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Haworthia Feb 16, 2009 6:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ChicagoChicago (Post 4091172)
The idea that capital spending from a “stimulus” package could be diverted just to pay the bills makes me want to vomit.

The state needs to secure a permanent, recession proof way to fund transit. Come on Pat, it’s been a week. Whatcha got?

I agree, it is sickening to tap that money just to keep the lights on. We've been doing it for a while which is how we got in the Slow Zone mess that's now being resolved.

But, recession proof funding? I doubt there is such a thing.

- Sales tax?
Declines with consumer spending

- Real estate transfer tax?
Sensitive to housing booms and busts, declines in a shrinking housing market

- Income tax?
Declines when wages and employment recede

- Property taxes?
Declines as property values decline

- Casino or lottery revenue?
Declines with declining consumer spending

- Windfall profits on corporations?
Declines when corporate profits turn sour like now

- Gas tax?
Declines with either high fuel prices (since people cut down on trips) or a declining economy

You'd be stuck taxing Ramen Noodles, the Nintendo Wii, iPhones, and purchases made at Walmart. Those are the few things that seem to be defying economic gravity.

Chicago3rd Feb 16, 2009 7:11 PM

The cuts proposed last year were huge. They were doomsday for those of us who love using Mass Transit and have to. Now...make short fall even larger.....it ain't just an inconvenence.

VivaLFuego Feb 16, 2009 7:53 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ChicagoChicago (Post 4091172)
The idea that capital spending from a “stimulus” package could be diverted just to pay the bills makes me want to vomit.

The state needs to secure a permanent, recession proof way to fund transit. Come on Pat, it’s been a week. Whatcha got?

Federal money can't be diverted to cover operating costs, but local money can.

Abner Feb 16, 2009 7:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ChicagoChicago (Post 4091172)
The idea that capital spending from a “stimulus” package could be diverted just to pay the bills makes me want to vomit.

The prevention of job cuts is every bit as stimulative as the creation of new jobs. Stopping the CTA from ceasing operation entirely in 2010 is significantly more stimulative than almost any other kind of spending conceivable.

The concept of a funding mechanism that requires a balanced budget every year yet does not require cuts during recessions is complete fantasy. There is simply no such thing unless you increase taxes during the recession, which is counterproductive. The federal government has the capacity to borrow against future good times to keep vital services operating during the bad, a capacity not shared by state and local governments. This is pretty straightforward.

VivaLFuego Feb 16, 2009 7:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Haworthia (Post 4091245)
But, recession proof funding? I doubt there is such a thing.

Well, property taxes are recession proof, since the taxing body basically just specifies their total levy and backs into the tax rate each year. You know exactly how much money you'll be getting. Of course, in Chicago and Cook County, we've made the collective political decision that property taxes are a sacred cow and to use them to do stuff like fund a government would force granny to an unacceptable diet of cat food...

That said, part of the "logic" behind Sales Tax funding for transit is that transit ridership is somewhat correlated with economic activity; as tax receipts go down during an economic contraction, transit service would scale down accordingly. Of course, a politician is unlikely to say this outright - it's more the economist's explanation.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Abner (Post 4091363)
The federal government has the capacity to borrow against future good times to keep vital services operating during the bad, a capacity not shared by state and local governments. This is pretty straightforward.

Of course state and local governments can borrow money. Not only can they literally take out loans or establish lines of credit, but they can also issue bonds based on future expected revenue - and those bonds are tax free. This is how Huberman paid for the rapid slow zone removal and dramatically accelerated bus purchases: bond issues against future revenue (under the premise that the annual interest expense is less than the money saved in terms of maintenance, fare revenue, etc.). They can't print money like the Treasury, but this is a pretty big distinction.

ChicagoChicago Feb 16, 2009 8:03 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Abner (Post 4091363)
The prevention of job cuts is every bit as stimulative as the creation of new jobs. Stopping the CTA from ceasing operation entirely in 2010 is significantly more stimulative than almost any other kind of spending conceivable.

I suppose that my concern is that capital funding being used to cover operating costs is stimulating anything, instead it is just maintaining what we have.

This news ought to give Quinn the green light to scrap Blago’s free rides for granny.

ChicagoChicago Feb 16, 2009 8:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 4091359)
Federal money can't be diverted to cover operating costs, but local money can.

Everything I've seen from the stimulus package is essentially giving the states a blank check with almost zero limitations.

Abner Feb 16, 2009 8:30 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 4091365)
Well, property taxes are recession proof, since the taxing body basically just specifies their total levy and backs into the tax rate each year. You know exactly how much money you'll be getting. Of course, in Chicago and Cook County, we've made the collective political decision that property taxes are a sacred cow and to use them to do stuff like fund a government would force granny to an unacceptable diet of cat food...

That said, part of the "logic" behind Sales Tax funding for transit is that transit ridership is somewhat correlated with economic activity; as tax receipts go down during an economic contraction, transit service would scale down accordingly. Of course, a politician is unlikely to say this outright - it's more the economist's explanation.

Of course state and local governments can borrow money. Not only can they literally take out loans or establish lines of credit, but they can also issue bonds based on future expected revenue - and those bonds are tax free. This is how Huberman paid for the rapid slow zone removal and dramatically accelerated bus purchases: bond issues against future revenue (under the premise that the annual interest expense is less than the money saved in terms of maintenance, fare revenue, etc.). They can't print money like the Treasury, but this is a pretty big distinction.

The mechanism by which state and local governments borrow money is rather different from the mechanism by which the federal government borrows money (and I don't mean printing money). State and local governments in general have much harder times borrowing against the future, in large part because the interest rates they face are far higher (Treasury rates right now are basically zero, and if they were to shoot up, it would mean much bigger problems than CTA funding). Who is going to lend a few hundred million dollars to the CTA, and what would the price of such a loan be? And don't you think there is a pretty major difference between the CTA receiving money as aid and receiving it as a loan?

