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Are you kidding? Massive northbound delays ahead

Big service cuts ahead for North Side CTA riders (Crain's Chicago Business)

North Side 'L' riders: Expect 2 years of delays (Chicago Tribune)

Customers Warned of Delays -- Advised to Leave Early, Leave Late or Alternate (CTA's Web site)

CTA, you've GOT to be kidding!

  • A 25% cut in the number of trains heading to the North Side?
  • Double your commute home if you live north and take the Red, Brown or Purple lines?
  • A 13% cut in capacity of train running south from the North Side ?

Frank Kruesi, have you gone totally insane?

And here are the proposed remedies:

  • The Purple Line train will now run counter-clockwise around the Loop on the same track as the Brown Line.
  • And we're encourage to consider such alternatives as buses, the Blue Line and Metra train.

I've got one other suggestion: Just shut down the Purple Line Express entirely during this construction phase. At least it's one less train line to worry about.

Also, prepare to lose lots of riders over the next two years. This is really an untenable situation. The CTA claims they've warned us about the three track configuration. True. But I've never before seen anything about doubling your commuting time home.

The next CTA board meeting is in early February. I think we need to bring a contingent of pissed-off riders there. More on that later.


Are there no comments because we are all so stunned by the prospect of it taking more than an hour to travel five miles (in my case)?

I'll bite and play devil's advocate. It's the phoenix approach, straight out of the Chicago fire game plan. Burn the damn thing down, then rebuild it. We must destroy the village to save it ... from the ashes shall arise something new and better.
Perhaps this will lead to an implosion in the CTA. No more Kruesi, no more cronies. The agency will be dismantled. We will then have a rational restructuring of our public transit system, one that serves the entire metro area under one agency in a coordinated and efficient manner. A world where there is one transit card for heavy rail, El, and bus, whether in Elgin, Evanston, or Edgewater. One in which courteous bus operators drive environmentally sound vehicles (bought new, not second hand) with clean interiors and functioning displays. Where, miracle of miracles, El cars stay on the tracks and signs tell riders how much longer 'til the next train.
I give. I cannot keep a straight face and write any more in that vein. I've bought my Metra pass, I've got my bicycle in the shop to be tuned up, and I'm going to avoid the CTA as much as I humanly can.

I can see now it will take me more time to get from Midway to the North Side than flying in from Providence.

Of course once the Brown Line is rebuilt the CTA is going to have to do the same to the Red Line north of Belmont as the line needs a total recontruction.

Being from Boston I have never understood how the CTA allowed the system to fall apart the way it has. The Dearborn Street subway is a civic disgrace and the State Street subway has only in the past few years seen station reconstruction. Boston for all it's warts has spent millions in rebuilding stations and making most of the system ADA complient.

Grand and State will be rebuilt now but it was by far the worst major subway station I have ever seen in ANY big city ( including Philadelphia's horrible Broad Street Line )

THIS IS GRAND indeed ( too bad they changed that )

As a West Sider I'd like to say, been there, done that. Suck it up North Siders.

I've never understood the dividing wall between platforms in CTA stations. If the CTA would be a sound, heavy duty ceiling, they could open up the stations (and perhaps have something similar to DC's stations).

As for the delays, heads should roll, but you won't see it happen because the CTA has their board meetings during business hours, when it is nigh impossible to have ridership participation. A coincidence? I think not.

Agreed on the "contingent of pissed-off riders" sentiment.

Please post a reminder once the next meeting gets closer and maybe we can put together a rowdy bunch..

I don't think it would work to eliminate the Purple line because it would double penalize Evanston riders and also cause more congestion on the red line. Since that stretch of track allows for two trains to run in the same direction at a time, it wouldn't make sense to actually cut capacity when the red line can't possibly run any more trains during the 8 to 9am hour to make up for the additional ridership. All this would achieve would be to crowd red line trains by the time they get to Sheridan, maybe ever before. Alternately, I considered that maybe they could end Purple line service at Belmont or before and make Purple line riders transfer to the brown or red line. This way, more Brown line trains (which I assume serve more people) could fill the Purple line slots in the schedule, running from Belmont to the Loop. However, I think platforms are already going to be dangerously crowded, so having a whole train of people disembark onto an already crowded platform seems like a bad plan. Plus the Purple line trains would have to reverse out of Belmont, requiring even more complex switching than is already going to be needed. In the end, I think what the CTA has proposed concerning the Purple is probably the best option, although they might consider having the purple stop at Sheridan in order to create a tiny bit more space on red line trains.

