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Status of new rail cars and three-tracking: More of your questions answered

This week I finally got answers to the bulk of the questions you had for Ron Huberman and the CTA, that we didn't a chance to ask at the second Coffee with Ron. Today and over the next couple of week I will print those questions and answers.

What is the status of delivery of new rail cars? When and what lines first?

The delivery of 10 prototype rail cars is expected in 2009. Following testing and evaluation of the prototypes, delivery of the base order and option one is scheduled to begin in 2010 through 2012. Once the cars have been tested and evaluated on out-of-service trains they will begin to be tested on each rail line in the system.

Why go to SRO cars soon when three-track will be ending and more capacity will be added. Will we still need the Max Capacity cars after three tracking ends?

Ridership is up throughout the system, and the CTA is continuously developing initiatives to accommodate this increase as well as constantly seeking ways to improve service and the efficiency of travel for its customers. Throughout the reduced seat rail car pilot, CTA will continue to evaluate the effectiveness and need for the cars during the morning and evening rush.

Once three-track is over, will the trains return to their regular intervals, and will we see an increase in the number of runs?

CTA is currently analyzing the system to determine the frequency and route trains will run following the completion of three-track work.

Comments

sounds like a lot of non answers to me

Ron's vague and evasive answers regarding the three-tracking questions are insufficient. One would think that the reduction in slow zones, improvement in signal equipment, and the end of three-tracking would provide for more runs. The typical PR dribble doesn't exactly inspire confidence that this boondoggle of a project will result in corresponding efficiencies.

Jon Hilkevitch's column in the Trib yesterday adds creedence to the notion that thet CTA, mostly under the direction of Kruesi, wasted a great deal of funding and caused years of perhaps avoidable disruptions while establishing "improved" stations of mediocre quality.

"CTA is currently analyzing the system to determine the frequency and route trains will run following the completion of three-track work."

Fat-free cream cheese. Solid air.

The first answer was OK, but it quickly descended into PR drivel. I normally like Ron, but this sounded like a press release and not someone talking to you over coffee.

That being said, perhaps some of these initiative are not ready to be publicly commented on, but I'd like to hear him say that instead of say something I could have inferred before the question was asked.

Is it me or do those rail car deliveries seem like a LONG way off? Hopefully they are worth it.

If anything, I feel like brown line ridership would go UP after 3 tracking since some people are currently using alternate means (buses, etc). So I think the max capacity cars wouldn't be going away after three tracking UNLESS there is an increase in runs (which doesn't sound likely based on answer #3).

I'm stunned that in two consecutive answers, he says (paraphrasing) "ridership is up throughout the system to the point where we have to rip seats out of cars" and then "well, we're evaluating whether we really want to go back to the high level of service we had before three-tracking."

What garbage.

Yeah, these answers are undercooked. You should ask Ron to send them back to the kitchen until they're actually digestible.

Yeah, there had to be a better way to answer these questions than this.

It's unfortunate that vague answers like these were offered to an audience that has repeatedly shown it cares deeply about transit. While we have our pet gripes and may occasionally rewrite "War and Peace" about them, we care and deserve replys to our questions that have more substance and show a little more respect for the fact that we are concerned about the CTA. I agree with Chris, if it's not time to announce specifics, state that and move on to something that can be discussed in greater depth.

Once three-tracking finishes I'm convinced they will not resume running the number of trains they used to. Time spent waiting inbetween trains will increase. I won't believe otherwise until they produce real schedules. Saying that they are currently "analyzing" and "determining" is either a load of crap or it means they'll continue reduced service based on the decline in ridership.

I thought the whole reason they were speeding up Belmont and Fullerton was so they could return the trains to normal sooner and therefore cut back on the extra bus capacity they've had to run to make up for it. The idea that they would cut service doesn't make sense -- maybe he was just trying to say it wouldn't be *exactly* like it was before the work began. Of course, all this assumes that the primary goal of the CTA is *not* to make people miserable, and I know not everyone here shares that presupposition.

I reread the article and noticed that these questions were most likely not answered by Ron. That is why they have little to no substance, because they are most likely written by a PR person. If the rest of our questions are going to have a similar response, I don't know that I even want to hear the answers.

