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No El service this weekend on east side of the Loop

Work on the Wabash and Lake portions of the Loop elevated structure this weekend will tighten up El traffic and have Brown Line trains turning into Orange Line trains, and vice versa.

Crews will be replacing signal and train control systems, a project that is scheduled for completion in 2009.

With Wabash and Lake closed to traffic, Brown Line trains heading south into the Loop will turn into Orange Line trains, and Orange trains heading north will become Brown.

And to further confuse riders, Red Line trains will share the tracks as slow zone work continues in the tunnel.

And of course, Blue Line service will be suspended between Harlem and  Rosemont.

So that means that six of the eight rail lines will have service disruptions this weekend. Frankly, this isn't too smart -- to have the Red Line reroute to a track that already will have to deal with reroutes. I understand the CTA has to do this work, but they should do these reroutes on the same weekend. As Chicago Carless Mike wrote in an email to me: "The entire eastern half of River North and the Loop is becoming a transit desert this weekend."

Have fun, folks. I think I'm staying away from the Loop this weekend.


Does anyone know when the Red Line slow zone work will be done? I see slow progress at Monroe. Is there one guy doing it? It sucks to have no subway on the weekends and slow trains riding over wooden blocks during the week.

And speaking of "transit deserts" (thanks for the segue, Kevin!), whatever happened to the extra morning 147 service that was on the route the first five weeks of southbound three-tracking?

When the evening three-tracking began, 147 service was added... for five weeks, and then it went back to its awful normalcy. It looks like history repeated itself... every morning this week I've waited 15 to 25 minutes for a lone packed bus. Service is worse than it was before phase 2 started last month.

If any of the insiders and insider wannabes here know if those buses are ever going to come back to the route, my boss and I would greatly appreciate it...

Oh, nevermind. Basically we'll have no Red Line subway and pretty much no elevated on many nights and weekends until the end of the year.

Slow zone elimination on the remaining portion of the Red Line subway and on all four tracks (Red and Brown lines) between Diversey and Wellington is currently underway and will be complete by the end of 2008. Work between Belmont and Sheridan stations is expected to be completed in Summer 2009.

Loop Elevated:
Beginning in May 2008, slow zone elimination and track renewal will begin on the Lake Street and Wabash Avenue sides of the Loop Elevated in downtown. Construction involves the upgrade of approximately 10,000 feet of track. When the project is completed at the end of 2008, customers will experience more reliable and efficient rail service.

While work is underway, one or both tracks on the Lake and Wabash sides of the Loop Elevated will close on:

14 weekends (10 p.m. Friday until 4 a.m. Monday): May 9-11, May 16-18, June 13-15, June 20-22, July 11-13, July 18-20, August 8-10, August 22-24, September 5-7, September 12-14, September 19-21, September 26-28, October 3-5, October 17-19, October 31-November 2, and November 7-9 (dates subject to change)

Most weeknights (10 p.m. until 4 a.m. the following morning)

I'm not asking for a single-minded focus on the needs of tourists, but I wish the CTA would show some concern for putting on a good face to those visiting from out of town. I'm talking about this mess as well as the shocking appearance of aboveground loop el stops. And don't get me started on the post-apocalyptic look of the Grand station. Better public transit for visitors to use could make our city look better, but it could also influence visitors to go home and improve (create?) their own public transport options.

Maybe this would be a good weekend for the IOC to visit and see what kind of transportation system Chicago really has...


Bob S. has a good point about extra buses quietly vanishing. They did that with the 136 last year, which is what sent me back to the Red Line. Always the big announcement and printed schedule when they add them. Never a peep when they take them away, or even an admission that it's happened. This truly sends the message "we don't care enough to help you plan to get to work on time".

Okay, now how do I get to North/Clybourn on Sunday? No mention of shuttle buses.

Original -
the CTA's press release has the shuttle bus info, plus the Halsted and North Avenue buses stop right there.


Oh, you think that when the IOC visited Beijing 10 years ago they saw anything remotely like what they can see today? Public transportation was the population on bikes. Get real.

NOW...they've got wall to wall automobiles and air quality that is even WORSE that it was 10 years ago..and it was really bad 10 years ago.


While I realize you're playing up to your role as the cynic, I actually think this would be a great weekend for the IOC to come here and see the work the CTA is doing to improve our transit infrastructure.