ChicagoChicago, I agree that when the CTA uses capital funds to pay for operating expenses, that is a problem. But that's not what I'm talking about. You say giving money to prevent job cuts is not stimulative. Well, in the absence of the aid money, the CTA would be cutting, apparently, thousands of jobs, and according to one startling sentence in Hilkevitch's column, might have to cease operation entirely. With the aid, they will cut far fewer and may not have to cut at all if the aid is large enough. That is stimulus.

VivaLFuego Feb 16, 2009 9:13 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Abner (Post 4091431)
The mechanism by which state and local governments borrow money is rather different from the mechanism by which the federal government borrows money (and I don't mean printing money). State and local governments in general have much harder times borrowing against the future, in large part because the interest rates they face are far higher (Treasury rates right now are basically zero, and if they were to shoot up, it would mean much bigger problems than CTA funding). Who is going to lend a few hundred million dollars to the CTA, and what would the price of such a loan be?

Ok, but if the Treasury were being used to fund state/local governments, the added risk would be priced in. Generally speaking, the market (with of course influence from the Fed) will dictate these borrowing costs. What more should be done, exactly? Removing statutes mandating a balanced budget would put the paychecks, benefits, and retirement funds of all public workers at risk. The only longer-term solution at the federal level would be to once again have transit operating subsidies as a line item in the federal budget, but that doesn't seem to be under serious consideration at this time - last time it was tried, a body of research developed showing that the vast majority of the cash infusion was immediately absorbed as increased pay/benefits for union workers rather than to hold down fares or increase service levels. Maybe enough time has passed that people will forget that and such a program would be politically palatable again, but considering the current antipathy towards the UAW I have my doubts.

Abner Feb 16, 2009 10:21 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by VivaLFuego (Post 4091526)
Ok, but if the Treasury were being used to fund state/local governments, the added risk would be priced in.

Not really. Federal stimulus is a grant, not a loan, so it's meaningless to speak of the riskiness of bodies receiving aid. You would be talking about the risk that the federal government would default on its debt, which is considered negligible: it will continue to pay out on treasuries no matter what, for as long as the government continues to exist. The increase in risk of the federal government going bankrupt due to providing aid to local governments is small enough to be ignored (if it weren't, as I said, people wouldn't be willing to park their money in treasuries for essentially zero return right now). This is just one of many factors that make federal borrowing fundamentally different from borrowing by any other organization.

If we keep on with this we'd better make sure to keep it transit-focused; I stay out of that "OBAMA transit" thread for a reason.

Ch.G, Ch.G Feb 17, 2009 4:30 PM

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/l...692,full.story

Quote:

Pedestrian deaths in Chicago are up despite safety measures
Agency looking into reasons for 56 fatalities in 2008

By Tracy Swartz | RedEye
February 17, 2009

Pedestrian deaths are on the rise in Chicago, despite increased safety measures such as red-light cameras, countdown signals and crosswalk awareness initiatives.

Fifty-six pedestrian fatalities were logged last year—up from 49 deaths in 2007 and 48 deaths in 2006. Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Brian Steele said the agency is reviewing the reasons behind the uptick but said in certain cases, problems with pavement markings, faulty signage and construction projects may be to blame.

Steele also pointed to an increase in pedestrians in Chicago—named the country's fourth most walkable large city in 2008 by Walk Score.

Still, Steele said, "One fatality is one too many. Fifty-odd pedestrian fatalities is close to an average of one a week, and that's far too many. We're committed to this, and the most difficult part of this is changing driver behavior."

A RedEye analysis of pedestrian fatality data provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation revealed deaths occurred across the city, but there were clusters of fatal crashes at intersections along Lake Shore Drive, Stony Island Avenue, Madison Street and Ashland Avenue. RedEye found problems persist at intersections that employ even the costliest safeguards.

One of these hot spots is the intersection of Chicago and Cicero Avenues. Children are constantly crossing the thoroughfare, which is near an elementary school. A nearby health clinic run by Cook County draws a fair amount of foot and motorist traffic to the area. Two major CTA routes, the No. 66-Chicago Avenue bus and the No. 54-Cicero Avenue bus, also cross paths there.

When Stormi Davis crosses the intersection, she doesn't walk—she jogs.

"You're taking a chance with that light," said Davis, 21, who lives in Austin. "It's just hectic traffic. Like being on the expressway."

But motorists shouldn't shoulder all the blame, said Jansen "John" Daoud, who runs a convenience store that faces the Chicago-Cicero intersection.

"Kids and adults cross ... illegally," said Daoud of Skokie. "Then cars come too fast."

Daoud says he sees two to three accidents there a week, including some that involve pedestrians.

Last year, there were 29 calls to 311 about the Chicago-Cicero intersection, said Jennifer Martinez, spokeswoman for the Office of Emergency Management and Communications. Residents phoned about potholes, street marking paint requests, malfunctioning traffic and street lights and traffic issues.

The city tried to address some traffic issues by installing a red-light camera there in 2007. Two pedestrians died at or near that intersection in separate cases in 2008.

In October, a motorist gunned the engine to hit a pedestrian, Steele said, citing police reports that suggested the death may have been a homicide. In June, a child was hit by a car near the intersection.

After a pedestrian death, CDOT goes to the crash site and tries to determine what caused the fatality, Steele said. In some cases, CDOT has replaced a traffic signal with a signal that has a timed countdown for pedestrians, repainted crosswalks so the lines were more visible and added signs.

