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Chicago Olympics bid book shines brighter light on once-sketchy transportation plans

In the official Chicago 2016 Olympics bid book released Friday, the city tries to put some meat on the bare-bones transportation plans submitted last year and judged third at that time behind Tokyo and Madrid.

Chicago Olympics logo Complaints at that time were distance from venues to rail stations and lack of detail on infrastructure spending. The bid book does shed some light, though it remains to be seen whether it's bright enough to light the Olympic flame here in 2016.

There certainly are no huge transit projects planned, such as monorails or construction of light rail to venues. But I'm not sure they are needed. Remember folks, the Olympics last for just 17 days. Add a week on either side for tourist spillover, and we're still talking about a month. If we win the games, businesses will have to tolerate more telecommuting and more vacations to keep regular commuters off the system. But I do think it's doable.

Here are some of the promises:

The CTA "aims to make all train stations accessible to people with disabilities by 2016." That's a lot of work and a lot money to spend in seven short years. Currently about 90 of 144 rail stations are accessible. Note the use of fudge verb "aims" -- it's not a firm promise.

Buses and shuttles -- referred to as the "Olympic transit overlay" -- will "bridge the gap between public-transport stations and competition and noncompetition venues." The book states most transit stations are less than 2 km away from competition venues, or 1.24 miles.

Infrastructure improvements. The bid book notes four CTA-specific improvements:

  • The Brown Line expansion project, set for completion this year, for $530 million.
  • Electrical, signals and communication improvements, completed by 2013 for $207 million.
  • Track and structure improvements, finished by 2013 for $719 million.
  • Bus and rail terminal facility improvements, cutting is a little close with a 2015 completion date, for $109 million.

Also promised is a big investment in new buses. "Over the next eight years, Chicago will spend $3.55 billion to modernize its existing fleet and rolling stock." And the Olympic Committees also "will have access to the Federal Borrowed Bus Program, which will be used to augment Chicago’s rolling stock during the Games."

Parking will not be provided at competitions venues, but use of park and ride lots will be encouraged.

What others are saying:

Comments

Typical Chicago-style planning. A complete under-estimation of the size of the crowds involved yields a plan that will likely be an embarrassment to to the city if carried through. Atlanta planned ahead for years and built up its infrastructure to handle the crowds. Here we get this lame plan to use buses to shuttle these crowds of people around. How is that going to work? We're talking about crowds like July 3 every day for two weeks and we know how well the system handles those crowds (it doesn't)! If they were serious about getting the games here, they needed to start planning and building road, highway, and rail expansions and extensions years ago. Not providing for parking at venues is just stupid, too. People will quickly waiting for packed shuttle buses and will want to drive to the venues after a day or so when this so-called "transportation plan" falls apart.

So, did anyone read the Jon Hilkevitch, Getting around column this morning?

Seems that we are looking at a new, new improved "Doomsday" scenario. Sounds like Ron left the agency just in time and left his successor with lots of headaches.

Now, mind you this is in the midst of those "much needed" cost of living increases for those highly paid execs so that they can "stay afloat" in these troubling times.

The statement that this disgusts me doesn't even do it justice.

Like I've said before, if I were king, the first "belt tightening" move that I'd make is take all employees making over $100K and find out exactly how "critical" they were to the "continuity of bus and train operations" after his "drunken sailor" hiring spree.

My "Great Karnak" psychic sense pulls up an envelope and when I open it up, the answer is "not many".

Ron, shame on you! I actually thought better of you. I can only imagine what the educational system will look like when you are done. That's what happens when you let those deeply buried optimistic tendencies out of the box...you are frequently disappointed as opposed to being a pessimist and pleasantly surprised when things do go right....

The Emperor and his errand boy both have no clothes now folks...

KevinB

Metra and Pace are facing the same deficits, KevinB. Why no mention of that? It's not just a CTA issue. Let's remember that it was Pace executives' salary increases that gave our disgraced former "governor" the opportunity to get on his soapbox about transit agency salaries.

Certainly there's fiscal shenanigans at CTA. This is Chicago, afterall, but I don't think it's fair to single out CTA when it's an RTA issue. It's a tad curious, however, that the CTA CFO tendered his resignation the day after RonH took the 22 down to Clark and Adams. CPS currently has the same CFO from the Duncan administration.

As the article pointed out, it's evidently a "surprise" to the current CTA admin and RTA has only been warning them for a while. Pace was also warned and they seemed to have gotten the message.

The RTA is only recently getting a handle on the full impact and can't start dictating salaries as I understand.....as it's also been explained, labor is a major part of the costs associated with the operating costs.

