Rahm Emanuel and the Power of Municipal Entrepreneurship

» Taking the realm of America’s third-largest city after 22 years under Richard Daley could produce big changes for local transportation.

Despite its burgeoning downtown, Chicago has big problems. The city lost 200,000 people between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census. Vast tracts of the south and west sides of the city sit vacant. Job growth in the metropolitan area is slower than in most other regions of the country. The city faces a $75 million budget deficit just over the next few months.

Thus the swearing-in this week of the city’s first new mayor in 22 years, Rahm Emanuel, cannot come at a better time. In order to gain ground over the next few decades, Chicago has to do a better job keeping its existing residents and attracting new jobs. The mayoral election in February was a landslide for Mr. Emanuel, which means he has the political momentum to pursue change for this great city after decades under Richard Daley’s leadership — but will the new mayor be able to do so? Or will the city stagnate?

Transportation is only one of a myriad of concerns that must be addressed in Chicago, but Mr. Emanuel has made it one of the foci of his transition plan — and initial signs indicate that his goals are appropriate: Incrementally improving the transit network and remaking the streets so that they better address the needs of all modes of transport. The choice of Gabe Klein, of Washington, D.C. bike share and streetcar fame, to lead the city’s transportation department, implies that the new mayor understands the value of improving local non-automotive mobility systems.

In a cash-poor municipality whose transit system requires $7 billion in renovations now, it is not surprising that new rail transit lines appear to have been sidelined — at least for now. In the short-term, this may be the right approach. The city cannot afford to maintain what is has, so investing in new capital programs may be inappropriate. But whether Mr. Emanuel’s brand of local modesty is right for Chicago in the long-term is worth evaluating. Does this city need to play it safe, or become ambitious?

The transportation components of the transition plan, which is the best sign yet of where this mayor hopes to take his city, can be divided into two themes: One, the improvement and expansion of the Red Line, and two, the retaking of the city’s streets from the dominance of cars.

The first project — the Red Line renovation and extension — is a necessity: The northern sections of the corridor (shared with the Purple Line) are a century old and the Chicago Transit Authority has already presented a number of alternatives that would relieve the problem. Also on tap is the extension of the corridor south to 130th Street, designed to improve the commuting times for people who live in the city’s Far South Side, whose residents are transit-dependent but poorly served. The combined cost: Somewhere between $3 and $6 billion.

Other far less expensive improvements mentioned by Mr. Emanuel’s transition plan include a bus rapid transit corridor for Western or Ashland Avenues that could include dedicated lanes within 3 years (already being planned by the CTA); an attempt to reform the city’s zoning code to encourage transit-oriented development around stations; and the implementation of a citywide bike share system and the expansion of the bike lane network. The latter initiative would expand lanes by 25 miles a year (versus 8 today) and prioritize protected lanes. The first two miles of those, the document states, would be selected arrive in the mayor’s first 100 days. (See Steven Vance’s post on where those might be most effective.)

The overall message is that of a politician who sees the value in improving the way the city’s streets work for all their users. For Mr. Emanuel, the implementation of reserved lanes for cyclists and buses can be done incredibly cheaply but to great benefit for the quality of life of Chicago’s denizens, more than 30% of whom rely on walking or transit to get to work and a quarter of whom have no car available to their households at all. With wide streets everywhere in the city, bus rapid transit is a particularly relevant and easy-to-implement improvement for Chicago transit.

The costs of the Red Line expansion are in themselves beyond the city’s current means — especially considering that President Obama’s budget for the U.S. Department of Transportation, which would have included billions for renovations just like this one, is likely to go down in defeat. This suggests that Mr. Emanuel will have to either get more funds from the state or raise local revenues if he is to follow-through on his campaign promise to act on the matter.

Should Mr. Emanuel, then, aim higher? Faced with the need to raise taxes anyway, should he be looking to imitate Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who transformed his personal ambition to build a one subway under Wilshire Avenue into a multi-pronged strategy to rethink all of L.A. County for transit through the construction of a dozen new lines — with a dedicated sales tax to boot?

Chicago certainly has room for improvement: Travel between neighborhoods, rather than to downtown, is difficult, and the Circle Line rapid transit corridor could be an investment-worthy piece of infrastructure. But its development has been sidelined due to a lack of funds. Meanwhile, the integration of CTA with the Metra suburban-oriented commuter rail system (the two currently have different fare structures and few interchange points) could be a boon to ridership if the Metra network evolved into a regional rail system that provided frequent access to the city’s citizenry.

But either effort would need a cheerleader. Will Mayor Emanuel step up?

Unfortunately, hopes such as those may be sidelined by a different, less pressing concern: The ever-present push to connect Chicago O’Hare Airport to the downtown Loop with a dedicated high-speed rail line. Recently revived by Mayor Daley, it is the pet project of the Loop’s business interests — but it will serve few of the city’s many transit-dependent residents and it will do little to ameliorate the problems of everyday life on Chicago streets.

Image above: Chicago’s Green Line, from Flickr user John Picken (cc)

123 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Is there a line that would offer express service to O’Hare but would also serve more needs … whether directly or indirectly, by untangling commuter rail from other rail network users?

  • Matt

    1. I don’t really see why a fast ORD-loop connection is a priority. An hour isn’t bad especially when compared to European counterparts (Paris, Munich, London). MSP is blessed with a 30 minute connection, but I think most people would trade that for a significant transit network like Chicago has.

    2. Metra, like Caltrain, seems like it would be a great candidate for electrification and creation of a rapid transit type of service. I know there’s been talk about this. Maybe figure out which lines have the least conflict with freight, the most balance in directionality, and go from there.

    3. If metra was electrified and certain corridors received three tracks through urban stations, could we start to see infill stations? I could see this working with 8-15 stations on each Metra line between the Loop and the Circle Line, and express trains that go to the Circle Line then each stop or skip-stop beyond to the terminus.

    4. Are there any additional employment centers which could be connected by transit in the Chicago suburbs? With the Circle Line and improved transit other than going to the loop, maybe these areas could pick up some suburb-suburb or reverse commuters. The last-mile problem would need to be addressed.

    • John W

      An hour isn’t bad especially when compared to European counterparts (Paris, Munich, London).
      Hmmm. London Heathrow is 15-20 minutes to Paddington (a bit out of the way from the West End) and Gatwick is 30 minutes to Victoria; Munich is approx 40 minutes to the centre; CDG is closer to an hour to central Paris, however.

    • If you assume 10-15 minute local service on each leg, then an express diesel train starting at Union could be ~8-13 minutes faster than the electrified local without needing the ability to overtake a local (i.e. it can go from just ahead the local to just behind). If you assume that an EMU looses about a minute per stop compared to a diesel train not making that stop, in an urban environment, then you could have most of those infill stations without many extra tracks. Of course this assumes two tracks with no freight interference.

      I wonder how expensive it would be to connect all those terminals of metra in downtown. A rapid transit system on top of metra without trough-routing might not work well. Through-routing is also a way to balance directionality.

      It seems like in general, cta/metra integration, if just for fares, schedules and intersection stations, should one of the cheapest way to improve transit – but it’s probably also the most difficult politically.

      • What is the right of way constraints on adding third track in that territory?

      • Beta Magellan

        The North Central Service operates on CN (I believe) tracks between one of O’Hare’s more remote parking lots and the Metra’s Milwaukee District-West trunk line to Union Station—I’ve always thought that a Metra would be the natural provider of an express Union Station-O’Hare train, but currently they only run a handful of trains per day. I think it’s mainly due to freight interference (though that may clear up in a couple of years due to a rerouting), though equipment availability and signaling may also be issues.

        Not sure about how much room the ROW has, but freight might be an obstacle to overhead electrification, third-rail probably won’t fly since all of Chicago’s lines except the Metra Electric and South Shore have low platforms, often with pedestrian crossings on the tracks allow commuters to reach their parking lots. In either case it’s still more expensive than the region wants to consider at the moment. There’s been some talk of electrification recently, though, due to air quality concerns under Union Station.

        @ant6n
        There’s a proposal for the West Loop Transportation Center (WLTC) downtown, west of the Chicago River, which would be an underground rail tunnel and station and is currently estimated at around $2 billion. It’s pretty conceptual and there aren’t any details on it. One of the big problems is that Union Station is actually two stub-end terminals back to back with very limited through-routing capacity, especially since there’s an air rights skyscraper overhead. There’s another terminal a couple of blocks north (Ogilvie) which only serves Metra. I don’t know if WLTC will just serve as a way to connect trains that would normally run to both ends of Union Station or if it would include Ogilvie trains as well—the conceptual diagrams I’ve seen looked like they would only connect to tracks that lead into Union, though connections to Ogilvie are often mentioned, so at this point it’s ambiguous. Of course, it’s also been suggested that they just take down the skyscraper…

        Although Metra has potential to better connect downtown and suburban job centers, that has some big caveats. Few suburban jobs are located right near Metra, so dramatic increases in reverse commutes using Metra would depend on improving suburban bus and employer shuttle service. And connecting more areas to downtown won’t necessarily do much either—the Pink Line runs through some of Chicago’s densest neighborhoods, but has the lowest ridership of any city line because most people who live in said neighborhoods don’t work downtown—buses are more important to them. So even though there’s definitely a case for better use of existing urban stations and some infill (Grand/Cicero was recently rebuilt to a high standard but is skipped by express trains, there isn’t any station within reach of the Illinois Medical District, more Metra stations in North Center plus an express track as suggested by the Urbanophile), I think it’s mainly something that would help at the margins, not something transformative.

        • Having a connection between the two union station terminals would allow through-routing. The reverse traffic this could generate isn’t necessarily to the suburbs, but from the edge of downtown/inner suburbs to the other side of downtown, to the other edge/inner suburbs.
          I don’t know Chicago very well; from what you say it seems that urban areas next to metra aren’t well developed — although that could always change.

