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Another question to Ron answered: RTA studying three areas for potential new stations

Here's another question for Ron Huberman that Jon submitted. You may recall I asked you for questions. I hope to get them all answered eventually. Patience!

Q: With the growth in the South Loop area are there any plans to open any new rail stations? Specifically a green line stop in the 1400-1800 range? 

CTA's reply: The CTA constantly analyzes its service and looks for the most effective ways to serve communities. Opening new stations requires a large capital investment, which is not available at this time.  However, the RTA has provided funding for the City of Chicago Planning Department, in conjunction with the CTA, to study the potential for three new stations.  Two of locations for consideration are on the Green Line.  See the RTA release.

From the release:

Berwyn Red Line Station: The study area for this station area will be bounded by Winthrop Avenue on the east, Balmoral Avenue on the North, Foster Avenue on the south, and Magnolia Avenue on the west. Although largely developed, several big box and auto oriented retail facilities may be undergoing redevelopment in this area.

Potential Green Line Station at 18th Street or Cermak:
This study would identify potential uses and design in areas adjacent to the Green Line at 18th Street and Cermak Road and address development on these key east-west corridors in the south loop. Through the study we will chose to focus on one of the alternatives over the other and develop a more refined corridor plan for the appropriate corridor.

43rd Street Green Line Station: The study area for this station area will be bounded by 42nd Street on the north, 44th Street on the south, King Drive on the east, and Prairie Avenue on the west. The development patterns in this area are relatively inconsistent and there is potential for strategic infill development to act as a catalyst for neighborhood enhancement.

Comments

What is the point of the Berwyn station in the press release? Renovation?

Arg. Someday Hyde Park will get a station, and the only goddamned university in the city without a train line anywhere near it will finally be connected.

Someday, but not today. Jesus.

I'm not sure what they would do at Berwyn. There is very little info about what this would study. Would they expand the station or provide more connections to bus routes? I don't understand from that little blurb what exactly they are doing. While this area is growing a bit, I don't understand the special need here, and I live in the area... Although on their map of growing CTA use, that area is in one of the "hot zones" on their maps.

Hyde Park will get CTA rail service when the U of C decides to at last support the U-Pass or at least help us out with paying for transit/when the neighborhood stops crying gentrification whenever development is proposed and we can finally stop turning into a ghost town/when fricking pigs fly. Whichever happens first.

Berwyn = transfers. It's already a mess on the street. If they could make a small terminal next to the station then Sheridan and Broadway could be brought in next to Foster and the Inner Drive.

With the growth of development in the South Loop that took place in the last 15 years, a station at 18th or Cermak would be beneficial to the area. A stop at 18th would serve a lot of residents in the area, however the stop would only be served by Green Line trains because a station for Orange Line trains is impossible to build on the 18th Street Flyover. BTW, the Jackson Park-Englewood L (former name of South Side branch of Green Line) once had a stop at Cermak & State. It was closed in the 70s.

Whatever happened to the Morgan Green Line station? Last I knew an architect was designing it but when is it supposed to be built? Or, is it?

Berwyn = new purple line stop?

Putting a purple line stop at Berwyn would be great and seem to make a lot of sense for many people that could transfer to a bus there.

What about Madison on the Douglas/pink? Reopen Harvard on the Englewood/green?

Oh how many times I have cursed the Exanston Express as it whizzed by Berwyn. Putting a purple line stop there would be very convenient. However, I believe that converting this stop would cause an influx of shady characters to the neighborhood.

Having the pink line fly right past the United Center without stopping does sort of seem like a waste.

U of C will get CTA rail when somebody realizes that the Museum of Science & Industry needs the L & the current line on E. 63rd is replaced by a subway under the Midway with stops at 59th & Cottage Grove, 59th & Woodlawn & the end at the museum.

Making berwyn a purple line stop would be an incredibly costly project. It might make sense to stop at Wilson and make it a transfer point between the red and purple lines.

