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Fourth track opens Saturday at Belmont

Good-bye to three-tracking and good riddance. The CTA quietly announced in the weekend service changes email alert that Track 1 goes back into service at Belmont at 4 am Saturday for the Purple and Brown Lines.

I commend the CTA for accelerating the work and opening all four tracks before the end of the year as they had promised.

Now the question is when/how will service increase. I've asked the CTA for that info and will let you know.

Comments

My first question would be if the purple line frequency will be increased during rush hours?

KevinB

It would be great if they'ed run the purple on weekends... I can dream can't I?

Service has been increased. There is no room for more cars. Right now, what you see is what peak service is going to be until they can find more yard space and buy more rail cars.

If you think this project was for immediate capacity increase, then you've been mistaken.

I'm sorry, but I don't think they are at maximum capacity. When the CTA went to single-track operations at Belmont & Fullerton two years ago, then number of trains watalk from the "doom and gloom"

Before all this construction started, it was relatively easy for me to get a seat on a Brown Line Train at the Addison station between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. Since the construction started, I'd say I get a seat less than 25 percent of the time....and that's with the CTA running 8 car trains. Look, If the real reason that the CTA embarked on this project was so that they could run less trains and reduce labor and equipment costs, then they should have said so. This was sold to us as an effort to increase capacity.

Some of my text disappeared from the prior comment. Here's what it should say: "When the CTA went to single track operations at Belmont & Fullerton two years ago, the number of trains was reduced, and there was all that "doom and gloom" talk that suggested our commuting times would double."

I'm a little mystified about how quiet the announcement is.

There was a big floor sticker in the station house at Southport with 1-2-3-4 on it, and some graphics showing the red, purple and brown lines -- I suppose this was the announcement?

Maybe they should be running commercials with that Feist song.

My quick anecdotal evidence of three-track vs. four track at Fullerton so far. During three track, there always seemed to be a Brown line right after a red-line, and I almost always got on the first train. Since they opened four track, there are HUGE gaps between Brown line trains, and I think I've gotten on the first train once.

So far, I like the three track days at Fullerton better.

I know a guy who works for the CTA, and he was talking about this last year.

"Yeah, I mean, the whole expansion project is good and all, and they need to run 8-car trains on the brown line for sure -- but the thing is, they don't have enough train cars as it is, and no money to buy new ones until at least 2010. So, eventually there will be enough cars to go around, but not for a couple of years"

Of course, the most important question is: Did the Damen Brown Line stop reopen today?!

Yaaay! That's great. I wonder if anyone broke a ceremonial bottle of champagne over the tracks when they finished it. If not, we could probably find someone with a bottle of Wild Irish Rose to throw at them...

Seitz,

I completely agree with you, the intervals between Brown Line trains have been horrible since it ended at Fullerton. If its true that its not going to get better until the new cars arrive in 2010, this could suck for awhile.

I dont think the frequency of trains can be fully assessed at Fullerton until Belmont also starts four-tracking. If there is a bottle neck at three-track-Belmont going south then of course Fullerton would not see an improvement.

I'm with "Brown Line Rider"...did anyone hear if the Damen stop is actually open today?!?!

It's been a long 13 months! :P

@ Brown Line Rider:

Yes Damen was open this morning. My morning rush train stopped there and I think maybe 2 people got on! (approx 7:20 AM)

Guess they didn't get the memo.

Will they be putting the bridge back in at Belmont?

Don't forget that Red Line service was severely cut back at the beginning of the three-track project. With the Brown Line capacity ostensibly equal to what it was before the project started because of the 8-car trains, the Red's where service improvements most need to be made.

I agree that you can't judge the success of the 4 tracks at Fullerton until Belmont opens up their 4th track.

I don't know that we'll be getting more rail cars anytime soon. I would imagine that the new cars will replace old ones and we won't have additional rail cars until much later than 2010. I hope they get rid of those accordion door rail cars on the blue line first. Those are annoying and surely the oldest ones we have still in use.

It looks to me like instead of a bridge over the tracks there will be one under the tracks to go between the north- and southbound platforms.

Right now there appears to be a wide platform a few steps below each platform, and it looks like it extends all the way across.

[Don't forget that Red Line service was severely cut back at the beginning of the three-track project.]

To echo this point, when SB three-tracking was put into place, the CTA said that they were cutting from 19 to 15 trains during morning rush service. I would assume that the previous service will be resumed.

At that time, the number of Brown Line trains were also cut, HOWEVER this was mitigated by the introduction of 8-car trains instead of 6-car trains. I suspect that Marcus Twain is right about the immediate prospects of Brown Line service increases.

I think KevinB is right - the Purple Line is where the big question is.

Also, there was a Going Public column about the Belmont transfer bridge a while back - it's not coming back.