          • Beta Magellan

            There’s some reverse-commuting now to suburban areas with good shuttle service or with employment close to the line—regional inter-suburban commutes or city-suburban commutes are usually considered the main market. And Chicago’s downtown is fairly compact—a good chunk of it can be walked to from the existing stations as-is, and Union’s northernmost entrances are only a block or so away from Ogilvie’s main portal. The main problem downtown is west-east circulation, which is very hard to do via Metra given since there aren’t really any eastbound lines to the lake (and rerouting Metra Electric would be prohibitively expensive, in addition to opening a can of worms regarding electrification, platform heights and rolling stocks)

            With the exception of the Union Pacific-North line (which passes through some dense, developed neighborhoods), I get the impression (and I haven’t done any sort of comprehensive study, so it is just my impression) that much of Metra’s inner-city trackage either passes through industrial areas or well-populated moderate-to-low-income areas—going from those areas to downtown and suburban job centers is definitely a growth market.

            As for Chicago’s inner-ring suburbs, they vary quite a bit. The only inner-ring suburb which I could really see generating a lot of suburb-to-suburb transit at this point is Evanston, which has a large downtown and major university. Otherwise job centers are further out, along Lake Cook Road (on the border between Chicago’s county and the next county north) and Naperville (far in the west). With multi-income households, people make those sorts of commutes now, so Metra definitely has an opportunity there.

            • FG

              Moving Metra Electric would also open a can of worms from commuters, since it’s more convenient to the loop, transit connections, tourist attractions, shopping, etc than Union/Ogilvie are. Interestingly the new EMU’s are essentially electrified/motorized gallery cars as used by the rest of the system (a step down in a lot of ways from the current, very tired and aging, but fairly comfortable, almost luxurious cars – the school bus seating is particularly bad).

    • I believe Yonah is arguing that Ohare/Loop is not really a priority in the overall picture. Its a priority to certain Chicago businessmen who either only ever use the train to get from the Loop to O’Hare or who would use a dedicated train with all the rif-raff kept off if it was available.

      • The CTA has already done a fine job reaching both airports. The 220 mph HSR train will be the FAST solution for businesspersons who don’t want to ride transit and willing to pay $15/ride.

        Its easy to compare Chicago to NYC, based on its pop. and downtown office density. Furthermore, most observers would acknowledge that having an extensive transit rail network drives a larger percentage of the populace to transit commute. Chicago is a younger sibling to NYC in terms of its rail transit network miles and stations, but something is missing. Even when adding bus patronage, Chicago trails DC, SF Bay Area and Boston in percentage of transit commuters:

        NYC 18.9M pop., 8634K daily rail patrons, 55% transit commute
        DC 5.6M pop., 816K daily rail patrons, 35% transit commute
        SF Bay 6.2M pop., 603K daily rail patrons, 32% transit commute (includes San Jose)
        Boston 4.5M pop., 870K daily rail patrons, 31% transit commute
        Chicago 9.4M pop., 1030K daily rail patrons, 27% transit commute

        Instead of a gold-plating a Metra commuter line to O’Hare for business travelers, Chicago, should upgrade and expand CTA and Metra lines to achieve higher farebox-recovery, higher transit ridership and higher percentage of transit commuters. Electrification of several Metra lines, select infill stations and a CTA-compatible Metra intra-city pricing scheme would help.

        Until the 220 mph HSR segment is built between the Loop and O’Hare, business travelers can continue catching a taxi or shuttle.

        • Greater Chicago’s transit commute mode share is 15%, the same as Greater DC ex-Baltimore and Greater SF ex-San Jose; these three metro areas are in a near-tie for second in the nation, and when you include the full Combined Statistical Area, Chicago is clearly second. The reason the city has a lower mode share than SF, Boston, and DC is that its city limits are drawn more loosely. Chicago is about 30% of its (combined) metro area’s population, versus around 10% for Boston, SF, and DC.

          • Alon,
            My source for transit Percentages is Wikipedia, which of course, is suspect. I was referring to both rail and bus transit.

            What is your more conservative source and are your referring to rail transit alone OR rail and bus transit combined?

            Using your percentage method and given oil challenges ahead, by 2025:
            Chicago needs to be at 50%
            DC, Boston, SF-Oakland at 40%
            LA, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Seattle, Portland at 30%
            Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Miami, Denver, Phoenix, St. Louis, Cleveland at 20%

  • simple

    One facet of the Circle Line project that seems to be overlooked by CTA these days is that so much of it can be phased in realtively easily and inexpensively in the form of in-fill stations on existing lines (Clark/18th on the Orange Line; Roosevelt, Congress, Madison on the Pink Line, etc.) The Circle Line project can be phased in ways that also dovetail nicely with efficient operations of the Red-Purple Modernization improvements. Seems awfully shortsighted that these key project features no longer seem to be understood.

    • The CTA’s Recommended Locally Preferred Alternative (first phase) of the Circle Line was chosen to be new track and some in-fill stations. The new track would connect the 18th Pink Line station to the Ashland Orange Line station. There would be a new station at Roosevelt/Paulina, Cermak/Blue Island, and Congress/Paulina.

      You can see this at the end of this presentation.
      http://www.transitchicago.com/assets/1/planning/Circle_Line_-_Screen_3_Presentation_9-29-09.pdf

      • simple

        Thanks Steven. You’re correct — but that recommendation was made nearly two years ago and the CTA Board has shown no intention of acting on it (with a simple ordinance making the LPA official, as was done with the Red, Orange, and Yellow Line Extension projects two years ago). Clearly they don’t get it — that’s the point I was trying to make!

        • Beta Magellan

          Aargh, another long post:

          Simple, I have to disagree with you over the Circle Line’s merits—although it’s good in that it provides a one-transfer stop to the medical district for a lot of commuters from the north and southwest sides, that’s about it. It’s too short to provide much crosstown service, it needs a new underground interlocking at North/Clybourn, which introduces a potential merge conflict with the Red Line, hurting reliability. In terms of frequency, I have a hard time imagining it beating the Ashland buses. Furthermore, I’m not even sure how necessary it is to have an outer ring for non-CBD, non-Medical District connections—although early studies showed the circle line saving a few minutes for some commuters, that all depends on making your connection on time; even then, you still have to deal with the fact that transfers have longer perceived wait times than rolling trains, so from the passenger’s perspective it might seem to take less time to go downtown and transfer there.

          In terms of phasing, the Circle Line’s first phase (not counting rerouting trains from 54th/Cermak to the Loop as the Pink Line) would have been to run some trains from the State Street subway to Ashland/Archer and then up to Ashland/Lake, where they would stop at a temporary turn-around until the final phase. The only real benefit is in connecting Chinatown and Orange Line commuters to the Illinois Medical District. Although some of the infill stations still might make sense (a BNSF infill station between Ashland and Paulina to access the Medical District certainly does now, as might a Pink-Blue connection), others might not. The 18th/Clark station in Chinatown would be very expensive given the height and positioning of the el there, and its usefulness is somewhat questionable given the new Archer entrance to Cermak-Chinatown, which already puts Chinatown residents one easy transfer away from the Loop and Blue Line at Jackson. A Roosevelt/Paulina station might eventually support dense infill, but there’s not much chance of that happening right now.

          Personally, I think that crosstown service in Chicago’s better suited for BRT—not only is it a more appropriate match for the sort of passenger volumes these routes can expect and will cost less than tunneling, but it would also engage with the street. Ashland’s an active pedestrian street, but not a terribly friendly one. I’d love to see something along the line of Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue corridor there (it’s also one of the few avenues consistently wide enough to support dedicated lanes and nice islands). Based on what little I’ve seen of Chicago’s current BRT plans, it’s not at that level—more along the lines of metro rapid with the occasional separated (by a painted line) lane, but it’s a start, and likely to be far more cost-effective in terms of dollars spent per rider. And it has the advantage of offering broader crosstown services—not only would bus lines connect with stations, but with neighborhoods beyond the Circle Line’s catchment (Back of the Yards, North Center).

          • simple

            Long post – my apologies…

            Beta, Thanks for your detailed comments – they deserve a detailed response. I think you’ve very clearly stated a lot of legitimate reservations about the Circle Line plan (including some I’ve had too). However, when I’ve dug a little deeper into the numbers, the results appear to be impressive – for the Circle Line. Here’s some stats:

            Ashland between North and Archer is one of the most job-intensive corridors in the region, with 50-100K jobs, depending on where you draw the line. Right now the #9 bus takes nearly 40 minutes to traverse these five miles during much of the day, with 5-12 minute frequencies and its share of bunching. Back when there was the limited stop X9 bus, it took about 30 minutes. Contrary to your assertion, Ashland is not very wide (only 70’ curb-to-curb in most parts and narrower under viaducts), and dedicated bus lanes are highly unlikely to be viable on most of it – they would have to come at the expense of two of the four travel lanes, or both parking lanes (not to mention several million dollars worth of median planters), and even so would not gain much time savings over the limited stop X9 (note that “free-flow” bus travel times at midnight on this stretch are about 25 minutes).

            The Circle Line would follow a slightly longer route from North to Archer (shifting westward to the south end of the corridor), but would take only 17-18 minutes (averaging just under 20mph as similar stretches of existing CTA rail lines do). Hopefully the train could go faster, but that’s a conservative mark. So there’s an end-to-end travel time savings of 12-22 minutes over these five miles versus limited stop and local buses, respectively. What’s the transfer penalty? 5 minutes? 8 minutes? For most trips along this part of Ashland, you’d be better off switching to the Circle Line, despite any transfer penalty.

