune editorial is recommending the RTA not take the advancement offered by Gov. Bagofnonsense. I agree at this point. Bogofnonsense is NOT doing this to help out the "people" on the public transportation system here in Chicago, rather he is doing it to let himself and the legislators, who have had 11 months to work on this, off the hook for a few more weeks. We need to have change and that can only occure when the people get mad enough to make change. On this rare occasioin I agree with the Tribune.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/o...,6905707.story

The Sun Times also had an editorial blasting the legislature and Daley. Looks like there is enough support and exposure out there to finally get something done in the next couple of weeks.

chitowngza Sep 15, 2007 9:56 PM

"CTA's Deeper Crisis: Decades of Neglect"
 
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/l...i_tab01_layout


----------------------------------------
CTA's deeper crisis: Decades of neglect
TRIBUNE EXCLUSIVE: Workers tell of substandard track inspections, lack of training and ignored warnings about safety of deteriorating system
By Jon Hilkevitch and Monique Garcia | Tribune staff reporters
September 15, 2007

Chicago Transit Authority foreman Elios Gil was losing sleep at night worrying about the almost 18 miles of dilapidated track assigned to his inspectors and repair crew.

His track gang, which at one point dwindled to just eight people, couldn't keep up with the wear and tear of trains constantly pounding on the almost 60-year-old tracks.

"Usually, we don't have enough equipment to take care of our maintenance," Gil told National Transportation Safety Board investigators slightly more than a month after the July 11, 2006, Blue Line derailment and fire that sent about 1,000 terrified passengers fleeing the dimly lit subway tunnel with rings of black soot around their mouths and nostrils. "Sometimes we have to wait."

His account was one of dozens in an NTSB investigation file obtained by the Tribune. Thousand of pages containing documents and transcribed interviews with CTA workers tell the hidden story of why track inspections were hit or miss, repairs were backlogged and managers either failed to correct dangerously deteriorated track conditions or claimed they were unaware of them.

The workers told of a system that at its best met 50-year-old standards and at its worst left workers unnerved, imagining scenarios like the smoky fire in the muddy subway tunnel last year—or worse.

Since the derailment, inspections have been stepped up and thousands of feet of track have been designated slow zones, evidence of an aging and decrepit transit system.

Even though the slow zones will allow trains to keep running, the steel tracks just inches below passengers' feet remain in dire need of repair.

The Blue Line accident probably would not have occurred if the problems between the Clark/Lake and Grand/Milwaukee stations in downtown Chicago had been red-flagged and the area designated a train slow zone, records revealed.

The core issue, investigators found, was not funding troubles, but a gross lack of management and oversight by the CTA and its parent agency, the Regional Transportation Authority. Investigators were unable to determine what had become of thousands of inspection and maintenance reports, raising questions about whether they were done at all or were either lost or destroyed.

It is a disturbing picture of the nation's second-largest transit system, which each day carries half a million passengers a total of 225,000 miles over its eight lines.



Warnings ignored, some say
CTA inspectors said that some foremen ignored verbal warnings and paperwork about unsafe track, prompting some rail inspectors to write their findings on subway walls in chalk as evidence that the weak links on the line had not been simply overlooked.

Some of the dates scribbled on the walls went back as far as 1996, track inspector Brian Hill said Thursday in an interview with the Tribune.

"Because they never would come [fix] the problem, to cover ourselves [we'd write on the walls,]" said Hill, who was among five employees fired after the Blue Line derailment. "You know what CTA means, right? Cover Thine You-Know-What."

During the investigation, thousands of documents detailing the condition of the tracks could not be found, raising questions about whether the inspections were completed and whether managers were alerted to the growing problems and took action.

More than 80 percent of the records for Blue Line inspections done between May 2006 and the accident the following July were never found, investigators said.

Those records, which were stored in boxes in rail yard trailers and not reviewed by higher-level managers, should have detailed thousands of rotting wooden railroad ties, rusted bolts and worn rail.

The missing files, which inspectors and maintenance workers said they completed, were a mystery to frustrated employees who said they did all they could to report potentially dangerous conditions.

Often, inspectors were told that there wasn't manpower, money or materials to get the job done.

