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Is the CTA "shovel-ready?" Brown sets her sight on stimulus dollars for CTA

CTA Board Chairwoman Carole Brown on Thursday testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, hoping to get her hands on some of Barack's economic stimulus dollars.

President Obama is looking for so-called "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects to create jobs and stimulate a moribund economy. Brown told ABC7 News that some of those projects "include purchasing 58 new buses, updating rails, new signal work, and station improvements." 

"And what I want to reiterate is as long as the process is streamlined, as long as they look at is as kind of an emergency to help stimulate the economy and invest in the economy, hence to streamline the process of getting the money to us, that we've got plenty of projects ready to go," said Brown.

Speaking of signal work, the CTA gets back at it on the Loop elevated this weekend, closing down stations Sunday on the Wells-Van Buren stretch. Details here.

Now you'll know when your Clark bus is not coming. Don't forget -- the #22 Clark and #36 Broadway (and 9 other buses) go live on Bus Tracker Monday. I don't ride them, so y'all must let me know how reliable Tracker is on these routes. Details here.


Comments

"Brown told ABC7 News that some of those projects "include purchasing 58 new buses..."

Sort gets us back to the point I mentioned in connection with the BRT topic about unannounced (by CTA) bus contracts, and commitments to pay for the hot sauce without first getting the bug.

However, if one can credit the reports at ChicagoBus.Org, apparently some have plans to incur a $72.5 million debt to the feds, by scrapping buses that have not met their service lives, and maybe retaining at a couple of garages buses that have, shuffling them all over the place. Look at ChicagoBus.Org, starting at about these places, and moving down the threads:
http://forum.chicagobus.org/index.php?showtopic=1421
http://forum.chicagobus.org/index.php?s=&showtopic=1097&view=findpost&p=17437
Also: this from the Buses description page:
http://www.chicagobus.org/bus/7500

Now, these may just be rumors, but I sure would want to know what are the facts. Also, if the amount of fraud or waste (which goes back to a procurement in the Kruesi era) extrapolated is true, that, along with the Block 37 mess, makes Rusty's carping about verifying the performance report small potatoes.

In any event, I want to know what CTA is hiding by not, until now, announcing having exercised options for 58 buses, as well as issuing a contract for up to 900 more, as New Flyer has reported.

I wouldn't take some posting on the internet as fact. If they need to retire those crappy buses earlier, then let them, if they are truly failing and have major flaws. As I mentioned before, you don't have the details of what the contracts states. There might be options or opt-out clauses based on certain events...

I welcome all the shovel-ready projects except perhaps the station renewals. I might be wrong on this, but are they any truly bad stations left? I know they could always use improvements or escalators and such, but I think the other projects would have a much great impact. I'm surprised she didn't mention rail extensions, but maybe it's not shovel-ready...

Adds a whole other level of meaning to the phrase "shovel ready." Here I thought there was finally significant political will to make transit a priority. Should have known better when Ray LaHood was nominated for transportation. :(

Chris:
If you read my post, I didn't take the scrapping as fact. However, the fact that New Flyer announced bus orders, one of which Carole Brown only recently acknowledged, seems to be adequately documented.

As far as station renewals, most of the North Side Main ones (north of Addison) need it. Howard is about done, but no recent word about Wilson. While Granville and Loyola were redone some time in the past, most of the intermediate stops (i.e. like Bryn Mawr, Berwyn, or Morse) could use modernization.

Of course, there was also the issue that most of the concrete overpasses on the North Side Main and in Evanston were crumbling. A couple in Evanston have been replaced with steel ones, but there are numerous ones to go.

It is hard to comprehend that the lines on the embankment are 80 years old, even though they appear newer than the up to 117 year old portions of the steel structure.

That article is contradicting everything I've heard. Congress wanted less tax cuts and more project spending than Obama, so it doesn't make sense that they caved on this when Obama seemed to be caving to their demands on it. That article is rather devoid of information anyway.

Plus, nothing is passed yet, so it's all speculation until it gets Barack's signature.

Finishing block 37 is the first "shovel-ready" project. Its already been shoveled, now it just needs to be finished. New stations on the green line for the west loop and south loop should come next. Then there are extensions. Screw BRT.