Here's a quote from the new guy:

"My first knowledge about these very serious projections that the RTA has given us occurred this week," CTA Acting President Dorval Carter Jr. said late Friday when asked to comment on an RTA memo dated Thursday. "It was surprising."

Here's the RTA take:

"We've given the service boards some sobering indications of the trends and asked them to seriously look at their budgets, gauge the impact and address it," Schlickman said.

"These are choices the individual operators need to make. Other businesses are all in the same boat," he said, adding that the RTA has been meeting with CTA, Metra and Pace officials about the problem since the first of the year.

"It's not like we haven't given them any direction," Schlickman said. "We will be very interested to see what the CTA says at its Wednesday board meeting."


Like, I said, you don't start handing out raises, COLA or otherwise to your execs in a funding desert at the same time you are laying off the rank and file. This is the same kind of behavior that you've seen from the Banks and other financial institutions who give pay raises to the execs while dumping on the customers and the people who deal with them on a daily basis and the same kind of behavior that has no business happening in these harsh economic times. Like I said, when I start seeing all those execs and others taking furlough days to cut down on expenses like their brethren at the City, county and state have done, then I'll have a little more sympathy (not much mind you, as they have made their own bed and now they have to lie in it.)

I stand by every word. Shame on you Ron Huberman!

KevinB

Oh, yeah, and about that Olympic bid. The improvements the bid touts about CTA hardly bring the system up to capacity for regular use by citizens. As ebob pointed out, the Olympics will be two weeks of July 3rd. I was astounded at the number of CTA personnel on duty on election night, including our very own former transit president roaming around the Jackson subway stations and looking vaguely Kreusi-esque in his eye-searing CTA jacket. I had a sneaking suspicion that it was just a dog and pony show to prove to the IOC that, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, CTA can handle large crowds on a regular basis. Some of it was planning and some of it was luck that nothing derailed/burned up/generally trapped people that night. If by some chance of extraordinarily bad judgment the IOC gives Chicago the Olympics I'm renting out my condo and leaving town.

Martha:

Same here. I don't want to be anywhere near the place if we get the Olympics. I'll rent out my condo and leave town as well. $1700 for a ticket to a venue...good lord.

It's going to be a horrendous mess.

KevinB

In terms of belt-tightening, I think the first thing the CTA (and Dorval Carter) should do is look at is not filling the vacancies created by the exits of some of Ron's highly paid team that have left/are leaving with him. It's not going to fill their budget shortfall, but it is a good start.

Savings:
Ron Huberman - $198,000 (gone)
Sara Kremsner - $149,000 (gone)- responsible for performance management
Adam Case - $120,000 (gone)
Barbra MacDonald - $163,000 (gone) created powerpoints for Ron
Adrienne Heigl - $120,000 (gone?)

Then the next step should be to reevaluate all the currently-filled newly-created positions and determine if they are really needed.

Start with these, but there are a lot more:
Chief Marketing Officer - $192,000 !!!!
Gen. Mgr., Alliance Management- $120,000
GM, Business Initiatives - $120,000
Deputy Chief Rail Maintenance - $130,000
GM, Risk management
GM, Performance management
Chief, Power and Way Maintenance - $149,000

This is just a start, but the list could go on. There are newly-created chief and GM positions all over the company. How many could be eliminated with no impact on service?

Meanwhile the operations field staff has been cut to the bone. There is one rail supervisor on at a time to cover two or three lines. That's a problem when your rail supervisor is handling an issue at 95th and then something happens at Morse (or Linden)

Be smart CTA. Get rid of the Huberman baggage and get the field employees back where they can help customers and maintain service.

Some random thoughts:

"Also promised is a big investment in new buses. "Over the next eight years, Chicago will spend $3.55 billion to modernize its existing fleet and rolling stock." "

"Rolling stock" indicates mostly L cars. There are the orders for 406 and options for another 300, with, at a cost of about $1.4 million each (probably with an inflation adjustment, even though theoretically we are in deflation) is a billion dollars there. Of course, that still leaves $2.55 billion, but even if they got the 958 notransparent hybrids, that would still also be another billion. As usual, the numbers don't add up. Don't expect a coherent capital plan from the CTA (or Pace, either).

As far as the Olympics, the only questions are whether the Committee assumes that Obama will be reelected and wants to curry favor with him by putting them 1/2 mile from his house. But rest assured, with all the double talk in Illinois politics, the taxpayers will be hit.

Also, the transportation plan will be the same as Obama's: Anyone who pays the freight can get a helicopter ride to 31st. Do you really think people will ride the Blue Line to the Green Line to 51st? Or use Midway Airport and the 55 bus?