            But cross-town travel times aside, I think focusing solely on Ashland overlooks a much greater strength of the Circle Line proposal. The goal is not necessarily to improve cross-town access between these five job-intensive miles and the parts of Ashland further north and south. Rather, it’s to improve access between this stretch and all of the other CTA and Metra trunk lines – that’s where the bulk of the regional transit market is. The objective here is two-fold – both to enhance access to the jobs that are already in this corridor and also to allow the thousands of acres of vacant and under-utilized land in this corridor to be more intensively developed. This is a logical place for high-density development on a regional scale (and it’s partly there already with the Medical District and other uses), but it lacks the high-capacity transit access from throughout the metro area that would be needed to unlock its full potential.

            Notwithstanding travel time improvements along Ashland itself, by my calculations the Circle Line would shave 10-20 minutes off of trips between the north Red Line corridor and the IMD/United Center area. And 5-15 minutes for the northwest Blue Line, 10-20 minutes for the Orange Line, and 2-12 minutes for the south Red Line. Moreover, direct Metra connections would shave 10-25 minutes off of Metra commutes to the IMD area (the better BNSF connection you noted is just the beginning). I don’t know your definition of a “few” minutes, but it’s very difficult to come up with any other transit improvement that would cut that much time off of so many potential trips. Plus, all of the transfer connections would be direct and weather-protected. In essence, the Ashland corridor would have the same regional transit access as the Loop does today – making possible a huge long-term potential expansion in the overall regional transit market.

            But that’s not all. Because the Circle Line trains would connect a circuit rather than a simple linear corridor, they would also improve Metra travel times to the North Michigan Avenue area by 10-20 minutes. Travel times to the growing and job-rich North/Clybourn area would be improved by 15-25 minutes from most Metra lines and by 10-15 minutes from many parts of the west and northwest sides. Even access to the Stockyards industrial area would be sped up by 5-10 minutes from places like Humboldt Park, Douglas Park, and Little Village (they’re multi-transfer trips both with or without Circle Line – just faster with). Chinatown would be 10-15 minutes closer to IMD – as would much of the South Loop (the new station would be just a block west of State/18th). Much of the northwest, west, and southwest sides would be about 10 minutes closer to the job-rich north Red Line corridor. Finally, the O’Hare and Midway Airport areas would both see travel time improvements of 5-20 minutes from the Ashland corridor, Metra lines, and many west, southwest, and northwest side neighborhoods (as well as the South Loop along 18th Street).

            In addition, Metra and CTA access to special event venues like United Center, Solder Field, US Cellular Field, and Wrigley Field would be improved, but that’s incidental to all of the job access improvements.

            Meanwhile, BRT on Ashland (or any other corridor) would have little if any impact on the travel times described in the three preceding paragraphs nor on access to any of the other high employment areas beyond Ashland Avenue. And even if BRT could do what the Circle Line could so, the buses themselves would soon be overwhelmed by Metra and CTA transfer traffic and quickly turn into a highly uncomfortable riding experience.

            As you note, for certain trips there would be a double-transfer. However, the travel time savings should be more than enough to offset it for many if not most travelers. For instance, between the O’Hare branch and the north Red Line (a well-traveled path) it takes about 16 minutes (in-vehicle) between Division/Ashland and North/Clybourn via Washington downtown (and longer via Jackson), plus a one block walk and two level changes to complete a single transfer in the most congested part of CTA’s rail system. The Circle Line shortcut would take 4 minutes in-vehicle and involve two direct (one level change) transfers. You’ll always end up at least one train ahead taking the Circle Line, despite having one additional transfer. Even the mythical O’Hare-Midway trip would be faster via Circle Line – 64 vs 71 minutes of in-vehicle time, and trading one difficult transfer including a long walk and three level changes (at Clark/Lake) for two easy transfers, one of which is cross-platform and the other is direct with only one level change. At worst you would end up on the same train, but often you’d be a train ahead. Which would you prefer?

            So the bottom line is that cross-town service on a single corridor isn’t the primary purpose of the Circle Line, although it would still perform admirably as a cross-town route. The real benefit is to help CTA and Metra’s rail lines function more like a real network – providing lots of shortcuts for lots of different types of trips. And at the same time, it would open up a very large and under-developed corridor in the center of the region for high-intensity redevelopment.

            Just to conclude – I’m all in favor of improved bus service on cross-town routes like Ashland, Western, etc. But that’s not even close to a substitute for the Circle Line, in my estimation – and the ease with which the X routes were discontinued last year should drive that point home all the more.

            PS The junction problem you describe at North/Clybourn could be solved by building Circle platforms under the existing Red platforms and a grade separated junction under Clybourn between Halsted and Larrabee. This sort of configuration would also allow trains to turn back at N/C (if needed) as well as accommodate approach tracks to a future West Loop Subway (that would siphon some of today’s Red Line trains away from the State Street Subway).

            • Beta Magellan

              Thanks for the reply, simple—my skepticism basically boils down to a few main points:

              1. It’s very rare for an American city to have enough demand at a subcenter to justify the construction of a new, dedicated rail line. You refer to the five-mile stretch as “jobs-rich,” but really the only concentration of employment is at the medical district (although the Circle Line would cycle through downtown, which has some benefit for the near north side, I don’t think it’s necessarily going to make much of a difference in ridership). Furthermore, I’d guess a lot of the multi-line transfers or Metra-CTA travel patterns you describe either are unlikely to add enough volume to justify running 6-8 car trains on the Circle Line at a reasonable frequency, and some of those markets—such as Metra-Magnificent Mile—aren’t likely to to have as strong of peaks in demand during rush hours, meaning the extra capacity that comes with rail would go unused.

              2. “Merge conflict” was the wrong term—I was thinking more about of capacity issues capacity issues in the State Street subway. Although you don’t have them now (IIRC, it runs 20 tph during peak periods), I’d imagine a Circle Line running at a reasonable frequency would put it at capacity. This might be impossible if the CTA ends up running Evanston trains through there, though, and it definitely takes out a lot of flexibility in terms of routing trains through the north to deal with capacity issues in the Loop.

              3. Clark/Lake isn’t that bad—a lot of Circle Line transfers would also have to deal with crossing multiple levels to get somewhere (I can’t imagine the North/Clybourn stop being anything but labyrinthine). And some of the planned connections are pretty inconvenient—everything I’ve seen has suggested that commuters would walk from the new Paulina-Ashland BNSF (a good idea which Metra shows no signs of taking up, unfortunately) stop to 18th—it would be easier to have berths for the 9 or a dedicated Medical Center Shuttle. They suggest either moving Clybourn on the UP line to North (or adding another station there), which might be easier from the Circle Line’s perspective, but worse for existing users of the Clybourn stop—while the approach isn’t especially friendly, you don’t have to worry about on- and off-ramps (for the Ashland/Courtland entrance, that is). Finally, a lot of these markets could be served more cost-effectively by other measures, like improving bus circulation downtown or establishing a convenient pedestrian link to the Blue Line from Union Station.

              4. Although I agree with you about the possibility that the Circle Line would catalyze development along the corridor, I’m not sure if it would be as “intense” as we would like like. You mention the North/Clybourn station area, but that’s probably one of the best examples of transit-adjacent development in Chicago—even if it’s somewhat denser than your average strip mall, it’s still definitely auto-oriented. The Central Area Action Plan has all sorts of ideas about improving rail transit around Division/Larrabee (ranging from something simple like a new Brown Line stop to the Clinton-Larrabee subway), but the area’s already partly quasi-suburbanized and I’m not holding out any hope for the new Target that’s going there. Without the dedication to actually shape the Near North and Near West areas into something urbane, I don’t see how the Circle Line would change this status quo. Fortunately, this is something we in Chicago can work on without floating proposals for new rail lines. :)

              This whole discussion’s pretty moot, though—the Circle Line started life as a Kreusi/Daley vanity project with some use, garnered some good press for a while (especially from those who make a lot of Pilsen-Wicker Park-Lincoln Park trips) and yielded the Pink Line, but the project’s sputtered since Kreusi left office and the cost of building the underground portion became evident. The CTA’s proposed phasing (starting at the southern, elevated connection and terminating at Ashland/Lake) misses out on large travel market from the north, CMAP didn’t include the Circle Line in its list of fiscally-constrained projects, and AFAIK Rahm hasn’t said a peep about it, focusing his transportation agenda on rebuilding the Red Line on the north side and extending it on the south—projects which address existing maintenance and capacity issues instead of expansion into markets where there’s potential but no pressing need.

              • FG

                I remember talk about completely rebuilding the Clybourn station during the Circle Line era, which would have involved putting the brown/purple el tracks in tunnel to eliminate the slow curves at Halsted and adding a station, I don’t think the plans ever really advanced to the point that a station layout/track diagram was designed, I’d imagine it would have had to have been four tracked, etc.

                The circle line is a good idea, but the Mid-City Transitway seems to me to be the better immediate project idea since it would better connect Midway and O’Hare as well as being in a jobs corridor.

              • simple

                Excellent points, Beta. Here are my further thoughts:

                1 & 4) Even where there is currently good transit and a strong demand for development, you are correct that much care needs to be taken to encourage well designed TOD. North/Clybourn and many areas near good transit in Chicago still leave a lot to be desired. But I don’t get how this concern becomes an argument against adding rail transit capacity, as your comments imply. As with much transit-related, this gets to be a bit of a chicken-and-egg proposition. How do we foster high-intensity TOD without the transit, yet how to we develop transit facilities that are well utilized from day one without first having the high-intensity TOD? Anyway, regarding the Ashland corridor, it is “jobs rich” not simply in the absolute number of jobs but also because they’re so concentrated – primarily between Ashland and Damen, and primarily in the Medical District. This concentration (with robust pedestrian infrastructure) is of course a big plus for transit. Yet today the transit mode share is an abysmal 10-30% — even though just a mile or two away are areas with some of the highest transit mode shares in the US. What’s missing? In part, some of it is the TAD issue you mentioned. Also, parking is cheaper (although not all that cheap). But mostly, I would argue, this regional employment center lacks the ease of access by regional transit that the Loop does. But — unlike anywhere else in the region – this area could reasonably have transit access on par with the Loop, via the Circle Line. In addition, there is abundant un- and underdeveloped land all along the corridor. This land is destined to be developed at higher than typical suburban densities simply because it’s in the city. But with high capacity access to all of the region’s major transit lines, it should be a much easier case to make that it should be developed very intensively – rather than fight perpetual battles over how many 2,000 to 3,000 space parking garages we’ll need to serve the future developments. To me, this is about as strong a base as you’ll find anywhere for a major destination-oriented transit investment (as distinguished from a traditional line extension further into residential areas). But a key strength of the Circle Line proposal is not simply that it connects all of the region’s radial rail transit lines with the Medical District and lots of prime developable land – its also that it at the same time can provide shortcuts between all of the region’s radial rail lines, and in addition directly serve the State Street subway – the most important transit spine in the Chicago region. Your comments suggest that peak transit demand in the North Michigan corridor is lackluster, but in fact total transit boardings along State & Michigan north of the river are higher than anywhere equivalent area in the city outside of the Loop – it’s quite strong during the peak and is very strong off-peak too. How does the potential market for a major transit investment get any better than this?