By the way, three tracking won't start before the brown line is able to handle eight car trains, will it? It would seem like adding capacity on the Brown line before starting the three tracking would be a good idea since Fullerton and Belmont can already handle eight car trains.

"By the way, three tracking won't start before the brown line is able to handle eight car trains, will it? It would seem like adding capacity on the Brown line before starting the three tracking would be a good idea since Fullerton and Belmont can already handle eight car trains."

Yes it will. Three-tracking is part of the Brown Line expansion program.

Attn: people who think they'll be able to take Metra instead. Someone on Carole's Blog posted this:

I made a phone call to someone I know that works at Metra this morning. According to her (and she would most definately know) the CTA has not entered into ANY discussions with Metra about them recommending the UP-North line as alternative to Red/Brown/Purple. She also said this line is already one of the more congested Metra routes and that no additional equipment is available to add cars to the rush hour trains. Good going Frank and Carole.
1/11/2007 11:39 AM

"As a West Sider I'd like to say, been there, done that. Suck it up North Siders."

Typical dumbassed Chicago attitude. Let the bad leadership in this city continue to pit neighbor against neighbor.

I think the idea of having the purple stop at Sheridan is pretty smart. Maybe another stop further north as well?

Something else that might help -- since less crowded trains move faster than crowded trains (less time spent at the stations), why not switch the direction of travel of the middle line to match the direction of commute? In other words, in the morning there would be two lines for trains heading south, but trains heading north would share a single line. Granted, this would cause some inconvenience for people who transfer to and from red -- in one direction they would have to cross over to the other platform to make the transfer. And there would have to be clear signage telling people entering the station which platform to go to. But I think that's a lot better than longer delays both morning and afternoon.

That would require power rails on both sides of that track. Do they currently have them like that?

Even though Fullerton and Belmont are part of the Brown line renovation, there is no reason (that I can think of) that they can't start running 8 car trains if the stations north of Belmont that previously could only handle 6 cars have all been finished. If they began 8 car runs, they could cut more Brown line trains, while keeping the same passenger capacity and, as a result, cut fewer red line trains. But this being the CTA we're talking about, they'll probably find some reason to stick with 6 cars.

judy baar topinka...whaaaaaaat is she thinking?

"Even though Fullerton and Belmont are part of the Brown line renovation, there is no reason (that I can think of) that they can't start running 8 car trains if the stations north of Belmont that previously could only handle 6 cars have all been finished. If they began 8 car runs, they could cut more Brown line trains, while keeping the same passenger capacity and, as a result, cut fewer red line trains. But this being the CTA we're talking about, they'll probably find some reason to stick with 6 cars."

Not all of the Brown Line Stations are completed yet, if I am not mistaken. The 3-tracking starts in 3 months, if those stations will be completed by then, maybe they will run 8-car trains.

Time for the regular CTA Tattler readers to organize and wreak some fucking havok at the next CTA meeting.

I've been taking METRA's North Line regularly for around three years now, and it just gets more and more crowded. The train I usually catch, which stops at Rogers Park at 7:24, is usually the last one to have seating easily available -- and once the train departs Rogers Park, those seats are gone.

Conflicts are increasing, too, as spoiled North Shore princes/princesses (who think they can take up two or three seats with their briefcases/computers/what have you's) finally get their comeuppances with former CTA riders, who have no intention of letting a laptop sit where a person should be able to take a seat instead.