With regard to the Hilkevitch article, we can take it as a given that tax receipts are down. However, we can also take it as a given that the RTA has not asserted the powers it has, and has done nothing to implement the Auditor General's recommendations. Since this is just piled onto the state's "other money woes," don't think that a 9 cent gas tax increase is the only thing on the table. However, since the RTA has proven totally incapable of oversight, and the CTA of doing much other than yelling Doomsday, I say that another tax increase for the RTA should not be considered until the whole political structure of the transit authorities is blown up and they start over. The tinkering done last year was meaningless, as predicted, and a failure, in retrospect.

I'm not sure we can really fault the CTA for not planning for the worst recession since the Great Depression -- every agency in every state is being squeezed by this, because states can't run budget deficits. Hopefully the stimulus will be able to plug some of the gaps, despite the efforts of our brilliant "centrists."

[Currently about 90 of 144 rail stations are accessible.]

Not to be overly pedantic, but there are only 143 stations now. With the Washington Red Line station being removed from all maps, I don't think we have any choice but to consider its status "permanently out of service," as opposed to merely "under construction."

[Like I've said before, if I were king, the first "belt tightening" move that I'd make is take all employees making over $100K and find out exactly how "critical" they were to the "continuity of bus and train operations" after his "drunken sailor" hiring spree.]

You can rant and rave all you want about $100k salaries, and you may or may not be right about the matter (unlike you, I won't pretend to know). But please, don't talk as if this is what is causing the budget shortfall.

You're talking about a maximum savings of what, $1 or $2 million? Almost certainly not even that. And we're talking about a budget shortfall of over $200 million according to the article.

That's a drop in the bucket. We're still facing all of the same problems even if all non-essential $100k earners get shitcanned. It's simply not a serious response to the current problems; it's like John McCain going after the Adler projector as a means to pull us out of the recession.

Keep in mind that in addition to the Olympics, the bid includes the Paralympics, an equally elaborate international competition for disabled athletes. So, the 17 days + 14 is repeated again a month later but with fewer fans and less media attention.

It's all about belt tightening. Lets factor in the pension, health and other benefits. I'm not saying that it will fix everything, but when is 1 or 2 mil anything to sneeze at. Then lets start talking about the raises, then lets start doing the same thing Daley has done for the parking meters...I know a nice building we could put up for sale..It's all about cutting expenses here and there.

If you really want to see some cost savings, then lets talk furlough days....

Besides you have to start somewhere.

I'm reminded of the movie "Dave" where the faux president wanted to save a project and he started adding up all the "waste" and finally got where he needed too.

I've got a budget too. I needed to cut down and that would be like saying I can't cut down on the goose liver cause it won't get me down to where I want to be. You have to start somewhere and if a few of those getting axed, you might see a definite increase in productivity from the rats that are left.

KevinB

I'm really happy that the Olympic bid was so amateurish and confident that the IOC will see it as such.

Did anyone else do a spit-take at this graphic in the bid book?

http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/photo/2009-02/45049112.jpg

Right: They'll need only a few hundred seats at Buckingham Fountain for a track event on Lake Shore Drive.

It's stupider than a Richie Rich comic book, but about as realistic about money.

The proposal for the lake front: Absolutely no Olympic activity! But plenty of chaise longues to relax in after a nice job with your honey! http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/photo/2009-02/45049074.jpg

(Actually, the only time of day those shadows could fall like that in the summer is about 5:30 A.M., so maybe Chicago residents would be allowed to use the lakeshore then. I doubt it, though.)

Makes me sick.


"I'm reminded of the movie "Dave" where the faux president wanted to save a project and he started adding up all the "waste" and finally got where he needed too."

Because if it worked for a fake president in a movie that was a complete work of fiction, it should work for the CTA, too. Right.

The CTA lays people off and cuts corners almost every time it asks for more operating funds, but a budget hole on the order of about 15% of all annual operations can't be filled just by laying off some administrators and trimming expenses. This is gonna involve service cuts or another fare hike or new taxes, or some combination of all three.

Adam: "I'm not sure we can really fault the CTA for not planning for the worst recession since the Great Depression -- every agency in every state is being squeezed by this, because states can't run budget deficits."

Some poster to a Tribune board included a link to this RTA release:
"December 18, 2008
....'We are certainly in a better place today than a year ago; our service boards aren’t facing doomsday as we did last year that threatened significant system-wide fare hikes, service cuts and layoffs. We’re better positioned to operate efficiently with the budget approval...'"

http://www.rtachicago.com/CMS400Min/uploadedFiles/board%20approves%20budget%20for%202009.pdf

Now, did things go off the cliff that much in the past two months? Or shouldn't have the RTA then known that a downturn was occurring?