Gil told the NTSB it disgusted him to see millions of dollars being spent for station upgrades when the tracks were a mess.

"The train doesn't run on the station," Gil said. He pleaded with the safety board to help him.

"We got big problems here," Gil said.

Darrell Nelson, a 31-year CTA veteran, was transferred from supervising track work on the Brown Line to the Blue Line less than six months before the derailment.

He voiced frustration at the inexperience of inspectors and track workers, but he dutifully reported up the command chain all issues brought before him, he said.

Nelson, 52, said he walked into a backlog of Blue Line projects and wasn't made fully aware by his predecessor or the inspectors who worked for him that problems were so serious and widespread. He thought the track structure in that area of the subway was fine.

"If the men don't bring anything to me, how am I supposed to know?" he said in an interview with the Tribune. "Why in the hell would I come to work knowing I have a year and seven months until retirement and not do what I am supposed to do knowing that any negligence would impair safety?"



Subway inspections difficult
Working at the track level is no easy feat, especially in the dark, dank belly of the subway lines. Two-man crews, paired up for safety, must do their work as trains rumble by every seven to 10 minutes.

They trudge through mud and muck, often equipped with little more than a flashlight, safety goggles and a vest. Instead of calibrated instruments, they use rudimentary inspection tools, and they are given a wooden ruler or a stick with markings to measure the width, or gauge, of the tracks.

Many track-walkers carry a collapsible carpenter's ruler that unfolds to 56½ inches—the proper width of the track. In the cave-like subway tunnels, where light bulbs are either burnt out or covered in grime, the workers hold one end of the ruler against one rail and stretch it to the other.

A mistake of an inch or even less could cause train wheels to jump the track.

Repairmen also described to investigators the challenge of eyeballing faulty parts among the thousands of screw spikes, fastening clips and steel plates holding together miles of rails—the very foundation of public transit in Chicago.

They said it's difficult to spot a cracked spike if it is wedged in a plate or to see a rotted and split tie sitting in standing water.

"You've got a tie with a plate on each side of it, four screw spikes in each plate and two fastening clips," said Nelson, who also was fired amid a huge public outcry after the Blue Line derailment.

"Hitting every washer, every bolt, every spike, you would be down there all day and not complete your work. The problem was that a lot of the new guys didn't know what to look for," he said.

Although inspectors are required to check their corridor of track twice per week, that happened rarely, if ever, for a variety of reasons. Inspectors say that to do the job right, there isn't enough time to cover all the tracks in the five hours allotted per day.



Inspector training questioned
Inspections were often cut short to fix problems discovered. Inspectors also complained that they had to learn on the job because training consisted of a one-day class.

"One day, one class a year. It wasn't enough, especially when you've got lives at stake," said Blue Line inspector Bruce McFall, also fired after the derailment.

Track inspector Bryant Martin spent more than three years on the job and was never issued the CTA's Track Maintenance Standards Manual, he told NTSB investigators. The manual is considered the go-to guide to trouble-shoot problems, but Martin learned while he worked.

In the wake of the NTSB report, CTA President Ron Huberman said changes are coming but will take time. Track work must be fitted in between rush periods and between trains coming through the subways and elevated corridors every few minutes.

The NTSB stopped short of saying commuters should keep off CTA trains.

But spokesman Peter Knudson said, "We believe the CTA system could be significantly safer. While we are encouraged that the CTA has taken some steps, the work is not done until they address our safety recommendations in totality."

CTA Board Chairwoman Carole Brown directed much of the blame at the agency's previous administration, which was headed by mayoral confidant Frank Kruesi from 1997 until this spring. Other board members agreed that Huberman's leadership bears no resemblance to the way Kruesi ran the CTA.

"Six months ago, we would have been told we didn't have any problems," CTA board vice-chairwoman Susan Leonis said.

Mayor Richard Daley staunchly stood by Kruesi during tough times, including service cuts and fare hikes. But the failings that were so explicitly outlined in the NTSB probe prompted Daley to criticize the supervision of track maintenance as "a disgrace. You talk about the safety of people riding public transportation."