METRA's already revised the schedule once in the last few months, I believe, to add a train each in the morning and evening rushes. Since they can't add cars to the runs they've got (lots of times the trains are too long for the platforms, as things stand), they're going to have to reshuffle again and again as the swarms increase.

I spent about 15 seconds this morning thinking about things the CTA could do to help alliviate the hell they are poised to create. In that 15 seconds, this is what I came up with:

- Run non-stop shuttle buses from downtown to (or close to) the Southport and Addison stations of the Brown line. Simultaneously keep Brown line service from Southport north at a similar capacity as it is today - some trains would reverse and head back to Kimball rather than entering Belmont hell. Do something similar on the red line (from Sheridan north?)
- There is a 5:50pm northbound Metra train on the MD-N line that runs only in the summer for Ravinia. Work with Metra to make this a year-round train. There are 2-4 other trains in evening rush that do not stop at Clybourn, Ravenswood or Rogers Park. Work with Metra to add some of these stops to some of these trains. That Metra line is already packed like an L train, so the idea of using it as an alternative with no modifications is not realistic.
- Implement non-stop express buses running from the Blue line stops at Belmont, Addison and Irving Park (and others) eastwards towards the Brown/Red lines. Being non-stop, they should be allowed to take the fastest route between destinations and with luck avoid some of the rush hour jam.
- Likewise, add buss service from the Clybourn, Ravenswood and Rogers Park metra stations, as well as stations to the west (can't recall the line)

Radical stuff:
- work with the city to actually block off lanes on busy streets for bike commuters so they don't feel like they're going to die (I'm thinking no parking on Lincoln or Clark on the rush hour side, with barricades or at least cones marking the bike area, same thing on LaSalle). Similar lanes could be created for buses.

There, that took me 15 seconds. Imagine what the great people of the CTA have in mind after spending hours and hours on it!!!!

Alright, I think I'm clear on where the Brown renovation stands regarding the stops north of Belmont. Unless I missed something, it looks like Damen, Irving Park, Southport and Paulina haven't even begun renovation yet (I rarely ride the Brown). Supposedly Damen and IP will only begin construction next year, with Addison and Montrose being closed until December 2007. I'm not sure if Western can accomodate 8 car trains.

In any case, yeah, definitely no 8 car trains along that line before the end of 2008. Which begs the question, why didn't the CTA plan to finish renovations to Brown line stations north of Belmont BEFORE starting on renovations that would cause massive disruptions within the Belmont-Fullerton corridor? Maybe there is an acceptable answer here, but I don't see it. Sure, if they waited, it might've taken the project as whole longer to finish, but it would seem to have caused less havoc. After all, increasing capacity from 6 to 8 cars presents a significant capacity increase which, as I noted, could have been used to keep more red line trains running while not affecting overall capacity on the Brown.

I agree with the poster who suggested the Purple line service all the way to the Loop be eliminated. This would allow a few more Brown line trains to run, right?
Just run the Purple line only as far south as Addison, and allow transfers to/from the Red line there. As well, a couple other interim transfer locations north of that could be added.
It seems removing the Purple line entirely from the equation between Belmont and FUllerton will only help.
Also, what am I missing here, how does switching the Purple line direction in the Loop help the congestion problem in the 3-track area?

Mike -
I like your ideas, especially the shuttle buses, express buses and no parking on certain streets. No parking on Lincoln and Clark would allow buses (express or no) to get downtown faster and would make biking easier.

Westy -- I don't think switching the purple line's direction in the loop is to help alleviate congestion; I think it's to make it easier for riders (now instead of having to pick one train to go out of the loop, they can get on the platform and get on whichever one comes first). At least that's how I interpreted it.

Also, looks like the next board meeting is at 10AM on Wednesday, February 14, 2007. Happy Valentine's Day!

This is like the travel apocalypse for the north side. On the poll on the trib website for this story, over 75% said yes to "Would doubled travel times make you abandon CTA trains?". Morning rush hour trains are pretty insane 4/5 days a week by the time they hit Fullerton, and I'm pretty sure they are definitely running over stated capacity. You can't squeeze anymore people in them and often you have to wait for a second train to come by anyway. The worst is that these estimates are probably low in terms of delays.

