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Pandemonious Mar 19, 2010 7:27 PM

Well, technically you can get to either outbound or inbound from either side via the bridge. I would assume that almost everyone who came inbound in the morning would also be going outbound after work.. so I would say a lot at that time... just as in the reverse of the morning commute but obviously not as dramatic as at a busier loop L station.

Either way, was just a minor thing that seemed weird given that the plans are mirror images aside from that. I frequently encounter out of order turnstiles, so adding even just one extra one where there is obviously space makes sense to me. One morning at the Damen stop going inbound two of the three turnstiles were not functioning and there was a long slow line proceeding into the station...

ardecila Mar 20, 2010 1:18 AM

Glad to see that the platforms are being built to accommodate 8-car trains from the outset. If the Brown Line is any indication, that's probably something that you don't wanna have to retrofit.

I can't tell from the renderings... I'm guessing the canopies will be the same Kalwall that's used at Belmont and Fullerton?

Also, how sick would it be if the metal cladding was made of Cor-Ten?

Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter

Vertical Slats
Sean Godsell Architects

ardecila Mar 20, 2010 9:42 PM

I have a question... I probably asked this before, but it's been awhile.

Land use changes can improve the ridership of any transit line, but realistically, upzoning is unlikely in most areas of Chicagoland. Where is there a high-volume demand, currently not served adequately by transit, that can be improved by the expansion of transit services? This can be either in the city, the suburbs, or both.

None of the current proposals by any of the three service agencies are likely to make a dent in regional traffic patterns. The Circle Line probably does not have enough density around it to justify its enormous capital cost. The Mid-City Transitway has a chance... it doesn't need to link up with the existing L system, so it could be built as light rail or BRT instead of heavy rail. This may bring the costs in line with the ridership potential.

Mr Downtown Mar 21, 2010 1:30 AM

^Do you mean not served by rail transit, or not served by any transit? As sometimes noted here, several CTA bus corridors have boardings substantially greater than a number of new start light-rail lines around the country. The North Lake Shore Drive buses have boardings that are several times greater than the Green (South) or Pink Lines.

ardecila Mar 21, 2010 11:22 AM

Do you think additional investment is necessary in those corridors to handle growth? Or does the current system provide an adequate level of service?

Light-rail along Lake Shore Drive might be successful, but the trains would not be able to zag westward into neighborhoods like the buses do, so riders would be stuck with a transfer or a significant walk to get to their homes.

My question is really motivated by transportation campaigns in LA, Denver, Houston, and elsewhere. In these cities, planners were able to latch onto the public distaste and annoyance with congestion to sell the public on a dedicated package of improvements and a tax increase to go along with them. Not all of the projects proposed in these cities are slam-dunk ideas, but many of them will serve transit-poor areas where the introduction of transit has the potential to effect great change. Look at LA's subway to the sea... it's not just a congestion reliever, it's a clear concept and an almost romantic idea.

Could Chicagoans be sold on a similar massive transportation package? If so, what should it contain?

Mr Downtown Mar 21, 2010 11:03 PM

In Sunbelt cities, there's a lot of wishful thinking that if I vote for this, everyone else on the freeway will take the train so I can drive to work faster. Chicagoans already have a well-rounded transit system, so there's no slam-dunk idea that everyone agrees is a crying need.

As we've discussed, the lakefront express buses are a tradeoff between convenience and legibility. Everyday commuters like the convenience of stops at their corner; casual users and fanboys like the legibility of seeing a big thick line on the map. I do wish there were a way to get the north lakefront buses in and out of downtown faster than mixed traffic on LaSalle or Michigan.

LA's Wilshire Line should have been built decades ago; the corridor has had a bus scheduled every 90 seconds for many years.

emathias Mar 22, 2010 1:38 AM


Originally Posted by ardecila (Post 4757332)
Light-rail along Lake Shore Drive might be successful, but the trains would not be able to zag westward into neighborhoods like the buses do, so riders would be stuck with a transfer or a significant walk to get to their homes.

I'm a near-daily user of transit in Chicago, and a rainfan, but I would never support any rail along Lake Shore Drive. Too much of LSD is too far from the population of residents for that to be a reasonable choice, ever. Either put rail under Clark and/or Broadway, or keep using buses, perhaps creating express bus lanes in some areas to expedite things. But rail, even light rail, along LSD would hinder, not help, transit on the North Side.