When asking questions of this type, be a little more responsive or even aggressive. So the CTA has no money to build new stations. Somehow the money was found to build the "superstation" debacle downtown. Don't let these bureaucrats get away with blaming the economy or fuel costs or tax revenue...if they weren't wasting money it would be there to serve the community. I totally agree that new stations are needed, especially in the South Loop. Regarding the United Center, there's already a stop of Ashland and I think a shuttle bus runs during the games (or it should). I have had no reason to see the Bulls play since the late 90's for some reason so I don't know for sure.

I wonder how much money they'll spend studying the "problem" of having closed down and torn down stations now needed.

Morgan/Lake is currently in the design phase (I believe being designed by Transystems) and should be constructed sometime 2009/2010. It's a CDOT (not CTA) project, as are most transit projects in the generally central/downtown area.

I'm reluctant to bring it up again since MK and Rusty will no doubt jump down my throat, but there's already a very cost-effective plan to get CTA rail for Hyde Park, the Museum of Science and Industry, Soldier Field, McCormick Place, and the rest of the fast-growing South Side near the Lake. Just convert the Metra Electric South Shore branch to an El line.

For less than $200m, we could improve track, signals, and stations, add CTA fare collection equipment, and buy additional rail cars, allowing service every 10 minutes off-peak, CTA transfers, much faster service than the #6 and other buses, and El access to key Chicago destinations (for comparison, the Pink Line project cost almost $500m).

Political and community support for the idea is growing, but Metra's inertia and Daley's indifference remain big obstacles, so we'll need support from around Chicago. Anyone interested in working on this, please email me at razetheladder@gmail.com.

It's not just them that will jump on you for that Gray Line idiocy, I'll do it too!
It's never going to happen, so give it up already!

"It's never going to happen, so give it up already" seems like a strange argument from someone who just proposed a subway under the Midway. Unless that was a joke.

I'm actually pretty optimistic about the chances for adding the Metra Electric to CTA. The need is obvious, both to connect the system to key destinations that draw millions of people every year, and because of the huge increases in density in the pipeline. Not just the Michael Reese development, if it happens, but the Lake Meadows high rises are slated to be torn down and replaced with 4 times as many units, several new high rises are going up right next to the line in Hyde Park, the Kenwood-Oakland area continues to see new building, and the huge South Works area will eventually be redeveloped, adding hundreds of acres of lakefront property.

Political support is growing quickly. As soon community organizers made an effort, the relevant officeholders came out behind the project. The plan is also in line with Daley's long-term goal of gentrifying the South Side, so there's no reason for him to stand in the way. The cost is fairly small and the technical requirements uncomplicated. If those of us living in the area step up and demand it, and we get support from other Chicagoans, there's no reason to think it can't get done.

Having the purple line stop at berwyn would mean installing 2 island platforms. The right of way would have to be widened to allow the platforms. It's basically the same thing as fullterton and belmont, except the solid fill embankment makes things more complicated and berwyn has a fraction of the boarding of the other 2 stations.

Also, a subway under 57th would make more sense as it's closer to the residential areas of hyde park, but still runs along the edge of U of C.

Regarding the Gray Line: Tell me what the potential usefulness is of a CTA line that doesn't connect with any other elevated/subway line? I just don't understand it...it sounds nice, but the service is ALREADY there. Converting it to CTA equipment will accomplish nothing unless it actually connects with other rail routes. Is there something inherently difficult about jumping on the Electric at 59th or 55th Sts and enjoying a 20 minute max ride downtown?

The benefits of the South Shore El proposal are:
1) CTA transfers become possible - very useful considering that a dozen bus and rail connections are within a couple blocks,
2) Regular service instead of once per hour off peak,
3) Increased awareness of the line as a transit option by adding it to the El map, which would be particularly helpful to tourists and conventioneers.

It might also be interesting to consider an underground connection between the Jackson Blue and Red Line stops and the Van Buren stop on the South Shore line by extending existing pedways, and even adding a moving walkway. That's more of a long-term idea tho, not part of the current proposal.

John, you're wasting your time. These issues, and more, have been pointed out many times to the myopic jake, but he still thinks it's the greatest idea since sliced bread. He's even constructed his own little reality where support for the project is growing.

The bottom line is you can't sell reality to someone who enjoys being delusional so much. All you can do is smile and nod at him like a senile uncle who keeps telling stories about flying cars, and living on Mars. It's not just that he doesn't get it. He's incapable of getting it.

