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Answers to your queries: Block 37, Wilson retail space

Here is another installment in answers to questions that I didn't have the time to ask President Ron Huberman at the last Coffee with Ron. And no, Huberman did not personally answer each of these questions. Answers were prepared by the PR staff and reviewed by Huberman.

What with the whole Block 37 quagmire, will the stop be reopening (to serve its old role as just a regular stop with a Blue Line transfer, if not its magical role as airport-express-luggage-dropoff-whatever)? (From Sabrina.)

The Washington Red Line station was closed in 2006 due to construction at Block 37. Currently, there are a number of ways the station can be re-designed to serve customers and the Block 37 area. Because of this, plans for the Washington Red Line station are on hold until CTA can find a private sector partner and the direction of the project is determined.

I'd like to know what the timeline is for renovating the retail space under the Wilson Red Line station. I'd also like to know if the CTA owns the Majestic Store property at Broadway and Leland, and what the plans are, if any, to stop the deterioration of this historic building. (From Elaine.)

CTA currently does not have a timeline for renovating the retail space at Wilson.  Our real estate contractor, Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) is working on a global review of CTA's real estate holdings. CTA owns the Majestic Store property on Broadway. JLL is reviewing CTA's real estate portfolio to determine the status of its facilities and the best use for each of them. JLL has only been on board since August 1, 2008, so their process is in the early stages.

Is the CTA considering contracts with other cellular carriers for underground access? (From Bryan Zera.)

CTA issued an RFP for wireless service providers interested in using CTA’s infrastructure to provide service to their customers in the subway. Any wireless provider with service in Chicago can respond and will be considered. To date, Verizon Wireless and U.S. Cellular offer service in the subway.

How long will the Monroe Street subway platform be down to just a single bench that passengers cannot sit on because it's occupied by a smelly bum? (There used to be at least 3 benches.) (From CC Writer.)

Our facilities staff will review this.

Why do they only use the smaller size buses on the southbound #148 bus route in the morning? The buses are too small for the number of riders, and always end up overcrowded. Many people in my neighborhood (along Clarendon) have given up on the 148 because we simply can't get on the buses. (From DNash.)

CTA currently has 220 articulated buses but more are ordered. Articulated buses currently are being used along high ridership routes such as 145, 151, and 156.

More questions and answers on Wednesday.

Comments

So will the Washington Red Line stop be reopening, or not?

JMD,

If you cannot interpret that answer then I really don't know what to say. Quite obviously, that answer is a long-winded way of saying "we don't know". You really need to be able to figure these things out if you are going to go far in life.

jmd:

This is the same pre-digested crap that I got many months ago when I asked Ron the same question when he was singing all the praises of the new Howard street station (you know, the one with teh leaking roof that has leaked since right after it opened and they still haven't been able to fix).

As far as I'm concerned, this is criminal.

As well as a station, it was both a blue/red line transfer point, as well as a way for lots of people to travel underground to stay out of the rain and snow using the underground walkway system.

So, it's a never, cause if the CTA actually thinks that someone is going to come in and give the CTA money or fix all the stupid mistakes they made like some sort of fairy godmother, I would surely like some of what they are smokin'

KevinB

Lol @ "criminal."

I think MK just arrived from Sassyville!

I love the response to "why do they use the smaller size buses...". It is the epitome of a non-answer.

Q:Why is my car leaking antifreeze?
A:We have many new radiators on order!

They don't have the money to fix Washington. Anyone who's been reading this site has known that for many months. It will remain closed indefinitely until either funding to finish it is found or the airport express service is pursued buy public or private entities.

KevinB, get over the fact that you now have to walk a couple blocks outside from the station to work.

I think the answer to the #148 bus situation is fairly clear even though they didn't explicitly say it.

We don't have enough articulated buses and currently the ones we have are being used on even higher ridership routes.


I'd almost rather wait to hear the answers to these questions at the next Coffee w/ Ron so that we could get answers with a little more substance.

I still haven't received answers to either of my 2 questions...

Thanks Kevin! Glad to know the Monroe bench situation is on somebody's radar. I should amend my earlier statement: there are still 2 benches along the entire stretch of the Monroe platform. (It's the one closest to Madison that was destroyed a year and a half ago, removed and never replaced, causing me to wonder if there was anyone in charge of that.) But both are frequently monopolized by stinky bums. I'd like to see more benches, but meanwhile, legitimate passengers should be able to rest their feet during the long wait for a train. (Especially if we're going to get kicked off at Wilson and made to stand some more.)