In this case, I agree more with that the finger should be pointed at the RTA than the CTA, and reiterate that the political structure of the agencies needs to be blown up. The legislature threw out everyone in 1983; it should abolish all 4 agencies now, and appoint one board, representative of the whole 6 county region.

There isn't going to be a 2016 Olympics. There may not be a 2012 Olympics. The UK is bankrupt and costs overruns are massive.

good lord kiel, ....again, are you so jaded that jobs that shouldn't even be there in the first place are something can't be cut?

The people the CTA lays off are not the ones making the cash, they are the low to mid level admin jobs that don't really add up to alot.

I used "Dave" as an example that until we make a decision to start looking for things like this to cut out that really when you get down to it, aren't even necessary. If nothing else they show you are really serious and not just yanking the chain. My agency saved 16+ mil when they did 4 furlough days.

How many mil do you have to save before it's worth it?

I really don't care if it's 100 dollars or 100 million, it all adds up.

These days the CTA, RTA, PACE, Metra, etc should be as frugal with their money as we should be with our own.

KevinB

strannix: "Not to be overly pedantic, but there are only 143 stations now. With the Washington Red Line station being removed from all maps, I don't think we have any choice but to consider its status "permanently out of service," as opposed to merely "under construction.""

Are you including the Wellington Station?

Also, does the brown line work really help the olympic planning? Only thing I can think of is that the better signaling at lake/wells helps that bottleneck for the whole system

It never ceases to amaze me how many people seem to think that when something unusual is planned that the effects of this are simply added on to the normal course of behavior that people engage it. It doesn't occur to people that many individuals will change their behavior because of the planned event. We saw this before three-tracking when quite a few people assumed the system would be overwhelmed and hell will break loose. And we are seeing it with this. The CTA has plenty of capacity during non rush-hour times. If people are worried about crowds they will simply avoid travelling at a time when they are going to be at its worst. The system will easilly be able to handle the olympics.

And contrary to what Jon Hilkevitch said, by the way, the system is not at capacity during rush hour. Only one line, the brown line, is close to it. The red and blue lines are crowded but not anywhere near capacity. And the trains on the other lines are barely even half full. So there actually is a good deal of room even at rush hour. And with the additional avalable capacity caused by regular riders who avoid using it at that time there will not be any major problems for riders choosing to use the system at that time. It will be just like travelling northbound on the red line at rush hour just before a cubs night game. It will be a challange finding a place to stand but you will almost certainly be able to do it. Only in some rare instances will the train be so crowded that you will have to wait for the next one.

Simply put, the CTA is ill-equipped to handle the influx of people for the Olympics, a large majority of whom will be unfamiliar with how our transit system operates. Couple that with a patchwork of already congested and deteriorating roads, and the proposals to dedicated use arterials and LSD for Olympic related events, and it's gonna be a huge mess. Track improvements, signal upgrades, and station rehabs won't be sufficient. A significant expansion of rail coverage should be the lasting legacy for Chicago, and that the 2016 wonks have failed to address this serious flaw will hopefully doom our bid.

As for the CTA's financial situation, it's going to take some serious acts of political courage to avoid service cuts and another fare increase, neither of which are viable options. Eliminating Blago's seniors ride free provision would be a good start. A temporary gas tax would be another. Extending the sales tax to include services, while simultaneously lowering the sales tax rate (especially in Cook County) would be yet another.

"good lord kiel, ....again, are you so jaded that jobs that shouldn't even be there in the first place are something can't be cut?"

No, I'm not that jaded, which is why I didn't say anything like that.

You like to pick on the CTA admin who make more than $100k like getting rid of all of them would fix everything. I disagree. Most companies with billion-dollar budgets have a handful of executives that make that much money, that's pretty standard regardless of whether or not you think they're doing a bad job and should be fired, replaced, or have their position eliminated completely.

And "Dave" is a terrible example. In the real world, people don't magically agree as to what constitues 'waste' and then slash budgets in a spirit of bi-partisan frugality and civic duty just in time for the story's carfully edited emotional climax.

"I really don't care if it's 100 dollars or 100 million, it all adds up."

Well, I don't think anyone's trying to make you care, but the fact remains that you can't nickel and dime your way out of a $200 million hole. I don't think that even the CTA has enough fat that it could all be trimmed without affecting the level of service it currently offers.

[Are you including the Wellington Station?]

Yes.

