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News roundup: Stimulus bill, pickpocket ring, big Bus Tracker expansion

Friday roundup of transit news:

Stimulus bill:
Until both houses of Congress approve the stimulus bill, it's hard to say definitively what the final provisions are for mass transit -- or anything else, for that matter. But Talking Points Memo reports that "Mass Transit Gets More Transit Love."

But as far as I can tell from the "confidential" memo that TPM got hold of, "Supplemental Grants for Public Transit Investment" remained at the $8.4 billion level of the Senate version. And "Grants to states for investments in high speed and intercity passenger rail" were removed from the conference version -- though the previous total was "just" $250 million. Stay tuned next week for final totals. (Hat tip to Cheryl.)

Pickpockets ring: In comments yesterday, Paul gave us a detailed account of his eyewitness view of a pickpocket ring at work on the Red Line. Read it, and be careful out there. Also, be sure to call the cops with detailed descriptions if you see any crimes on the CTA.

Big Bus Tracker expansion. The CTA will add 24 routes to Bus Tracker on March 2 -- the most routes added at one time. Check details here. Many South Side routes are included. Almost 75% of CTA bus routes will be on Bus Tracker in March. Nice going.

Polk Station entrance open: I originally reported exclusively that the CTA was rehabbing the south Polk Street entrance of the Harrison Red Line stop to serve the population growth in the South Loop. Well, after about a month delay, the Polk entrance is open. As KevinB would say, enjoy and share.

Weekend service changes. Check here for weekend changes at Sedgwick, Sheridan, Howard, the Red Line subway tunnel, and some bus changes. 

Have a good weekend. Maybe some of you get Monday off. More power to you. And fewer CTA crowds for those of us who have to work. And Happy Valentine's Day to all!

Comments

I love the new Polk street entrance. They should use their turn-styles everywhere.

Hey, Kevin -
Mike Doyle "reports" that you're irritated that the CTA hasn't bothered to respond to your requests for a week now. What's up? Did Ron take all the communicators/media people with him? Did you lose the inside source that tells you, and therefore us, what's going on? Are we screwed?

All the Chicago Garage routes prone to herding will be on Bus Tracker! As Vince the cheesy casino shill says in those insipid ads, "This is about to get interesting."

And since the CTA rehired the fool who misspelled Belmont on those maps, he's apparently been reassigned to the website.
Pullman was misspelled.
My guess is that this will be fixed later today, at least it doesn't cost anything to fix!

Hey Marty: I'm not at all irritated with the CTA. They've been answering my queries all along, and still are. As far as I know, Ron didn't take any of the PR staff with him. No worries: CTA Tattler will still be letting you all know what's going on with the help of CTA staff -- and tips from you readers too!

Where are all the comments from people complaining/bashing the 22/36? Has the bus tracker silenced the vocal minority?

1. Pullman is now spelled correctly.
2. Bustracker is not working accurately all the time for the 22.
Sometimes I watch online at home & it shows the bus arriving at my stop in 5 minutes & I walk to the corner & the bus is already there. It only takes me 2 minutes to get to the corner.
3. The 36 has been the opposite for me. It seems to be later than Bustracker shows, even when boarding at the Clark/Arthur terminal.

I love the Polk Street entrance design. I wish they could make them all look so nice! Did they design it new or make it look like an older, original design?

Alas, still no #136 on Bus Tracker!!! I was hoping now that this route seems to be mostly new hybrid buses that we'd get it this time around.

Any word from the complainers about the #22 and #36 since the Bus Tracker arrived?

As for reporting thefts, etc, on the CTA. Call me jaded, but the police don't give a crap. I don't have a beef with police or anything, they just have their priorities, and this isn't one of them. I reported 2 crimes and they simply just write it down and add a 1 to some tally. They do nothing and it's a waste of your time in my opinion. My friend got punched in the back of the head by a bum on a red line subway platform and they told him they wouldn't look at the tapes since it wasn't a major crime, like a rape, killing, etc.

There's also a new slowzone map for people who were worried that was a thing of the past. Looks like there's a slight net increase.

I had the same experience when I called 911 regarding a group of kids smoking dope on the Red Line around midnight one Saturday night not too long ago. I know CPD's resources are stretched and it might not be a priority, but being subject to criminal behavior erodes people's confidence in public transportation as a viable alternative to driving or taking cabs.