A possible explanation for why Brown Line intervals seem to suck at Fullerton. When it was one track, you had all three lines coming in the same place, so there seemed to be more trains in general. Now that they're divided out to two locations, there seem to be fewer trains. I bet if you were getting the Red Line at Fullerton, it would seem like there were fewer Red Lines too.

Will they stop short-turning outbound Blue Line trains at Jeff Park now that three tracking is over?
It's my recollection that this practice began when 3-tracking started to take pressure off the Red and Brown.
I'm afraid I already know the answer, but it sure would be nice to no longer miss connections to Pace buses in Rosemont because of the trains only going to Jeff Park that are interspersed during the morning schedule.

I've noticed that they have been whizzing along at Belmont, but pouring all that concrete in this inclement (read; cold) weather leaves me concerned about it's long term durability and strength, since acceptable curing in freezing weather is problematic, especially with anti-freeze additives. But then again, judging from some of the station work being done at the Edgewater stations, the CTA's contractors aren't exactly top notch.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-lahooddec18,0,4429068.story

Looks like Obama has his transportation guy. The article states that he has a record of supporting funding for Amtrak and public transit.

*I bet if you were getting the Red Line at Fullerton, it would seem like there were fewer Red Lines too.**

I don't think so. Before they seemed to rotate: one red, one brown (or occasionally purple). Every so often there would be two consecutive reds, but not very often.

Now I see two, or even three southbound reds before I see a Brown.

As for the Belmont bottleneck, I would think that would even out the distribution at a 4-track Fullerton. You'd think gaps would be reduced simply because trains that got way behind would have a place to catch up. Maybe not.

I'd be surprised if there's a noticeable difference in frequency of Red and Brown Line service with three-tracking over. Dollars to donuts the CTA will respond if pressured with the statement that a lack of train cars is the culprit, while also taking a whack at the lack of a capital bill.

For what it's worth, the state of IL has identified an increase in rolling stock as "shovel ready" priority when the $850 billion stimulus bill comes to fruition next month.

I'm not holding my breath.

Holding your breath for a month would be ill-advised, yes.

They're not plugging it too heavily, but here's a longer press release about the resumption of four tracks.

http://www.transitchicago.com/news/default.aspx?Month=&Year=&Category=2&ArticleId=2247

I guess I can't imagine them not being able to come up with 2-4 more purple line trains during rush hours....


KevinB

A bunch of people got OFF Brown at Damen tonight. It was pretty funny, because I and everyone around me paused at first step to figure out where we were and where the stairs were.

There are two parts to the main station, awkwardly integrated - the new glassy exit, with a wide open interior, which is just north of the old, cramped brick building that someone must have insisted they save. The older area is filled with what I'd call "briefcase art" -- station furniture made of either simulated briefcases or possibly real ones that have somehow been lacquered and strengthened.

I don't know if anyone will ever notice this, though, since all 25 people in front of me exiting the station exited the northern glass doors. As far as I can tell, nowhere in this enormous interior has been set aside for a vendor. Not that I care particularly - there's already a mini-mart 3 doors down. Just wondering what the theory was here. It's an odd layout.

Perhaps they could keep the open-air Santa sleigh cars from the Holiday train in service to help cope with the shortage of rail cars.

What could be more pleasant than a breezy, open-air purple line express ride from Evanston to downtown in January?

[Dollars to donuts the CTA will respond if pressured with the statement that a lack of train cars is the culprit, while also taking a whack at the lack of a capital bill.]

I've noticed this too. They're always making excuses by pointing out that they don't have the money that everyone knows they don't have when people are wondering why they're not doing things it takes money to do.

Where, oh where, does the buck stop?

I'm confused. Does the CTA have the train cars it needs to move as many riders on the Red Line as it did before three-tracking started? Or are all of the "lack of train cars" comments about the Brown?

Kimbal yard is and has been essentially full for a long time. With 4-track operation, moving through Belmont/Fullerton can be accomplished more efficiently, so in a very theoretical sense, they might be able to squeeze a couple extra trips with the same number of trains, consisting of the same number of cars, and operating at the same intervals. Maybe one or two extra trips a day.

Longer trains would mean fewer trips, with longer intervals.

The alternative involves bringing in trains from other yards, which actually can and does happen already. Right now, I believe they're bringing a couple trains up from Midway for the Brown. This could be increased.

They used to (I don't know if they still are) bring a couple trains down from Howard to run the Brown, but I believe that stopped during the 3-tracking.

Bottom line is there are a few extra cars out there. And all the other lines could have service slightly reduced, and give up a few cars for Brown service. But the issue of where to park the cars is a problem.

So even when new cars come, the problems aren't solved. Not without Kimbal getting significantly bigger, or some creative, but inefficient bringing in of trains from other yards.