[The system will easilly be able to handle the olympics.]

Maybe it will be like a Cubs night game, but with events going on all the time, all over the city, plus an influx of tourists from all over the world who just want to hang around, plus the athletes themselves, plus any number of foreign dignitaries with the resulting security that comes with it, plus a tremendous upgrade in security overall that will decrease efficiency. I don't think there's any question that the system will be severely tested ... as it is for brief periods during Cubs night games.

That said, from the way it sounds, I do think the plan thus far should ease Rusty's concerns about a bunch of infrastructure being built that would serve no purpose after the Games were over.

[again, are you so jaded that jobs that shouldn't even be there in the first place are something can't be cut?]

But why on earth do you assume that those jobs shouldn't be there? You *might* be right, but I really doubt you know this for sure. More likely, you're just seeing a few salaries that you arbitrarily decide are too high and decide that the people working those jobs are probably useless.

At best, this is demagoguery, and at worst you're smearing people who do a good job but make too much money for your arbitrary tastes.

I think that the Olympic public transportation debate gets blown way out of proportion. The CTA is light years beyond the public transportation that Atlanta had in the late 1980's when it won the right to host the 1996 games, and it was competing against a couple cities that had pretty decent mass transit like Manchester, UK and Toronto. If Chicago gets the games, the organizers are going to rent a fleet of buses for two weeks to circulate between venues and hotels, and that'll handle most Olympic traffic, just as Atlanta did and just as most host cities have done recently. Yeah, the El would get busy for a couple weeks, but I don't think it's safe to assume that the system's capacity would be inadequate more than 7 years from now. IF Chicago gets the games and the economy turns around (which is likely given a 7-year time frame) and money starts to pour in, who knows what kinds of infrastructure and service improvements would suddenly become possible?

Well, as trouble pointed out above, there are a whole slew of newly created "GM" and "chief" positions that recently created that evidently haven't done alot to make our ride all those things it was supposed to be...really, can they be considered directly supporting "rail and bus operations". Crains pointed out that Ron was spending money and creating positions like "a drunken sailor".

It's also not just the salaries, it's the benefits, the pension, etc, etc which are another 25 to 40% on top of the salary.

As far as most are concerned, do we really need a 192K "property management" officer? Or a 5 million dollar contract to "market" the crappy CTA properties?

I'd rather see them empty and pay nothing than pay 5 mil in the hopes that it might be rented or pay a commission on anything they could actually rent given the condition of some of the properties.

5 mil here, 10 mil there, 2 mil there, all and all they start to add up. I bet you could probably pay for the senior free rides by doing some "cost cutting". I'd be more than happy to donate a little of my time to help them "evaluate" who's actually needed...and now that alot of them are gone/leaving, how much can be saved by just not filling the positions?

KevinB

"it's going to take some serious acts of political courage to avoid service cuts and another fare increase, neither of which are viable options."

If you add the word "major" before the words "service cuts" I agree with you 100%. And I think your suggestion of a tax on services while decreasing the enormously high tax on goods might have some merit (and needless to say, elimanating the senior free rides is a must). But the reality is that sacrifices are going to have to be made. This economy is causing nearly every government entity, business, and household to make sacrifices. The CTA and its riders should be no different. The CTA cannot blame the deficit on the state (and certainly not the RTA, as it seems to be attempting to do in the Tribune article). It isn't going to work to attempt to come up with a villian and drive the riders anger toward that. The problems are the result of the economy and, among other things, the decades of failure by the CTA to implement a rainy day fund so that it is not dependent on the economy always being wonderful. It is pretty much exactly the same situation that occured at places such as Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Washington Mutual and every institution that callapsed in the financial crises. They planned only for good times and not for bad.

It is going to be neccessary for the CTA to at least make some cuts in service that have little effect on customer convenience. They should not even think about pursuing other areas of funding before they implement that. Those of us who live in Chicago are lucky to have a transit system that basically provides convenient service to anywhere in the city to anyone who wishes to walk five minutes or less to a bus or rail line. The absolute obvious first thing to do is to, whenever possible, restructure service that provides fewer runs while also not taking away people's ability to get around the city with a five minute walk or less (while also, of course, taking into account capacity issues). The example that occurs to me is to combine the #36 and the #151 route, as I suggested here: http://www.ctatattler.com/2009/01/top-tattler-tales-of-2008-november-bus-tracker-complaints-threetrack-progress-and-barack-elected.html Perhaps an argument could be made that this shouldn't be done during rush hour. But at least this change should be implemented during off-peak times (and I suspect if it is, many people will then get annoyed that the new routing doesn't also occur during rush hour). Times are tough. Very few people live in a city where they can get around as easilly via transit as Chicago. I think it is wrong to have a firm stance that no service cuts should occur whatsoever. For the past two years, many people dealt with the fact that certain brown line stations were closed. They also dealt with the fact that on around three dozen weekends (and many overnights), it was a little more inconvenient to get to the areas near the four northernmost stations in the red line subway, while work was being done. So, contrary to what some people hace claimed, people will easilly be able to deal with the change I suggested. And there probably are other similar changes that can be made throughout the city that will save money while only slightly inconveinancing some passengers (and, in many cases, actually improving service).