On residential streets, the department plans to employ more traffic-calming measures, including traffic circles in the center of intersections, Steele said.

On busier thoroughfares, the department is looking into implementing small "pedestrian refuge islands" in the medians of roadways. Pedestrians who can't cross all the way before a light changes would be able to wait on one of these islands—which can be raised concrete or street-level partitions—until they get the right of way, Steele said.

But improving crosswalks for pedestrians doesn't come cheap.

A red-light camera costs $24,500. The city's new contract with Redflex called for more installations, which lowered the unit price of the camera from $100,000, Martinez said.

There are 133 red-light cameras across Chicago, and the city plans to install about 50 more this year, Martinez said.

"We do feel like it's creating safer intersections," she said. "We've seen a 59 percent average reduction in red-light running. That means safer motorists and safer residents."

•New signs cost $60 to $75 to manufacture and install, Steele said, and most installations require multiple signs.

•A $27,000 grant from IDOT paid for crosswalk awareness initiatives at two intersections on the Northwest Side last year. Chicago police pulled over and warned 179 motorists for failing to yield to undercover officers posing as pedestrians at the intersections of Belmont and Lawndale Avenues and Milwaukee and Lawndale Avenues.

Police Sgt. Antoinette Ursitti said 48 similar initiatives are planned for this year, but she declined to say where and when they will occur.

•Repainting a crosswalk for a 40-foot-wide street (one lane in each direction, plus parking lanes) costs $150 to $525 per crosswalk and $600 to $2,100 per intersection, Steele said. Wider arterial streets would cost more to repaint, Steele said.

The city restriped the crosswalks at Roosevelt Road and State Street in 2008, Steele said. The South Loop intersection is a hotbed for traffic. The Roosevelt train station for the CTA's Red, Green and Orange Lines is near the intersection.

A pedestrian, "apparently intoxicated," was struck by a car there last year after repeatedly running across the street, Steele said.

The intersection is set this month to get a new signal-timing device that increases the duration of the flashing "don't walk" sign, he said.

There's also a red-light camera there, but that doesn't seem to slow cars down, said Mare Deros, 24, of Berwyn, who crosses the intersection by foot three or four times a week — and drives through even more frequently—to go to work.

"That doesn't help at all," Deros said.

tswartz@tribune.com

Taft Feb 17, 2009 4:32 PM

Obama plots huge railroad expansion
 
From Politico: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0209/18924.html

Quote:

Obama plots huge railroad expansion

Railroads made Chicago, and now a Chicago-rich White House wants to return the favor: remaking rail with a huge new federal investment in high-speed passenger trains.

The $787.2 billion economic recovery bill — to be signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday — dedicates $8 billion to high-speed rail, most of which was added in the final closed-door bargaining at the instigation of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

It’s a sum that far surpasses anything before attempted in the United States — and more is coming. Administration officials told Politico that when Obama outlines his 2010 budget next week, it will ask for $1 billion more for high-speed rail in each of the next five years.

...

ChicagoChicago Feb 17, 2009 4:59 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Taft (Post 4093041)

Thank you for that article. I've got to believe Republicans will be more willing to support a bill that brings new rail line through their districts, and one has to believe that this initiative will. While the big cities might be blue, everything in between is red.

Nowhereman1280 Feb 17, 2009 5:08 PM

Sweet, I hope Chicago gets most of it!

lazar22b Feb 17, 2009 5:49 PM

Thats a poor article seeing as Chicago won't really see any of the money. $7.5 billion of that $8billion is for the california high speed rail.

schwerve Feb 17, 2009 6:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by lazar22b (Post 4093148)
Thats a poor article seeing as Chicago won't really see any of the money. $7.5 billion of that $8billion is for the california high speed rail.

I don't believe CA HSR is getting much if any of that money, there is some talk (and talking points) of LA-Vegas getting a large portion of that; however, I don't believe there's actually anything in the bill which would suggest that's the case.

ChicagoChicago Feb 17, 2009 6:15 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by lazar22b (Post 4093148)
Thats a poor article seeing as Chicago won't really see any of the money. $7.5 billion of that $8billion is for the california high speed rail.

Did you read the article? The transportation secretary, Ray LaHood is given 60 days to come up with a strategic plan on how to allocate the money. Republicans suspect that it will go toward Reid’s Maglev, but there is little evidence to suggest that.

Ch.G, Ch.G Feb 17, 2009 7:16 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Taft (Post 4093041)

I like this article a lot better than the one I posted!

Abner Feb 17, 2009 8:44 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ChicagoChicago (Post 4093183)
Did you read the article? The transportation secretary, Ray LaHood is given 60 days to come up with a strategic plan on how to allocate the money. Republicans suspect that it will go toward Reid’s Maglev, but there is little evidence to suggest that.

Right. The LA-Vegas thing is just a made-up talking point to make a sensible, beneficial program sound silly. The president was primarily responsible for the inclusion of this money, not Reid or anybody else in Nevada or California. Hopefully we'll get some word soon from LaHood about what sorts of things he has in mind.

lazar22b Feb 17, 2009 8:49 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ChicagoChicago (Post 4093183)
Did you read the article? The transportation secretary, Ray LaHood is given 60 days to come up with a strategic plan on how to allocate the money. Republicans suspect that it will go toward Reid’s Maglev, but there is little evidence to suggest that.

