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The CTA Insider dishes on Loop El train delays Tuesday + UPDATE

The CTA Insider wrote me last night with this interesting explanation about why there were so many delays Tuesday on the Loop elevated tracks:

Tuesday was a terrible on the Loop elevated tracks. Where to start?

The Pink Line is causing so many problems for motormen and supervisors. First, the inner Loop track now has to deal with four lines running constantly while the outer track only has two lines.

I brought this up to a manager and was told that the reason it's like this and not three on one side and three on the other is because a political promise was made that had to do with making the Pink Line's first stop in the Loop being Clark/Lake so a politician's constituents wouldn't have to travel all the way around the Loop before getting to the Blue Line.

But Tuesday they reversed the Purple line instead of the Pink to keep this promise as no one wanted to make the decision that should have been made.

Many -- and I do mean many -- supervisors made "suggestions" to management that the Pink should be reversed -- there were Pinks lined up from Clinton to Ashland, all in full view of the geniuses at 567 Lake Street (CTA Headquarters).

An alternative could also have been to off-load passengers at Clinton to wait for Green Line trains instead of loading the Loop with trains that couldn't move. This was due to an Orange Line train having mechanical problems and because of the rain and 40-year-old switches at the towers that refuse to work whenever we get inclement weather.

Tuesday was just the beginning -- we are coming up on the Taste of Chicago and Lollapalooza!  More fun ahead!

UPDATE - From the CTA Insider late Wednesday night: Much better today...but that was with extra supervisors and managers, and how long can that last?

Also it looks like there may be a surprise in store for Purple line riders as they may permanently reroute the line to run on the Brown line side - but this may hamper the Brown as they run very close now ... we'll see. The consensus of the Managers and Sups is that it is not going to work and in 10 years I've never heard them be so outspoken about something like this.


Wow - I gave the Pink Line a try yesterday, and it was aweful. I hope this gets resolved. Thank you for the information.

I have yet to see this 7 minute average wait for a forest park blue line. Monday I just missed the train downtown and it took 12 minutes for the next one to show....during rush hour. yesterday I saw the back of the train again....15 minutes. Then when we got Medical center it decided to go express to Austin which half the train exited.

This morning going to work I saw 4 trains within 3 minutes of each other. I was walking into the Harlem station when I saw a train go WB to the end of the line in Forest Park. When I walked down to the platform another train pulled into the station going WB. When that train left my train to the loop arrived and I looked down to see the third WB train waiting to pull into the station because the second train was probably "waiting for signals ahead" on the other side of the platform. When I boarded my train and we were on our way to Oak Park station, we past the FOURTH WB FOREST PARK TRAIN!!!!!!

What the flip is going on with this new service........

oh and to think that these decisions are politically based is outrageous!!! Chicago, a politically corrupt town...get outta here!

"I have yet to see this 7 minute average wait for a forest park blue line. Monday I just missed the train downtown and it took 12 minutes for the next one to show....during rush hour. "

cmamma, i had the same experience. my pace bus pulled up to forest park at 4:40, just as a train was departing. i was psyched at the expectation of a 4 minute wait. i got upstairs at 4:42 and got on a waiting train. instead of pulling out at 4:45 as per the published schedule, the motorwoman was having a highly animated conversation with a cta worker on the platform. from all outward appearances it was an arguement but since i couldn't hear them i'll give the benefit of the doubt. at 4:47 the doors close. and we wait. and wait. and wait. finally at 4:53 (a mere two minutes LATER than service before the "improvements") the train departs forest park.

there was another train on the "inbound" side of the platform that couldn't move until our outbound train left the station. when we got to the overpass on des plaines ave (about 50 feet from the station) there was another inbound train waiting to pull in. behind that just past the harlem station there was another inbound train standing. then there was another train waiting to pull into harlem that was stopped. i sincerely hope the forest park cta can make the adjustment to getting trains out of the station every 4 minutes instead of every 10 like they had been but i'm not holding my breath.

yesteday's commute was easy, no hitches, this morning our train stood on the overpass over des plaines waiting to pull into the station. we stood for maybe 2 minutes, just long enough for me to miss my connecting pace bus which is great because they run every 20 minutes.

The thing that really bugs me is the guy who comes over the intercom and informs us that the trains are running on a delay. He sounds like he thinks the whole thing is a big joke, while we stand there sweating and losing precious minutes to CTA boneheadism.

I used to take the Purple Line down to work. Time from Evanston to Wicker Park: 1 hour, 15+ min. I now bike. Time in: 35 min, and I get exercise.

The CTA has really made it hard to justify taking the train when commuting by bike or car is twice as fast as taking the L. Heaven forbid you have to transfer, because you just wind up doubling your commute when you do.

If you happen to be lucky enough to live on the same line you work, you're in business. If not, life sucks. Sounds like the Pink Line is just going to make this much worse.