Ron's response to the three-tracking question almost floored me. I thought the whole point of the project was to increase capacity by enabling 8 car trains to run on the Brown Line, instead of 6 car trains. If the CTA doesn't plan to resume to the pre-construction schedule, then why have we suffered through all these years of construction inconvenience and delays!?

Hey,

I still didn't even get a response to my powerpoint presentation I gave Ron a copy of..not even the milk-toast versions above.

KevinB

Chicago's olympic bid strikes again!
http://www.chicagobusiness.com/cgi-bin/news.pl?id=31508&psid=dd6c6adcd33ed8b5672d6293b2759083

Sorry if you have to cut and paste the link, or if it doesn't even work, but basically Greg Hinz's article on Crain's website talks about how the IOC is worried that Chicago's lake front olympic venues are too far from our public transit trains. The article focuses on the city's speculative plans on getting 80,000 people to/from the proposed stadium in Washington Park - the problem being that it's not convenient walking distance from either the green line or the metra electric, and won't have any dedicated parking. Some of the proposals would use federal dollars to either build a new spur off of the green line, or possibly running a streetcar or light rail down one of Metra's ender-used extra tracks all the way downtown (and possibly up to Navy Pier??) and through Hyde Park or Kenwood to Washington Park. Estimated cost: $1.5 to $6 billion dollars, depending on the option chosen, including buying/leasing/renting a fleet of buses capable of shuttling 80,000 people a matter of a few blocks, which isn't the most environmentally-friendly option, anyway.

What a waste. Billions of dollars on something that won't be useful after the olympics are over? This olympic bid HAD a lot of potential to be a good thing for Chicago public transportation. But now... good grief.

Time to start that book club I mentioned last Wednesday. How you do things matters! I understand RonH is a busy guy and may not have had time to answer the questions himself. Delegating is fine, but you've got to make sure the work of your surrogate is quality stuff that's commensurate with the knowledge base of your audience.

Did you give it to him in PowerPoint 2007 format, or PowerPoint 2003? I think he's only got 2003, and doesn't want to download the free viewer for 2007. ;)

No, Kiel, it never had that potential. That problem didn't just appear; it was obvious to anyone who thought about it. And even if you ignore the overwhelming funding issues (Daley has predictably moved from "Not a public dollar spent" to "Well, maybe local business won't pony up, and the money has to come from SOMEwhere"), there are plenty of other logistical issues. And keep in mind that most cities lose money on the Olympics, so much that Athens and Atlanta are both still recovering.

I'm usually a fan of Ron's answers, he usually offers specifics as to what they are considering. These answers were a complete let down. It is 3 minutes of reading that was a complete waste. The fact that they are not FOR SURE restoring some additional Red line runs in the AM rush hour and having all Purple line trains go to the Loop once again during rush hours is ridiculous. The Red line has been getting increasingly overcrowded in the morning with each passing week. More runs in are desperately needed in the morning. I cannot wait until the 3-tracking is over. The delays this morning again were pretty bad.

re: the article Kiel linked to-
"The problem is how to get people from the train stations to venues — particularly to the proposed 80,000-seat stadium for opening and closing ceremonies and track and field events in Washington Park"

I don't understand this at all. All of the venues are within 1/2 mile of a stop either on the Green Line or the Metra Electric. As far as I can tell, the problem is not getting people to the venues - they can take the train and then walk. The problem is that there would be so many people using those trains that it would overwhelm current capacity. So they'd either have to make many many more runs, or they'd have to bar people without tickets to the games from using them.

Building a streetcar line from Washington Park to the Metra tracks to the Loop would be bizarre and asinine.

"Ron Huberman, seems to be leaning toward a different and cheaper surface-level alignment to the west, in the old Crosstown Corridor area [rather than the Circle Line]."

Anyone know where this information is coming from? Good news if it's true, but I haven't heard anything about it.

@ kiel

"What a waste. Billions of dollars on something that won't be useful after the olympics are over? This olympic bid HAD a lot of potential to be a good thing for Chicago public transportation. But now... good grief."