@ jake

1. From where? Why would anybody take a bus past 2 el lines (red and green) to the potential gray line to transfer? You argued against yourself right in your reply: a dozen bus and rail connections are within a couple blocks.
2. Walk 2 blocks north to 57th Street and grab an express downtown or wait 1 minute and grab a local train.
3. It's kind of hard to miss this one as an option as it cuts through the biggest tourist draw in Chicago. I also did a quick google search for Chicago tourist maps and found the Electric line present in all of them.

@Rusty: I know.

I think that the Gray Line has about as much chance as a subway under 59th to the MSI. The Gray Line is an interesting idea, but the service is already there, it doesn't connect to the rest of the system, it has overhead catenary rather than third rail which would require a conversion, and CTA doesn't have enough equipment to spare during rush hour anyway.

Converting Wilson so that Purple Line trains can stop there would require a complete overhaul of the station as would Berwyn. The east platform appears to be in especially bad shape and the west platform isn't much better (believe me, I got off a Red Line train there a few months ago and I felt like I was going to fall through). It would need to be reconfigured to be similar to Belmont or Fullerton and that means more three-track operation (although it won't be as bad since Brown Line trains don't usually go through there). Don't forget ADA compliance and all that.

The way I interperet the RTA's release is different - if they wanted the purple line to stop there, they would have mentioned it specifically, as they did with the 18th/Cermak station proposal. I don't think they meant to imply any changes directly to the rail station there, but in a broader sense, to look at the development in the area around the Berwyn station (and 43rd street on the Green Line) and rethink the logistics of bus routes, express buses, and different kinds of transfers that service the immediate vicinity of the station, and perhaps increase or otherwise improve them. Somehow getting the purple line to stop there is a neat idea, I guess, but I think it's just a wild guess that we've run away with, and I can just imagine the uproar from all those folks who want the Wellington station closed if they were to hear that plans are to ADD a stop on the purple line :-)

wish list..

madison pink
halsted or morgan green
dodge yellow
division brown
28th green
18th green

Since a dodge stop on the yellow was mainly being pushed for the senior citizen center right there, and that would be quite a loss for the CTA thanks to the free rides, is that still an option?

A station at dodge on the yellow line would be an excellent idea. It would provide a transfer point to the 93 bus giving west rogers park and the western portion of evanston easy access to the el.

John-
I should have been clearer- the transfer would be useful for those traveling from the South Side to the Loop and then beyond, or the reverse. Right now people either have to pay more than double, or endure the #6 or some other bus that's half as fast as the Metra Electric on a good day, and less energy efficient to boot. I'm not really sure what you're thinking of when you ask why anyone would take a bus past the Red and Green Lines to the South Shore line - the conversion would primarily be helpful to the increasing numbers that live along it and to people from elsewhere in the city traveling to Soldier Field, McCormick Place, and the Museum of Science and Industry.

"Walk 2 blocks north to 57th Street and grab an express downtown or wait 1 minute and grab a local train."
I don't understand this at all.

Most tourists are barely comfortable using the El, much less figuring out another completely different system that runs infrequently and is more expensive. I've seen plenty of families taking the Green Line down and then taking a bus over to the Museum, which makes no sense to anyone familiar with the system - but the system (except for the El lines) is not that easy to figure out until you've lived here awhile.

The Original-
There would be no need to convert infrastructure, the South Shore line would retain its rolling stock and simply run more often with CTA fare collection. All we're really asking for is more frequent service and CTA transfers, which would dramatically improve transit service in the corridor at very low cost. I still don't understand why this is considered unrealistic or unnecessary.

I still don't understand why this is considered unrealistic or unnecessary.

Because there is no reason to make it a CTA line. If there is really that much demand for the service, it would be much easier to simply add more Metra Electric trains and make CTA-fare-control-compatible Metra passes.

And Jake's comment was supposed to be in quotes. *sigh*

Here comes the "psycholgical hurdle" argument. I can't wait for this. The last time it gave me quite a bit of laughter.