Does that mean they should't have added capacity to the Brown? Absolutely not. Putting off the project until after Kimbal is made bigger would mean you'd have a big yard with nowhere for the trains to go. Better to have a way to use the capacity before you build it at the yard.

Are we going to see them go back to that old idiocy of southbound Red Line trains waiting at both Belmont & Fullerton a several minutes for a Brown Line train that has yet to arrive?

As we know, those that live along the Brown Line are far more important than we are.

UCC,

Thanks for mentioning that. I'd love to sign petitions against that. With Brown Line trains on regular frequency, doing that actually slows not only Red Line passengers, but also Brown Line pax, since it clogs up the switches. The goal should be to get trains past the switches as fast as possible.

The only reason to hold trains at Belmont is a weird false perception -- "if they'd have held that train for me, I'd be home faster ..." Well, sort of, sir. If they held that train for you, and held all the other trains for everyone else who just missed their connection, trains would get backed up, and you wouldn't even be here on the platform yet. In fact, you'd wait another 5 minutes for trains to clear, and you'd be on a ridiculously overstuffed train.

CTA seems to have stopped running the system based on such false perceptions for the most part -- they are regularly running trains express when they get bunched (as happened with my Brown Line train on Friday night), even though this may irritate customers who have to wait for the follower. At 5:00 pm I've seen them run Blue Line trains past Washington without stopping with an immediate follower, so that the leader is loading the big crowd at Clark/Lake while the follower is picking up Washington. Otherwise, you get a crammed train at C/L which takes much longer to get away from the station because people get stuck in the doors, while the lightly loaded follower waits behind. I have also witnessed several instances where they did the same with a leader in a bus bunch, sending it forward, or turning it around early and letting the follower pick up those few who were intending to continue to the end-point. Most of these improvements were unheard of under previous regimes, who couldn't stand the criticism from uninformed people who couldn't understand the time savings in the big picture.

Let's hope they don't return to foolishness at Belmont!

"Most of these improvements were unheard of under previous regimes."

What is causing you to think that? I know I was on or witnessed buses being turned around mid-trip dozens of times a year during the Kruesi regime. And there were plenty of times when delayed trains ran express to unbunch them. In fact, I think that occured about as often as now. Actually, it seemed to reduce in frequency around the time that Huberman was first appointed. And now it has picked back up again. Perhaps Huberman wanted to satisfy the "criticism from uninformed people" and then reversed course when he got around the same amount of critisism from informed people. Or maybe his plan all along was to impress people like you who would notice an improvement but then fail to realize that it was not actually an improvement from the time before he took over.

MK,

Honestly, I never experienced it prior to very recently, neither on els nor on buses, and I was actually on buses more from 02-05 than in the last two years. Yet, in the last 12 months, I've had several experiences of this sort of thing.

I actually think it may have more to do with tracker -- and the ability for a supervisor to know exactly what's going on with a route. It may be easier for CTA to interfere in bus operations with greater confidence that they're helping, not hurting. But it's a genuine experience of mine that it's happening a fair amount now, and I never experienced it before.

Still, you could be right. It may be that I was on the wrong routes at the wrong times before. One's experience of a bus system with 200 routes, many of them 24 hours, is inevitably not very broad and representative.

what is the deal with the cta now on saturdays (and always at night) running less than 8 car trains? when they run like a 4 or 6 car train they are ALWAYS jammed and crazy. i dont see why on a friday night or a saturday morning why they are doing this.
i know at like 4 am u dont want a long train so people are more isolated (safety concerns?) but when there is no room to sit and starting to be no room to even stand before belmont thats just ludicrous. its not like they need more employees for a longer train. 8 car red line trains should run longer thru the day and week.

Tecki, I saw those graphics at Bryn Mawr too and was wondering why the CTA was teaming up with Sesame Street.

Then I paid attention at Belmont/Fullerton and they have signs up that say something like:
4 tracks, 3 trains, 2 directions, 1 big thank you

I could be a little off on the wording, but I think I'm pretty close.

it entertained me way too much this morning, but it could be because I was up way too early. :D

Unindicted Co-Conspirator, don't even start. I take the Brown Line every day and there have been plenty of times while we have to wait just before Belmont so a Red Line can slide in. It works both ways. Nice try, though.

And everyone complaining that the Brown and Red lines used to equally rotate at Fullerton..seriously? Granted, I'm at Belmont more than Fullerton but Every.Single.Time I'm there there are 2-4 Red Lines before a Brown Line comes in.

Not So Much: You're comparing apples & oranges!
Those delays were due solely to the three tracking, that's over now.

The fact is that for some bizarre reason before three tracking, the CTA had most southbound Red Line trains wait for Brown Line ones at both Belmont & Fullerton.
But never the other way around.
Obviously, you people from Lakeview & Ravenswood Manor are far more important than those of us from Rogers Park & Edgewater!

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