Something else to think about regarding ending purple line at Addison...think of the congestion there during Cubs game days if you have people transferring trains. Talk about horrible.

Catch Da Mare's lovely comments at the end of the piece. Unbelievable. He DOES NOT get it and WILL NOT get it unless something dramatic happens...

Chicago Sun-Times

Aldermen: CTA a 'third-world transit system'

January 11, 2007
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter
Calling Chicago a world-class city with a “third-world transit system,” a pair of aldermen vowed Thursday to hold City Council hearings into derailments, mechanical breakdowns and daily service delays that have made their constituents’ lives miserable.

Aldermen Ricardo Munoz (22nd) and Joe Moore (49th) are accusing CTA President Frank Kruesi of “gross incompetence” even before capacity cuts of up to 25 percent slated to begin April 2 and continue for two years. Cuts are tied to the next phase of Brown Line reconstruction.

They’re upset about the Blue Line derailment last summer, the Red Line evacuation in November and about countless other service delays that never made headlines.

They’re furious about the increasing number of “slow zones” and about the CTA’s decision to spent $385 million to build a Block 37 “super-station” when their neighborhood stations are “crumbling.”

“It’s unconscionable that a city as great as Chicago has a third-world transit system. That’s really what the CTA has become,” Moore said.

“It’s already bad and the slowdowns as a result of work on the Brown Line are going to make it that much worse. That’s why it behooves us to get to the bottom of this or you’re not going to have anybody riding the CTA anymore. They’ll walk away in disgust.”

Munoz added, “It’s obvious that, with all of the delays and breakdowns, the CTA has got to do something differently. We want hearings to find out what they’re doing wrong and be able to help them find the money to be a better transit system.”

Mayor Daley reacted defensively to the City Council broadside, the second against the CTA in the last month by aldermen who previously demanded the return of CTA conductors.

The mayor argued that Kruesi, his longest-serving adviser, is doing a “good job” under extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

“Gross incompetence — by them [aldermen]?” Daley said, facetiously suggesting that the CTA close lines that run through the wards of aldermen who don’t want to put up with reconstruction-related delays.

“When you take the amount of people that are moved in and out of the CTA, they do a tremendous job. Remember, we haven’t gotten any state funding for how many years for operating costs…There’s service disruptions because, unfortunately, it’s an old L system. Think about it. That system is very, very challenging and old.”

Good ideas with the express buses from the blue line stops.

What are the chances of this actually happening?

Even though I have found the delays on the Brown and Red to be ridiculous in the last few years, I fear that that experience will seem great in comparison to what's coming.

2x as long? So two hours from Western to Downtown between 8-9 a.m.? Ridiculous.

I think I am going to start riding my bike to the Metra stop in Ravenswood and walking from Oglive to work (which is not a short walk). It will still be quicker than taking the el.

Of course, I could just drive everyday too. Even though my conscience would be conflicted, there aren't too many choices left.

"I think I am going to start riding my bike to the Metra stop in Ravenswood and walking from Oglive to work (which is not a short walk). It will still be quicker than taking the el.

Of course, I could just drive everyday too..."

The problem is, if the CTA is really going to cut capactity as much as they claim, that neither of these options will work much better. That Metra line is already packed to the gills most of the time (I ditched the Brown line for it months ago, and it seems to be getting more crowded every week.) And 2X the travel time will push a lot of people to drive instead. LSD will be overwhelmed and sloooooww. Parking wait lists will be a mile long... bad news.

Wait, if Belmont and Fullerton can already accomodate 8-car trains, why do they need to be redone at all? Other than "on principle" because the Brown Line is being "redone"?

Adam, Belmont and Fullerton are being redone to comply with the ADA act -- make it compliant.

Need to run 8-car trains when some stations can only handle 6-car trains? I can think of at least two ways this can be done:

1. At stations that can only handle 6-car trains, have the train stop and only open the first 6 cars for passengers to load/unload. Pull the train forward by two car lengths and allow the last two cars to load/unload. The only problem with this is it will take longer to load/unload.