According to the wording of the bill as of last friday, 7.5 billion was going to california. We were briefed on how it was estimated the money was allocated so that we had a little heads up for temporary worker hiring purposes. Maybe this was changed between then and the signing. I'm hoping more goes to Chicago / projects that benefit Chicago, but last I heard this was not the case (in terms of rail transportation funding)

orulz Feb 17, 2009 9:21 PM

There is no language in the bill allocating any HSR money to any particular project. In fact it turns out that Obama himself is the one who orchestrated the thrust to get the HSR money increased to $8 billion. If there was in fact some backdoor under the table agreement between Obama and Reid in which the toy maglev train from Las Vegas to Disney World will get the bulk of the HSR money, masquerading as a fair and merit-based program that is actually outlined in the text of the bill, then my faith in this country will drop to zero and I will set sail for foreign shores out of disgust.

As it is, I think that the story of the HSR money being thrown in as an earmark for the California-Vegas maglev was a story concocted by the Republicans to stir up outrage over the stimulus bill in general.

Here is what the bill calls for:
  • $8 billion
  • Will be available until Sept 30, 2012
  • A strategic plan for how the money will be released within 60 days
  • A procedure for how the grants program will be operated and the guidance/criteria for applicants will be released within 120 days.
  • Does not have to be used on projects that are already in a state's Rail Plan (this probably means that it does NOT have to be on one of the 11 designated HSR corridors)
  • Does not require matching state funds (but presumably, the local commitment will play into the equation when evaluating the merit of a project)
Read the full text - the relevant section starts on page 237 of the PDF. Quoted here:
Quote:

17 FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION
18 CAPITAL ASSISTANCE FOR HIGH SPEED RAIL CORRIDORS
19 AND INTERCITY PASSENGER RAIL SERVICE
20 For an additional amount for section 501 of Public
21 Law 110-432 and discretionary grants to States to pay
22 for the cost of projects described in paragraphs (2)(A) and
23 (2)(B) of section 24401 of title 49, United States Code,
24 subsection (b) of section 24105 of such title,
25 $8,000,000,000, to remain available through September

1 30, 2012: Provided, That the Secretary of Transportation
2 shall give priority to projects that support the development
3 of intercity high speed rail service: Provided further, That
4 within 60 days of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary
5 shall submit to the House and Senate Committees on Ap-
6 propriations a strategic plan that describes how the Sec-
7 retary will use the funding provided under this heading
8 to improve and deploy high speed passenger rail systems:
9 Provided further, That vvithin 120 days of enactment of
10 this Act, the Secretary shall issue interim guidance to ap-
11 plicants covering grant terms, conditions, and procedures
12 until final regulations are issued: Provided further, That
13 such interim guidance shall provide separate instructions
14 for the high speed rail corridor program, capital assistance
15 for intercity passenger rail service grants, and congestion
16 grants: Provided further, That the Secretary shall waive
17 the requirement that a project conducted using funds pro-
18 vided under this heading be in a State rail plan developed
19 under chapter 227 of title 49, United States Code: Pro-
20 vided further, That the Federal share payable of the costs
21 for which a grant is made under this heading shall be,
22 at the option of the recipient, up to 100 percent: Provided
23 further, That projects conducted using funds provided
24 under tlus heading must comply with the requirements of
25 subchapter IV of chapter 31 of title 40, United States

1 Code: Provided jurther, That section 24405 of title 49,
2 United States Code, shall apply to funds provided under
3 this heading: Provided further, That the Administrator of
4 the Federal Railroad Administration may retain up to one-
5 quarter of 1 percent of the funds provided under this
6 heading to fund the award and oversight by the Adminis-
7 trator of grants made under this heading, and funds re-
8 tained for said purposes shall remain available through
9 September 30,2014.

Taft Feb 17, 2009 9:42 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by lazar22b (Post 4093552)
According to the wording of the bill as of last friday, 7.5 billion was going to california. We were briefed on how it was estimated the money was allocated so that we had a little heads up for temporary worker hiring purposes. Maybe this was changed between then and the signing. I'm hoping more goes to Chicago / projects that benefit Chicago, but last I heard this was not the case (in terms of rail transportation funding)

If you are able, can you disclose who or what agency briefed you? I ask because, from other analysis of this bill, your account is inaccurate. For example, from thetransportpolitic.com:

Quote:

...

The U.S. Congress Conference Committee has agreed to the final provisions of the economic stimulus bill, which now moves back to the two chambers of Congress for final passage. The most important news is the massive amount of money proposed for high-speed rail - $8 billion - and the large increase in Amtrak funding, up to $1.3 billion from $800 and $850 million in the respective House and Senate bills. This represents the largest single expenditure on rail in United States history and promises a new day for train travel. The U.S. Department of Transportation will lead the distribution of these funds; most of the money is likely to go to existing programs such as California High-Speed Rail, Midwest High-Speed Rail, and Southeast High-Speed Rail. States will get no supplementary money for rail programs. The legislation says that some of the money can be used for standard-speed rail corridors, but that the Secretary of Transportation is to give priority “to projects that support the development of intercity high speed rail service.”

...
http://thetransportpolitic.com/2009/...te-on-transit/

This article is a few days out of date, and House/Senate negotiations may have changed things, but it was my understanding this was largely accurate.

lazar22b Feb 17, 2009 9:59 PM

^^@ Taft
It's not inaccurate. The california high speed rail, specifically the link from LA to San Fran, was the one to get the majority of the money. I never mentioned the maglev as some seem to be suggesting. The reason that California HSR is the biggest beneficiary of the money is that it is the most thought out plan and is the most likely to be able to spend such a large amount of money within two years. It is a requirement of the bill (at least for construction projects) that the money allocated be spent within two years. In the plan, amtrak was suppose to get the rest of the money, and what they were going to do with it I'm not sure. It is possible they plan to use the money on the midwest HSR, but the these plans seem to be far from being well thought out which makes it difficult for them to spend large money quickly.