                2) Circle Line operations need not have any negative effect on State Street subway capacity. If North/Clybourn is designed as I described previously, with Circle tracks and platforms immediately under the existing Red tracks and platforms and turn-back tracks/grade separated junction under Clybourn between Halsted and Larrabee, then the line can operate in a “J” configuration in combination with the north side mainline. For example, right now there is more then twice the peak demand for Red Line trains on the north half of the line as the south half (approx 9,500 pphpd AM southbound at Clark/Division vs. approx 4,500 pphpd AM northbound at Roosevelt). Instead of sending so many peak Red Line trains empty to 95th, every second or third one could instead follow the Circle route around the near west side and back to North/Clybourn, where they would reverse direction and go back the way they came. Off peak, both lines could operate every 10 minutes – with a combined 5 minute service on the busiest (shared) part. Yes, this adds a transfer for some trips at N/C, but full Circle operations are not precluded – trains could possibly operate full Circle off-peak and/or when a West Loop subway is someday completed to siphon peak traffic off of the State Street subway. This kind of circle line operation is not unusual – in fact the venerable London Circle Line recently changed operations to a pattern just like this (with Edgware Road being N/C) in order to improve reliability and add capacity to the Hammersmith & City Line (think CTA’s Red Line). Tokyo’s O-Edo Line, Oslo’s Ring Line, Brussels’ Line No. 6, Nagoya’s Meijo Line, Vancouver’s Millennium Line, and Helsinki’s planned Ring Line also operate similarly.

                3) Convenient transfer connections are a legitimate design challenge. Despite the abysmal state of many rail transfer connections in Chicago today (where they even exist), there’s every reason to believe a well designed Circle Line can perform admirably on that front. A few stats on today’s CTA transfer distances: Union Station to Loop: 3 levels, via sidewalk, and 2000’ platform-to-platform; Union Station to Blue: 2 levels, via sidewalk, and 1800’; Ogilvie to Green: 3 levels, via sidewalk, and 1000’ – 1800’ (depends on whether the suburban concourse is open); Jackson/Washington Blue/Red: 2 levels and 500’; Roosevelt subway to elevated: 3 levels and 380’; State/Lake subway to elevated: 3 levels, via sidewalk, and 350’; Clark/Lake subway to elevated: 3 levels and 350’. The worst Circle Line transfers: Chinatown (Red-Orange): 3 levels, in-station, and 1200’ platform-to-platform; IMD (Blue-Pink): 2 levels, in-station, and 720’; BNSF to 18th: 2 levels, via weather-protected passageway, and 500’. All of the other Circle Line connections should be possible cross-platform or with direct stair/escalator links and less than 300’ platform-to-platform. North/Clybourn, as described above, should be among the easiest – stacked platforms just one level apart by escalator/stair.

                As for whether the discussion is moot – it’s only as moot as we want it to be. Calling something moot is usually the last approach of someone who has lost interest in defending their position (not you, I hope!). As with any great city, Chicago will be here a long time and no good idea is really ever moot. As for calling it a “vanity project” that also strikes me as a rather weak line of defense – how do you define and measure “vanity” and what difference does it make? Once upon a time the Loop itself was a “vanity project” of Mr. Yerkes, I suppose. So what? In any event, my opinion on Daley/Kruesi is that the former cared about as much for the Circle Line as he did for any other transit improvement (no more, no less). I think Kruesi saw it as potentially transformative for the city and CTA, but it takes more than one leader to see most major projects through from vision to completion.

                Finally, I have no issue with rebuilding the Red-Purple Lines (both north and south). Certainly this is top priority. But, as discussed in #2 above, Red operations and future Circle operations can clearly affect each other – hopefully for the better. So there’s all the more reason that CTA should be thinking of the big picture. As for your last sentence, “pressing need” is readily apparent simply in the physical condition of the existing Red line, but it seems it’s in the eye of the beholder when it comes to the Red Line Extension. If the Circle Line could reduce transit travel times by 10-20 minutes for trips from many parts of the region to places such as IMD, both airports, North/Clybourn, North Michigan Ave, Chinatown, South Loop, etc. and the Red Line extension reduces transit trip times by 10-20 minutes between CTA’s rail network and three economically distressed neighborhoods (but no others), on what basis do you judge that one is a “pressing need” but not the other?

              • simple

                FG, Both being radial lines, the Circle Line and Mid-City proposals clearly have similarities. But Mid-City is vastly more ambitious than Circle. Yes, there’s an existing freight rail corridor east of Cicero, but the days of simply running mass transit adjacent to freight are over. Plus, the BRC corridor is not that wide to begin with and the owners would not be willing to sell. Plus, all of the existing intersecting radial transit line stations are at Cicero (4800W) not the BRC alignment (4600W). Plus, look at how difficult it has been to encourage extensive TOD around the Orange Line stations, and you’ll get an idea of the challenges that await TOD along a Cicero rapid transit corridor (especially if it’s alongside the BRC). I’m all in favor of Mid-City Line in concept, but to think that it’s in any way easier (or “better”) than the Circle Line is to grossly under appreciate the implementation challenges (not to mention costs) it would have.

  • david vartanoff

    And, of course, if they also restored the L from Lake St to the Blue @ Evergreen the Orange to Blue could run a Midway to O’hare service as well as provide a partial crosstown.

  • G-Man (Type E)

    Sad to see the end of the Daley era. He did a lot of good for the City. Rahm has a lot of potential. Rail is really expensive, but if he can leverage a few key projects that build on existing segments like the circle line would, they may pan out. The express to O’hare is just plain dumb – let it wait until the state and feds put up money for a train to Rockford, and then an airport stop will make a lot of sense, not now.
    The best bet to improve mobility for city residents is to leverage the arterial grid streets, use dedicated bus lanes like Paris and speed up service. The bike improvements will pay off huge. Minneapolis has shown that weather won’t impede bike mode share. This is a really flat city that could and should surpass most others in bikability within a decade if they do it right.

    Other than that, they should pour all the city’s money into the schools to start attracting families back. They created a lot of new housing under Daley but avg. HH size is declining and they are only attracting empty nesters. If the city wants to grow, it needs good jobs and good schools first.

  • Major re-thinking of Chicago as an urban environment is needed now that vast tracts of the city are vacant, and thus ripe for large-scale TOD. The city got a good start on rebuilding it’s neighborhoods during the Daley (II) era, but mainly in the better hoods. We proposed a total reworking of Chicago’s rail transit system, with an important component being a RER-type backbone that capitalizes on the excellent commuter rail infrastructure already in place. See our <a href="http://www.ctiassoc.com/cti/Vision.html&quot; title ="2035 Buildout Vision" and click on the map graphic for a PDF version of the plan.

    • G-Man (Type E)

      John, I’m born and raised in Chi-town, and that is by far the best plan I have ever seen for the city. Nice work! What’s the price tag, though?

      • Double-digit billions no doubt. But others have done it (see Yonah’s recent article on financing) and it can be staged over time. The trick is to sell the benefits to the Chicago power elite. Well, as you know Chicagoans love big plans! Are we going to let the French show us up?

    • I like how your plan uses the new tunnels to provide extra crosstown connections complementing the L, for example an east-west line on the North Side.

      But, I don’t think that vacant lots are conducive to TOD. The same causes that led to their being vacant keep making them undesirable.

      • Excellent point. While empty lots at the edge of a TOD neighborhood can have some use, in gateway parking and room for expansion, a locale that is sustaining one or more use is more likely to be able to sustain increased residences and other additional uses, and there’s no benefit having room to grow unless there is something to sustain that growth.

      • FG

        It’s looking like there is a lot of new abandonment from foreclosures and stalled/stagnating projects, even in better heeled areas. I’m not sure where, when growth restarts, it’ll occur, if in existing areas, picking up previous/existing trends or somewhere new.

        I’d like to see something done with the Kenwood El, the viaduct of which is still left.

      • G-Man (Type E)

        You’re right that just putting transit there won’t do the trick. 2 things have made those neighborhoods empty out.
        1) White flight happened as the city disinvested in its’ schools and racial demographics changed to the dislike of a generation that was not ready for it. The current generation has different priorities, different sensibilities and though still very segregated, the city is slowly diversifying throughout its’ many neighborhoods. It’s why I said earlier they need to focus first on the schools, that is the key to getting suburbanites interested in city living again.
        2) Trade policy – when America started to abandon manufacturing in the 70’s and 80’s, Chicago was hit hard and it continues to suffer. The New Urbanist vision of cute TOD is great for commuter office types taking Metra in from a little bungalow in the boondocks, but city TOD has to include factories – the kind of places where thousands of people making average wages come to earn thier pay every day. If parking were restricted and transit passes given to the workers and shifts staggered so you even out demand, those places could be excellent transit trip attractions. Look back at the original streetcar system Chicago had – basically following the arterial grid and feeding the factories and stockyards with workers from all over. In order to build those factories, this country needs an industrial policy that makes it possible to build here again.