"Crains pointed out that Ron was spending money and creating positions like "a drunken sailor"

Actually, that's not true, and that statement's untruth has been pointed out here before.

The phrase "drunken sailor" was used by RonH himself in a joke that he was making at his own expense. He was repeating an inside joke between himself and the CTA's budget director at the time. He was never accused by any public official or any publication of spending money "like a drunken sailor," certainly not by Crain's editorial staff.

You're right about that comparison to Atlanta, but Atlanta's not exactly the "world class city" that Chicago is trying to represent itself as. Remember, we're following Beijing and London on this. Beijing built something like 5 subway lines just in time for the olympics and London is already as world-class as it gets (even if they are cash strapped at the moment).

Bottom line is, its pretty absurd that there is no mass rail transit that connects any of our major rail hubs to our airports, our hotel districts, millenium park, McCormick Place, and the proposed Olympic site. And even though Chicago is certainly more qualified than Atlanta in every way, this isn't 1996, this is 2016 and the landscape is very different.

Madrid and Tokyo both have transportation systems that make ours look third world. If you have never been to either city to ride those systems its worth taking a look. The only way Chicago's mass transit ever looks decent is if you resort to comparing it to smaller underdeveloped North American cities (tis true; ok LA sucks too, but thats it).

[It is pretty much exactly the same situation that occured at places such as Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Washington Mutual and every institution that callapsed in the financial crises. They planned only for good times and not for bad.]

I really don't think that's an apt comparison. The CTA relies on public funding, and that funding has been deficient for decades. Even when times were good, they weren't all that good for the CTA.
Where was this "rainy day fund" supposed to come from?

A good tip, which does not only apply to MK: if you're about to compare the CTA to a private company, you may want to rethink what you are about to say. More often than not, your analogy is only going to work on the most superficial levels, if it works at all.

[As far as most are concerned, do we really need a 192K "property management" officer?]

I don't know. Do we? Putting the job title in scare quotes is hardly an argument against it.

I nominate Kevin Kline, as Dave, to be the new CTA president, but only if Frank Langella reprises his role as the spooky chief of staff.

Thanks for pointing the drunken sailor thing out to KevinB, kiel. I made that point many moons ago but apparently a refresher is in order.

If anyone is really hankering for some potshots being taken at RonH, I suggest you Google CPS +blogs and enjoy. And he thought CTA riders were an angry, demanding bunch. HA!

Stephen, what are you talking about when you say this: "Bottom line is, its pretty absurd that there is no mass rail transit that connects any of our major rail hubs to our airports, our hotel districts, millenium park, McCormick Place, and the proposed Olympic site."

We have transit at both airports. I don't know what a 'hotel district' is, but the trains run around and under the Loop, which has a lot of hotels. It's very easy to get to Millenium Park from those same trains. I will give you McCormick Place and the proposed Olympic Village site.

Stephen,

European cities are going to have a better mass transit system than us. That's just a fact. The population patterns in their cities and their infrastructure were set up thousands of years ago, long before there were cars. The U.S. has only existed for a little over 200 years and the midwest even less. So we are going to be more auto dependant. I really don't understand the point of your post. You are not discussing the ability of the system to handle the spectaters because you admit Atlanta was able to do that. Are you suggesting that the major qualification for a city hosting the olympics be its mass transit system? You seem to think that is what people look at when they come here. It seems to me that people are more likely to care about such things as our parks, our lakefront, restuarants, musuems, and things like that. We have one of the top three or four transit systems in the country. As I stated earlier, nearly everyone has access to conveinent rail or bus service with a walk of around five minutes or less. And in almost all cases the service doesn't run at any less than a ten minute frequency. More than 95% of the people who live in the country cannot say they live in a place like that. I find it silly that people actually act as if our transit system is inferior.

"Bottom line is, its pretty absurd that there is no mass rail transit that connects any of our major rail hubs to our airports, our hotel districts, millenium park, McCormick Place, and the proposed Olympic site."

