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  #3641  
Old Posted Aug 29, 2008, 1:49 PM
emathias emathias is offline
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What are the chances of Metra converting more lines to Electric lines? If I were them, I'd put that far ahead of the STAR line as a goal. Reduce (or at least centralize) emissions, transition costs away from wildly fluctuating petroleum, etc. They have a lot of stations in relatively windy areas - they could even get into the power business, allowing them to keep a portion of their energy costs fixed - no small feat in today's environment.
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  #3642  
Old Posted Aug 29, 2008, 3:40 PM
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Originally Posted by emathias View Post
What are the chances of Metra converting more lines to Electric lines? If I were them, I'd put that far ahead of the STAR line as a goal. Reduce (or at least centralize) emissions, transition costs away from wildly fluctuating petroleum, etc. They have a lot of stations in relatively windy areas - they could even get into the power business, allowing them to keep a portion of their energy costs fixed - no small feat in today's environment.
Wouldn't this be difficult on on the lines where Metra shares rails with freight (most of them)?
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  #3643  
Old Posted Aug 29, 2008, 5:55 PM
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No problem having freight trains under wire if you put it high enough, but the clearance under a lot of existing viaducts is insufficient. Plus, at $200,000 per mile, it would take hundreds of years to recoup the capital costs--and it introduces enormous new maintenance costs. In fact, there's some thought that the South Shore might just dewire rather than replace the entire 1920s overhead plant.

The Milwaukee Road's electrification through the Rockies was the main factor that forced it into its second bankruptcy in 1925. In the late 1980s, Nacional de México nearly finished electrification of its México City–Querétaro mainline, but eventually canned the project for various reasons, including the high maintenance costs. I think it's much more likely that advances in battery technology will allow diesel-electrics to have regenerative braking, and become much more efficient, especially for lightweight passenger trains.
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  #3644  
Old Posted Aug 29, 2008, 8:20 PM
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Originally Posted by aaron38 View Post
That's it? I would have guessed 2-3 times that, from how packed the trains look at AH and Palatine.
I think it is only a few percent because this line has been heavily used for such a long time. So an 13% increase on the NCS is probably a smaller increase in actual people than a 3.5% increase on the UPNW.

Just guessing though, because the NCS schedule sucks butt and the UPNW schedule kicks it.
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  #3645  
Old Posted Aug 30, 2008, 12:43 AM
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Question: Why do the northside express buses (146, 147, etc.) take crowded and tourist-clogged Michigan Avenue rather than Lower Michigan where every commuter could save 10 minutes of commuting time each way. Taking the lower streets assumes most people work south or slightly north of the river, rather on the Mag Mile itself, but isn't that mostly true? And the buses could still be accessed by stops on the lower level. This might be disorienting to tourists, but the Mag Mile Express and other buses that aren't major commuter routes would still run on upper Michigan that they could take.

Apparently some of the Illinois Center buses already run on Lower Wacker. I wonder why the CTA doesn't use this whole network of uncongested streets more often?
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  #3646  
Old Posted Aug 30, 2008, 4:25 AM
emathias emathias is offline
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Originally Posted by lalucedm View Post
Question: Why do the northside express buses (146, 147, etc.) take crowded and tourist-clogged Michigan Avenue rather than Lower Michigan where every commuter could save 10 minutes of commuting time each way. Taking the lower streets assumes most people work south or slightly north of the river, rather on the Mag Mile itself, but isn't that mostly true? And the buses could still be accessed by stops on the lower level. This might be disorienting to tourists, but the Mag Mile Express and other buses that aren't major commuter routes would still run on upper Michigan that they could take.

Apparently some of the Illinois Center buses already run on Lower Wacker. I wonder why the CTA doesn't use this whole network of uncongested streets more often?
A lot of people get on and off between Oak Street and Ohio. There is only a Lower Michigan until Grand, and then where would the buses go on northbound routes? For southbound routes, how would they get to the Ave? They'd have to take LSD around the curve and then drive to Grand Ave.