        • FG

          Factories were moving out of the city as early as the previous turn of the century (Blue Island, Gary, etc) because they needed more space. There’s still a LOT of manufacturing in the city, even in Lincoln Park (the fringes, admittedly) and the city has a fairly proactive program to encourage it and to convince start up companies to locate within city limits.

          • G-Man (Type E)

            That’s true, and good, but there is little the city can do on its’ own without national (and state) policies that support domestic manufacturing. We need startup and expansion assistance, a fair and competitive corporate tax and appropriate tariffs that account for differences in the labor and environmental regulatory burden. Transportation and Education are also vital components of any comprehensive strategy to attract employment.

            Perhaps these vacant lands could be packaged in a PPP deal where one of the large infrastructure firms takes on the construction of a new line and stations in exchange for lease / TIF revenue from new construction in these areas? That’s how they were originally built by private firms. The transit never made a profit, it was always about getting people to the real estate and making money off of that. For some reason people will always cheap out on mobility expenditures, but they go ga-ga for overpriced land.

    • simple

      That’s impressive work, John. However it appears to provide enough transit capacity for a multi-nucleated city about twice or three times Chicago’s current population, and to/from areas that nowadays are challenged to fill frequent bus or rail transit service in just one direction, let alone RER/metro-style trains in both. And how do you suggest we would phase a plan like this to efficiently serve current and likely near-term travel demands while not precluding future expansion (assuming Mayor Emanuel’s economic policies are so successful the city doubles in population in our lifetime)? Along with that comes integrating the expansions with current and likely future Metra and CTA operations — including track and yard capacity and freight/passenger rail conflicts.

      It’s one thing to draw lots of lines on a map, but another to clearly document purpose and need for each line and then convincingly demonstrate physical and operational feasibility… And all of that pre-supposes enough resources/political will to even get started!

      • I admit implementing such a system would be a challenge on many levels. I’m almost done with a staging plan so check back in a few days. Yards and shops are certainly a concern, but as was noted there are large vacant tracts or marginal industrial land in many parts of the city.

        BTW I am not a big proponent of demand-based planning as it is typically applied at the MIS/EIS level. I have seen too many dreams quashed at this level. Obviously the “purpose and need” would be tied to a future that is difficult for most pragmatists to envision. And financial merits including user benefits would be hard to quantify since it entails repopulation of whole tracts of the city and densification in currently populated areas…think Toronto in the 50s or Vancouver today. I personally believe that Chicago has a very bright future as a world city and definitly THE capital of the Midwest, no offense to anyone in Cleveland or Detroit. I don’t think conventional planning models can capture that.

      • Nathanael

        Personally, I think the best thing on that map is the extension north from Randolph St/ Millenium Station. Running north from there under the Chicago River, with one station in the very busy area north of there but well east of the El, and then linking in to an electrified (and purchased from UP!) UP-N line, would make a *great* deal of sense. IT is a secondary line for UP, they might be willing to sell.

        • Adirondacker12800

          That part of Chicago is not on a two dimensional street grid. It’s three dimensional. Three levels deep in places. Track level at Millenium Station to “under the Chicago River” might be much steeper than you imagine.

          • At 4% you can get about 20m down for those 500m. The river seems not very deep, so this should be doable:
            elevation profile
            Some S-Bahn tracks are steeper than that, for example the S-Bahn Hamburg line to the airport, with 8%.

            • Adirondacker12800

              20 meters at the banks of the river gets you from “street” level. “Street” level is upper E. Wacker Drive. Under that is middle E. Wacker Dr. then lower E. Wacker drive and a few meters below that the river. The picture of the Grand Hyatt Chicago from the river to their glass enclosed lobby shows all three levels of “street”

              http://www.hyattregencychicago.com/

              Very odd hotel. When you check in, on the second level which is above “steet” level, they give you a map that shows all 7, 8 or 9 levels of public areas off the lobby. Some of them are below “street” level. When there’s a big convention they use exhibition space in the Illinois Center. You don’t have to go outside to get there.

              The Metra station entrances are on “upper” Randolph Street. I have no idea what relation the tracks have to the river.

              http://www.som.com/content.cfm/millennium_station

              If you look at Google’s satellite views the tracks appear south of Monroe Street. Under it. I have no idea how Monroe Street relates to E. Wacker. I’d hazard a guess that it’s at the same level as mid E. Wacker.

              • FG

                Nope, they (the tracks) are either at the original grade or slightly below – they are in a trench at a lower (slightly) level than Michigan Avenue. The entire area to the north and east of millennium station was built over air rights. It’s doable to lower the tracks further and run them under the river, but it would require closing garage access to a few buildings (at least temporarily) and losing Lower Beaubien most likely (there’s a door directly to the platform level from here). It’s also possible that there are buildings in the way which would make it totally impossible at this point.

              • FG

                I should clarify; the main entrance to the station is outside of Cultural Center (former Main Public Library) at the southwest corner of Randolph (single level at grade here) and Michigan Avenue, there’s a secondary entrance at the NW corner. The other connection is up into the Prudential building onto Beaubien, which is up a level from Michigan, from here you can connect inside to Illinois Center, etc. The main part of the station is probably a half level down from grade and there are connections into the pedway which connects to the subways, the Grant Park Garage (underground parking under and east of Mich. Ave, west of the tracks) and an almost direct connection with all the elevated lines other than the yellow line, as well as all the way to City Hall and the State of Illinois Building.

                From track level there’s the exit to Lower Beaubien and further east via the South Shore Line platforms there is a connection to Lower Randolph with a car drop off. I should also note that the South Shore Line has a separate terminal at an upper (higher than the Electric District tracks, at grade) level with their own tracks and platforms, however, otherwise they share metra platforms when they run on shared track.

              • Underpinning or even transfering building loads to new grade beams/foundations is common practice. Google images for “East Side Access” or “Access to Region’s Core”. Also the tunnel can be very deep, I wasn’t necessarily thinking that a new RER/Metro station at Randolph would be at the existing suburban station elevation. Consider WMATA/Dupont Circle. Just make sure the escalators work!

            • ardecila

              For anyone interested, the tracks of Millennium Station are somewhat below “grade”, although grade in this area isn’t really worth much. Anything east of Michigan is lakefill, so the natural grade is actually below lake level.

              Here’s a picture from 1968 showing the first Illinois Center building under construction, and the stub ends of tracks poking out from under the Prudential Building.
              http://imageshack.us/img508/8996/pano1968.jpg

              Apparently the city reserved a subway easement through Illinois Center. It goes under Stetson Street and then cuts diagonally eastward beneath the Hyatt Regency’s taxi stand, probably to a Columbus/Fairbanks alignment.

              City Plat Map (PDF)

              • FG

                ardecila, your links aren’t working. I’m guessing that you’re seeing part of the railyards which are long gone. Illinois Center was built on air rights, which were originally scheduled to be used for a Rockefeller Center type development in the late 20’s. At that time there was still shipping and warehousing on the river.

                The tracks were built right on the beach on trestles and didn’t veer away until Hyde Park when the track swings westward. Grant Park was filled in with tailings from the freight tunnel system.

              • ardecila

                I’m aware of Illinois Center’s history. Grant Park was filled in sequentially from numerous sources, beginning with the 1871 Chicago Fire.

                The PDF link to the plat map works reliably for me, but I uploaded it to Scribd just to make sure.

                There is indeed a subway easement beneath Stetson and the Hyatt Regency, established by a 1969 amendment to the Lakefront Ordinance and a 1977 ordinance (probably the same ordinance approving the Hyatt’s second tower).

                The subway the city had in mind was the Distributor Subway, a T-shaped line running from Streeterville to McCormick Place with a branch down Monroe Street heading west and then south to UIC. The city wisely acted to preserve space for a subway when the Hyatt’s second tower threatened to cut off the right-of-way.

                The city is only considering BRT circulators right now, and with the multi-level street network alleviating traffic around Illinois Center, there’s no need for the dedicated right-of-way that was set aside.

              • rsolinsk

                Sorry, got caught by the spam filter.

                Lakefront Landfill Map: http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/3713.html

  • Alon, in the last 10-20 years we’ve already seen regrowth in areas of the south side I’d never dreamed would see new development. What’s to make you think that over time these other close-in areas will not become desirable? Pretty much the whole of Paris (city of) and other European cities have been reinvented in this fashion. Now all we need is, heh heh, another 200 years or so. But that seems to be the direction that great cities take given time.

    I would also like to see adaptive reuse “brownbelts”, aka Peter Lantz in areas of industrial decline such as Cicero Aveneue corridor, as a component of a city-wide vision.

    • This growth exists, sure – but it’s natural. I don’t think you can really do this as TOD. At least, the cases of intense TOD I’m familiar with are of areas that were undeveloped before rail transit came, rather than areas that were run down and became better. In a few cases the government used transit as an excuse to engage in gentrification, but it’s not really the same as taking a neighborhood with empty lots and putting up new buildings on those lots.

      • A neighborhood with some empty lots, or a neighborhood consisting of empty lots?

        If residential development is going to be one of the anchors, the Transit must be connecting in under half an hour to at least one and preferably multiple strong employment centers, and there should be additional uses that appropriate zoning and the new transit connection strongly benefits from.

        Obviously there are no cookie-cutter solutions ~ a detailed inventory needs to be made of each potential walkable district around a potential infill or existing station, transit opportunities, and existing local resources. In many situations a successful magnet school would be an appealing piece to puzzle, as its both appealing to residential development and a heavy transit user, but establishing a successful magnet school is much easier said than done.