Abner Feb 17, 2009 10:52 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by lazar22b (Post 4093729)
It is possible they plan to use the money on the midwest HSR, but the these plans seem to be far from being well thought out which makes it difficult for them to spend large money quickly.

Putting aside the issue of what the bill does or doesn't say, I'm not sure this point is accurate. It depends to some extent on what you mean by high speed rail, but Amtrak, the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, and individual states have done quite a lot of study of potential rail improvements in the region. My impression at least is that improvements on the Chicago-Milwaukee line and the Chicago-Springfield-St. Louis line are about as close to "shovel-ready" as passenger rail projects get. Both of those lines would get sections of 110 mph service, which isn't high-speed by European or Japanese standards but would be a big step forward in this country. There would also be the possibility of further improvements along partially upgraded track in Michigan, and analysis has been underway on "South of the Lake" routes from Chicago into Indiana. I'm assuming here that the $8 billion for high speed rail can't go to CREATE programs, many of which are also ready to go.

orulz Feb 17, 2009 11:08 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by lazar22b (Post 4093729)
^^@ Taft
It's not inaccurate. The california high speed rail, specifically the link from LA to San Fran, was the one to get the majority of the money. I never mentioned the maglev as some seem to be suggesting. The reason that California HSR is the biggest beneficiary of the money is that it is the most thought out plan and is the most likely to be able to spend such a large amount of money within two years. It is a requirement of the bill (at least for construction projects) that the money allocated be spent within two years. In the plan, amtrak was suppose to get the rest of the money, and what they were going to do with it I'm not sure. It is possible they plan to use the money on the midwest HSR, but the these plans seem to be far from being well thought out which makes it difficult for them to spend large money quickly.

I suspect that whoever briefed you may have been briefing you based on speculation. Again, not that I'm an insider myself, but I see no evidence that there has been any shady behind the scenes dealing to allocate any of the money before the Secretary of Transportation and the FRA even have a chance to name their criteria. By second degree word of mouth, I heard from somebody at NCDOT that this money will probably be doled out under terms similar to the New Starts-like process outlined under Title 3 Section 301 of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Not by sleazy-ass earmarks.

For the timeframe of spending the money for HSR, please refer to the text of the stimulus bill quoted above. The money must be used by September 30, 2012, which is actually over 3.5 years. There are plenty of HSR lines throughout the country that could turn dirt and spend money within 3.5 years. The Chicago-St Louis corridor already has a completed EIS and ROD for some of their 110mph improvements. That's as close to "shovel ready" as you're going to get. They could probably break ground in less than 6 months. The Southeast line estimates that their EIS will be completed and a ROD reached some time in early 2011, which is a similar timeframe to that of the line in California.

So, please excuse me for saying this, but unless you explain further who your source is, I do not think that they should be believed.

schwerve Feb 17, 2009 11:30 PM

here's the thing, since the aims of MW HSR are so much lower, actually the network doesn't require a huge chunk of that pie to meet its goals. the St. Louis-Springfield-Chicago link needs <400 Mil for 110 mph service (from what I can gather). I don't think its unrealistic to have madison-milwaukee-chicago-springfield-st. louis in the proposed time frame for under 800 mil. that leaves a lot of cash for other projects, CA HSR rail included (though there's no way they're getting 90+% of the total)

ChicagoChicago Feb 17, 2009 11:42 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by schwerve (Post 4094017)
here's the thing, since the aims of MW HSR are so much lower, actually the network doesn't require a huge chunk of that pie to meet its goals. the St. Louis-Springfield-Chicago link needs <400 Mil for 110 mph service (from what I can gather). I don't think its unrealistic to have madison-milwaukee-chicago-springfield-st. louis in the proposed time frame for under 800 mil. that leaves a lot of cash for other projects, CA HSR rail included (though there's no way they're getting 90+% of the total)

Milwaukee/Chicago needs a HSR line about as badly as any place in the country.

arenn Feb 18, 2009 5:52 AM

110MPH is not high speed rail.

I do agree chicago/mke needs a serious rail upgrade - but since they are so close, HSR isn't required. We could get down to 60 minute service without it I think.

If President Obama wants a true HSR legacy for the Midwest, then my new terrain line to Indianapolis is the best idea. At $3-4 billion, it would provide true 200MPH high speed service between the cities with a 90 minute journey time. With expedited environmental review, I think it could be under construction before Obama's first term is up.

Is California HSR shovel ready? I can't imagine it is. Also, with the extreme state level regulation and such in Cali, I'd expect long legal battles over it.

Jibba Feb 18, 2009 6:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ch.G, Ch.G (Post 4093039)
[URL="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-pedestrian-safety-17-feb17,0,7972692[/URL]

More than one pedestrian death per week is inexcusable. I don't know what a statistical norm is for a city of our size/density, but this is really bad, IMO. I would be interested to see how this compares to other large cities, because I think that our figure is very emblematic of the car culture here. The article also highlights what has been expressed here ad nauseam: crossing LSD to get to the lake is a complete joke. Ashland does't surprise me as being a hot-bed of accidents, either, aside from the fact that it's a very long street and thus more probable to have collisions at any given segment. People treat it as a veritable expressway, and all of the car-pandering crap that has been stuffed onto it only bolsters drivers' entitlement to it. And to think that in light of all of this there is not one, but two proposed parking garages for Six Corners, both of which would occupy space on "P" (read: pedestrian [read: it doesn't really matter]) streets. Pathetic.

schwerve Feb 18, 2009 6:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by arenn (Post 4094920)
110MPH is not high speed rail.

in the US "high speed" is a relative statement. let's just accept that and move on.

Abner Feb 18, 2009 7:24 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by arenn (Post 4094920)
110MPH is not high speed rail.