Sorry Jake, you didn't take it as fact. But, you seem to be wondering if it is fact. I took it as some guy starting rumors...

Honest question: Are the orders for 900 new buses documented somewhere?

Red Line stations north of Wilson just got renovated and/or are in the process of doing so. Wilson is getting fixed up with more work to go and probably is the furthest from getting to where it should be (whether that is in the scope of the project, I don't know). Argyle and Berwyn are almost complete. I think Bryn Mawr is the same. The only work left on these is installing a ceiling in the lobby of the stations. The rest is done I think.

I don't know about Morse since I don't get off there often enough to know.

So what other stations are left that need renewal that hasn't already begun?

@ chris

State/Lake in the loop needs complete modernization. Its already been planned too, just needs funding

And the new roof over the south stairway at the Thorndale station is already leaking and dripping on our heads.

It seems like a Damen and/or Western station on the Green Line would make sense as well -- I know one news story said that a Damen stop was projected to get more riders than a west loop stop. I don't know how much more shovel-ready it could get -- the CTA has like three different contractors that just built a bunch of stations basically from scratch on the Brown Line.

Regarding State/Lake. I don't mind some modernization, but it would be sad to see some of the original decoration go. Hopefully they could keep its orginal glory and spruce it up like the Quincy stop.

I agree that adding a stop along the western leg of the Green Line would be good, but that doesn't fall into station renewal. Nor am I sure if it is shovel-ready since I don't know if there have been any studies done. Although I think the studies would only confirm what most people think.

Yep, what they've done at Thorndale is nice and all, but it's still basically lipstick on a pig.

"Honest question: Are the orders for 900 new buses documented somewhere?"

As far as my comment that New Flyer announced it, see here:

http://newflyer.com/index/news-app/story.60

"The largest of these orders is from Chicago Transit Authority (“CTA”) in Chicago, IL. The CTA Board of Directors has approved the order of up to 900 60-foot diesel-electric hybrid buses (total firm orders and options). CTA has previously ordered a total of 1,258 buses from New Flyer since 2002 including 1,050 40’ diesel and hybrid and 208 60’ hybrid buses."

jack: I think all of viaducts on the NSML north of Wilson are from 1909-1910. That makes them at least 98 years old, not 80!
Most of the Wilson station is from 1905-06. The entire part of the structure that crosses Broadway needs to be replaced to get rid of the pillars in the middle of the street.
Won't that be a fun time, more three tracking!
Hopefully it will be a two platform station serving all four tracks, allowing the express trains to stop at Wilson.

[Red Line stations north of Wilson just got renovated and/or are in the process of doing so.]

"Renovated" seems like an awfully strong word in this case. I'd say it's more like "catching up on routine maintenance that had been neglected for decades." They're still woefully outdated - no elevators, not enough turnstiles, structurally questionable, etc.

Also, none of the Purple line stops (other than Davis and Linden) have been touched. They're all in pretty bad shape.

Station modernization to attract new users, line extensions, technology upgrades, and yes, bus rapid transt (BRT) could be applied under the stimulus funds.

From what I hear, there won't be much in the stimulus package which is a terribly opportunity lost. However, Olberstar and his transportation committee will take up the transportation bill and he is advocating significantly more funding for transit to help bridge the gap with highway funds.

We need to be begging for these service improvements. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to modernize the system for decades. It's sad to see it wasted.

@Adam:

http://www.chicagojournal.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=60&ArticleID=6554&TM=82083.79

I'm not the first to link this article, but the Green Line will get a station at Morgan (btw Halsted and Racine). Construction begins some time this year. And from the tone of the article, if any other stations get built on the Lake St El, it would likely be at Damen before/rather than at Western.

UIC:
Krambles, CTA at 45 has at page 24 a picture of the elevation project, dated 1928. Also, CERA 115 has a 1911 track map showing the track at grade (page 249).

However, this is just quibbling around the edges. No matter how old, the concrete needs extensive work.

According to that article, that station on the Green Line will be built with TIF funds, not capital money from state or federal funds.