Martha,

They probably didn't care as much in your case due to it being a misdemeanor. I personally wouldn't have a problem with some people smoking weed on the train, but that's just me. If it was good weed, they wouldn't want to cause any mischief... :) But, I see your point and it is indicative of their attitude to these types of crimes. If you reported someone selling, it might have been different.

"Bustracker is not working accurately all the time for the 22."

Well, the tracker has never worked accurately all the time for any route, as you'd know if you'd been paying attention to any other routes. :\

I'm glad Hilkevitch's article that's the lead headline on the Trib's site right now points out how thoroughly both city residents and visitors would be screwed trying to get around before and during the Olympics. Hopefully this is the last coffin nail in this incredibly stupid idea.

Not expanding/improving transit (which I believe was our biggest weak point) might lose us the Olympics bid.

At least this seems to put a fork into all of those who said there would be transit improvements and infinite transit money if Chicago got the Olympics. Apparently the Daley Administration isn't counting on it. So, pray for the stimulus package, and apparently the state planning funds that the Trib said would be needed to start the projects in time.

"Bustracker is not working accurately all the time for the 22."

I find if I use the map to track the bus I am better at predicting than the tracker's prediction. For example, I live a stop after the western brown line, so I know that every bus is going to stop at that busy location. Even if the bus says it is due in 4 minutes, I know to add an additional 1-2 minutes for people to load & unload at that stop. I find it easier to just look on the map and see when the bus is at Lawrence (for a southbound bus), then leave to catch the bus at that time. I realize that's not entirely possible for mobile devices, though.

Chris, using illegal drugs is illegal regardless of the classification of the offense. We could get into a huge discussion about whether or not marijuana should be illegal, but the fact is that right now in this municipality it is. Given that fact, using illegal drugs in a crowded, enclosed public space seems especially egregious. Kids being kids, they weren't just smoking pot; they were harrassing the other passengers as well. I deal with CPD on a regular basis at work and gave a very detailed description of the perpetrators and their activites to the 911 operator.

Well, the people claiming the Olympics would spur transit improvements were pulling that out of a very personal area. There was no reason at all to think Daley and his cronies were interested in that.

And yes, I have noticed that the two people who claimed the appearance of the 22 Clark on the Tracker would "blow this city wide open" have been strangely silent about it since that happened last month, aside from trivial anecdotal quibbles like today's (a far hike from "blowing this city wide open."

Thursday morning, there was a huge gap on the northbound 22.
There weren't any buses from about Addison north to Howard at that time.
That's when I was watching & the bus showed up early.
I watched until it showed 5 minutes to my stop & I had to run for it in just 2 minutes.
As for other routes, I have no personal experience with them on Bustracker. I can only do it from a computer, not a cellphone, so only the 22 & 36 are available to me.

As no one seems to have the info, I'm pretty sure that the number of buses has been increased on the 22, but the 36 is still a crapshoot, especially if you're going NB north of Foster.
I've waited a loooong time for those on several occasions in the last two weeks.

I rode to work on a ghost bus this morning. I'm not sure I'm really here. Pesky algorithms.

"There was no reason at all to think Daley and his cronies were interested in that."

I think there was reason to believe, especially after Daley rode the Beijing trains and was impressed. In addition, the IOC said that was one of our weak points, so it would be logical to think they would try to address one of their weak points in their presentation. I think it's a bit of an exaggeration to say "there was NO reason"...

Marty,

What are you doing reading Mike Doyle in the first place? The guy is a complete idiot. Only a doofus would spend several paragraphs complaining that the CTA didn't issue a press release about the reopening of an entrance to a station. It doesn't affect anyone other than the people who would use it. And they will obviously notice the entrance when they are walking by (not to mention that Doyle admits there are signs about it at the station). Jesus! The guy needs to get a life. Everything I've read from him has also had factual errors and other bizarre statements. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that the PR staff hasn't left with Huberman. These people are quoted in every major news report about the CTA. Everybody who pays attention knows who they are. And they have continued to be quoted after Huberman left.

I don't always agree with what MK posts, but here I find myself nodding big time.

I enjoy reading Chicago Carless just to see how many times time he ends up linking to his previous posts. Or mentioning ADD. Current record for each is 2,392,103 times in one post.