Originally Posted by ardecila (Post 4757332)
Could Chicagoans be sold on a similar massive transportation package? If so, what should it contain?

It should include a program of integrating existing systems, active encouragement of TOD near rail stations and major bus interchanges, rejuvenating existing lines that are in need of it (North Main), and the selective addition of a few additional lines in the central area to link major centers (again, in conjunction with TOD zoning and incentives). It should be planned as a continuous expansion of existing services, with well-defined projects that developers and residents can plan for, depend on and work around. Planning as continuous projects will help keep costs controlled by eliminating stop/start costs, and getting better rates on products and labor both.

I have ideas on what I'd like to see happen over time, depending on what we're willing to spend and how much population and business growth they can spur. The key idea should be to build a city that attracts businesses, attracts residents, and builds on the urbanity we already have.

I also recognize that there should be parts of the city that remain low-density, with fewer services, and that are relatively car-friendly. But these should not be the majority of the city, and they should be served in such a way that, when they need to, they can choose to get to and from the higher-density areas without a car.

What exactly I think should be done varies by how much money a "massive" funding contains. At a minimum, I think rail lines should be brought into full-speed capability ($4 billion), that certain bus lines should be brought into BRT standards of speed and service ($500 million), that the existing express service the Purple Line provides should be made more of a true express and less of a commuter service ($200 million). Intentionally tie Metra service better into CTA service, including compatible fare methods and station locations ($100 milllion++). Almost any "massive" funding project would have enough money to do those things.

Past that, There are things I think are important but expensive, and other things that would be useful with good zoning if we could spur business and residential growth sufficient to fill additional TOD near new services. Below are some items I think are or could be important and useful, in roughly the order I personally think they are important. Some seem pie-in-the sky, but nearly all are dependant on achieving both business and residential growth within the City of Chicago. The more growth, the more of these will be both possible and necessary.

- Eliminate most left turns (maybe Ontario and Oak as the only exception) on North Michigan Avenue, and put a bus corridor in the center to expedite bus service through that corridor. ($125 million)
- Clinton Street subway ($4 billion)
- West Loop Transportation Center ($3 billion over the subway cost)
- Improve Peterson/Ridge for auto traffic to provide a faster, more reliable connection between the end of LSD and the Edens expressway. ($150 million)
- Elimination of all street-level crossings of CTA rail lines ($500 million)
- Distributor Subway as described in the Central Area Transit Project (CATP) of 1968 (the UIC/Monroe to Streeterville and McCormick place portions only) ($4 billion)
- Conversion of existing Metra Electric service to rapid transit levels ($250 million)
- Circle Line ($2 billion)
- Add light rail to the entire boulevard system. ($2.5 billion)
- Create a "I-190" spur from the curve by Chinatown north to connect to Wacker ($500 million)
- Send the Orange Line into a Dearborn/Clinton subway loop formed with the Clinton Street subway. ($350 million)
- Extend Brown Line to connect with the rails at the Blue Line. ($1 billion)
- Send Pink Line east along 15th Street to join the CATP lines, turning north to Streeterville, with transfers at the Circle Line and the Clinton Street Subway and the Green Line ($500 million)
- Increase through-routing capacity between Union Station and Northwestern. ($350 million)
- Convert Metra lines running through dense areas to electric, increase service to be at least every 20 minutes for 20 hours a day. ($2 billion)
- Convert all rail lines to be capable of automated operation ($4 billion)
- Mid-City Transit line, built in conjunction with a Mid-City expressway. Normally I'm against doing rail and transit together, but I think this could be done, but it MUST be done with TOD programs. ($3.2 billion)
- Curl the Mid-City Transit and Expressways east along around 79th to Red Line. ($1 billion)
- Build a connection capable of through-routing between the electrified north and northwest Metra lines to the current Metra Electric Millennium station. ($1.75 billion)
- Extend the Monroe-Streeterville subway north under Delaware and Clark to Fullerton and west , eventually jogging back south to Bloomingdale west of the River. ($3.0 billion - including Bloomingdale to Kedzie)
- Instead of joining the Clinton Street subway to the Red Line, run it along the rail ROW between Canal and Stewart, providing better service to Bridgeport. ($1.25 billion)
- Run the Circle Line south of the Orange Line near Ashland and then east near 35th ($2.5 billion)
- Extend the subway under Clark/Broadway to Wilson and then west to join the Brown Line ($2.5 billion)

That comes to an estimated $45.225 billion. Doing all that would likely take 20 years if really planned tightly. 40 years might make a better goal. That's $1-2 billion per year, most of which would be new spending. Even if, with financing, we spread some of the costs over 60 years at a low rate of interest, and get the feds to contribute 50% of the costs, we'd be looking at a best case annual cost of around $500 million.

