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CTA Insider on "waiting for signals ahead"

Here's the CTA Insider (details here) on what "waiting for signals ahead" really means:

There are track sections that are controlled by signal trips. These trips are metal bars that, after a train makes it past, roll up to keep another train from entering that section of track.

If a train tries to enter this section ahead of schedule the trip hits a switch on the underside of the undercarriage and throws the train into "emergency." That stops the train completely and the motorperson has to reset the train, plus explain to the Control Center how a trip was hit. (The controllers can see on their boards that one was hit.)

When the motorperson gets to the next terminal they are taken out of service, and have to make a drug/alcohol drop. They are interviewed by a manager the next time a manager has an opening, and not allowed to work until after all these criteria are met.

That's what happened on the Brown line that time the Brown/Purple hit each other, only the motorman had gotten clearance to proceed ahead through a trip and then managed to rearrange his front end.

[Got a question for the CTA Insider on what happens behind the scenes at the CTA? Either email me or pose the question in Comments below.]


A question for the Insider: if a train is experiencing delays, why do we (occasionally, not all the time, mind you) hear the "Attention!!! We are experiencing a delay and expect to be moving shortly!!!" message so many times? I understand that people who have not yet boarded the train haven't heard the message, but sometimes, it will go off five or six times between stops, so it's not as if everyone hasn't heard it. If there's a backlog of trains from Belmont north to Thorndale, what's the value in hearing this message 47 times? Is there a protocol? Can the train operators use their discretion? Are they so used to it that they just tune them out? Mr. Canned Voice should go back to where he came from. Everything he says is "no Shit, Sherlock" info anyway.

Why doesn't the CTA enforce the no eating drinking littering rule on the trains and buses. People are eating, drinking and lettering all the time. Fining them would make some extra money.

My question for the Insider: Has the CTA secretly changed the schedule for the Blue Line train originating in Forest Park? It used to arrive at the Oak Park stop at exactly 8:23 every morning, but now it arrives at exactly 8:28. After about 2 weeks of this. I mentioned this to CTA's customer service when I called to complain about an unrelated matter (human waste on the platform, if you must know), and they said they'd look into it.

It's been over a month now, and the train continues to be exactly 5 minutes late. I'm afraid to change my morning routine since the schedule hasn't been changed on any of the signs. What's the story?

To the person who asked about the repeating announcement, the way the system in the cab works with delay announcements is that it automatically repeats the delay announcement once chosen regularly. This way, if the operator has to leave the train, the train continues to remind people that there is an issue being dealt with. Unfortunately, sometimes they let it cycle when they shouldn't. Like, if you're stuck by a raised bridge, how many times do we need to be told?

On the "signals ahead" announcement though, it makes sense. That way nobody has to start asking "Are we STILL waiting for a signal to clear up ahead?"

A question regarding slow trains: Often a train will arrive late (I know it's late because (1) it comes well after the scheduled frequency - eg 10 minutes after the last train rather than the scheduled 5 and (2) it is packed). I usually ride the front car for various reasons, including the ability to see what's happening on the tracks ahead. The late, packed train will often sputter along at sub 15mph speeds even though there is no other train in sight ahead of it. What are some of the reasons this might happen? This happens fairly often to me on the Brown and the Red, northbound, south of Belmont all times of day but usually toward the end of the rush period. Until I started paying attention I assumed it was the "traffic light" at Belmont backing things up, but there are NO trains ahead as far as the eye can see. Is it because the operator has been told to stay X minutes behind the previous train (even though X minutes is worse than the scheduled frequency)? Or maybe there is a brownout of some kind and there isn't enough power available to go regular speed? Or is he/she just chatting idly on a cell phone? Or maybe he/she is angling for a bit of overtime? Or maybe I'm wrong and the train isn't late (maybe the posted schedule is wrong)...?

Rhetorical Question: Why are the speakers always at EARSPLITTING VOLUMES in the last car of the Brown Line?

Also, I'd like to send a shout out to the Brown Line motorman on Tuesday night who announced that the tracks were on fire, stayed silent for 20 minutes while smoke rolled up around us, and then totally freaking gassed it without a bit of warning. That was awesome.

Steve: It's impractical. You would have to flood the trains and buses with transit cops (of which there aren't that many), because CTA employees and security guards can't fine anyone. Also, it would be bad PR if, for example, I (an 18-year-old high school student) racked up several hundred dollars in fines just because my lunch period is at 10:30 in the morning, and I'm hungry on the way home.

The real problem is people littering on trains and buses (which is probably why the no eating rule was put into place at all)...

Here a question for you.

A few weeks ago there were stories in the local news about the CTA looking to buy New York style trains . (all seats facing in, hanging straps) The reporter said "now that the study is complete orders have been placed by the CTA for the new cars) Given the current financial crisis, I'd like to know how much money was spent on the study, which company did the study and if any new cars were ordered.

As has been said many, many times before, it is the operating budget that faces shortfalls, not the capital budget.

They should not be buying New York style trains. They should be looking toward Europe and Japan for newer styles that are being developed. Don't waste capital money on old style trains. Move forward not back.

Sorry, the insider is 100% wrong about this one: "That's what happened on the Brown line that time the Brown/Purple hit each other, only the motorman had gotten clearance to proceed ahead through a trip and then managed to rearrange his front end." Trips or train stops are only installed at wayside signal locations. The point of collision between Brown and Purple occurred on a section of track called the Ravenswood/Loop Connector in the vicinity of what is called "Church Curve." This section of track has no wayside signals or train stops; it is controlled by cab signals that convey speed/permission information to the trains through the rails.

I heard a load bell going off from inside the cab of the train I was on tonight (Purple Line) And the operator tried to muffle it with her hand and then brought the train to a stop. What was that bell all about?


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