Kruesi, known for his style of micro-management, labeled the systemic problems with rail inspections and maintenance that occurred under his watch as "indefensible."

"I'm the first person to acknowledge that the NTSB investigation uncovered things that needed to be fixed," Kruesi said. "It should have come to my attention."

Former CTA inspector Hill noted bitterly that some of the conditions workers had complained about for years have been corrected since he was fired.

"I saw on the TV the other day how bright it looked down there [in the subway]," Hill said. "One of the guys I used to work with, he said, 'Man, it looks like Times Square down there.' "

jhilkevitch@tribune.com

mcgarcia@tribune.com



•U.S. infrastructure, like CTA, is in dire straits. PERSPECTIVE

chitowngza Sep 15, 2007 10:05 PM

Email from CTA, 09/14
 
While I'm here I'll share (which hopefully is allowed) the email drafted by Huberman and sent yesterday (Fri 14 Sep 2007) to those of us who use the Chicago Cards:

----------------------------
Dear Chicago Card and Chicago Card Plus Users:

I am writing to inform you that the fare and service changes scheduled for September 16th have been postponed. This means that the cost of your passes and fares will not increase on Sunday, and any routes scheduled for elimination will continue to operate.

However, the temporary loan of $24 million provided by the State postpones these changes for less than two months. On November 4th, if the Illinois General Assembly has not acted, we will be forced to increase fares and reduce service.

The bottom-line is we need a comprehensive plan to fund mass transit.

I know that you are frustrated about the potential service cuts and fare changes. So are we. That is why we are again asking you to join with us and tell our State leaders: "No More Doomsdays. Fix Mass Transit."

Please visit transitchicago.com, or call 1-888-YOUR-CTA, for information on how to contact your state legislators. Please make your voices heard as we fight to preserve and improve the mass transit system Chicago needs and deserves.

Thank you again for your support. We are committed to improving your experience on the CTA.

Sincerely,
Ron Huberman

VivaLFuego Sep 16, 2007 6:59 AM

^ A decent article by Hilkevitch in the trib. It's sad that it took a derailment to wake up certain parts of the organization to those troubles. Since then, all the subway lighting has been replaced and of course the track standards were significantly tightened (hence all the slow zones that cropped up right after the derailment as a result of the re-inspection).

The article had a slight slant though. For one, it's somewhat false to say that a lack of funding had nothing to do with it. Adequate capital investment would have allowed for a more timely replacement of the 60 year old ties and tie plates with those of a more modern standard (concrete and composite-based) that require much less maintenance. Most "old-style" track components, such as wood ties with spiked-on steel plates, have an asset life of 20-30 years, and obviously these were much, much older.

Also, the article seems to fully exonerate the proverbial "little guys" while blaming lazy management, when of course its more complex than that.... several of the lower-level inspectors and foremen falsified their inspection reports, claiming they had inspected track that they had not, etc. It was definitely a top-to-bottom failure, and basically everyone in the chain of command was held accountable: Not only that whole inspection team, but the manager of track maintenance, and subsequently the vice president of facilities maintenance and executive VP over facilities and construction have all been replaced. The report is of course worthwhile, but the timing is bad and the spin the media puts on it is worse. The problem is solved, so let's move on....or at least that should be CTA's message.

Chicago3rd Sep 16, 2007 12:49 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 3057210)
Also, the article seems to fully exonerate the proverbial "little guys" while blaming lazy management, when of course its more complex than that.... several of the lower-level inspectors and foremen falsified their inspection reports, claiming they had inspected track that they had not, etc. It was definitely a top-to-bottom failure, and basically everyone in the chain of command was held accountable: Not only that whole inspection team, but the manager of track maintenance, and subsequently the vice president of facilities maintenance and executive VP over facilities and construction have all been replaced. The report is of course worthwhile, but the timing is bad and the spin the media puts on it is worse. The problem is solved, so let's move on....or at least that should be CTA's message.

Seems to me even if you would like to apply the blame to the little guy and protect management....that seems awkward. What is management's job? Did their little people get managed?