Yeah kinda like the south side elevated to Jackson Park for the world's fair... its gotten almost no use these last 120 years. Makes you wonder whose boneheaded idea it was to build the damn thing.

If these answers really came from RH, seems like it's time to replace him with yet another Daley lackey. The 3-tracking project, while not quite insufferable, has been a nuisance that I can't wait to end. I leave quite early on the Brown Line each day, and there's been numerous times in the last 3 weeks heading into town where things have gone ungodly slow. The expectation is that capacity AND commuting times were to be vastly improved, dammit!

I sent the CTA more than 50 questions that you readers had posted. So I hope you all don't really think that Huberman spent his valuable time personally answering those questions. Of course his PR team answered them. But I was told he read and approved all the replies.

I will follow up and try to get more details on the post-three-tracking schedule. But I also expect that the staff should indeed "analyze the system" before making any major decisions on run frequency.

If our Olympic bid is to be successful and useful, transportation measures HAVE to provide permanent benefit. That includes building up the long-term capacity of the Green and Red Lines and Metra Electric -- and may well also include reversing the wrong-headed decision to tear down the Green Line to Dorchester back in 1997.

Short-term measures such as leasing a fleet of buses -- that would make me an implacable opponent of the Olympics. If Chicago really wants to pour money down a rathole, the IOC should at least deny it this particular opportunity.

I'm also of the view that city control over the CTA should be terminated. It's time for a single regional authority handling mass transit in northeastern Illinois. And it's time for a complete restructuring of funding to coincide with real sales tax reform that spreads the tax around all goods and service evenly as opposed to loading it up on the one category that yields consistently declining revenue (i.e. non-grocery, non-medical goods).

A note on the CTA's recent service. It has become unusable again for me on the Red Line. Too many delays, too many unpredictable moments, and just too damn slow. And if we're going to be waiting another four years for new cars, WHY do they go on putting off basic maintenance like wheel truing? Because of this corner cutting the cars ride appallingly and they are deafeningly loud to the point that the customers, never mind the employees, ought to be filing OSHA complaints.

I try to ride transit everywhere I go. And the only place I've ever encountered maintenance as bad as Chicago was on British Rail's Northern Trains franchise in England in the mid 1990s during the Major government's horribly botched privatization, which resulted in three or four years in which there was basically no capital spending.

Other than that, Chicago is in a league of its own for slovenliness. I go anywhere else -- Baltimore MTA, BART, London Underground, Paris Metro, even our very own Metra -- and the train cars run smoothly and quietly. Whereas on the CTA it's the deafening and rough-riding clank-clank-clank-clank of shoddily maintained wheels and axles, and stations that even when renovated are allowed to get completely filthy. And what's that white dry-rot ooze seeping onto the northbound Red Line track in the Lake subway stop?

@ Stephen
"Yeah kinda like the south side elevated to Jackson Park for the world's fair... its gotten almost no use these last 120 years. Makes you wonder whose boneheaded idea it was to build the damn thing."

This is different, this 1/2 mile long (or less) stub tracks and streetcars built to connect Washington Park to transit for a matter of two weeks.

The south side elevated was built to service the world's fair as much as it was built to provide service for the south side of the city at the time. And it was a private, not public venture. No for-profit company in their right mind would build that much elevated railway to service something that only lasted a few months without some kind of belief that south siders might continue to use it years afterward to commute downtown, which they have done.

And Jake's right - the Green line is a VERY comfortable, less-than-five-minute walk from Washington Park. The real question is whether, and how, the Green line could handle that many people. Oh well, it's useless to speculate about olympics logistics that specifically at this point, I guess.

It's not at all useless to talk about transportation plans for the Olympics at this point. The Olympic committee's bid book is due in February, and since the IOC made clear that transportation plans were a big problem, the bid is going to have to explain how they're going to solve it. Whatever plans they come up with now might be what the city is stuck with if we end up getting the Olympics.

Unfortunately, the Olympics committee is deeply secretive and completely unaccountable. They are refusing to make public the transportation options they're considering, and they are not allowing any public input or oversight.

Since the committee won't allow us the kind of participation that might produce a good plan, we have to be ready to raise hell after the bid book comes out if it saddles us with useless spending and looks likely to increase inequality in the city via unchecked gentrification. If the committee can't produce something that's good for Chicago, the only way we can prevent the Olympics is to demonstrate that we don't want it.