In a city of 3 million, a region of 10 million, is that a lot of money? Over 60 years of payment, if the Feds pick up half the tab, that works out to about $40/month for every household in Chicago - not even making the suburbs pick up any of the cost. That's less than what most households spend on mobile phones. It seems reasonable to me, but it might not to someone who makes $10/hr.

Some of these programs would likely result in additional operating costs, too, which have to be factored in. I don't know how to factor that cost, though. I think with a strong push to pull jobs into the city and to create spaces people want to and can afford to live in the city, in those 40 years of construction, we could end up with a city that comfortably holds a new population of 5 million. 1.5% annual growth is what that would take. That's high, but not unattainable.

bnk Mar 22, 2010 2:17 AM,174357.story

Metra safety equipment to cost $100 million

High-tech devices could have overridden human error in fatal crashes

By Richard Wronski, Tribune reporter

March 22, 2010

Metra plans to spend $100 million to install a high-tech system that would keep trains from colliding or prevent a distracted engineer from speeding through a warning signal to slow down or stop.

Such a safety system would have overridden the engineer's error that caused the September 2005 derailment of a Metra train, killing two women and injuring 117 others on Chicago's South Side, federal officials said.


Metra officials said Friday that they expect to have the system running sooner than 2015.


The $100 million to pay for the PTC system will come from the state's capital program, officials said.

Installing PTC throughout the Chicago area faces enormous technical challenges, officials said. "We have the most complicated freight/commuter system in the United States," Pagano said.

Each day, the region handles more than 1,300 trains, 800 passenger and 500 freight. Six of the continent's seven largest railroads operate here.

"Everybody's locomotives need to work with each other," said Bill Tupper, Metra's director of operations.

The BNSF Railway Co. got federal approval to install the high-tech system in its locomotives in January 2007.

Amtrak has spent $20 million over the last 10 years installing PTC on its high-speed rail line from Porter, Ind., to Kalamazoo, Mich., spokesman Marc Magliari said.

Taft Mar 22, 2010 2:20 PM

Dunno why I'm so fascinated by this silly little projects...but I am. ;) The latest news on everybody's favorite idea: the garden car!


Garden on flat bed rail car put off for a year
The CTA mobile garden -- dreams of a fertile island of green cruising the elevated and subway tracks on a flat-bed rail car -- have been dashed for one more year as the organizer tries to meet insurance mandates and gain more funding.

emathias Mar 23, 2010 4:31 AM

I noticed walking home the other night that the CTA has finally added secondary *entrance* capability to the Merchandise Mart station. They had those exits, but only recently have I noticed them added entrances. Granted it's a lot of stairs, but I think it was overdue to add the entrance capability in that area.

Anyone know when exactly they were added?

Mr Downtown Mar 23, 2010 2:32 PM

Farecard-only entrances at Merchandise Mart station supposedly opened March 6.

[continued from General Development thread]


Originally Posted by Nowhereman1280 (Post 4760286)
the circle line would make a huge difference [for commuting Lincoln Park to Rosemont] . . . Having a line that runs from North and Clyborn directly to the Blue line would massively cut down the length of such a commute via transit

The 72 bus—at the height of morning rush hour—takes nine minutes from Red Line to Blue Line. So, for only a billion dollars, the Circle Line would "massively cut down the length of such a commute via transit" from 55 minutes to 52.

Nowhereman1280 Mar 23, 2010 3:54 PM

^^^ That's nine minutes subject to massive unreliability. As we all know, bus bunching and other CTA phenomena can greatly affect the official schedule. Also if there is any unplanned obstruction, the bus will be caught up in it. We all know that snowy weather or a car accident can completely choke up the bus system here and snarl it for hours.

Mr Downtown Mar 23, 2010 4:32 PM

Whereas nothing, like an unattended backpack or sick passenger, ever delays a train. Or all the trains on a particular line.