And south of the River they'd have to get back up to Michigan Avenue or State Street, which would require some creative routing through areas not especially useful for people.

If the city really wanted to emphasize Michigan as a transit route, they should make the center lanes reverse-flow for buses, with island loading platforms, like in San Francisco and some other cities. That would be about the only way to make enforceable bus lanes on that street.

One other alternative would be to use Chicago Ave to Fairbanks for one or two routes, to relieve congestion on Michigan Ave.

Really, though, I think the city should figure out how to afford a subway through Streeterville and up the north Lakefront. Everyone says it's too expensive and whatnot, but it would be so useful and, properly done, relieve so much bus congestion.
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  #3647  
Old Posted Aug 30, 2008, 5:13 AM
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  #3648  
Old Posted Aug 30, 2008, 5:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr Downtown View Post
No problem having freight trains under wire if you put it high enough, but the clearance under a lot of existing viaducts is insufficient. Plus, at $200,000 per mile, it would take hundreds of years to recoup the capital costs--and it introduces enormous new maintenance costs. In fact, there's some thought that the South Shore might just dewire rather than replace the entire 1920s overhead plant.

The Milwaukee Road's electrification through the Rockies was the main factor that forced it into its second bankruptcy in 1925. In the late 1980s, Nacional de México nearly finished electrification of its México City–Querétaro mainline, but eventually canned the project for various reasons, including the high maintenance costs. I think it's much more likely that advances in battery technology will allow diesel-electrics to have regenerative braking, and become much more efficient, especially for lightweight passenger trains.
Am I the only one who thinks 200K per mile, weighed against the fuel and maintenance cost of diesel is actually pretty cheap?
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  #3649  
Old Posted Aug 30, 2008, 3:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Busy Bee View Post
Am I the only one who thinks 200K per mile, weighed against the fuel and maintenance cost of diesel is actually pretty cheap?
I think it sounds rather reasonable. I am always not sure if I get why a high frequency line like some of the Metra lines wouldn't see long terming servings relatively quickly. Wouldn't high frequency lines the type of lines that could most benefit from electrification?
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  #3650  
Old Posted Aug 30, 2008, 4:04 PM
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Metra electrification - I'm not sure it makes sense to electrify the entire network, especially since some lines have heavy freight traffic. But Metra owns the Rock Island and Milwaukee District lines and can dictate terms to any freight companies seeking to run trains along them.

The total length of the Milwaukee District is about 85 miles, 85*200000=17 million. Just to be generous, let's multiply that by 2.5 to allow for double and triple-tracked sections. $43 million to electrify all that track is an extremely paltry sum, and it would allow power generation to be centralized. Plus, it would electrify the north end of Union Station and provide for high-speed rail in the future. There's a reason why every European and Asian country with decent transit has moved toward electric systems for both regional and inter-city rail. Your Milwaukee Road example was a bit irrelevant, since many railroads went bankrupt repeatedly between 1890 and 1950 - it was a natural part of the business cycle at that time in that industry. The Pennsylvania Railroad, I might add, electrified successfully in the same era.

CTA Circle Line - CTA has posted on their website that the Screen 3 meetings will take place this fall. Once these happen, then a locally-preferred alternative will be chosen soon after - that is, a definite plan for where the line will run (alignment) and what kind of line it will be (mode). With an LPA chosen, the politicking can begin to try to get funding.

I did say earlier that the Circle Line had been abandoned, but apparently CTA is still moving forward with it. The LPA may end up being a BRT line, however, or a different alignment may be chosen. If Huberman was planning to totally nix the idea, then it would have happened already - he's been fairly straightforward and pragmatic with all of his decisions so far.