No, but it's the best first step in a lot of cases. It's the fastest allowable speed on tracks with grade crossings, it can be achieved very quickly (like one construction season, depending on what has to get done), and it can be done cheaply so that a piddly little $8 billion can be spread among projects all over the country.

Obviously what's important is average speed, not top speed, as anyone familiar with the "150 mph" Acela knows. People don't avoid Amtrak because it doesn't go 200 mph, they avoid Amtrak because it spends half its time sitting behind freight trains. Separating the traffic, fixing the slowest sections first, getting to 110 mph where possible, and getting new trains would be a good way to build some goodwill and demonstrate that passenger trains can work if we let them.

A dedicated route to Indianapolis sounds great. Building a new route south of the lake is a big priority for the Midwest High Speed Rail folks, so you're in agreement with them at least as far as Gary or so.

Mr Downtown Feb 18, 2009 3:03 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Abner (Post 4095138)
People don't avoid Amtrak because it doesn't go 200 mph, they avoid Amtrak because it spends half its time sitting behind freight trains.

I don't know that people "avoid" Amtrak at all. It's pretty much at practical capacity now. The limiting factor is a shortage of equipment.

Quote:

you're in agreement with them at least as far as Gary or so.
But Chicago to Gary is very unlikely to get a new alignment; they'd just use the existing Pennsy corridor next to South Chicago Avenue.

Abner Feb 18, 2009 4:14 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr Downtown (Post 4095528)
I don't know that people "avoid" Amtrak at all. It's pretty much at practical capacity now. The limiting factor is a shortage of equipment.

Well okay, but you know what I mean. It has a bad public image of being slow and constantly late, which contributes to it being starved of funding, which only makes things worse.

emathias Feb 18, 2009 5:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ChicagoChicago (Post 4094056)
Milwaukee/Chicago needs a HSR line about as badly as any place in the country.

Taken together, air traffic between Chicago and Minneapolis, St. Louis, Indianapolis and Detroit account for 10% of passenger traffic in and out of Chicago. Since those routes probably fly a lot of smaller craft, there's a good chance that they account for over 10% of aircraft movement at O'Hare and Midway. The $15 billion used for the O'Hare expansion would have gone a long way toward real high speed between Chicago and the city centers of those locations (I'd start with Minneapolis - maybe via Milwaukee and Madison - and St. Louis, since they both already have lightrail), plus ties us all together even tighter which benefits everyone in the region.

Heck, if you designed it right, you could end up with service that included express rail to O'Hare from downtown using the HSR system which would come throug the Loop and then go to O'Hare for points north, maybe giving Milwaukee, Minneapolis and St. Paul each airport express runs, too.

Taft Feb 18, 2009 11:14 PM

The huffingtonpost has a graphic showing the potential high-speed rail routes that the stimulus money could fund. Find it here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/0..._n_167804.html

In the article is this little gem:

Quote:

In a last-minute change, the total quantity of funds available was increased. But there's no special plan for Las Vegas. The money will be spread all across the country. As it happens, I think an LA-Vegas HSR line is a perfectly reasonable project. But in practice the areas that will get a leg up should be the Federal Railroad Administration's officially designated high-speed rail corridors. As it happens, LA-Vegas doesn't make the cut. But guess who does have such a corridor? Ohio!
Guess this was just a unfounded GOP rumor.

Taft Feb 18, 2009 11:29 PM

And before anyone gets too excited thinking about high-speed rail, here's some sobering news:

Quote:

On top of a looming budget crisis this year, the Chicago Transit Authority must dig its way out of an $87 million shortfall for 2008, the transit agency's board learned today.

The new deficit number for an operating year already concluded startled CTA board members. They questioned the apparent lack of timely budget oversight provided by the Regional Transportation Authority.

"I'm confused. How can we amend 2008 budget marks in February 2009?" asked CTA Chairwoman Carole Brown.

The RTA is responsible for providing guidance to the CTA, Metra and Pace on how much public funding each will receive. In turn, the transit agencies are required to balance their budgets by controlling costs and setting service levels and fares.
http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/2...ernatives.html

I'm as confused as Carole Brown. The budget figures quoted by the RTA need to have meaning. If they don't, the CTA can never count on the money allocated to them by the RTA. I appreciate the fact that the souring economy has hit their tax revenues hard, but shouldn't that impact FUTURE budgets instead of PAST budgets. This is messed up, IMO.

sukwoo Feb 19, 2009 12:21 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Taft (Post 4096506)
The huffingtonpost has a graphic showing the potential high-speed rail routes that the stimulus money could fund. Find it here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/0..._n_167804.html

In the article is this little gem:



Guess this was just a unfounded GOP rumor.

A good rule of thumb is to regard everything the Republicans say about Obama's/Democratic proposals as falsehoods until proven otherwise.

Abner Feb 19, 2009 12:32 AM

You must be one of the marsh mice!

the urban politician Feb 19, 2009 4:37 AM

I'm just curious to get everyone's opinion: if improved intercity rail becomes a reality in the next several years/decades, what do you all propose to be the best way to connect such riders to Chicago's transit system? (besides getting out and walking to the L, although you're welcome to propose that..)

Nowhereman1280 Feb 19, 2009 6:08 AM

^^^ Pneumatic tubes like in the Jetsons...