But you know, we can now do actual empirical research. Name the half-hour that you think is the height of morning rush hour, and tomorrow morning we can watch the progress of three North Avenue buses in a row on Bustracker to see if nine minutes is accurate.

whyhuhwhy Mar 24, 2010 2:04 AM


Originally Posted by Nowhereman1280 (Post 4760919)
^^^ That's nine minutes subject to massive unreliability. As we all know, bus bunching and other CTA phenomena can greatly affect the official schedule. Also if there is any unplanned obstruction, the bus will be caught up in it. We all know that snowy weather or a car accident can completely choke up the bus system here and snarl it for hours.

I've been stuck with more train delays than bus delays over the years.

Taft Mar 24, 2010 3:39 PM


Originally Posted by whyhuhwhy (Post 4762079)
I've been stuck with more train delays than bus delays over the years.

From an admittedly anecdotal viewpoint: train delays happen far less frequently than bus delays, but when they happen, they take much longer to resolve. Bus delays are much more frequent but are less severe in the general case. Again, just my experience. But think about every time you've seen bus bunching on your route: that's likely an indication of delay. (Though I'll admit--as biased against busses as I am ;)--that the bunching issue has gotten better in the last couple years.)

Or to put it another way: the way I use the system is to know the routes, leave my house to go to a pickup point on the route of my choice and expect a bus or train to get me shortly after arriving at that point. While maybe not the most realistic expectation in the world (esp. after the recent service cuts), this is how a lot of people use the system and how they set their expectations. The bus tracker is nice enough, but I really don't want to wait around in my house until the next bus is coming...I want to leave when I'm ready and get picked up shortly after I arrive at my stop. Given those expectations, which mode of transport is most likely to meet my expectations? Based on experience, I'd pick trains every time.

Busy Bee Mar 24, 2010 6:09 PM

Has anyone seen the 5000 series test train running with the blue cta cab graphics?:

ardecila Mar 25, 2010 5:40 AM

Interesting branding. I guess the rumors of a paintjob weren't unfounded. This also answers (somewhat) the question of how to quickly identify a train at a transfer station now that roll signs are gone. Presumably, the end caps of each car would be painted with the line's color. Since the Blue Line is getting the first batch of 5000s, this endcap is painted blue.

Doing this makes it more time-consuming to move cars from one line to another, but that isn't really a problem with the isolated but well-patronized Blue Line fleet that is more likely to have cars moved onto it than off of it.

If this just uses the same wrapping technology used for the advertising campaigns, I can see this becoming a very cheap way to modernize and continually update the look of L trains.

emathias Mar 25, 2010 12:25 PM

Are the CTA pensions for new hires subject to the state rules the legislature just revised? If so, how will the new rules affect the CTA's budgeting process?

BrennanW Mar 25, 2010 2:15 PM

I saw it at O'hare over spring break. All I have to say is "Helvetica strikes again!" :(

VivaLFuego Mar 25, 2010 2:42 PM


Originally Posted by emathias (Post 4764752)
Are the CTA pensions for new hires subject to the state rules the legislature just revised? If so, how will the new rules affect the CTA's budgeting process?

No, but a series of broadly similar reforms were put in place for the CTA pension plan as part of the 2008 legislation. On one hand, some of the CTA pension reforms weren't as steep - I think the unreduced retirement age was raised to 65 instead of the state's 67, and the pension is still based on final 4 rather than final 8 as with the state. On the other hand, the CTA pensions also now statutorily trigger automatic adjustments to the employee and employer contributions to the pension fund to achieve an actuarial funding balance, which I haven't heard mentioned regarding the current state pension legislation. This means that, for example, in 2010 CTA employees had to increase their paycheck deduction for pension contributions because the fund missed it's funding target during 2009.

Stuff like retirement age and double-dipping is just window dressing - requiring that ongoing contributions to the fund match actuarial calculations on fund liabilities is really the only true way to stabilize a pension fund. A big part of why all the pension funds got in such a wreck of a position is that the employee contributions were simply set as a fixed percentage of pay in labor contracts, with employer contributions simply set as a fixed multiple of the employee contributions - with exactly zero regard as to how those contributions related to the actuarial liabilities of the fund as manifested by the retirement benefits promised in the same labor contracts that specified the contributions.

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