Likewise, the Red Line extension is also having Screen 2 meetings this fall, after which an LPA will be chosen. (a Screen 3 is not necessary because the Red Line extension is a simpler, more clear-cut project)
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  #3651  
Old Posted Aug 30, 2008, 5:16 PM
Nowhereman1280 Nowhereman1280 is offline
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Really, though, I think the city should figure out how to afford a subway through Streeterville and up the north Lakefront. Everyone says it's too expensive and whatnot, but it would be so useful and, properly done, relieve so much bus congestion.
That is a terrible idea, there is no need for a subway there, Streeterville is only 5 or so blocks from the Redline and is only that far away for like half a mile. Why would we waste resources on that when there are dozens of other areas that could use a subway or EL line way more.

On top of there where on the North Lakeshore do they need a second el line?
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  #3652  
Old Posted Aug 30, 2008, 5:52 PM
emathias emathias is offline
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That is a terrible idea, there is no need for a subway there, Streeterville is only 5 or so blocks from the Redline and is only that far away for like half a mile. Why would we waste resources on that when there are dozens of other areas that could use a subway or EL line way more.

On top of there where on the North Lakeshore do they need a second el line?
Apparently you've never tried to get from Clinton and Adams to Chicago and Fairbanks in anything resembling a reasonable amount of time.

Many times in the past 40 years, the city has considered a subway under Monroe, turned north under Streeterville. A subway line like that strongly links the two business districts here in Chicago and helps bring west loop commuter rail patrons to the east loop and Streeterville. Currently anyone in the West or NW suburbs is sacrificing quite a bit to take Metra to a busride to Streeterville. Sure, some do it, but a lot more could/would if there was grade-separated service.

As for the North Lakefront, it's probably the ONLY place in Chicago that could really justify added rail right now based on density and existing transit usage. Yellow Line extension might be cheaper, but how many more riders would it get? 2-3,000? Not until you got to Irving Park would a North Lakefront Line get within 3/4 of a mile of the existing Red Line, and if that were really a bad thing you could join the Red Line by the Sheridan stop. A north Lakefront Line would probably have more riders than the Circle Line.
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  #3653  
Old Posted Aug 30, 2008, 5:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Nowhereman1280 View Post
That is a terrible idea, there is no need for a subway there, Streeterville is only 5 or so blocks from the Redline and is only that far away for like half a mile. Why would we waste resources on that when there are dozens of other areas that could use a subway or EL line way more.

On top of there where on the North Lakeshore do they need a second el line?
I disagree. It would be one of the most used subway lines in the city for non-business travel. It also would open up new development potential in areas of the city that really should be ultra-dense, but which at present are near the breaking point.

The line should go through Lincoln Park and probably would meet up with the existing Red Line near Lawrence. In a dream world, it would carry on, connect to the Brown, and then hit the Blue line at Jefferson Park.

With some creativity, it could also move southward through Illinois Center's netherworld and connect up to the Grey Line proposal.

There are probably more pressing ideas from a statistics perspective, but in terms of helping Chicago reach its full potential, I can hardly think of a better improvement. This is also why I am a strong supporter of the Circle Line, although the numbers people might think it's pointless.
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  #3654  
Old Posted Aug 30, 2008, 6:07 PM
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It's not just the capital costs of stringing the wire. There are significant new costs to maintain the overhead. In contrast, the differential in energy costs between diesel and electric is not that huge. With only a couple dozen trains each day, Metra lines are just not busy enough to recoup the capital costs.
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  #3655  
Old Posted Aug 30, 2008, 7:12 PM
Nowhereman1280 Nowhereman1280 is offline
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Apparently you've never tried to get from Clinton and Adams to Chicago and Fairbanks in anything resembling a reasonable amount of time.
Actually that is extremely easy. Walk one block east from Clinton and Adams, hop on the 151 and ride to Chicago and Michigan the walk one more block east and you are there... I take the train from Union all the time to go back to Milwaukee and I lived at Pearson and State all last year, the 151 is really a breeze on that route except during rush hour when using all busses (and most trains) in downtown sucks...