I'm a bit confused. There is a mass transit line around two blocks from Union Station that connects to O'Hare. And there is a transit line that connects to Midway around three blocks from both Union Station and Ogilvie. And there are plenty of ways people can get from both of these stations to various hotels via rail lines. Not to mention is is very easy to walk between these places, in many instances. And certainly most people don't mind walking from the rail hubs to Millenium Park. I don't understand what you are trying to say.

Some of those things are connected but that they aren't all connected kind of defeats the point. Making sure that hotels are connected to convention centers and airports is big. And the red line connects the hotels north of the river to Millenium Park?? Thats like a 15 minute walk to get to Columbus from State St, especially with a heavy backpack. We might accept that here, but can you imagine having to walk 10-15 minutes in New York to get to central park off the subway? How about walking 10minutes off the DC metro to the national mall? These are locations that must be integrated into a well-conceived transit system and its a deficiency that the Chicago press seems happy to gloss over. What we have isn't really well integrated. The United Center is another venue that could more easily be used if there was better mass connecting it to downtown nearby (tourists wont take the #20). If you want to connect the Hotels north of the river to Washington Park you could reroute the red line trains onto the green line for 2 weeks, but that still begs the question, how do you get to McCormick place? I know Chicago isn't going to improve mass transit that much and we'll just ending leasing buses. But if thats the plan, maybe the IOC will just pick Madrid (which I think has a much better bid).

Kinda sucks, cause we'll end up spending a lot of money with pretty much NO infrastructure improvements except private development on the hospital site. The buses will be gone, no new rail, no new mass trans, and the stadium will have to be torn down. Huge waste.

"I really don't think that's an apt comparison. The CTA relies on public funding, and that funding has been deficient for decades. Even when times were good, they weren't all that good for the CTA. Where was this "rainy day fund" supposed to come from?"

Well, for starters the CTA could have funded it with money that it instead used to provide the transit workers with some of the highest wages and benefits when compared with similar systems. I believe that bus drivers, for example, get paid in the high $20's or low to mid $30's per hour. And all CTA employees have had enormous pension and health care benefits that would be truly unbelievable to most people in the private sector. At the point the last doomsday scerio was being proposed, you may recall that the fact that employees and retirees DIDN'T EVEN PAY A CENT of co-payments was discussed. It really is a myth that the funding problems for the CTA were mostly not of its own doing. This is discussed here: http://www.chitowndailynews.org/Chicago_news/Exclusive_CTA_plagued_by_selfinflicted_fiscal_problems,10358 Money for a rainy day fund also could have come from the CTA having slightly less service or slightly higher fares. I would guess that simply having the fare at $1.80 for all the years it was at $1.75 might have yielded a not insignificant amount of revenue.


It's my opinion that there will be only a small impact directly on the current CTA system. The majority of the transporation impact of the Olympics will be on the "Olympic transit overlay", specifically a combination of chartered buses, and special routes set-up primarily to transport Olympic fans.

The taxicab and limo companies will also benefit tremendously, and a whole new class of jitnies could emerge.

The impact on CTA will be barely more than what you'd see if the Cubs and Sox played on the same day.

The Olympics will have zero direct effect on most of the system. The 96 Lunt bus, for example, like most routes, might not even see a single extra rider. Some may see fewer riders as the natives bunker-down.

It's great that the Olympics might be used as an excuse to get money to make more stations handicapped accessable. But let's be honest: The chance of some obscure suburban Metra station being the origin of a wheelchair ride to an Olympic event is a long-shot.

But I'd rather see some obscure suburban Metra station upgraded than have money spent on a permanent infrastructure that becomes obsolete after the closing cerimonies.

What might be the most expensive, and most permanent transportation infrastructure could very well be the construction of secure back ways to the venues -- unless they want to have buses full of athletes stuck in traffic with spectators and other riff-raff.

But at any rate, the action is going to be in the "Olympic transit overlay", not on CTA. If CTA can get some extra capital funds out of the deal, fine. But I would hate to see it at the expense of improvements that the natives need in favor of some improvements that some tourists will need for a two week period.

The real economic benefit of the Olympics comes in the form of construction jobs before the games. But we need a good exit strategy for when the games are over, too.

"Opportunities for more transportation improvements exist, but officials were not permitted to include them in the Chicago 2016 proposal to the International Olympic Committee released Friday because the projects currently are not funded."

hmmm it seem like a lot of people skipped over this little exerpt in the trib article. I wonder what "opportunities" they have in mind if this truly is the case.

"Also, does the brown line work really help the olympic planning?"