This may be a dumb ?- Does anyone know why they closed the escalators at the Monroe redline stop? It seems that they are NEVER working on them and it really limits the ability of passengers to enter and exit the platform. I just find it odd to close a large portion of the stairs and then not work on it.

That being said it looks like they are at least making progress on the Grand station and seem to be there everyday.

I've read that both SLC and Atlanta received significant federal funding for transit improvements AFTER they won the right to host the games. Perhaps transit improvements weren't mentioned in the bid because until funding is approved, they can't predict what they'll be able to build? Just a theory.

Not a bad theory, but you have to ask where these transit improvements would happen. They'd probably only be built to provide better access to the olymipic village itself and washington park. That's about it.

Kevin: If the CTA answers all your questions, can you please ask them about the status of some of the new routes that were proposed and approved by the RTA?; like the new routes for the Clybourn, 31st Street, and East 83rd Street corriders.

Monique Bond from the Police Dep't seems to have joined Huberman, rather than the CTA flacks.

And I've used the 22 on tracker successfully several times.

Which doesn't negate UIC-C's experience. It merely proves that CTA knows who its worst critics are and calls the drivers to tell them to speed up so they'll have to scramble. That's actually a sign of their new-found efficiency.

Odd...just yesterday i caught someone trying to pick my pocket....i was getting off the #78 at Pulaski and i felt something odd in my back pocket....and it was a woman...I caught her red handed and i took my wallet right from her greedy little hands....

If i wasnt in such a rush....i would of called the cops...

John Hilkevitch got used by the Olympics people, because he's not smart enough to see through the bluster:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-olympics-transportation-15feb15,0,5090334.story

He says the games will give long-term transportation benefits, and ends on the Games promoters' upbeat note. He never points out that there is no synergy at all, and the projects mentioned all either benefit the city and not the Games (so they won't be funded because of the games) or the Games and not the city (so they either won't stick around or won't be useful).

He mentions the Red Line extension to 130th. But there is interurban transportation hub at 130th, no chance of hotel complexes being built there. I'm fine with that being built, but the only people it will help get to events are the ones who live there. That's fine, but the Olympics people aren't going to lobby for a billion-dollar project just so one relatively small, poor neighborhood has better access.

Hilkevitch mentions "supplemental buses" - meaning extra buses brought in temporarily. He mentions bus-only lanes on the shoulders of expressways (that might "remain long after the Olympics") - but if this was considered feasible as a lasting transit upgrade, it could be done today without the Olympics. It isn't done -- because the highway planners argue they need shoulders for stalled cars, police pull-overs, etc. (we could argue whether this is true, but a two-week Olympic service isn't going to change the argument.)

If anything, the Olympics people should have been pushing for stimulus funding of the CREATE plan, which would smooth Amtrak operations into the city. Funding signal priority for buses would make the bus system much more efficient. And there are ways to speed up Loop operations, which would get people from downtown hotels to venues more efficiently. Those are things that would work for the city and for the Olympics.

Everything Hilkevitch mentions either works for the games and not for Chicago (dedicated bus lanes on highways) or for the city and not for the games (Red Line to 130th.)

The core problem of the Games is the emphasis on city's rather than countries or regions. Thus, you inevitably need far more basic infrastructure and tourism infrastructure (hotels & restaurants) for two weeks than any city can possibly use after the event.

The biggest sporting event in the World, soccer's World Cup, figured this out, and either uses a nation-based model, where the country is big, or a multi-nation model, as in the Japan/S. Korea games. Either way, it's a 6-12 city event, and much of the investment isn't wasted on extra capacity in a single city that becomes pointless a month later.

If we'd relied on Indianapolis and Milwaukee for some of this, each city could have gotten useful development, and little of it would be wasted capacity. But then, who would've controlled all those lucrative construction contracts?

@ryan

the IOC explicitly prohibits an olympics being hosted by more than one city.

I don't know what the exact language you are reffering to is, Stephen. But if Milwaukee and Indianapolis provided venues for around 5 to 10% of the games each that would not strike me as "hosting" part of the event. It would make them something more like satellite locations. But perhaps the prohibition is more specific than you indicate.

I think that despite the caveat that MK points out, there has to be truth in what Stephen is saying, or else you'd see joint bids. I was sort of assuming that the IOC forbids truly shared bids, and blaming them for the fact that the scale of the games is almost inevitably beyond the scale of what is useful to a city.

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