Kevin won't have to walk outside. The upper level transfer - via the pedway - will reopen with Block 37. This connects with the Randolph/Washington mezzanine, which is still open serving the Lake station. So an enclosed Red/Blue transfer will again be available, it will just require a farecard.

Or, at least that's my understanding. The lower level transfer tunnel is apparently toast.

These answers are still written in bureaucratese, but they're actual answers, unlike the first batch. Thanks, Kevin.

CC,

Why are you getting kicked off at Wilson? Also, just curious, how was the bench destroyed? Vandalism or by the CTA?

Thanks for asking my question about the 148! I'm glad to know the situation has at least been brought to someone's attention over there.

Still, I think Ron should come sit at Clarendon & Buena from 7:30 - 8:00 some weekday morning and watch all the empty 135 articulated buses go by to understand just how frustrating it is.

(Lately I've actually just been walking over to Marine Drive and taking either 146 or 144, whichever shows up first. The slower, longer ride on the 146 is sometimes worth it to at least have a place to sit.)

I'm just throwing this out there since I don't know...

Does the 135 fill up further down the route and appear empty when it passes your stop?

Was this from the meeting back like 3 weeks ago? If so, you are really milking it.

Oh PS, Ron is HOT!

KevinB is right. What happened at the Washington Red Line station is criminal. It is called vandalism. A private company wanted to build a "superstation" to have "express" train service to O'Hare (it wouldn't really be express since the trains would have to stop behind regular Blue Line trains). At some point, the private company must have figured out what everyone else knew all along -- that no one would be willing to pay for such a service, so they abandoned the project but not before tearing up a functional station. The private company should have to pay to return the station to a functional state.

It's criminal that in the months since a brand new station opened, that a problem that reared it's head 3 days after the opening still hasn't been fixed and considering that it's a dangerous situation, in a very high traffic area and supposedly this construction company is doing a "very good job",well, you get the point.

Maybe Ron will now.


KevinB

Original Dude: There never was any private company. All there was was a consultant's report to solicit a private company, and Carole Brown put that on the table. The only person who created the hole under Block 37 was Mayor Daley. Of course, he isn't going to admit his mistake.

Also, with regard to the question:

"How long will the Monroe Street subway platform be down to just a single bench that passengers cannot sit on because it's occupied by a smelly bum? (There used to be at least 3 benches.)"

The humorous answer would have been "we will supply more benches, and bums to fill them, as funding permits."

you know for all the bitching about square 37, even if that tunnel is never used now, it will be used someday. i know thats not a great answer but just think about the second avenue subway in NYC. about 3 miles of it were dug in the 70s and its been abandoned ever since. now they are finally finishing it.

everything comes to serve a purpose in good time. it may sound crazy but i'm going ot try and see the glass half full.

@ Chris: "Does the 135 fill up further down the route and appear empty when it passes your stop?"

It does fill up more, yes. Sometimes more full than others. I have frequently seen 4, even 5 #135 buses pass within the space of only five minutes. There's simply no way all of those really filled up by the time they got on LSD at Belmont. I've actually taken the 135 many times (it gets reasonably close to my office, so when no 148s are coming, sometimes it can work out) - enough to know that it does generally fill up but it's not usually the most crowded line I've seen.

Chris: Yes, the bench was apparently vandalized, the summer before last if I recall correctly. It was one of those red-painted wooden ones, and it looked like someone had taken an axe to it. It was removed promptly, and ever since I've been trying to figure out whether there will be a new one some day, or we are supposed to have forgotten it ever existed. I contend that if they get the fare increase they are asking for, they should feel obligated to spend some of that money on repairs and replacements of this nature.

Express: Typically, when there is an extra-long wait for a northbound Red Line at Monroe in the early evening, if I get on the first train that finally arrives, by the time we get to Wilson it is announced that the train is running express to Loyola. I've taken to skipping this first train because there are often no seats, but sometimes they do the express thing with the next one. I don't appreciate being made to get off and wait for another train when I already did that. "Right behind" is in the eye of the beholder. I've talked to the motorman saying "why don't you warn me before I get on so I can just do my waiting at Monroe" [if there are no stinky bums], but he told me he doesn't get his instructions until Wilson.

CC,

I feel your pain about the express. I used to take the purple line back when it when the other way around the Loop. Sometimes I'd have headphones on and not realize the train was going to express and then wind up at Loyola or something like that.