Quote:
As for the North Lakefront, it's probably the ONLY place in Chicago that could really justify added rail right now based on density and existing transit usage. Yellow Line extension might be cheaper, but how many more riders would it get? 2-3,000? Not until you got to Irving Park would a North Lakefront Line get within 3/4 of a mile of the existing Red Line, and if that were really a bad thing you could join the Red Line by the Sheridan stop. A north Lakefront Line would probably have more riders than the Circle Line.
Yes, if ran it along the lakefront it would not get within 3/4 of a mile of the Red line, but that would also be the least efficient place to put it. You don't run transit lines along the edges of density, you run them through the middle of it. If you put it under the park or LSD for example, the you are only using 50% of the potential area that could be served by such a line since there are only buildings on one side of it. That would be a complete waste of money and capacity. Adding to that, we already have a perfectly fine and efficiant (and cheaper) express bus system that serves the highest density along the lake and is MUCH faster than any train...

So putting it along LSD or through the park would be a waste. What if you were to try and put it in the dense areas like I suggest instead. Let me ask you where exactly you would plan to run it through the north neighborhoods. The street grid is completely messed up until you reach about Irving park where the constancy returns. This would only magnify the costs of putting in a train line and make it run slower due to more curves...

@ Honte, where on the northside would this create new density? Streeterville? That's completely built out. Gold Coast? Completely built out within 4 blocks of the lake. Lincoln Park? Also built out between the Red Line and the lake not to mention crawling with anti-density NIMBYs. Lakeview? Also built out, though less so than LP and GC. I think the best shot for more density would be Uptown which is already rapidly filling in and is much better served by the Red Line than LP and GC...

I really don't understand where you guys are seeing any benefits or practicality here... We shouldn't be running a train line along the freest flowing bus routes in the city, we should put it somewhere that busses get snarled in traffic all the time... I'm thinking a line that uses the pink line and heads N/S along the West side would be far more likely to jumpstart growth...

For example, the Northside would gain a lot more benefit from an El that ran roughly along Ashland. Have it start and Howard with the Redline, but go along the existing Metra ROW. Then it would meet up with the Brown line where the Brownline goes N-S allowing for E-W transfers, then continue along the Metra south until it hits the river/Kennedy where it would go along ashland south to the pinkline and then maybe extend it to end at the Orange line or something. Then place Superstations at the intersections between it and other lines like at Ashland and Lake. It would actually be useful to people who don't have express buses or the Red Line right at their door and would service the already dense Ashland/Clark Corridor in RP and Andersonville as well as encouraging density and growth between it and the Red line... And, gasp, you could actually go somewhere in the more western neighborhoods of Chicago without wasting time going all the way downtown and then back out again...

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  #3656  
Old Posted Sep 2, 2008, 2:59 PM
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A spur from Union Station/Ogilvy, Clark/Lake, Michigan/Lake, Ontario/St Clair and then Chicago just east of Michigan would make perfect sense to me as far as commuters and shuttling people more from the east side of the loop/Metra up to Watertower area.

I would imagine it would only be utilized to the level of actually building the thing during rush periods though.

I don't really see a huge need to have it go up further north. Express buses and the Red Line serve areas up north quite well. 151 works pretty good after you get south of Diversey (north of that it's a mess), but by the time you get to Belmont you can either take an Express or walk to the ever closer-to-the-lake Red Line. The 151, 36, 22 and 8 might be slow, but they're always available.