As for renovated, you're correct. Most of them were in need of care of the years they never received. I am most familiar with Argyle and Berwyn which I use the most. Berwyn wasn't bad, but Argyle was crumbling. It seems much better now. They got new stairs, new awnings, paint job, and new ceiling (still coming). Berwyn got the same treatment, but was not in as bad of shape. Argyle could still use some new flooring in the lobby, which I don't know if that is planned. Argyle could use 1 more turnstile, but I don't really think these stations need elevators or escalators. Plus, I'm not sure where they have the space to put another turnstile at Argyle.

I think when they are done, these stations might not be perfect, but they will certainly be good enough not to waste federal dollars on over other types of improvements. I do think the embankments and viaducts need some work in many areas as mentioned.

The North Branch of the Red Line will not be even close to "renovated" until elevators are put in.

It's beyond ridiculous that, as a wheelchair user, I cannot exit anywhere between Addison and Granville.

The LSD express buses are okay, but not remotely comparable to the benefit of having access at those stations.

[I don't really think these stations need elevators or escalators.]

Of course they need elevators. The ADA was passed for a reason.

Chris,

As someone who uses crutches, I about fell out of my chair when I read your comment regarding whether red line stations need elevators. I'll assume the ADA aspect slipped your mind and simply echo Adam B's and strannix's responses -- these stations need an entire overhaul.

Indeed, after the Brown Line project, the Red Line on the North Side has the longest stretch of inaccessible stations in the CTA -- seven inaccessible stops between Granville and Addision.

Given the disrepair of many of those stations (e.g. Bryn Mawr), a Brown Line style project on the Red Line is definitely needed.

Eric

Maybe they could use some of that money to actually make the roofs at the new part of the Howard St station not leak. You'd think that would be one of the things that you'd expect on a brand new roof.

KevinB

Fair enough, it did slip my mind. No offense meant. If I'm not mistaken, ADA mandates that all NEW construction must be made accessible.
However, just over half of the CTA stations are accessible. I don't see the CTA undertaking this project anytime soon with so many other projects they want to accomplish. Like it or not, I think that is the case. We could debate the merits of this approach, but it would be pointless and possibly insensitive.

Tend to agree with Stephen. BRT seems like a poorly conceived idea relative to Chicago. Considering both strong pushes at the local and national level to go "green", rehabbing, modernizing, and extending the rail network, IMHO, seems to be the most logical.

The CTA has been talking big for a number of years, be it the Red Line extension, Circle line, MCT, etc. One could reasonably assume that while these projects aren't "shovel ready", there must be a number of el-related projects that are. I'd like to hear from Ron or Carole as to what the CTA has identified as priorities with regards to rail service enhancements if and when funding becomes available.

Chris,

No offense taken. But remember, what we are discussing in this thread are "shovel ready" projects. In response to your original question regarding whether any bad stations exist, I would say yes, they do. There are many stations that need to be made accessible and otherwise improved upon. The Red Line, as we've already noted, and on the Blue Line, which is what I use every day.

In this context, and taking the structural problems of the north side Red Line into account, rehabbing the red line stations and making them accessible certainly qualifies as shovel ready, and a good use of funding to get people working.

All of the above is a separate issue from whether the work must be done today under the ADA. As you say, at a minimum, the ADA mandates that all "new" construction must be accessible. The rub, I think, is in the definition of "new". The work on the Brown line created no new stops but the platforms were made accessible. The Western stop modernization on the Blue Line added an elevator, as well. Is that "new" construction or rehabbing of a signicant scope? Was the accessibility work included because the ADA mandated it, or because it would be politically foolish to do such a large size of work without accessibility additions? I honestly don't know.

But any Red Line structural work would encompass accessibility under either scenario.

Cheers,
Eric

Maybe we could get the roofs back at the brand new Belmont and Fullerton stations as well as a bigger heating area too....

KevinB

[Maybe we could get the roofs back at the brand new Belmont and Fullerton stations as well as a bigger heating area too....]

Do we know that there aren't already bigger heating areas in the final plans for these stations? After all, work is still ongoing there. I seem to recall you bringing up the canopy issue with Ron; did you discuss the heaters as well?