We all know that Kruesi let everything go to hell in order to prove his point that CTA was going to hell. His philosophy was to also punish CTA riders in the worst way (his cuts verses Ron's more user friendly cuts). And we will NOT eve go into the worthless bus managers.

AnotherPunter Sep 17, 2007 3:34 AM

A new El
 
I'm sure this is a completely naive question and probably addressed somewhere earlier... but has there ever been serious discussion of completely replacing the current El infrastructure? I.e., moving to a new mode (possibly tunnels under the existing El lines or a new monorail system)? It seems abundantly clear that the existing infrastructure is on its last legs. We can continue to perform emergency maintenance on the existing system or we can start clean. Obviously, given the difficulties we have getting funding from the state and federal government for repairs to the existing infrastructure, funding for something like this would be a huge huge obstacle. Still, it seems like the crisis point has been reached or is quickly approaching. At a minimum, I wonder if there have been schemes dreamed up out there and posted on the web or sitting on a self in some library that I could go obsess over for a few hours.

Thanks folks, sorry for the newby dreamer question.

OhioGuy Sep 17, 2007 3:57 AM

One question and one complaint from me today. My question concerns the brown line reconstruction. I'm wondering why it's possible for the trains to operate at high speeds through the construction zone at the Montrose stop, but have to operate slowly through the Addison & Southport construction zones? What's the difference? (particularly between Montrose & Addision which are both at nearly identical stages in their reconstructions... how is it safe to operate quickly through Montrose, but not safe through Addison?????)

And the other is a complaint from today. I rode the brown line down to Belmont and planned on switching to the red line to head to Clark & Division. As we were pulling into Belmont, a red line train was there. Yet as we were slowing down for the stop, the red line train departed. Why the f&ck did the red line operator not wait so that riders could transfer between the two trains??? I ended up waiting nearly 15 minutes for the next red line train to show up all because the damn operator couldn't allow 10-15 extra seconds for transfers. Grrrr....

VivaLFuego Sep 17, 2007 4:27 AM

^AnotherPunter,
Not a naive thought, and actually definitely a common and frequent one. Each new administration, be it at CTA/RTA/the city/etc. considers the question, and basically always come to the same conclusion. There's no reason the current technology has to be so decrepit, and with adequate funding the system would function just fine (look at the Orange/Green/Pink lines, for example)....far and away, the most efficient use of capital dollars is to renovate the existing infrastructure as opposed to building new. Of course, theres some ambiguity in that rationality often is completely absent in political discussions, especially as you get to higher and higher levels of government; it's possible that it would be easier to get political support for building a $15 billion new subway system than it would be to get such support for a $5 billion modernization program of the existing infrastructure. Would a politician rather cut the ribbon on a new subway, or on a station that already existed on a line that already existed (even if the former cost 3-4 times as much)?

^OhioGuy,
The slow zones at the Brown Line station construction sites are usually in place while the caisson foundations, bents, and flange angles are repaired/replaced, hence why they are in place at some stations and not others, and why they are in place even though you seemingly dont see any work being done at track level.

Chicago3rd Sep 18, 2007 1:58 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by OhioGuy (Post 3058361)
One question and one complaint from me today. My question concerns the brown line reconstruction. I'm wondering why it's possible for the trains to operate at high speeds through the construction zone at the Montrose stop, but have to operate slowly through the Addison & Southport construction zones? What's the difference? (particularly between Montrose & Addision which are both at nearly identical stages in their reconstructions... how is it safe to operate quickly through Montrose, but not safe through Addison?????)

And the other is a complaint from today. I rode the brown line down to Belmont and planned on switching to the red line to head to Clark & Division. As we were pulling into Belmont, a red line train was there. Yet as we were slowing down for the stop, the red line train departed. Why the f&ck did the red line operator not wait so that riders could transfer between the two trains??? I ended up waiting nearly 15 minutes for the next red line train to show up all because the damn operator couldn't allow 10-15 extra seconds for transfers. Grrrr....

I think traffic has improved because the lines no longer wait for each other. Especially north bound lines.

There could have been workers at the stations on the brownline stations that made the driver slow down.

Redline..unless you were riding after two a.m. you should not have had to wait that long. That is another issue CTA should address...following schedules.