I think people in other areas of the city would benefit more from rail connections. I would love to see a line under either Fullerton/Diversey or most likely Belmont that connects from Harlem to the Red Line and Blue Lines. It would open up that whole area of the city to faster travel than being stuck on a bus for 40 minutes to work over to the Red Line/Blue Line. I lived out near Kedzie, and there were always a TON of people who were going from northwest side to the trains.
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  #3657  
Old Posted Sep 2, 2008, 3:01 PM
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Record ridership strains CTA, Metra, Pace—and it's likely to get worse
Lack of capital improvement catches up to transit agencies

By Jon Hilkevitch and Richard Wronski | Tribune reporters
September 2, 2008

Hop aboard the bus or train, if there's an inch of space for the doors to close, and prepare for a rough ride.

The surging popularity of mass transit in the Chicago area is on a collision course with the system's shortcomings: too few seats and inadequate capital funding.

Fueled by high gas prices, ridership is at or near record levels for Metra and the Chicago Transit Authority. Expect it to become even more crowded with Labor Day in the rear-view mirror and families returning to work and school from summer vacations.

"There's a huge bounce in ridership after Labor Day vacations," said CTA President Ron Huberman, who noted CTA ridership historically peaks in September.


It promises to be challenging for the CTA and Metra to accommodate the extra riders. As it is, try to squeeze onto the overcrowded CTA "L" platform at Clark/Lake—let alone actually get onto the next train—at about 5 p.m. on a weekday.

"It's another wild night on the cattle drive. Moove along," commuter Katie O'Shea, 33, said during evening rush last week as she held her backpack in both arms and pushed toward a Brown Line train approaching the station.

The CTA is hurriedly hiring hundreds of bus drivers and train operators after higher-than-normal attrition and a hiring freeze last year prompted by a series of "doomsday" threats that would have slashed service, raised fares and furloughed hundreds of workers.

Delivery of new CTA rail cars—to replace trains that began service in 1969 and should have been retired more than a decade ago—remains at least two years away. In addition, the CTA has received only half of the 400 new buses it ordered to replace 1991 models that had been due for retirement in 2003.

The predicament leaves the transit agency no option except to attempt to recycle its existing equipment more quickly on routes and put supervisors on train platforms and at bus stops to improvise service changes to deal with waiting passengers.

"I guess you could call it the poor man's version of expanding the fleet," Huberman said.

There's no hiding the desperation.

The CTA is removing all the seats from some of its rail cars and reducing seats on some buses as part of an experiment beginning this fall to pack in more riders.


To boost its seating, Metra ended bar-car beverage service Friday and plans to remove some on-board toilets. The commuter railroad is also rehabbing five 1950s-era bilevel coaches that it had sold to a Virginia commuter line and bought back earlier this year.

Even the Pace suburban bus system, the unfortunate symbol for years of how the car is king in the suburbs, is packing them in these days on routes that feed Metra and CTA rail stations and business parks. Pace reduced special express service to Cubs and Bears games to free up buses for regular evening service, officials said.

The CTA, which provides an average of 1.7 million rides a day and is already operating at full capacity during rush periods, is bracing for up to 200,000 additional riders each weekday, transit officials said.

At least many CTA customers ride for relatively short distances. Most Metra riders aren't as lucky, traveling up to 50 miles each way, in some cases while standing in the aisles and vestibules or sitting on the steps of packed trains.

When the trains are too crowded, the conductors don't always collect cash fares, so revenue is lost, Deborah Moore pointed out after her morning Union Pacific North Line train arrived last week in downtown Chicago more than an hour late.

"Metra, the way to really fly," said Moore, mocking the commuter railroad's slogan. "Oh, yeah, how could I forget? Flying doesn't seem like a good idea these days, either."

Sustained ridership increases month after month leave little doubt that transit across the U.S. is experiencing a renaissance as commuters drive less. The 53.2 billion-mile reduction in total miles driven nationwide since last November has surpassed the mileage decline during the oil crisis of the 1970s, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

But in the Chicago region, another crisis that has been developing for years—no new money for capital improvements for mass transit—threatens to erupt as transit ridership grows.

CTA bus ridership has increased 6 percent through July, compared with the first seven months of 2007, while rail ridership rose 2 percent, the CTA said. Weekend ridership on the CTA system also increased 6 percent. And ridership in 2007 was the highest since 1992.