        • There is an ambiance to be found in Chicago neighborhoods, no matter how neglected or emptied out that is undeniable and unique. Even the most bombed out neighborhoods still have landmark structures that could serve as anchors (physically or metaphorically), when combined with intriguing new development/cultural assets, density, walkability, and of course successful schools. On the schools though, realize that San Francisco has a horrendous public school system which hasn’t stopped that city from reaching “world city” status. But hopefully, drawing on it’s Midwestern values, Chicago can be about kids too.

        • When I rode the Green Line through the South Side, I saw many blocks along State Street on which almost all lots were empty. It reminded me of the satellite pictures of Detroit. And when I got off at Garfield, not only was there not much development near the station, but also it looked neglected and frankly scary.

          • The inventory is likely to turn up more attractive TOD resources surrounding an infill station opportunity that is presently a mix of lots in use and empty lots than in the ones that are all empty lots … but there has to be uses other than just residence, and the station has to be a appreciable benefit to those uses, or else its not really TOD, is it?

          • FG

            There’s actually BIG plans for that area Alon (Garfield Blvd just east of the Green Line). Whether or not they ever come to fruition is another question, but there have been big thoughts.

          • Alon,
            47th Street at MLK on the South Side has made a remarkable turnaround only dampened by the economy. Give those TOD or organic developments time to occur, coincident with improvements to the public schools.

            The South Side has a lot of brownstones to restore. If redevelopment can happen in Harlem, it can certainly happen in the South Side of Chicago.

          • simple

            These comments on the “resurgence” of the areas around the Green Line south of 35th Street kind of make me chuckle. So the neighborhoods declined by 80% from their 1950’s peak and now have bounced back 50% from their nadir? That still means they’re at 30% of what they once were.

            Alon’s first impressions are accurate. While they may have bottomed out, and that is good, these neighboroods nonetheless all still have a long, long, way to go.

            • Yes, they have further to go. But why do you throw a wet blanket on progress?

              • simple

                No wet blanket intended. Perhaps it was just your use of the words “remarkable turnaround.” To me “turnaround” implies getting back somewhat close to where things were at the point of reference (presumably, in this case, when these neighborhoods were at their all time peak economic vibrancy). But I suppose “turnaround” could also literally mean that things have demonstrably stopped going downhill, even if they’ve only just begun to advance in the other direction. Tehnically I suppose you’re also right to call it “remarkable” in that it’s worthy of remark. But in context your comments sounded to me like you intended “remarkable” to mean something more like “astonishing.” Apologies if I’ve inferred more than you intended!

      • I think the best examples of TOD from DC, Alexandria, and Arlington are all about intensification of extant places, the Wilson Blvd. corridor in particular. It went from single family housing to intense multiunit residential and commercial buildings–to some extent at the expense of DC, but that was also a function of DC’s dysfunctionality at the time.

        But for center city revitalization a lot of things need to happen (attractive neighborhoods, noncorrupt political leadership, improvements in public safety, etc.) besides transit simultaneously with the transit. OTOH, without the transit, it will never happen. DC proves that (as does Philadelphia, the other way).

        But I don’t think most people in the city truly understand that process (including Gabe Klein probably because the key events happened long before he came onto the scene). For the most part, DC didn’t learn the right lessons from the NY Ave. Metro Station and the Barracks Row streetscape improvements, probably the two most important recent transportation investments in terms of revitalization and spurring intensification and/or commercial district revitalization and we already had in place attractive neighborhoods with historic building stock.

        But we are lucky in that L’Enfant blessed us with a robust grid that works well for walking and transit, and because of the diagonal avenues, it can be totally awesome for biking too. You can make a lot of mistakes and still do well with the right spatial pattern (and the federal govt. as a steady employment engine.)

        I like the CTI Vision plan in terms of creating that seemless network of rail services.

  • Andy

    As long as Rahm is mayor, the Red Line expansion/modernization is going to be the priority large scale CTA project, and the Circle Line will have to wait. But the CTA could try getting funds for BRT along Ashland that could roughly follow the path of the proposed Circle line, and use it as a test of demand. If it turns out to be popular and people use it to save time making transfers outside of the downtown core, it would help justify more investment in the future. I’m also all for BRT on Western (not just because I live near that street). Western connects with nearly every line of the el, and at least two Metra lines already have stations there.

    • simple

      Using BRT-light (as all “BRT” in Chicago is likely ever to be) as a “test of demand” for the Circle Line or any other rail rapid transit is highly unlikely to ever produce the desired results. It’s like using a local arterial street to test demand for an expressway. Slow speeds and lots of delay discomfort at connection points

      Improved bus service is a good thing in and of itself – and CTA has plenty of evidence for that. CTA had limited stop “X” routes that increased average speeds by 1-2mph on the affected routes. Yet that service — while highly popular — was deemed politically easiest to eliminate. Buses on city streets can only go so fast and still obey traffic laws and pick up and drop off riders — meaning at best averaging 13-15mph on streets like Chicago’s. CTA’s slowest rail lines average 20mph; the newer segments average 30+.

  • DBX

    Renovating the existing Red Line, period, should be the immediate priority. The subway plan is visionary and necessary for giving the entire North Side the frequency and speed of service it should have had long ago and enabling people in the depressed South Side to get to north side jobs far more quickly. Neighborhoods south of 95th street as well as Woodlawn/Hyde Park/Kenwood should be served by greatly expanded Metra Electric service — in other words, Metra Electric like the Illinois Central did it, running every ten minutes off-peak — with free transfers to the CTA both by bus and to the Red Line at Lake/Washington.

    Improved Metra Electric service and integrating it with the CTA would serve more people (including the long-abandoned residents of Atgeld Gardens) at far lower cost than a Red Line extension, while avoiding the operational problems of tacking on 130th street to a Red Line run that already takes an hour and a half to complete.

    The key thing is to get as much value as possible out of existing rights of way (e.g. Metra’s grossly underutilized four-track electric mainline), while replacing only what absolutely needs to be replaced (i.e. the crumbling North Side embankment).

    Once Metra Electric is restored to give the far south side proper transit service and the Red Line is properly modernized, I believe projects that directly connect existing Metra terminals to the CTA and open cross-town commuting (e.g. properly connecting Union and Ogilvie stations along Clinton Street, or tunneling north from Millennium Park) are better than speculative projects that create scheduling problems on existing routes while doing little to shorten journey times or increase frequency (and here I’m referring to the Circle Line and the 130th Street extension).

    • Chris

      I agree. I REALLY hope if/when they renovate the RedLine, that they go with the subway plan. While it could potentially be more expensive… it would be so much more efficient and save money in the long run! Think of how much less intensive the maintenance will be on a track that ISN’T exposed to the weather. :)

      Speaking of weather… waiting in a tunnel as opposed to an elevated track exposed to the wind, cold, snow, etc in the winter sounds MUCH better for Chicago.

    • FG

      So you are, I’m assuming, proposing removing the Electric District from Metra, who specifically see’s their mission as being a commuter railroad, not a mass transit railroad? I think the red line extension is a better fit for the far south side since it has better connections to destinations that south siders want and need to go to than the IC mainline ever will (in addition to providing service to intermediate areas which desperately need it).

      More frequent service would be a good thing, but I don’t realistically see it happening without universal ticketing, which is a very expensive proposition for Metra.

      • Sure, why not? There’s nothing set in stone that says that a commuter line has to be infrequent, expensive, and overstaffed. There are FRA regulations, but it’s possible to sever Metra Electric and the South Shore Line from the FRA – or ask for waivers, since Metra is a large agency and the FRA will listen.

        The main problem is local railroader traditions. SEPTA tried to sever the Reading half from the FRA, and built an S-Bahn-style connection from the Reading to the PRR halves and tried to run regional rail like urban transit. Technically, it was a success. Organizationally, the old-timers rebelled and many left for Amtrak and Conrail, and after a lot of pain management caved.

        • david vartanoff

          Alon and all. Severing Metra and South Shore from FRA is non-trivial. The http://www.southshorefreight.com/ moves unit coal trains which means mainline diesels on what is a single track RR east of Gary. That said, there is NO reason other than obsolete politics to have more than an engineer and a conductor–PATH is under FRA and they operate w/2 person crews. ME could easily return to barrier fare control and eliminate individual ticket inspection. I would hazard a guess that the bulk of current ME and South Shore riders are monthly pass buyers except for Notre Dame football and Taste of Chicago events.

        • FG

          Expensive to run or ticket price?

        • Nathanael

          Even so, SEPTA got a lot of benefits out of the (partial) S-Bahn-ization they made. Including high frequency reliable services off peak.

          Metra should try it. Metra Electric used to have barrier fare control like the CTA, for goodness sake, it can have it again.

    • simple

      DBX,

      While I don’t necessarily disargree with you that improving MED service has its merits, you make a lot of unsupported assertions here. First, you say “Improved Metra Electric service and integrating it with the CTA would serve more people (including the long-abandoned residents of Atgeld Gardens) at far lower cost than a Red Line extension.” On what basis do you make this claim? Even with increased frequency, CTA’s South Lake Shore Drive express buses still would provide equivalent or shorter door-to-door travel times from MED station areas to most of downtown (essentially anywhere but within a few blocks of the MED’s Randolph Street terminal). Use Google transit to check out some South Shore/South Chicago to Loop/North Mich Ave trip pairs to see for yourself. So unless the more frequent MED service can somehow be made to happen at no cost, your claim is hard to support.

      Then you denigrate the Circle Line and Red Line Extension proposals as “speculative projects that create scheduling problems on existing routes while doing little to shorten journey times or increase frequency.” But based on my analysis of journey time comparisons for more frequent MED service, I’d say your words actually apply to that project — far more so than Circle or Red Extension! (See my comments above regarding Circle Line travel time savings and operations for more details.)

      • Nathanael

        Not in rush hour, or when there are accidents. Or from several of the intermediate stations which are skipped. Lake Shore Drive buses have some serious deficiencies versus Metra Electric. Actually, they really ought to be retired in favor of frequent Metra Electric service and better Metra Electric stations.