Somebody should organize guerrilla roofing parties for Fullerton and Belmont. Haul some sheets of corrugated tin or fiberglass or whatever up there, and screw them on to the tops of the structures holding up the light fixtures, and Voila! Roof!

strannix:

Due to funding issues there are no plans for either extending the roofs to cover the entire platform or adding the same amount of heating area as in the station before.

Share and Enjoy!

KevinB

[Due to funding issues there are no plans for either extending the roofs to cover the entire platform or adding the same amount of heating area as in the station before.]

I'm sorry, but I can't help but feel that you dodged my question. How do you know this, specifically?

That was Ron's answer to Kevin when he asked as I remember.

KevinB

Eric,

I think most of the brown line stations were changed enough that they were considered new construction, so I think it was ADA mandated.

As for shovel-ready, I don't think there are any designs for adding elevators to any of those red line stations.

My take on shovel-ready means that they are past the study and design phase and ready to start doing physical work. My take on this is that the red line stations do not fit this criteria, whether they need to be retrofitted or not. So yes, while they might need work, it wouldn't be shovel-ready.

The ADA mandate applies to new construction as well as to extensive renovations (I don't personally know the exact definition of "extensive renovations") of public buildings and facilities that pre-date the ADA. The new Brown Line platforms, as complete replacements of the existing infrastructure, would've qualified as extensive renovations, and as such were required to include elevators and ramps and meet other accessibilty requirements.

Any such renovations that would happen to the red line's older stations would also require elevators, which might require widening the embankment and curving the tracks to make the platform wide enough for the elevator shaft (it would certainly require the complete rebuiding of the Sheridan station), which would mean a cost and timeframe similar to the brown line project, with all the service interruptions and three-tracking and eminent domain demolishings that came along with it. So that's probably why the CTA prefers to keep the improvements small for the time being - cheap new roofs and a coat of paint are comparatively easy. It's a shame, though, that all those stations have to remain inaccessible now and for the forseeable future.

Maybe we could install cranes outside all the stations to lift handicapped people over the tracks and onto the platform.

How about rocket packs??


KevinB

About the buses... Minnesota congressmen will help get that passed for the CTA... that's where two of New Flyer's factories are...

Ugh. New York's MTA is poised to receive as much as $4 billion from this stimulus package. Why? Because they have many shovel ready projects and they think big. Here is Chicago we think about a few flat screen TVs, in New York they're thinking about new subways in the middle of Manhattan.

Want some pipedream ideas?

Decades worth of city plans have called for a lakefront subway to run approx where the Metra Electric does. Cities don't need commuter rail, they need rapid transit. Rebuilding ME as a third rail rapid transit corridor might also give good reason to rebuild 63rd to Jackson Park.

Franklin St subway was planned for long ago too.

Skokie swift to Jefferson Park? The right-of-way exists for 4/5ths of the trip.

Our "boulevards" system might benefit from dedicated modern street car lanes (light rail).

Circle Line of course

And the Orange and Red line extensions.

Bottom line: In cities like New York or Washignton DC these ideas might be ambitious, but at least they are considered. As Daniel Burnham once said "Make no small plans"

Where are you getting the info about NYCT receiving all this stimulus money, Stephen?

More recent article in Crain's mentions MTA expecting $1.5B to $3B soon

http://www.crainsnewyork.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090121/FREE/901219985/1072

The 7 Line extension is already underway, the additional funding would allow MTA to complete the project as originally intended. I don't believe MTA has any other new "shovel ready" subway extensions/lines in waiting for these funds.

Bus fleet replacement is a no-brainer. Most major transit agencies have decrepit diesel guzzlers roaming the streets of the cities they serve in sizable numbers.


Stephen,

I hope you are being sarcastic with your suggestion of using these federal dollers to finish the Block 37 station. For Christ's sake, there isn't even a rail line to use it for. Jesus! Yes, it is worthwhile to find things that would put people to work immedietely in this economy. But the things being built need to serve a purpose. Were they to approve what you suggest then it has the potential to become as much of a laughingstock to the rest of the country as the bridge to nowhere in Alaska. Illinois already is a laughingstock to everyone else because many of you decided to elect Rod Blagojevich as governor. It would be a horrible idea to embarass ourselves even more.