2. Use temporary signage on the last two cars of the 8-car trains to indicate at which stations these cars will open. Only open these cars at stations that can handle the 8-car trains. At least that way, people traveling between stations that can handle the 8-car trains can utilize the last two cars.

Has no one currently at the CTA ever heard of a shoefly track?
That's a temporary track built while there is construction.
The last time the CTA used a shoefly was about 20 years ago when the viaduct over the 18th St. rail yards was replaced on the Douglas line.

I propose new bus routes for the north side.
How about "Sheridan Express... X151?"

Express from the Michigan ave area to Sheridan and ...Irving Park and then it continues up Sheridan as usual after that. the express part could be on Lake shore dr. or the inner drive depeding on traffic.

I'd also say expand the other inner drive express buses such as the 144 and 148 that serve Irving park and northward.

Then more 145 and 146 buses....and 147's for those folks.

Can't the trains can pick up power from either side already, so power rail side is irrelevant, they seem to be able to do this through switches.

Haven't I read that the train sets can't be configured to open only some doors and only some cars? In other words, the trains don't have the capability to open only the first six cars and only the last two/first two etc.

It's also my impression that both Belmont and Fullerton need to be redone for the longer trains due to the curves at the ends, which block sight lines/visibility for the driver to the ends of the train - they need to be able to see from end to end of the train (plus the ends of the platforms are way too narrow to have two trains load/unload at the same time - they're too narrow for one as it is).

If the CTA gives a flying damn about north Edgewater/southern Rogers Park, they'll double the number of 136 buses. (Devon/Broadway to Sheridan to Irving to LSD to Wacker to LaSalle)

Turns out you are not alone. Boston got lovely news this morning

Track work will shut down portions of one branch of the MBTA's Green Line for 10 weeks this summer, forcing Red Sox fans who usually take the T to hop on buses to at least nine games, officials said yesterday.


Good information about Metra, thank you.

They need to beef up bus service from the affected neighborhoods. I looked at the express bus options from my neighborhood (Ravenswood area) and I have to say that it could be worse, though I fear what they will look like when this really hits.

Why not just stop the Purple line at Belmont?

It is duplicative of the Brown between Belmont and the Loop. Take a whole line out of the mix to ease congestion.

Add a Purple stop at Sheridan or Addison to ease the transition (e.g., if you're on the Red at Belmont and the platform is mobbed, go up one or two more before transferring.

It really makes no sense to have the Purple and Brown negotiating through the 3 track mess.

Kreusi and his crew are fools. This is a logistical nightmare. While I agree that the el needs the work and that it will be better off in 3 years, there has to be a better way to accomplish these upgrades without this much of a negative impact on service.

The simple fact is that whether there is a purple line south of "Bemont? or not, that train carries a lot of passengers. Eliminating it means that many more people will need to be on the Brown. The number of trains run through (whether there's a purple or not) is going to have to be reduced because there will only be three tracks. It's a 2 1/2 year bottleneck. A year ago people began asking Carole about Purple transfers at Sheridan (because its platform is already set up to allow this) and more express buses. So far, she says they're "looking into it."

The best thing this city could do for the lakefront would be to run a lightrail down LSD, allow some sort of limited commuter parking at some of the beach parking lots, and make all or part of LSD HOV-2 only during rush hour. In Northern VA and DC, Route 66 inside the Beltway is HOV-2 only during rush hour and lo and behold, car commuters found innovative ways to still get to work quickly without completely gridlocking an interstate for their own personal convenience. At many Metro stations, "slug" (commuters without cars who want a ride into DC) lines form. A lone motorist can pick up a "slug" and then drive on the HOV-2 portion of Rte. 66. Many people get to know each other, make friends, and become regular commuters together this way. This will never happen here though because Chicago is all about the almighty automobile and our God-given right as Americans to live as far away from work as we want to and commute in an inefficient vehicle, alone, wherever we want, damn the consequences. I live two blocks from the red line, but motorists from Lincolnwood who blast through Edgewater in their cars get downtown faster than me. My alderman and mayor accomodate them while my station leaks when it rains and smells like piss, and track infrastructure crumbles. Now the rest of the system, even those motorists from Lincolnwood, will be taxed when everyone abandons the north side main line. There are creative alternatives. Leadership just doesn't bother considering them. Better to spend all that TIF money enriching private businesses.