Ch.G, Ch.G Feb 19, 2009 6:38 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jibba (Post 4095037)
More than one pedestrian death per week is inexcusable. I don't know what a statistical norm is for a city of our size/density, but this is really bad, IMO. I would be interested to see how this compares to other large cities, because I think that our figure is very emblematic of the car culture here. The article also highlights what has been expressed here ad nauseam: crossing LSD to get to the lake is a complete joke. Ashland does't surprise me as being a hot-bed of accidents, either, aside from the fact that it's a very long street and thus more probable to have collisions at any given segment. People treat it as a veritable expressway, and all of the car-pandering crap that has been stuffed onto it only bolsters drivers' entitlement to it. And to think that in light of all of this there is not one, but two proposed parking garages for Six Corners, both of which would occupy space on "P" (read: pedestrian [read: it doesn't really matter]) streets. Pathetic.

The article further underscores how non-motorists bear far more than their fair share of the motorists' burden. If fatal collisions were up, I imagine non-fatal ones saw a similar increase, too. Really, I don't have any sympathy for those who object to the government's attempts at leveling the playing field (even when safety isn't the express purpose).

schwerve Feb 19, 2009 8:04 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the urban politician (Post 4097133)
I'm just curious to get everyone's opinion: if improved intercity rail becomes a reality in the next several years/decades, what do you all propose to be the best way to connect such riders to Chicago's transit system? (besides getting out and walking to the L, although you're welcome to propose that..)

a combination of things which basically involves the construction of the west loop transportation center.

1) clinton-larabee subway diverting the red line through the west loop,
2) build in a corresponding blue line spur
3) underground BRT station which primarily provides E-W routing along carrol transitway and madison (among others)

that basically turns the union station area into a secondary hub outside the loop from which you can access most N-S and E-W destinations.

Mr Downtown Feb 19, 2009 3:00 PM

That's an interesting question with no easy answer. For the short term, I'd say stairways from the south platforms at Union Station up to Van Buren, with signage to the Congress/Clinton Blue Line station. Problem is, HSR would probably arrive on the through tracks right next to the river, meaning someone bound for, say, Clark/Adams would walk almost as far southwest to the Blue Line to ride back to Dearborn/Adams as they would just walking from the arrival tracks straight to their Loop destination.

I also hope that an offstreet bus loading facility will soon be built on the surface lot at the SWC Canal/Jackson, with a subterranean passage from the Great Hall under Jackson. That could help reduce the psychic distance from the Great Hall to Clinton/Congress, but perhaps encouraging use of the frequent bus service into the Loop to rapid transit lines would be smarter than building long, expensive tunnels.

Over the long run, we will need to figure out whether a Clinton Street subway (West Loop Transportation Center) or a Monroe Street subway is a better option. If HSR expands enough that either the Clinton Street tracks or an Old Post Office station facility is needed, then the solution becomes more obvious.

ChicagoChicago Feb 19, 2009 4:17 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by the urban politician (Post 4097133)
I'm just curious to get everyone's opinion: if improved intercity rail becomes a reality in the next several years/decades, what do you all propose to be the best way to connect such riders to Chicago's transit system? (besides getting out and walking to the L, although you're welcome to propose that..)

I am guessing the best way would be to link it into MDW for trains heading to Indianapolis and St. Louis. There would need to be additional parking added to MDW, but I don’t really see that as a huge problem.

Daley’s dream plan to have an airport express shuttle could rendezvous with O’Hare, and then head up to Milwaukee. It would allow Milwaukee residents to use ORD as an access point instead of MKE, and reduce congestion between MKE and ORD.

Attrill Feb 19, 2009 4:45 PM

State of the 'hood
At forum, aldermen say Wicker Park and Bucktown are ready for stimulus

By IAN FULLERTON
Contributing Reporter
Chicago Journal

Two area aldermen believe the federal stimulus package could mean upgrades for transportation infrastructure in Wicker Park and Bucktown, and the CTA more generally.

"We are ready," said 1st Ward Alderman Manny Flores, during a State of the Neighborhood address Feb. 4 at the Wicker Park-Bucktown Library.

At the forum, Flores and 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack met with neighborhood residents to discuss infrastructure, development, crime, parking and other local issues. The Wicker Park Committee hosted the gathering.

Waguespack said that he and Flores have put together a list of projects that could benefit from stimulus funding, including street, transit and sewer line renovations.

"Wicker Park and Bucktown have some of the oldest infrastructures in the city and they haven't been maintained very well," Waguespack said. "We need to sink a lot of money into this in a good way."

"The entire CTA is shovel-ready," added Flores.

Flores said at the top of his agenda is job creation and pro-environmental initiatives like the Green Exchange, a business incubator near Diversey and Campbell slated to open later this year.

Such projects, Flores said, are "not only related to environmental stewardship, but are also needed to help build the green economy in our city, especially in a time when we are facing an economic crisis and we need to expand more jobs for members of our community."

Waguespack said his office is working toward implementing building codes that will incorporate green products into the area's developments, like audits on new construction to ensure that the buildings meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification.

"It will set a standard in the city and show how we can start transitioning into green building," he said.

Flores and Waguespack's call for stimulus funding for the Near Northwest Side came after the city and CTA lost a $153 million federal grant in January. The grant was aimed at easing congestion in the city, and would have paid for "Bus Rapid Transit" along Chicago Avenue, which cuts through both of the aldermen's wards, among other projects.

"The $153 million that was lost was a travesty," said Waguespack. Mayor Daley had blamed federal officials for the loss, saying they were inflexible in the grant's deadline.

"It's an embarrassment," said Flores. "In a time when we need to improve our transit system, we lost out on this opportunity."

Other forum panelists included executive director of the Wicker Park-Bucktown Chamber of Commerce Paula Barrington, 14th District Police commander Lucio Martinez and the newly-seated Wicker Park Post Office manager Sherman Jones.

Barrington expressed her support for some of the proposed developments in the area, including the two parking garages developers hope to build just north of the Damen, Milwaukee and North intersection.