Winding up at Loyola is not fun, because if you get off northbound, you apparently can't just wait in the same place for the next southbound train, there's a separate section of the platform for that and you can't easily get to one from the other. Course, I discovered a sneaky way to get there--call for the elevator, get on it, and then immediately hit the "open" button for the door on the other side.

"Our real estate contractor, Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL) is working on a global review of CTA's real estate holdings."

I know they're using "global" to mean comprehensive, but goshdarnit if it doesn't sound like they've outsourced stations to China. You think your walk is too long now, KevinB, just wait 'till they move the Washington Red Line station to Beijing.

Ha! Yeah, I found that out the hard way once too. Waited for the train with about 30 other people only to find out that we were in the wrong part of the platform and then missed the train. Sometimes you learn that lesson the hard way, but at least I wasn't the only one who felt dumb that night.

Nothing is going to happen. The CTA is broke. There's no budget for anything other than maintenance.

What's really funny is Huberman is laying off eseential personnel at the worst possible time for everyone BUT he's added a MARKETING Dept and staffed it up with EVPS, VPS etc and a host of marketing drones. Nothing like the marketing smokescreen when feces hits the oscilator. It's a bullshit move and he's a tool. Look for massive layoffs to be announced in the near future.

Stephen: That still doesn't explain why Washington can't be restored, while whoever figures out what to do with the tunnel.

What you say sounds like Carole Brown's justification, which was that the property was open, so why not put in a tunnel, which was supposedly eventually needed for a link between the Red and Blue lines, regardless of the Airport trains. http://ctachair.blogspot.com/2006/10/subway-tunnel-connections-and-airport.html

Also, Carole exhibited a certain amount of double talk. In the post noted above, she said:

"I should note that I’m not at all interested in non-express “direct” service absent a viable plan to do real express service. I have no intention of recommending that CTA buy expensive upscale railcars just to wait behind regular Blue and Orange Line trains."

However, in the more recent post, http://ctachair.blogspot.com/2008/06/block-37.html she said:

"I want to also reiterate my skepticism of using an eventual CTA station below Block 37 for some kind of express service to Midway and O’Hare with CTA’s current system. Both when this aspect of the project was first floated four years ago and again now, it just doesn’t make sense to me to propose such a capital-intensive and ambitious project that will require a major reconfiguration of CTA service and infrastructure. If there develops a sound, responsible plan to make express service work that fits within CTA’s strategic priorities, I’ll take a look, but until then I remain skeptical."

Hence, we have a hole in the ground, about which the CTA Chair doesn't know if she doesn't want direct or express service, and the only justification is to connect the two subways, but CTA isn't willing to put any track into to accomplish that aim, either. While it holds the Washington stop hostage to this indecision.

Chris, it's a syndrome I like to call "Yer Sposta Know." It frequently strikes at fast-food places, where you may get yelled at for not knowing the exact ordering procedure, where to stand, when to ask for your mustard or chips, when to say "to go", etc. It makes it easier for regulars but tougher on newbies. Businesses that want to encourage new customers to return will not only pay attention to their signage, but be alert and sympathetic to those who appear not to know all the fine points yet.

@jack

Yep, thats pretty much where I stand. There are very few mass-transit infrastructure projects that I'm ever against because I know in the long run it usually works out pretty well. Shit, I'm still pumped about the Franklin St. subway (kidding)

Which essential personnel did they lay off exactly?

And still no answer as to when the 22 & 36 buses get bus tracker!

lol

22 and 36 get the bus tracker on the grand re-opening of the Washington street red line station....


KevinB

I think I read somewhere that the Cubs have to win the World Series before the 22 and 36 can be added to Bus Tracker. :P

Steven:

"Yep, thats pretty much where I stand. There are very few mass-transit infrastructure projects that I'm ever against because I know in the long run it usually works out pretty well. ..."

But then, if Carole meant what she first said, why didn't CTA put in the tunnel during the 20 or so years Block 37 was vacant? It would have been cheaper to build it under the vacant lot than under the 108 N. State construction project. However, this is a rhetorical question, as the answer was that it was only motivated by the vision of the airport express, even though Carole continually denies it.

In any event, it may be eventually used, but someone is taking a quarter-billion dollar bet on that. Given pressing needs, that might not have been the highest priority.

Basically, yeah they messed up block 37... but if they had said outright that the only reason they wanted it was to build a tunnel it never would have happened. So they hired a couple of people to make some fancy powerpoints with a picture of an airport here and there with a tunnel. Thats it really. But I'm sure one day we'll be glad for that transfer point.