North Red Line riders have it the worst. In Dec. 2009, after having endured three-tracking, the Red Line north of Addison will still need to be addressed. When will that all end ... 2011? 2012?

I take the express buses (#136, #146, #147, #144) from Foster downtown, which is a half hour commute. How will this stuff affect my bus rides? I always get a seat and there are plenty of seats. Will it be a nightmare for us that take those express buses that go along Lake Shore Drive, and Lincoln Park (#134, #135, ##143)

You better believe it will be a nightmare, Mary T. If its not just a problem with finding more buses for the exponential amount of people on the buses after 3 tracking, there will be all the extra traffic to deal with.

Interesting hypothetical:

I live at Western and Lawrence. I usually take the Brown to the Merchandise Mart stop for work.

Will it be quicker for me to take the 81 Lawrence west to the Jefferson Park el and then take the Blue to Clark and Lake for work?

That would be messed up, but I think it would likely be quicker.


It's great that the CTA opened the PINK LINE and it goes right past the UNITED CENTER,,,,which make's one ask,,,,why dont they open a Station at Madison so people can take the L to Bulls,Blackhawks and other games at the U.C.??? Does that make TOO MUCH SENSE??? Or have Bill Wirtz and Jerry Reinsdorf blocked a Station so people have to keep paying VERY HIGH Parking rates.

I truly cannot believe this is happening. I understand that sometimes things have to be tough in order to make improvements. I mean, if exercise felt great, we'd all be healthy all the time. But how on earth is this going to help? It already takes me 45 min-1 hr. to get to work in the morning. Am I really supposed to get on the train at 6 in order to get to work by 8? I'm in denial right now and I'm really hoping this doesn't happen.

I like the idea of having express buses "shadow" the Red and Brown Lines, but would suggest that HOV lanes and WHOLE STREETS be created. Many more, and longer, buses will be needed to make up for the decreased capacity of the trains.

I would make Sheffield from the Sheridan Station be an HOV STREET all the way to Clybourn where it would merge with HOV LANES along Clybourn and North Avenue. Sedgwick would also be an HOV STREET and continue into the Loop via Orleans/Wells Street HOV LANES.

The busses would only stop near El stations and would be meant for Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Old Town commuters. Trains coming from the far northern and western neighborhoods would stop only on Belmont and Fullerton until reaching River North.

The HOV streets and lanes would only be in effect during rush hours. Parking along these rights would have to be eliminated during these times as well. It will be an inconvenience for car-owners but nothing in comparison to 2-hour, 1-way commute times.

Of course all of the great thinking on this blog and those on Ask Carole is most likely moot as the CTA doesn't seem to give one iota about its customers.

There. I got that off my chest.

3rd-world transit, indeed!

Ferry boats and double decker buses could be leased to haul passengers during construction.Lease to own---these could be real money makers.

I think that's a good idea for Purple line trains to stop at Sheridan, but I also think that they should do some minor rehab work on the Wilson station and have Purple line trains stop there too. This station is a landmark to the system and with restoration it could turn that whole neighborhood around, plus ease congestion on the already crowded Red, while having Purple line trains continue to the Loop as planned. Also, the idea of a X151 would be a great idea as well as a X36 and extend the X9 to Clark/Ashland/Ridge instead of the Sheridan Red. Maybe make a Clybourn and/or Elston bus route? If it gets bad enough, I'll just ride my bike....

Ok today is March 29th,, when will this commute from hell actually begin so we can see how things actually WILL work, rather than all this scarey anticipation??? Could it be that we are all worried for nothing? Just like Y2K did nto come to pass as everyone feared.


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