"We're ecstatic about the phenomenal growth in ridership but concerned about our capacity to manage and keep the new customers," said Huberman, who calls state passage of new capital funding to help pay for new buses and trains the CTA's No. 1 priority.

"Some people are willing to push onto a crowded train or bus during rush hour and find that acceptable," Huberman said. "Other people simply will not opt for that transportation."

The CTA plans to introduce operational changes after Labor Day to try to maximize efficiency. Its efforts include:

• Deploying managers who have the authority to call extra buses into service at pinch points during rush periods. The goal is to redistribute buses where they are most needed and ease bus-bunching.

• Increasing the number of train runs through the end of the year as slow-zone construction is completed, particularly on the O'Hare branch of the Blue Line and in the Red Line subway.

• Doing more short-turning of trains on the Brown Line corridor and along the Blue Line to address pinch points where waiting passengers cannot board already full trains. Short-turning involves running some trains on a portion of the route in the morning to pick up passengers at high-volume stations and deliver them to the Loop.


Meanwhile, Metra ridership increased 5 percent in the first half of this year, compared with the same period in 2007.

Metra expects 2008 to be its third consecutive record-setting year, said Lynette Ciavarella, the railroad's director of planning and analysis.

Eight of Metra's all-time top 10 ridership months have occurred since June 2007, she said. In particular, weekend ticket sales are outstripping all categories, up 20 percent in the first half of 2008, she said.

But without millions of dollars in new funding from a state public works program, Metra cannot buy the additional cars it needs to meet ridership growth, said spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet. The commuter railroad has not acquired any new trains since 2005.

Pace's total ridership increased 3.6 percent through July. July's ridership was up 10.6 percent compared with the same month last year, the highest July hike in the suburban bus system's history, said spokesman Patrick Wilmot.

Pace is also coping with equipment shortages due to the capital funding shortfalls. With increases in ridership slowing service, on-time performance has suffered.

"We've used a majority of our capital funding to cover operating deficits over the past several years," Wilmot said. "The issue for us is whether a capital bill is passed soon enough and is adequate for us to replace our fleet."
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  #3658  
Old Posted Sep 2, 2008, 4:51 PM
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Originally Posted by MayorOfChicago View Post

I think people in other areas of the city would benefit more from rail connections. I would love to see a line under either Fullerton/Diversey or most likely Belmont that connects from Harlem to the Red Line and Blue Lines. It would open up that whole area of the city to faster travel than being stuck on a bus for 40 minutes to work over to the Red Line/Blue Line. I lived out near Kedzie, and there were always a TON of people who were going from northwest side to the trains.
I was looking at some maps the other day and I actually had a similar idea. What about the Bloomingdale Line that then crosses over the river and runs under Armitage? There is only one or two one nondescript commercial buildings that seem in the way. It could also go further west then the Bloomingdale Line I think along the MD-W line to meet up with the Mid-City line. You could then have the service make a turn south and run through Lincoln Park which would lead to a number of options of routes towards downtown.
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  #3659  
Old Posted Sep 2, 2008, 4:56 PM
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inadequate capital funding
I saw that this morning on the front page of the Tribune. About time it gets serious discussion.
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  #3660  
Old Posted Sep 2, 2008, 7:46 PM
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Originally Posted by MayorOfChicago View Post
I would love to see a line under either Fullerton/Diversey or most likely Belmont that connects from Harlem to the Red Line and Blue Lines. It would open up that whole area of the city to faster travel than being stuck on a bus for 40 minutes to work over to the Red Line/Blue Line. I lived out near Kedzie, and there were always a TON of people who were going from northwest side to the trains.
I'm also in favor of a rail connection between north RED and BLUE. Belmont Red over to the O'Hare leg of Blue would be beneficial to a good number of people, in my opinion.
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