KevinB wrote (and Strannix challenged): "(Ron said that) Due to funding issues there are no plans for either extending the roofs to cover the entire platform or adding the same amount of heating area as in the station before."

True, Ron did say that, KevinB. But you left out the other Ron said, which I told you in early October in response to a similar comment you made then:

http://www.ctatattler.com/2008/09/tactics-for-red.html#comment-133143069

If you don't want to click through: here's what I wrote then:

"KevinB, you were at the Coffee with Ron (yes, folks, I invited him), and you asked the question about why the canopies weren't longer.

And you got the answer from Ron: That they were in the original plans but they had to cut the budget and so they cut the canopies shorter.

And you also heard Huberman say there's $8 million in contingency funding and they hope to go back and lengthen those canopies.

I think it's fine to bitch about the short canopies, but not when you know the whole story."

"Mayor Richard Daley is considering CTA President Ron Huberman as a potential successor to Arne Duncan in running the city's public school system, sources told the Tribune on Friday."

-- http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-huberman-chicago-schools-24jan24,0,2306701.story

Wow. Our mayor sure isn't short on chutzpah.

I stand by what I said. It was exactly what Ron said. There are no plans to extend the platform at this point.

KevinB

Heron:

As Arte Johnson used to say "Verrry Eenteresting."

Lessee: Ron doesn't have transit experience, so he's sent in to fix the mess Frank left. According to those questioning the metrics, he may or may not have fixed some. However, he has apparently left two turkeys on his plate--the known one about Block 37, and the possible one I mentioned at the start of this thread. Then we have the link provided by Stephen that NYC expects to get 1500 hybrid buses from the stimulus bill, and the CTA has bus contracts (whether contingent or not) that it won't announce and for which no funding source is identified.

Now, there is speculation that Huberman will be taking over the schools, which I doubt that Arne Duncan has fixed, even though he was rewarded by getting the Secretary of Education job, apparently for being a basketball buddy in Hyde Park.

If government hasn't tipped into the irrational (and I know about Governor Queeg), it is sure close.

To shift gears, and throw out another possible "shovel ready" project: Wasn't the Washington and Wabash L station about ready to go and only needed funds? I remember that being mentioned when there was still a Marshall Field's.

@ MK

Have you heard of the Second Avenue subway? Its 100% shovel ready. The first parts of it were completed in the 70s and 2 years ago they resumed construction on Phase 1. It is an 8.5mile stretch of underground tracks on the East side. It is a HUGE project. Take a look at the wikipedia page for details.

About block 37. First, I think its a good idea to have an airport-to-airport link even though there is no express service. That doesnt mean you don't still have some trains going to Forest Park, you just create 2 routes. Second, I don't know if you've read, but Block 37 is going to be major center of commerce. It will be great if the CTA has a major transportation hub shuttling to people to and fro underneath it all. Third, if there is a circle line, it will be nice to have an alternative route for it (through the dearborn subway) in case something happens (accident,construction, et cetera) on the north stretch of it.

Add my name to the list of those who believe the north main line is in desperate need of work. Besides the obvious issues with the concrete retaining walls almost falling down in some spots, the Purple Line in Evanston is with the exception of three stations in terrible shape, and most of the North Side Red Line platforms are dangerously narrow, inaccessible to the disabled, and even after the latest repairs (which finally replaced the scrap wood used for covering stairways with real metal) still woefully out of date. Between Addison and Granville, the only one I see as even being reusable in the long run is Wilson, with its nice wide platform and large station house. Sheridan in particular is a major problem because the track really needs to be straightened there as well and you're looking at a lot of demolition and eminent domain, and bear in mind new Red Line stations really do need to be able to take 10 car trains in order to match all the Loop subway stops and South Side stations for future expansion.

Even some of the renovated stations on the Red line are of poor quality; Addison and Granville are getting very rusty (newer stations have used galvanized steel), and Granville has a dangerously narrow access along the platform edge.

Not only is this route the worst in Chicago, ir is probably the worst in all of American rail rapid transit. But the CTA seems to be sticking its head in the sand on this route -- releasing buildings around Bryn Mawr that could have been used for station enlargement, failing to prevent new development around Sheridan where the line needs a re-route, and more.

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