My goodness people, the service has not even been running for a week and you're already expecting it to be flawless. It's natural for there to be some kinks. I am sure it will improve with time. I've used the Pink line into downtown and then transfered to the Brown to get to work and it hasn't been all that bad. I have been getting to work at the same time or even a few minutes earlier. I do agree that the political promise bit is kind of annoying though even though it's not unusual. I guess I'm just not ready to complain yet.

75 minutes from Evanston to Wicker Park on the CTA? Via what, Chinatown? Maybe 75 minutes door-to-door if you walk 15 minutes to the train on each end.

Purple Line to Red Line to North Avenue bus to Wicker Park in rush hour is 45 minutes. Somehow I assume you took the long route all the way down to Clark/Lake and took the Blue Line back up, but even that clocks in at less than an hour.

Of course, when you get right down to it, if you choose to live outside of the city, don't complain that it takes you forever to get to work in it. I'd rather Chicago proper service see improvements before suburban-centric service like the Purple Line express. Perhaps your ire should be directed more at Evanston to poney up funds to make service better on the train line that primarily its own residents ride?

Easy there, Mike. Cool it eh?

Have you ever heard of a delay? Because there happens to be quite a few of them lately (especially on the Red/Purple/Brown lines around Belmont/Fullerton land.)

Being that it can easily (and often does) take me 45+ minutes to get from Montrose to Chicago Ave. via Brown/Red lines, I can easily see how it can take Flynn over an hour to get to Wicker Park from Evanston. 5 to 10 to 15+ minute delays on Brown/Red/Purple lines are becoming very common!

A bike ride to Chicago & State from around me is pretty consistently 25 minutes, so I can also see where Flynn is coming from in that department.

And cool it with the holier-than-thou city vs. suburb spewing as well! Last time I checked, funds to improve the CTA don't come from the city of Chicago, or Evanston, or Skokie.. they come out of the Federal Highway Transportation Fund. Regardless where you're riding the transit from, if it's not working correctly, you have just as much a right to complain as a "downtown resident."

Matt, hate (well love, actually) to point this out to you, but it's been illegal to use federal money for service improvements for years. Money to actually run the system is all home based. Federal money can only go for capital improvements. And considering the free ride Evanston gets, I wouldn't mind if they got stuck with the bill for the Purple Line's crumbling overpasses either. Not that Chicago shouldn't do more, too. But I have no patience for attitudes that demand something for nothing. You (and your city) use the system, you (and your city) should pay for the system.

Matt, we must be neighbors. This is what I've been doing lately, a lot, to circumvent the delays at Belmont and because they'll be shutting down my stop pretty soon. Montrose bus to Wilson and Beacon, then a 145 or 148 to Michigan and Superior. I'm not doing this during the height of rush hour, so YMMV depending on what time you have to be at work, but it generally takes 40-50 minutes. I have noticed it takes longer going north/west from work. It's a lot most pleasent a commute than going in a hole in the ground.

Come on guys, give the CTA administrators a break. They only had, what, a couple of years to figure out the Pink Line? Give them a few more months to get the kinks worked out.

The pink line is screwing up commutes all over the loop, it should be reversed, it makes no sense to be sharing it with already busy lines. please fix this CTA

All I have to say to all you folks out there.... remember when the Red Line added a few extra trains on the outer loop during rush hour? Will this really solve the problem? We all know it's only been 2 days, but the delays that are happening from conductors own negligence is being compounded by adding an extra line with a "few" extra trains.

Mike: You must have not read the report, which Carole Brown embraced, that the Cook County suburbs pay in RTA taxes over $1 million more that for the service they get. That includes Evanston.

Except that it was probably $100 million.

We need to Save The Purple Line!!!
If they have it follow the Brown line, that would be the worst idea ever. It is great that they go in opposite directions now, you take one into the loop and the other out. Once you get to Belmont sure they split, but that cover so many people. We need to save the Purple!!

I'm going to find this alderman that had to throw a hissy fit and mail him angry letters. Not only to we have to pay with system-wide delays, the CTA now has to pay so much to replace the Purple Line signage, when they could have just gotten rid of the temporary Pink Line signs. Moving the Purple Line makes no big difference anyway.

since we're into turning dumb ideas into reality....why not build new tracks that run along Lake Shore Drive and the purple line can take that all the way up to Evanston.

Couldn't they just reroute the Orange Line to the outer tracks? It would be equidistant to the transfer points at State / Lake & Clark / Lake on the outer line. And doing this would be a more permanent solution throughout the day than when the Purple Line Express runs.

MB, your suggestion is the most rational of all the above squabble.

Political or not, the decision to put the Pink Line on the inner tracks makes sense because that will best serve the pink line riders whose commute was displaced by the pink and who need quicker access to the blue line.

While I'm sure some riders on the orange-line will disagree, changing the direction of the orange line will allow the CTA to maintain the one-train-in/one-train-out principle that savethepurple mentioned above without inconveniencing too many people.