        If you want to go anywhere in the Loop west of Metra Electric, change to buses — or just walk — at Van Buren. If you want to go north of the Chicago River — well, I’ve suggested before, the extension of Metra Electric to the north would reach a valuable target.

        The key point is that more frequent Metra Electric service is, in the medium run, cheaper than running all those parallel express buses, and provides better service. Why not leverage the resources you have?

        • Adirondacker12800

          If you want to go north of the Chicago River — well, I’ve suggested before, the extension of Metra Electric to the north would reach a valuable target.

          Except for the pesky billion dollars worth of hotel and convention center in the way and a river.

        • simple

          Nathanael,

          Those travel time comparisons are using rush hour schedules. But my main point is not to knock improved MED service — I’m all for it. What I dislike are Grey Line proponents hyping its benefits and dismissing its costs without making well supported arguments in either case.

          You state that “Metra Electric service is, in the medium run, cheaper than running all those parallel express buses, and provides better service.” But where’s the analysis to support this statement? It would be cheaper only if you could significantly reduce bus service to cut costs. But could you and would you? And would it really provide better service for most or even many of today’s LSD express bus riders?

          The fact is that both North and South LSD are very important and desirable transit arteries in Chicago, and express bus service is not going away on either — nor should it. What that means for the Gray Line is that if MED service were to become more frequent and adopt CTA fares, most of its demand would come from walk-in traffic — not transfers.

          Put yourself in the shoes of today’s South LSD express bus riders. For example if you lived near 79th/Jeffery and worked in the central loop would you really prefer to take the Jeffery bus to 71st Street, transfer once to the MED, then transfer again to another bus (or walk 5+blocks) downtown rather than today’s one-seat ride? The story on South Shore Drive, Stony Island, and South Hyde Park Blvd is similar (especially during peak periods) — a one or two seat ride vs a two or three seat ride, with minimal travel time savings (if any).

          This is in fact much like what happens on the North Side, where the Red Line operates together with all of the 140 and 130 series LSD express bus routes. The Red Line mostly captures walk-in and to some degree off-peak demand (when some of the LSD routes don’t run). The Red Line is also positioned to capture more bus transfer traffic than the MED could, simply due to geography (the MED SC branch requires back-tracking for E-W bus transfers, while the mainline is no faster than transferring to the #14 for central Loop trips or transferring to the Red Line for trips to north of the River).

          Perhaps if the MED SC branch had more frequent service and integrated CTA fares it could stimulate more travel demand for the walk-to market, and even possibly stimulate increased TOD along the 71st Street and Exchange Ave corridors — and possibly even in Hyde Park too. These are the strongest arguments in favor of the Grey Line proposal, IMHO. But to suggest that the riders of the 6, 14, 26, and X28 would somehow be better off if they had to transfer to a more frequent MED train rather than have the one-seat ride they enjoy today is to grossly underestimate the attractiveness of the LSD express bus routes (again, just take a look at North Side travel behavior).

          • 1. Why do so many people continue to spell it “grey” when for at least 16yrs. (and on all my posts) it has been “Gray” Line (“Gray spelled with an “A”).

            2. Everyone seems to look only at work related to/from downtown trips, and rush-hour schedules.
            There are many other types of trips not necessarily to/from downtown (school, shopping, medical, childcare, etc.).

            3. Those Express buses might provide reliable type service during weekday rush-hours; BUT nights, weekends, even midday services can be TRULY screwed-up. Trains usually adhere more or less to their schedule than buses, and would be running on frequent headways at all times – not just during weekday rush-hours.

            4. The main goal of the Gray Line has always been to create Jobs, and stimulate rapid Commercial and Residential Economic Development in the diverse Communities along the line; something which bus lines (even BRT) rarely do. Providing new Transit Options is secondary.

            Somebody else please post their plan (or the city, state, whoever) for stimulating New Economic Development at 75th & South Chicago, and 75th & Exchange.

            • My plan: recognize that infrastructure is a consequence rather than a cause of economic development. Economic development should be provided using anti-poverty programs (read: welfare) increasing the lower class’s purchasing power, and targeted deregulation of the process of starting a business so that it’s easier for locally-owned small businesses to succeed.

            • simple

              Gray Line,

              Apologies for the mis-spelling. It’s an easy mistake to make unintentionally.

              Also, I’m not trying to tweak you. I really think improved MED service is a good idea. I just want to make the arguments in favor as strong as possible because I believe it’s a more expensive and complicated undertaking than most of its proponents appear to think it is.

              As for “stimulating New Economic Development,” do you have any examples where the addition of frequent rail transit service has in and of itself stimulated new economic development? The examples I can think of typically involve rail transit helping to foster more transit-friendly design in areas which are already ripe for development. Or they involve some concerted government effort to steer development to a specific area, with or without enhanced transit. Simply improving transit service is no guarantee that economic development will follow (see for instance most of the Green and Pink Line station areas in Chicago).

              If economic development along 75th Street is your top priority I think you would be better off figuring out how to attract job-intensive businesses & industries to the area as a first step, and then as a second step making the case for how it would be better still if their workers could get there via improved transit service along the lines you’re suggesting. But simply enhancing transit alone won’t bring the jobs. (If it’s any consolation, most of the Red Line Extension proponents appear to be making the same mistake.)

              Until and unless we can crack the jobs-on-75th Street problem, it’s also a worthy objective to improve how people can get between this area and transit-oriented areas where jobs are currently concentrated and likely to be concentrated in the future (Loop, near West Side, O’Hare/Midway areas, etc.). But that gets back to downtown trips and rush hour schedules — the importance of which you seem to want to diminish.

              But speaking of off-peak & non-work trips — can you provide some examples of prospective trips that are now onerous via CTA bus but that would be significantly better with improved MED service? And if the problem is principally headways — why would the train warrant better headways than the buses currently do? If there’s a need, why aren’t we calling for more frequent bus service right now?

  • Chris

    The circle line isn’t a great plan imo. It is far too close to the city center to provide any true connections to neighborhoods or other L lines. A good circle line should be farther north, west and south. If you live on the northside anywhere above Fullerton – the circle line will save you very little time with trying to connect over to the blue line, green line, etc. You still might as well connect in the loop. How bout a circle line around Irving, Western and 35th? (That’s not a great plan… I’m just throwing out a more outer alignment that would make more sense for connections and time saving).

    • simple

      Chris, Not to be cliche, but don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Even at this distance from the Loop (perhaps *especially* at this distance from the Loop?) the Circle Line provides very significant travel time savings for lots of trips. See my comments above for more details. In addition, it serves corridors that are both job-rich now and primed and ready for more intensive growth in the future. And critically, of the 14 or so miles needed for the line, more than 8 are already in place with the Circle Line proposal. That’s a pretty difficult head start to ignore. If we can’t muster the resources to add 5.5 miles on to 8.5, how do you suppose we’ll be able to create 10 or 15 or 20 miles of new line, through existing city neighborhoods, from scratch?

  • Brandi

    I am wondering how much cities could accomplish on their own to getting new transit projects off the ground. Would it be possible for Chicago and New York to get questions on the ballot like Measure R in LA which funded transit through a general sales tax? How would we go about doing this? I mean a mayor can only do so much.

    • FG

      Illinois, thankfully, doesn’t have ballot initiatives, otherwise we’d be in the mess that Cali is.

      • Matt

        Not going to completely disagree with the problem with ballot initiatives, but to say Illinois isn’t in the mess that California is in is comical. Illinois is in far worse shape. They have borrowed to pay their pension fund, which may be insolvent this decade. California has its budget problems as everyone else in the country points out, but is seeing revenues surge this year (nearly $7B this year) and will see some tax cuts in the coming fiscal year.

        • FG

          I’m talking about the astro-turfed ballot stuff, like the gay marriage debacle, etc, not state financial conditions.

          • Nathanael

            The astroturfed ballot stuff also means that California can’t have sane tax policy thanks to Prop 13 in the 1970s.

            In Illinois, it can have sane tax policy if you vote for sane legislators, you don’t need stupid 2/3 supermajority requirements. Definitely better off.

  • ardecila

    I’m not worried about the Airport Express project. All sources indicate that the project is Daley’s pet project only. Rahm has indicated interest, but this is only out of respect for Daley and his last-gasp attempt to bolster his legacy.

    Expect the O’Hare Express project to die quietly once Rahm takes office… that is, unless some corporation actually responds to the city’s RFP with a workable model for construction/operation without any tax funding.

    Far more likely is that Amtrak, Metra, and CN will come to an agreement to run airport express service in some combination with Metra’s North Central trains. There’s still some unused capacity in the north end of Union Station.

  • Full staging plan for Chicago rail transit buildout vision available here. Pardons for lack of accompanying written documentation, hoping that will be available soon.

  • david vartanoff

    Not to rehash previous posts, but if Rahm is serious, AND can figure out presuading Metra, adding a couple strips of tarmac on the South Shore at 130th and using ME Highliners for Hegewisch-Millenium trains could be done very cheaply very soon. Adding a looping shuttle through Altgeld Gardens timed to connect is also cheap and provides for fare collection by CTA giving riders a POP ticket good for both the train and a secondary transfer further north. There is recent precedent for Hegewisch turns–it was done w/Metra diesel powered bilevels when CSS&SB was short of cars. As a demonstration, it will be evidence for or against a full Gray Line at minimal expense.

    • In continuation of my Quixotic Quest, I will be addressing the BoD’s of all the Transit Agencies in the next few weeks; concentrating especially on Metra (re: the cost savings of abandoning Metra funded operation of the in-city routes; and then being paid to run them for another agency – CTA/RTA): http://www.Grayline.20m.com

      I am seeking FOIA Operating Cost figures for the in-city MED services; both for the BoD presentations, and to apply to the Corridor Study as well: http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/12456386/348792632/name/PT_South+Lakefront_FEB4+PAC_FINAL.pdf

      A Hegewisch service could also serve the Ford Plant at 130th & Torrence (which presently has no Public Transit), and would act as a great Demonstration Project.

      btw: David, I am not aware of any recordings of the April 13th CDOT meeting.