Jake-

If there is no need to convert infrastructure then what would be the difference to what we have now? It seems to me that if there was demand for more frequent Metra Electric service that Metra would be the one to provide it.

I do think that something needs to be done about transfers between Metra and CTA. The current system doesn't work well for suburban families visiting on the weekends.

Yet again-
The differences would be regular service, CTA transfers, and the South Shore line appearing on CTA maps.

The details of who would actually run the line are completely open for discussion - it could be leased to CTA, completely taken over by CTA, or left with Metra and simply added to CTA maps. I have to say I'm pretty surprised that the opposition here seems to be primarily around the idea of adding the line to CTA maps. That part of the plan would cost almost nothing, and be a big benefit to tourists and the many Chicagoans and suburban residents who are unfamiliar with the Metra Electric line, which unlike other Metra lines functions as rapid transit rail rather than commuter rail. Most people are not as transit savvy as the people posting on this board, and I believe we should accommodate that rather than mock it.

There are two big organizational problems here: Metra is rigidly wedded to its role as a commuter agency, which is why the Metra Electric is so poorly utilized right now. And the dysfunctional relationship between CTA and Metra has driven the two to compete rather than offer seamless transit service, a failure that includes the continuing lack of transfers between the two.

The South Shore El proposal is meant to overcome these problems on the line that is most affected by them, and the details of who will manage the line are less important than acceptance of this principle.

Jake -

If there was a legitimate need (i.e. it would be financially wise) - I'm confident that the Metra line would run every 10 minutes like you want. Tourists, one of your talking points, will not be using the line during off-peak hours. Additionally, there are maybe 2 dozen events a year at Soldier Field that this line would service.

Just come out and say it - you want a free transfer. With the CTA in the financial mess that it is, your idea will not happen, as it will only hurt the CTA's budget.

Jake-

But the South Shore Line and Metra Electric do appear on CTA Maps. See http://www.transitchicago.com/maps/maps/200806C.html

The Gray Line concept is an attempt at solving a problem that doesn't exist. The service it would provide is already in place as the Metra Electric. There is no need to change the name or make it part of the CTA. Focus should be on extending and expanding services, not shuffling around existing services to make people feel good.

If the Metra Electric is clearly so superior to lakefront express buses, why are the #6, #14, and #26 jam-packed at rush hour when ME service is frequent?

Step 1 is regional fare integration. That would eliminate the financial hurdle jake cites as reason for suppressed ME demand. If he's right, then after regional fare integration, demand for ME will increase, and eventually this problem will solve itself with increased Metra service. I don't see why CTA should be involved with the ME in any sense other than setting it's bus service levels accordingly with demand in the corridor.

"endure the #6 or some other bus that's half as fast as the Metra Electric on a good day"

Actually, the #6 is very comparable in travel time to the Electric Line. I would go so far as to say that the Electric Line is comparable to the rest of the CTA rail system: slow.

"I'm not really sure what you're thinking of when you ask why anyone would take a bus past the Red and Green Lines to the South Shore line"

You made it seem like there will be wholesale transfers at the Electric stops. Everyone transfers at the red and green lines from E-W bus routes. Who would be transferring to the Electric line that you are talking about?

""Walk 2 blocks north to 57th Street and grab an express downtown or wait 1 minute and grab a local train."
I don't understand this at all."

Then maybe it's time to check up on the Metra scheedules. There is an express train from 57th St. One minute later is a local train...not hard to figure out.

"Most tourists are barely comfortable using the El, much less figuring out another completely different system that runs infrequently and is more expensive. I've seen plenty of families taking the Green Line down and then taking a bus over to the Museum, which makes no sense to anyone familiar with the system - but the system (except for the El lines) is not that easy to figure out until you've lived here awhile."

Really?! I think Chicago has the simplest system in the US. I figured it out in a day: Every line goes downtown to transfer. I've taken Green+bus plenty down to Jackson Park and the Museum...so what?

Tourists: There are shuttle buses from the Metra terminals at Union and Northwestern/Olgilvie

Off peak service: Look at ridership numbers for CTA rail off-peak runs. Tell me if the Electric Line deserves more service.

Transfers: Buy a link up and be done with it.