All of this raises a question - why the pink line? I know the answers, sort of (to increase service times on the two west side blue line branches) but having been stuck on the pink line during tuesday night's debacle, and from overhearing riders complaining ... all I could think was: Who does this service 'improvement' really help?

Dear Mike Doyle, Did you ever stop to think of the negative impact on Chicago if Evanston wasn't there? Do you want Chicago to become another Cleveland because not everyone is a cool and as much of a hipster as downtown people like you? Chicago needs to have as many people contributing to it as it can get -- arrogance and self-righteousness like yours won’t help if Chicago is to compete on a global level. Last time I check purple line riders paid to ride the train and they do a lot to drive Chicago’s economy. What makes you such a better person than them?

With regard to the comments to put the Purple Line on the Outer Loop, at that point it should just be made an express in the State St. subway (which might be the eventual plan). The only rationale for making the Purple Line local south of Belmont was overcrowding on the Brown Line, and in the rush hour, the local passengers get on the Purple Line mostly on Wells, thereby splitting the load.

"Although some riders are concerned that the Pink Line will jam up the Loop system, CTA officials say computer models show there's enough capacity to run the trains on tracks now used by the Orange, Purple and Green Lines."


I agree, rerouting the Orange Line to the outer tracks is the only solution that works for all parties involved, though a few Orange riders might not like it.

And, yeah, when they did the computer models, I think they factor in a little thing called reality.

*need to factor in...

Almost everything I've read/heard about the Pink Line (in the media, mostly, and here, somewhat) is the complaining. But I have to believe there are plenty of people who are happy about the new line, even with the current delays, which I (and those "new" riders) should expect will be solved sooner rather than later. Anyone?

If you read about the Circle Line plan you'll get answers to some of your questions/complaints.

If the plan goes ahead (and frankly, I don't see the CTA not going ahead with it) then the Purple Line won't run in the Loop at all--it'll use the State Street Subway (Red Line tracks) and end at a new Chinatown stop on the Orange Line. The Orange Line will be extended to Kimball, and as such, will use only two legs of the Loop (the South and West sides, opposite of what the Green Line uses). The Pink Line will probably be combined with the Brown Line (meaning that the southbound Brown Line will travel one way in the Loop while the Northbound runs in the other direction). Green Line trains won't change, and the Circle Line will be in the subway.

The end result will be two lines per direction: westbound Green and Southbound Orange Line each taking half of the outer Loop along with one direction of the Brown Line, and Southbound Green and Northbound Orange Line trains (again with each using only half the Loop) running with the other direction of the Brown Line on the inner Loop.

For more details and pictures, try Chicago-L.org, or if you want very specific information on each phase of the plan, try http://everything2.com/?node_id=1770891 or http://tinyurl.com/oxupq

I should also note that the Circle Line is technically still "conceptual," requiring community meetings and funding and whatnot.

i like how the line has been running, in reality, for less than a week...and it's a disaster. it seems that's *always* the case around CTA Tattler.

seriously, give it a chance. don't complain about the couple of "blue line" stops it's now missing -- it's picked up a few others.

and who are the people who have *no idea* what it is? is tha the CTA's fault? or the ones that like to complain that the train doesn't get them to their destination as quickly as a direct trip using their own vehicle -- shit, use whatever means you have! the CTA is there regardless. how they can cut the number of lines on the 54/Cermak branch in half and get massive complaints is beyond me...but someone will complain, regardless. this is one of those times.

What is the ridership on the Douglas Branch?

I don't think it makes sense to combine the Brown line, which has such heavy usage and is only projected to get busier, with a lighter served area (if in fact it is lighter...?)

Same thing with the Purple line -- why would you run it farther south than the loop? How many people are riding to/from Evanston and Chinatown?

Agreed with the comment that the Purple should just be like a "Red Line Express", and run into the subway south of fullerton instead of going to the loop. solve loop train congestion, and alleviate overcrowding on the red line. Add a couple brown line runs to make up for the loss. Voila.

Another possibility is to link the Orange Line and Purple Line Express via State Street subway. Trains to Midway can enter or exit the State Street Subway at 17th Junction without too much difficulty. There are two possibilities for congestion with this idea. The first is at 17th junction, where Green Line trains already must use the crossing to go to the Loop Elevated rather than into the subway via the portal at 13th. (This isn't too much of an issue, given that Orange Line trains already need to make occasional stops for Green Line trains making the crossing.) The second potential area for congestion is at 13th interlocking in the subway, where both Red and Purple Line track would merge and cause occasional waits for the other to pass.

OK maybe I'm an idiot, but if you re-route purple line trains into the State Street Subway, wouldn't that cause delays in the subway from the already-slow-moving Red Line?

What's with all the buses "not in service"? today between 7:10 a.m. and 7:20 a.m. on the corner of Marine & Foster, I wanted to see what buses had seats. Two #147's were packed, One #151 empty bus passed me by (not in service), four #146 not in service buses whizzed by. Where are these 'NOT IN SERVICE' buses going?

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