    • FG

      Are you proposing some kind of branch on ME to Hegewisch or using highliners on the South Shore (which they have already started to do) in lieu of the red line extension?

      I’m not sure there’s really a call for more, as in a drastic increase in, transit on the south side, my downtown bound rush hour train isn’t anywhere near full (this morning for instance, 44 lower level seats in my half of car, 11 passengers – admittedly a bit light, but there are never enough riders to fill all the seats – this one is a Kensington), however the suburban trains generally are full, if not packed.

      I still haven’t seen any concrete plans or real answers on how the “gray line” will interface with the suburban lines using the tracks. In other words, will ME/SS service use one set of platforms without faregates and will the “gray line” use the other with turnstiles? And what about the current single platform stations, like 47th, 27th, McCormack, 18th, etc? How will that work? I’ve been following the discussion over at CTA Tattler and the cost estimates have been called out oh so many times.

      • For a Track Operating Diagram click the “Gray Line Images” link on the Home Page: http://www.Grayline.20m.com

        Gray Line trains would use the Inner (Express) tracks from Downtown to 115th, ME/SS trains would use the Outer (Express) tracks (this diagram does not show the Hegewisch services).

        ME/SS trains would stop only Downtown (Millennium, Van Buren, Roosevelt), at 59th/UoC (on a new 59th to 57th Platform), and Kensington.

        All the other in-city MED Stations would receive CTA Fare Vending Machines and Turnstyles (and be manned by CTA Customer Assistants), enabling complete interchange with all other CTA ‘L’ and Bus services.

        For the Hegewisch service new CTA Stations would be built at 130th & Doty (Altgeld), 130th & Torrence (Ford Plant), and a new separate CTA Terminal at Hegewisch (SS trains would no longer be subsidized by Metra to carry Illinois passengers – increasing SS capacity for Indiana passengers).

        New modified Highliner II’s would be used for the Hegewisch service (as for all Gray Line services) and stored at an upgraded Burnham Yard.

        The Kensington & Eastern (the rail line from Kensington to the Indiana border used by the SS – is wholly owned by Metra, as is the entire Electric District).

        • FG

          So wait, THREE platforms at 57th Street? Thats what you’ve just described if you run MED on the outside tracks. And why would you have a platform to 59th Street rather than between 55th-57th which has a busy middle exit to 56th street? I think the whole thing is poorly thought out. Rebuilding and adding platforms, which means altering viaduct structures and making everything ADA accessible is going to be FAR FAR FAR more than you imagine it will be.

          I certainly don’t want to be forced to take CTA service – I’ve overheard the conversations about perceptions of crime on the red line enough on the MED to know how people feel about it. Especially with your complaints about crime on the CTA I’m surprised you are pushing for CTA expansion.

          I don’t buy the economic benefits – no industrial or service jobs would be created since the south side in most of the MED’s service area is residential. Beyond retail if areas around stations gentrify there won’t be any big job creation. People at the Ford plant will want to use their product to get to work rather than public transit.

  • @simple The extremely high $1.4 Billion Capital Cost of the 6 mile 4 Station Red Line Extension is because it does NOT exist today – it has to be engineered, and materials purchased, and the entire Physical Plant constructed up from scratch.

    The entire 22 mile 37 Station CTA Gray Line PP is in service every day, and the $200 Million Capital Cost (1/7th the cost of the Red Line Ext.) is to purchase CTA Fare Vending and Collection Equipment from Cubic; and a few new Stations and track changes.

    Which has a better cost/benefit ratio to you simple?

    Also there are lots of other types of riders besides work trips to/from downtown. Express buses on Lake Shore Drive cannot provide transfers to buses on intersecting routes.

    And Express buses (however they’re supposed to be schedule) can be VERY undependable (especially in bad weather – from much personal experience), and are subject to traffic conditions.

    • Cubic is so bad that Chicago is desperate to get out and is trying to hitch a ride on New York’s PayPass disaster. It’s proprietary, it’s vendor locked, it’s incompatible with anything else, and it’s not used on anything except a few American transit systems.

      Seriously: POP.

      • Unless they replace everything, any new services will have match the current Fare Collection system.

        Nice idea – but POP would never work here in Chicago, just like some areas cannot have Self-Service lanes at Jewel.

        Open CTA ‘L’ platform access would invite robbery, vandalism, theft, solicitors, preachers, the homeless, bangers, etc., etc., (this is Chicago – not Europe; I’ve lived here 62yrs and I know).

        • Adirondacker12800

          Free rides withing the Loop would be an advantage. There’s no way you could use POP within the Loop.

        • What is that, Chicagoan exceptionalism?
          POP works in many cities, are you implying that crime is higher in Chicago than any of those. Does a fare gate prevent robbery or theft? Does it represent in impermeable barrier to the rabble, at 2$?

          Just make sure the ratio of single ticket cost to monthly pass is such that most people get a monthly pass – maybe a factor of 30x should work well.

          • Adirondacker12800

            What incentive does someone who lives in the suburbs have to get a monthly CTA pass if they can ride in the Loop for free?

            • 100-500$ fine if getting caught without a valid fare.

            • Adirondacker12800

              100 dollar fine is “get caught once a month” 500 dollar fine is “get caught twice a year” To catch them twice a year would be really annoying to the passengers who do have passes. Catch them once a month turnstiles would be cheaper than the amount of inspectors needed.

              • Do you have data to back that assertion up?

                Also, you don’t have to catch everybody who evades the fares. You just have to make sure that the income in fines is higher than the fares lost to fare evasion (plus some wiggle room due to the lack of fare gates, minus the fare inspectors).

        • You’ll be surprised how much crime certain parts of Europe has. In France, SNCF is buying walk-through trains, where you can walk from one car to another without passing through doors or narrow gangways, because otherwise some women do not feel safe alone on a regional train.

      • Nathanael

        You know, this makes it even easier. Just tack on an “add on” order with whoever is producing the next generation replacement for Chicago’s farecard system, to supply the Gray Line. Hell, have Metra and CTA cooperate on a fare system spec which will work for buses, CTA rail, and Metra rail.

    • simple

      Gray Line – As for the cost/benefit ratio, I know how CTA came up with their $1+ billion estimate for the Red Line Extension – it’s documented on their website. But I don’t know where you came up with your $200M estimate for improved MED service. Where’s the service plan, operations plan, and line item capital expense implications? Then where is the operating cost estimate and the ridership forecast to estimate how much load would be taken off of CTA’s peak bus schedules (and presumably generate some savings)? Without those figures how can we even begin to talk about comparing costs and benefits?

      Also, it’s interesting to hear you lament how CTA express buses cannot provide sufficient cross-town transit connections — yet you discount these very connections when the Red Line Extension proponents say that’s what the Red Line does better than improved MED service (and how could it not — simply due to geography the Red Line provides much better connections to any destination that’s not already on the MED).

      Finally, it would be better to see data on express bus service reliabilty and compare it with rail service reliability than rely on anecdotal evidence. The MED is not without its share of weather-induced service reliability issues (downed wires from ice or fallen tree limbs, traffic blockages on 71st Street, switch and signal malfunctions etc). Perhaps one mode really is significantly less reliable than the other, but who’s to say without some data. Do you have it?

      • david vartanoff

        First, reliability. Although very old data, when I commuted from Bryn Mawr to Van Buren for a job, I was late to work ONCE in 18 months on account of a major blizzard. A couple years later, in another blizzard which literally buried buses the IC got me around.
        I never saw a car blocking the ROW on 71st, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.
        Traffic jams on local streets and South Shore Drive are not anectdotal. MED has huge excess capacity (based on Employee Timetables when there was much more frequent service).

        As to costs, MED/Kensington&Eastern/Metra already HAS trackage to 130 and Hegewisch. A couple platforms at 130th with a bus bay and small parking lot, a ticket validator/Customer Assistant booth even at 100% corruption add on can’t be more than $15 million; adding CTA ticket hardware to Hegewisch a couple more.

      • simple – It is true I do not have qualified answers to a lot of the questions you’ve stated, but I do know that it costs less to utilize an existing (underutilized) facility than to construct a very expensive new one.

        And the RLE is not about “providing CTA rail service to the Far South Side” – it’s about extending City Hall’s CTA Feifdom, and making sure that “connected” Consultants and Construction Co’s get their porky fingers into that $1.4 Billion; the same as that “Emporers New Clothes” Block 37.
        (and the Skyway, Meigs Field, Parking Meters, etc., etc.)

        The 14 and 26 obviously provide no intersecting bus transfer connections between 67th and Roosevelt, nor the buses that express North from 47th. Between downtown and the Far South Side – the Red Line is more central, but has no job centers along the line; and doesn’t even extend the two miles needed to provide access to/from jobs at the Ford Plant.

        I don’t have data, only years of personal (anecdotal) experience; just like what david says, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try to do something about what I perceive is the problem.

        Please read pages 13 through 20 of CNT’s “Getting on Track”, what do you think about what they said? (and notice they said ALL Transportation projects in the Chicago area): http://www.illinoispirg.org/uploads/C3/Yv/C3YvO-xHoA5eWCFoMMQhvQ/Getting-on-Track.pdf

  • david vartanoff

    It is NOT the turnstile per se but the presence of the Customer Assistants (and CCTV which should be added) which slows down the crooks.

  • david vartanoff

    @Alon and all. We all know there is crime/inappropriate behavior on public transit. The issue is what perceived level of safety is necessary for potential users to be willing to ride. Do any of you remember the “off hour waiting area” stencils in the NYC subway?

  • I thought the issue is whether the POP vs turnstile issue is related to crime/inappropriate behavior.

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