"I do think that something needs to be done about transfers between Metra and CTA. The current system doesn't work well for suburban families visiting on the weekends."

I commuted very frequently from the suburbs to Chicago. It's very easy to get to the CTA. Sure, they aren't located within the same building, but a 2 block walk from Union or Northwestern/Olgilvie to Wells St is not that difficult.

After seeing debate about the grey line here I have to say I am with Jake. That map the original points to shows the south shore line in a very confusing way that most tourist would not be able to figure out unlike the ease that the actual CTA lines are made out to be on that map. I think we can all agree that Hyde Park needs some kind of regular CTA train service. What makes it so different from Lincoln Park or Bucktown that it shouldn't? We all know if those parts of the city had to depend just on metra for its service they would howl. In response to the argument that it is not connected to the rest of the system simply build some type of tunnel or pedway like they do for the blue and red lines at Jackson. It doesn't matter who offically runs the line as long as it runs more service and offers the same type of fares and transfers as the rest of the CTA. The demand might be there but Metra will never fill it. The managment is stuck in a suburban commuting mindset. If Metra were really concerned about passengers during off work hours they would run more trains off hours between evanston and downtown, for example so they could take advantage of the population density there. I dont see why there isn't support to at least offically study this proposal.

I also agree with Jake. I live in the South Loop museum campus area and would love to take the metra electric to Hyde Park but I don't because I have a CTA monthly pass (albeit the route is less convenient). And it is definitely NOT tourist friendly. I bring up this topic with Ald. Fioretti everytime I see him.

"I think we can all agree that Hyde Park needs some kind of regular CTA train service. What makes it so different from Lincoln Park or Bucktown that it shouldn't?"

It does. I just don't see how adding a quasi-CTA service on Metra Electric line would help. And, if I may point out, it's already possible to reach Hyde Park via he L - you just have to pass through Washington Park and/or Woodlawn to get there. Personally, I think that if East 63rd branch wasn't cut down to it's current length, the situation wouldn't seem nearly as problematic.

"If Metra were really concerned about passengers during off work hours they would run more trains off hours between Evanston and downtown, for example so they could take advantage of the population density there."

Why would they want to do it? Purple and Red lines are already there, and they are quite capable of meeting the demand, and it's cheaper, too. And while UP North Line is certainly faster then Purple and Red lines, it has fewer stops, making it considerably less practical.

@Strannik

So if the hyde park area does need service why not the gray line? Really the biggest obstacle is the fact that the ME is not intergrated and that it has a very irregular schedule. As stephen pointed out he doesn't take it because he already has a CTA pass. The problem with the ME now is that it only takes you to downtown and back. If they can fully intergrate it into the CTA system (however they would like to do it) then you can truely judge how many people will use it. For someone that lives in the city it is cost prohibitive to have to pay for once for ME then for the CTA if you have to go farther north or west. If it was a CTA type of fare the whole way you would only have to pay once then get a quater transfer.The tracks are already there with the trains. It seems like a cheap and easy solution to adding servce to a dense area on the south side.

"If there was a legitimate need (i.e. it would be financially wise) - I'm confident that the Metra line would run every 10 minutes like you want."

You're giving Metra way too much credit. The leadership can't think beyond commuter service, which is why a rapid transit line like the Metra Electric should never have been given to Metra in the first place. I assume you've never lived on the South Side near the Lake, or you would know that off-peak service would be a huge improvement.

"Tourists will not be using the line during off-peak hours."

So you're saying that the only time tourists use transit is rush hour? I for one, when I've been traveling, never use transit during rush hour.

"If the Metra Electric is clearly so superior to lakefront express buses, why are the #6, #14, and #26 jam-packed at rush hour when ME service is frequent?"

Some people find those buses more convenient, of course, but many are on the bus because there's no transfer to the Metra Electric or because the bus is cheaper. We just don't know what the balance is, which is why the issue should be studied.

"after regional fare integration, demand for ME will increase, and eventually this problem will solve itself with increased Metra service."

No it won't, because off-peak travelers aren't going to start using Metra Electric until it has reliable off-peak service, and Metra isn't going to offer off-peak service until someone makes them do it.