From Chicago-L.org...

"Concurrent with the end of the fair, the Jackson Park terminal was closed on October 31, 1893, making Stony Island (then renamed Jackson Park) the end of the line. The structure was demolished soon thereafter."

As for the South Side El...

"Incorporated in 1888, it was originally envisioned to reach all the way to the Illinois-Indiana state line. Indeed, many counted on this happening, such as Frank J. Lewis, who, when laying out his southeast side subdivision between 108th and 114th Streets and Avenue O and the state line, fully expected a rapid transit line would be built to 106th and Indianapolis to serve his area."

Essentially, much of the extention to the Worlds Fair was simply built sooner than it would have been built. The stretch along 63rd came at a time when very little was developed _YET_.

Building rail lines to get closer to the Olympic venues would be about as useful as the stub at the end of 63rd into Jackson Park that was demolished upon completion of the World's Fair unless there were plans to demolish the Olympic venues, and build something that people would actually have a reason to go to after the Olympics are over.

Also, let's not forget that there is going to be a lot of security involved with the movement of Olympic fans. A half mile from a venue's current enterance would likely be more like a quarter mile from the security perimeter, and just about where the end of the waiting lines will be. In other words, the perfect place for a transit station.

Whatever is built needs to have some utility after the Olympics are over. Anything that will have no utility after the Olympics are over needs to be capable of either being re-deployed (like buses), or built on the cheap. New rail lines don't qualify.

The best solution would involve bus lanes, and dedicated busways. After the Olympics are over, the buses can be re-deployed (either to the CTA, or sold to other systems), and the bus lanes and busways can be either kept as bus-exclusive roadways, or converted for general use, or, perhaps, bike and pedestrian routes.

The kind of capital investment needed for better rail access to the venues could be better spent on infrastruture that will have some utility for the passengers who exist now, and will exist after the Olympics are over.

I'm not saying the Olympics are a complete waste of money. They will provide many family supporting construction jobs prior to the opening, as well as many lower-paying service industry jobs to service those construction workers, and eventually the fans, and participants.

But once it's all over, what will happen then? Some of the construction workers will move on to jobs in other cities, but those who took the service industry jobs may not have the money to be mobile. That means we need to be prepared for massive unemployment, and plenty of low-income, unskilled and semi-skilled workers and their families that will need public assistance.

Those who remember the Olympics suddenly end, and are prepared for that sudden end have potential to make money. Those who get swept-up in the Olympics as if they will have a positive effect long after the games are done will be sorely disappointed at the aftermath.

And for this, some people still want to invest cash like China did? For a couple of weeks in the world spotlight? Is fleeting fame that valuable?

Frankly, I think this is a case where being nominated may be better than winning.

Jake and Kiel, you've both mentioned that some of the Olympic venues are a short walk from CTA services.

Does the IOC require accessibility?

@ kiel

I agree that street-level cars and track stubs are beyond stupid. What I'm saying is the IOC has been hinting that Chicago needs a lakefront transit system to connect all many of its most oft visited destinations.. Navy Pier, downtown/Millenium Park, Museum Campus, Soldier Field, McCormick Place, all the way to Washington Park. A subway of that proportion would cost billions but its not unthinkable; New York City is still planning and building new tunnels for their already expansive system this very day.

I don't see how the green line serves any of the proposed lakefront venues.

Speaking of the end of 3-tracking, I've heard differing dates...do we have a firm date from Ron yet when 3-tracking will actually end?

KevinB

"The south side elevated was built to service the world's fair as much as it was built to provide service for the south side of the city at the time. And it was a private, not public venture. No for-profit company in their right mind would build that much elevated railway to service something that only lasted a few months without some kind of belief that south siders might continue to use it years afterward to commute downtown, which they have done."

It was built only to service the World's Fair, then its neighborhood uses expanded later. It was essentially part of the fair, displaying something rather new and modern at the time. Learn your history.