OhioGuy Sep 18, 2007 2:14 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chicago3rd (Post 3059947)
I think traffic has improved because the lines no longer wait for each other. Especially north bound lines.

Waiting 10-15 extra seconds shouldn't have been asking all that much for the red line to do. There are only two transfer stations in the area (Belmont & Fullerton), so it's not as if the lines are going to lose much time. I'm not saying one line should wait for a different line to show up as that would be wasting time. But when the two lines have trains at the same station at essentially the same time, they should be allowing riders the opportunity for a convenient transfer.

Quote:

There could have been workers at the stations on the brownline stations that made the driver slow down.
They slow the trains down at Addison no matter what time of day, regardless of whether workers are present. At 2am we can speed through Montrose while we can't speed through Addision. I'm doubting Addison has works present 24/7 and Montrose doesn't. If that was the case, the Addison reconstruction should be way ahead of Montrose right now instead of exactly even. I'd say about 80% of the time I'm on the brown line we don't slow down through Montrose, but we *ALWAYS* slow down through Addison. The two stations were torn down at the same time and appear to be almost exactly even on their progress, so I just don't understand how there can be such a huge difference between the two. It's been like this ever since I moved here last January.

Quote:

Redline..unless you were riding after two a.m. you should not have had to wait that long. That is another issue CTA should address...following schedules.
Oh, I definitely know it shouldn't have been that long between the two red line trains, but that's how long the wait was. But that's pretty typical for the CTA... trains rarely run on a consistent schedule. A minute or two off... ok, no biggie. But it's not uncommon for it to be much bigger than that. Strangely enough I just got off the brown line at Damen 1.5 hrs ago, and just as I exited the station another outbound train came through. Now I don't want to complain (afterall I'd love for that kind of frequency to occur all the time :D), but I think that shows just how inconsistent the spacing is between trains. You never know if you're gonna be stuck waiting 15 minutes for a train, or just 2 minutes for a train... but rarely will you wait what should be the normal 7-8 minutes between trains (and again that 10-15 seconds I wanted for my transfer yesterday would *not* have made that big of a difference overall... the problems are the big spacing gaps that occur).

Chicago3rd Sep 18, 2007 2:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by OhioGuy (Post 3059974)
Waiting 10-15 extra seconds shouldn't have been asking all that much for the red line to do.

Those 10-15 extra seconds are really 10,000 to 15,000 extra seconds if the trains are loaded. Waiting for the train as scheduled most of the day 5-8 minutes shouldn't have been that hard. 15 minutes was uncalled for.
How long was that red line already there? I am not trying to be difficult. But the one thing I have noticed is that there seem to be a lot smaller gaps with the 3 rails between Fullerton and Belmont and I have stated my belief as to why the system is running better between those two spots.




They slow the trains down at Addison no matter what time of day, regardless of whether workers are present. At 2am we can speed through Montrose while we can't speed through Addision. I'd say about 80% of the time I'm on the brown line we don't slow down through Montrose, but we *ALWAYS* slow down through Addison.

Do you think they do that to agitate us? Could there be an engineering reason why they have to slow down?

What kills me is why stations like Sedgewich and Armitage seem are left open for service but are getting done way quicker than any of the stations they closed!

I see no excuse for being so far off schedule either. Of course if something out of the ordinary would have occurred CTA would have put audio on and informed all its customers to the delay......not!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OhioGuy Sep 18, 2007 2:37 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chicago3rd (Post 3060011)
Do you think they do that to agitate us? Could there be an engineering reason why they have to slow down?

Oh, I don't think they do that to agitate us. I definitely think they want us all to get to our locations as quickly as possible. But that's why I asked the question. I just wasn't understanding why the big difference between Montrose & Addison speedwise when they seem exactly the same to me. I get the most joy out of my entire ride on the brown line on the stretch between Irving Park & the curve toward Damen (northbound or southbound). The trains go soooo quickly through that stretch, regardless of it being a construction zone. It's like heaven on earth and I just want more of it through Addison as well, haha. ;)

VivaLFuego Sep 18, 2007 2:39 AM

I already gave you the answer, OhioGuy...


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