It also gives the CTA flexibility to start creating 'routes' instead of 'lines', kinda like new york. They can make some routes go under block 37 to midway and other to the west side. Maybe when the olympics come they'll create a route directly to Washington Park/Garfield from the airport!

As far as rail is concerned the CTA was advocating for a series of subways to replace the loop from the early 60s all the way through the mid-90s... thats probably why airport express took a back seat.

I actually think Huberman is deliberately holding back adding the 22 just to mess with KevinB.

g:

I've been thinking that too, but I didn't want to seem paranoid. I don't take the 22 as much anymore, but now I think he's messing with me by making the roof leak at the new Howard St station and the purple line run late and slow. But, on one note, it does make me feel special that he spends all that time thinking how to make my commute more sucky. I'm thinking if I get a tinfoil hat and put tinfoil around my chicago card, maybe he won't be able to track me anymore (G) ;)


KevinB

What I still don't understand is why the Washington Station can't be open now. What exactly did they do in there?

What's keeping the CTA from just sweeping up the dust, turning on the lights and unlocking the gates?

I can see the station whenever I ride the red line. It doesn't look all that different from the rest of the stations except for the stacks of wood and construction equipment.

Kevin can correct me, but according to Ron, there is no platform there anymore behind the wood barriers, there is just a big hole.

It's pure speculation since no one has said what they did down there, but the general idea was to essentially dig a down grade where the station was and lay track that would go under the existing track to be able to cross over to the blue line tracks under block 37. I think they dug it out, didn't have the money to lay the track and do the switching so it's just going to sit there until fairygodmother time.

Maybe Kevin could arrange an underground block37/washington st station tour. I know I'd be interested in seeing what the plan was(if there actually was one) and why they couldn't finish it.

KevinB

If I were Ron, I'd let all these issues go until my worst critic's head simply exploded.

UIC has been around a while...I don't think his head will explode now matter what stupid things Ron does..


KevinB

oops, no matter

Since I don't expect to be alive when the Washington station is reopened in the year 2099, I'd be 150 then, that's a hell of a long time to wait for a bus!

Are older threads selectively deleted from time to time? I remember a discussion in recent weeks about the Gray Line proposal and someone's alternative idea to link the Metra Electric to the Roosevelt Orange/Green line station via a mile of new track (and ensuing discussion of whether Metra cars were too heavy for CTA rail lines, etc.)

But I can't find any of those comments any more, even after a pretty thorough search through recent posts.

Did I just miss them? If not, what gives?

Please, not another gray line discussion.

Here's the old discussion, which went exactly like every other discussion on the line -

http://www.ctatattler.com/2008/10/anotehr-questio.html

Stephen said:

Basically, yeah they messed up block 37... but if they had said outright that the only reason they wanted it was to build a tunnel it never would have happened. So they hired a couple of people to make some fancy powerpoints with a picture of an airport here and there with a tunnel. Thats it really. But I'm sure one day we'll be glad for that transfer point.

+++++++++++++

Actually, Stephen, you're wrong. If you go back and read the reports and press releases about this project, you'll see that the CTA touted the "connection between two tunnels" angle and downplayed the superstation angle.

I posted this on the other thread, but think it's valid here too.

Two HUGE reasons you won't be seeing any CTA el service in South Chicago. The CTA just got rid of their last overhead catenary route, the yellow line, I doubt that they would want to revert to that on a South Chicago route. There is no way to safely have a third rail along the route (all street/median running from the branch off the viaduct to the end of the line) which is several miles in length.

The other, even bigger reason an el frequency service wouldn't work is also related to it's track location. That level of service frequency would gridlock traffic in South Shore - a train every 2-3-5 minutes would be far too frequent for the layout of the tracks. Do you really think huge traffic jams on Jeffrey, Stony Island and other cross streets would be acceptable for a much more car dependent part of the city? I think not.

I suspect that the CTA didn't do anything with block 37 like a tunnel was that NOBODY really knew what was going on there until a plan actually went through. A tunnel there would have hurt the marketability and have made construction on the site very expensive.

@Jimbo: Yeah, I think that's the right thread, but the comments I was referring to appear to be gone. (See my previous post, above.)

So now you have JLL managing real estate at $800,000 a year, the newly formed Alliance Management department with a $180,000/year Chief Revenue Officer and a new General Manager, Harvey Popolow, I'd be shocked if he made less than $100,000/year, managing sub-prime retail properties with leaking roofs and utilities from the 1970s, I can't wait to see how much retail revenue increases in 2009. My guess, $0.

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