You contradict yourself. You say it was done by private ventures, but then say no "for-profit" company would ever build it. The builders of the World's Fair were not in it to make a profit. The builders were simply playing a game of trying to be better than NY and proving that Chicago was a world class city. The designers were not trying to be profitable. Only later in the process of building the fair did financiers question the cost of building everything and try to steer the builders into making things profitable.

I know this is hard to imagine, but once upon a time people did things for motivations other than money. In essence the builders and the financiers had quarrels, but the fair was essentially built under the premise of "if we build it grand enough, they will come" and then money would be made.

@Chris

"It was built only to service the World's Fair, then its neighborhood uses expanded later. It was essentially part of the fair, displaying something rather new and modern at the time. Learn your history.

You contradict yourself. You say it was done by private ventures, but then say no "for-profit" company would ever build it. The builders of the World's Fair were not in it to make a profit."

No! The company that built the south side El was incorporated and started construction in 1888, two years before Chicago was picked to host the World's Fair, and the line opened a whole year before the fiar did. It was extended to Jackson Park in order to serve the fair - and possibly also to be later extended even farther south, but it was always primarily inteded to be a form of public transportation for south siders traveling downtown.

And Chris, you're confusing the fair with the El. I was only talking about the El, whose owners were always in it for the profits to be made in the people-moving industry. But, the people who built the El and the people who built the fair were not the same people. Both were in it to make a profit, and both did make a profit. The fair's builders were prepared to lose money, of course, but weren't expecting to after Paris's 1889 Fair had also turned a big profit.

And Bob S.: I don't honestly know if the IOC requires accessibility - I'm sure it works in a city's favor - but ALL of the Green line stations outside the loop are accessible, so I'm not sure what you're getting at.

"I sent the CTA more than 50 questions that you readers had posted. So I hope you all don't really think that Huberman spent his valuable time personally answering those questions. Of course his PR team answered them. But I was told he read and approved all the replies."

I also had the feeling that the questions weren't being answered, and saying that CTA PR provided the answers confirms that there were no answers. You had implied, up to that point, that you were having coffee with Ron and Ron took a personal interest in more questions. Obviously not the case.

The non-answers hit two points discussed elsewhere on various Internet fora about the CTA:

1. Where will the new cars (if ever received) be assigned? Obviously, they are going to be tested around the system. However, Kruesi said that the production run would first be assigned to the Blue Line (which then also incorporated the Pink). One might think that Ron was going back on that, but we know now that there was a non-answer.

2. Various CTA critics said that since CTA is not immediately getting new cars, and would have no additional space to store them in the Kimball Yard, the intent was to run 8 car trains, but also to reduce frequency on the Brown Line. That wasn't dispelled.

Finally, we know that the vast CTA spokeswomen apparatus is not to give information (and its VP rarely even rides).

So did LA or Atlanta add major transit projects for their games? I'm under the understanding that they did NOT.

I'll have to check this, but it looks to be like the location of the Washington Park Stadium would be about a mile from the Garfield station.

It'd be worth it if they reopened the Kenwood el though.

First of all, there is no spot in Washington Park that is a mile from the Garfield station. Second, there is nowhere they could put the stadium that would be much more than 1/2 mile from either the 51st, Garfield, King Dr, or Cottage Grove stops.

If the picture on the Olympic committee's website is accurate (and who knows when they won't actually share with the public any of their plans?), the stadium would be on the eastern edge of the park around 54th. That's slightly more than 1/2 mile from the Garfield stop.

I'm still bewildered as to why any new track would be needed, except maybe restoring the Green Line to connect with the Metra Electric.

Simple thing
-Install Platform Screen Door (above ground) or Platform Edge Screen Door (underground)
-ATC (I think that's how is spell) which the trains always stop at the same place
-New Trains with Open gangway, automated audio station announcements and an “active” route map that will show direction of travel and the inside and outside should look equal not like the outside looks good and the inside looks bad..
-update all station with lighting and signs
-Get inner city line to run 3-7 Min per train
-Outter city line to run 7-12 min per train
-Do more ADs to bring money for these stuff...

I feel that why is all our system keep using married pairs over and over why can't we swtich over to open gangway and it looks better and for station they keep talking about safety why not do platform screen door. Lol don't stay in step and just keep moving on.

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