"With this area becoming more popular, we do see that there will be a greater need for these garages," Barrington said.

If built, the two garages - one at 1616-26 N. Milwaukee and the other at 1611-1619 N. Damen - would add around 270 parking spaces to the area. But Waguespack said that he continues to oppose the garages "from an urban planning perspective."

Some residents at the meeting voiced concerns over steady crime rates in the area.

Commander Martinez acknowledged that theft remains an issue. He said Wicker Park and Bucktown had seen 31 more armed robberies than in 2007, and 56 more home burglaries.

"Many of these were financial crimes," he said, suggesting that the numbers may correlate with the economic recession. "It's all money related."

Waguespack said with stimulus money going toward infrastructure projects, more money would be freed up for the police department.

Residents at the meeting asked about the long history of shortcomings in neighborhood postal service.

"I know you have a lot of issues with the service," said Sherman Jones, the new manager of customer services at the Wicker Park Post Office. He said recognized that mail delivery in the area has suffered from job cuts and a lack of funding.

"What am I going to do about it?" he said. "I'm going to talk about talk to the leadership about making changes I deem necessary."

ChicagoChicago Feb 19, 2009 5:45 PM

^^^
I'm guessing things didn't go so well on the BRT grant for Daley when he went to Washington last week. As full of hot air as he is, if there was good news he'd have shared it.

jpIllInoIs Feb 19, 2009 8:02 PM

Metra rail posts its biggest year yet for ridership
 
February 19, 2009

http://www.pioneerlocal.com/glencoe/...909-s1.article


By LIZA ROCHE lroche@pioneerlocal.com
High gas prices, congested roadways and expanded train service helped make 2008 a record-setting year for annual ridership for suburban Metra rail -- its third consecutive year for making such a record.

In all, Metra reported nearly 84.5 million paid rides in 2008, a 1.4 percent increase over 2007. When including free rides for seniors, the total number of passenger trips grew to 86.8 million in 2008, a 4.2 percent increase from the previous year.

"Since reaching a low of 54.6 million passenger trips in 1983, (the year before commuter rail service was reorganized as Metra) commuter rail ridership has increased 54 percent, averaging a growth rate of two percent a year," said Metra Executive Director Phil Pagano.

This past July was Metra's most popular month in its history, when for the first time ever, the commuter rail service recorded more than 8 million passenger trips in one month. Metra also recorded seven consecutive months in 2008 with more than 7 million trips each.

July also coincided with sky-high gasoline prices, which at the time averaged $4.34 a gallon.

"With the cost of driving more expensive, Metra became a popular alternative," said Lynette Ciavarella, Metra's director of planning and analysis.

Of all the Metra lines, three lines running through north suburban communities saw the biggest growth in 2008, with officials pointing to reconstruction of the Edens Expressway as a major reason for increased use.

Metra's North Central line, which runs from Chicago to Antioch and through many suburbs including Grayslake and Vernon Hills, grew 10.7 percent in passenger trips, from 1.48 million in 2007 to 1.57 million in 2008.

The Union Pacific North line, which runs from Chicago Kenosha and through many North Shore communities including Winnetka and Lake Forest, also saw big gains.

According the suburban rail system, the line recorded more than 10 million paid passenger trips in 2008, compared to 9.2 million in 2007. When including free trips for seniors and other free riders, the total number of rides on the line rose to nearly 10.5 million.

Passenger trips for the Milwaukee North line, running from Chicago to Fox Lake, and through Glenview and Libertyville, also grew by 7.2 percent in passenger trips from 2007 to 2008.

Another ridership noted by Metra staff was the growth in intermediate travel. Trips not beginning or ending in Zone A, or downtown Chicago, on Metra increased 12 percent over those in 2007.

Edens work is completed, employment numbers are decreasing and high gasoline prices have subsided for now -- all things that could reduce pressure on the commuter train system.

But Metra Director Jack Schaffer of McHenry County said more people may consider Metra with significantly higher parking prices --including metered parking -- in downtown Chicago.

"It's something we'll have to keep our eye on," he said.

MayorOfChicago Feb 19, 2009 10:51 PM

So what does everyone think on CTA raising fares for 2009, and now finding out that they're already in a $87M hole for LAST year's budget.

Add that to the 2009 deficit and we're staring at a $254,000,000 budget gap that's already hitting.

Compare this to the years we sat through "doomsdays" that tore everyone apart and caused serious fights in Springfield over amounts from $50-$80 million.

We're looking at something 3 times larger than the past doomsdays and we already "won" our fight to fix the funding sytem. No one is giving us anything now, let alone 3 times as much.

Even the CTA and RTA in their meetings today said they were at a complete loss of words, and wouldn't even know where to start fixing this budget gap.

They said the only ways were massive fare increases alongside devestating service cuts.

MayorOfChicago Feb 19, 2009 10:52 PM

And now they just released a story how they're pulling over TWO HUNDRED of the rush-hour accordian buses off their routes for defects.

The report said this will have a major impact on rush hour express bus travel on the north/south sides into downtown.

Attrill Feb 19, 2009 10:59 PM

:previous:

That really sucks. They've known about the issue for a long time and have sued the manufacturer.

Quote:

The CTA says design flaws are to blame for the defects, which include cracks around the axles and the joint connecting the articulated mid-section of the buses.

The CTA filed a lawsuit against NABI after the financially strapped bus manufacturer failed to make sufficient improvements under the warranty, transit officials said.

The CTA also stopped making payments on the $102 million contract about four years ago.

The 226 NABI buses that the CTA purchased are warranted for 12 years or 500,000 miles. The bus that failed was about five years old and had 152,000 miles. Slightly fewer than 200 buses were still in service when the CTA pulled the plug on them today.


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