Well, if delusion becomes an Olympic sport, the brown line could take crowds to Blago's house, which would presumably be the sport's hall of fame.

[I believe that bus drivers, for example, get paid in the high $20's or low to mid $30's per hour.]

Try $21.44 an hour. It's in the article you linked to, but hey, what's an extra 50%, right?

Of course, that was a year and a half ago, but I doubt it's gone from the low 20's to the mid 30's in the interim.

At any rate, I guess they could have paid workers less, but of course those things are bargained with the unions. It's not like they decided to pay workers as much as they did out of the goodness of their hearts. And, naturally, I'm not one that's inclined to think that paying workers generously is a bad thing.

And I guess they theoretically could have provided less service and/or higher fares, but ... it's funny, somehow I don't think that it's accurate to say that the CTA's problem is that it's been offering too much service at too reasonable a cost over the years.

During the past several years,I have come up with numerous ways to address Olympic traffic problems ,how to make el stations handicapped accessible immediately and how to pay for them.
But nobody wants to talk about these things

The rainy day fund seems like a good idea, but how will the money be invested? What if they had invested it into a managed market fund? The rainy day fund might be down 41% year-over-year and people would be rattling about why that money wasn't put to work on improvement projects instead.

"And in almost all cases the service doesn't run at any less than a ten minute frequency."

Ha ha, make sure you qualify that.

"But I'd rather see some obscure suburban Metra station upgraded than have money spent on a permanent infrastructure that becomes obsolete after the closing cerimonies."

Are any Metra stations wheelchair accessible? How does one get on the train with a wheelchair? I've honestly never seen a handicapped person ride the Metra in the years I rode the train.

"Try $21.44 an hour. It's in the article you linked to, but hey, what's an extra 50%, right?"

But, some probably do get paid that much. Maybe not on average, but someone has to make that much to make it an average.

"During the past several years,I have come up with numerous ways to address Olympic traffic problems ,how to make el stations handicapped accessible immediately and how to pay for them. But nobody wants to talk about these things"

And where are we supposed to be reading about these solutions...?

"Are any Metra stations wheelchair accessible? How does one get on the train with a wheelchair? I've honestly never seen a handicapped person ride the Metra in the years I rode the train."

Not all metra train cars are accessible but many are. If a person on a wheelchair needs to get on the train, the conductor activates the mechanism that turns the stairs into a ramp/elevator. Not sure if ALL metra stations are accessible but many are. The handicapped seating area doubles as the bicycle area on non-peak area.

non peak HOURS

I posted most of my ideas on this very blog.Some were also featured in newspaper letters columns.The handicapped accessible idea was mentioned at a C.t.A. board meeting.
On the off chance somebody is actually interested,I'll post a thumbnail sketch version.
1.Portable el system-think scaffolding on steroids.Could also be used during rennovation projects,used for highway projects or natural disasters and terrorist attacks----greatly increasing the number of agencies that could help fund this.And being portable, it could be used anywhere in the world,not just Chicago.
2.Expanded Pedway- moving sidewalks could be featured in an expansion of the downtown pedway system.Winter or rush hour travel would be easier.
3.Ferry boats-if these were no longer needed after the Olympics,they could go elsewhere.
4.Construction equipment as temporary elevators-window washing scaffolding,scissor lifts,and construction elevators could be modified to provide immediate access to el stations.

Are you an engineer, or are these this things you've imagined are possible.

Frankly, your idea of using construction equipment as elevators scares the hell out of me. And the idea of a portable El structure sounds like someone who doesn't understand just what's involved.

We're not building a Hollywood set here. We're talking about needing something that's going to both work, and not kill people in the process.

I like this idea of temporary L structures. I think there was a Simpsons episode along these lines once. I had to turn it off before the end, but I assume everything turned out well.

It's hard to take anyone seriously who apparently doesn't understand that you are supposed to use the space bar after a comma.

[It's hard to take anyone seriously who apparently doesn't understand that you are supposed to use the space bar after a comma.]

You're one to talk? Your spelling is worse than perhaps anyone commenting on this blog. Why do you expect to be taken seriously?

What is the Federal Borrowed Bus Program?

A web search for that phrase yields one search result: THIS BLOG ENTRY.

I would love for anyone, but especially the bid book authors, to explain this mysterious program.

Before reading the plan, I knew that the Chicago Olympic committee planned to use shuttle buses, but I was concerned about where these buses would come from, and where they would go after this.

Well, this Federal Borrowed Bus Program, by its name only, makes it seem like Chicago/CTA will borrow some buses (from where?) and give them back. Who else in this country has buses to lend?

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