"Actually, the #6 is very comparable in travel time to the Electric Line."

Have you taken these two routes frequently? Because I do, and in my experience the Metra Electric is twice as fast as the #6 - when there's light traffic.

@ Lone Gawker

But what if you had a fare card that let you transfer from CTA to Metra and back while only paying a $0.25/$0.50/whatever for the transfer? Wouldn't that solve most, if not all of these perceived problems? And with enough public demand, I'm certain Metra could be convinced to run trains more often off-peak.

Don't let Jake fool you. No matter how conciliatory and compromising he may sound, the version of the Gray Line proposal he is now, and always has been, advocating for invovles buying a whole new fleet of trains, installing CTA fare turnstiles at all ME stations, and forcing Metra run a CTA line down Metra's tracks for the CTA's benefit. And all for the low, low price of $200 million. Seriously. $200 million so that tourists can get to the Museoum of Science and Industry 10 or 15 minutes faster. $200 million. For tourists. I wonder where, exactly, that kind of capital money is supposed to come from. The fed and state? Wouldn't they look at us funny and point out the obvious: that there is already public transportation going up and down those railroad tracks?

I think that it's a little shameful the way that Gray Line advocates have duped south siders and their aldermen into thinking that this will ever happen. Jake's right - posters on this board do tend to be more transit-savvy, which is why most of us can see this for the boondoggle non-starter that it is. If I spent a long enough time in Rogers Park making enough of a stink, I bet I could probably convince a lot of transit users, and possibly a couple aldermen, that we need to advocate for getting rid of all the redline stations in-between Loyola Ave. and the loop, so that Rogers Parkers wouldn't have to spend so much time in transit each day.

But not only is that never going to happen, it's dismissive of other people's needs and is selfish. I've always advocated for regional fare integration between CTA and Metra. Cheap and easy transfers would benefit the whole city, whereas the Gray Line is a $200 million replacement of existing service that only benefits south siders and tourists and leaves intact the problem of all other city-wide CTA/Metra transfers being financially impractical.

Why would I want to pay $90 a month for a CTA monthly and then pay an additional fee for all my transfers on the ME?? Btw, I live 1 block from the ME.

Also, the CTA was created by integrating a lot of previously independent rail operators. This isn't that much different.

@Kiel

I completely agree with you that fare intergration is a huge problem. The problem is also the frequency of the trains. Most of the complaints to Jake seem to be that Metra should be left alone. I dont care who runs the line as long as they make the improvements. Metra can still own the ME as long as they 1) institute the same fare structure as the cta on the line so you can easily transfer 2)Run trains more frequently so it seems like a regular CTA train not a suburban commuter train. There will probably be some cost to do this but I would imagine that some of that cost (probably not all but a good part I would hope) would be made up by having to run fewer buses in the area. So, if the CTA/Metra got the money (and this is much cheaper than building a new line) is there really a reason not to do this?

@ Lone Gawker

No - by all means, let's beg/plead/force Metra to run more trains all day, at least as often and as late in the day as the green line runs, if not more often. If we have some way to transfer from the CTA, that'd be awesome.

But that's wouldn't be Jake's Gray Line proposal, which still has $200 million wasted on rolling stock and station reconfigures and forces Metra to give away one of it's most profitable services to the CTA and ignores the rest of the system.

@Kiel

I am glad we can agree. It doesn't matter who is running the "grey line" as long as they run more trains and make it a seemlessly integration into the CTA fare system. (Though to do that they will have to spend some amount of money. But that can be partially offset by fewer busses.) But I think Jake is proposing the same thing or am I wrong Jake? I don't think he is proposing all new trains cause the trains they use now are pefectly fine. They might just need to by a few more to keep up the more constant service. If there is something I am missing please point it out so we can see if there are ways around the problems. There is no reason that a train line that runs all in the city is not intergrated into the CTA system.

Can you imagine if the brown line was run by metra and you had way less convenient service, had to pay for transfers, and the brown line only ran "frequently" at rush periods? You'd all be pretty pissed and be advocating what we on the south side would like to see happen to the ME.

No disrespect to Metra, it just doesn't make sense to have commuter rail running where an el clearly belongs.

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