Better than this time last year, when everything was running normally, at 6 mph.

Last night they closed the inner tracks on Wabash and Lake, and people were pretty confused and in some cases angry. I'm sure that it will become the "new normal" for the regulars after a few weeks, though. It's fortunate that we have enough redunancy downtown to be able to do all this maintenance at once.

Thanks for confirming/seconding my observation, C C. I've noticed fewer 136 buses too, but they're less convenient for me so I don't take 'em.

For those first few weeks of phase 2, they were starting a lot of 147s at Clark and Devon. That in particular seems to have ended (they went to Harrison instead of Van Buren & Congress, so they were easy to spot). But as I say, even the regular 147s from the Howard terminal are less frequent than they used to be. It isn't like I'm waiting 20 minutes and then seeing two or three of them bunched; it's just one.

According to the schedule posted on the CTA ( http://transitchicago.com/maps/bus/bus/147.pdf ), there should be one every 10 minutes from Howard and one every 5 minutes from Devon (which is vague, but I think it means buses begin their runs at Devon at times that essentially alternate with the ones from Howard). In 20 minutes I should see four buses. And the 136 schedule says those should be 6 to 7 minutes apart.

Again, if any of the insiders or wannabes have any insight...

136 buses are pretty regular in the morning (maybe every 8 or 9 minutes) but almost as rare as dodos in the evening rush. I catch it on the corner of Randolph and LaSalle in the evening and there can be 5 or 6 156 buses, a couple of 135s and 134s before you see a 136.

My cynical side aside, its just seems poor planning to decapitate the downtown transportation system on the same weekends. I mean, one or the other would be more that crippling, but both together is just beyond silly. Think of all those poor tourists...and if I remember this is also a cubs baseball weekend too....they could have done some last weekend when they were out of town...


There are only so many weekends of good weather in which to complete extensive work on elevated lines that require it.

FJ, I understand what you're trying to say, but this is major construction work that needs to be done to bring the infrastructure back to a state of good repair. I could care less what a tourist from wherever is concerned when safer infrastructure and more reliable service hangs in the balance. We use the system every day- they use the system for a few days while they're visiting.
Let's look at this objectively- when major road construction projects are done, drivers are inconvenienced round the clock in nearly every case during construction. I think we should be grateful that the CTA makes an effort, when possible, to schedule work during off peak hours.

Can you imagine the angry off tourists (and naitives) when some one gets to the Loop on an Orange or Brown line train and it magically changes to the other. Add to the situation that none of the CTA personnel is going to be willing to explain anything to anyone, especially if it pulls them away from their bags of Cheetos

If the weather is a factor then they could have scheduled the underground red line construction another weekend since the weather is always the same underground.

Even in road construction they rarely shut down 80% of the expressways at the same time so that people have alternate routes to get to where they are going.


What I find truly bewildering is that according to the CTA's website they are going to be doing the same work on the outer loop, on Wells and Van Buran, next year. The obvious question is why wouldn't they do that work this year and have the inner loop closures next year when the red line work is done. That is unless they are almost done with the red line work, which the language "at the end of the year" doesn't suggest. It is absolutely nuts to both the inner loop and the red line at the same time for such a busy area. And I don't really get what the huge urgency for this work is anyway. According to the map, tere is only one tiny slow zone on the whole loop and I don't really know why there is such a neccessity to replace a signal system so quickly. Huberman, in the press release, said "trains sometimes experience delays" but it was not mentioned how this relates to the signal system. Obviously trains experiece delays when there are six lines or so that operate in the area. That doesn't have anything to do with the signal system. And by recollection is the major delays that had occured in the area a few years ago was a result of the switching system, not the signal system. And they must have already done something to fix it because I haven't heard anything about any major delays recently. Yes, it is better to get these things done before there is a problem but there is no reason for them to rush this and do it at the same time as the red line work. And, like I said, it seems they could be doing the outer loop work now instead. I also don't think they should be doing any slow zone work on the north red or brown lines at the same time as the subway red line works. Nearly all of the slow zones are gone anyway. There is a press release stating that the CTA plans to spend around eight months "removing slow zones between Belmont and Western" on the brown line. In reality, there are only slow zones in a very small potion of that, between Addison and Irving Park.

If I am not mistaken the contracts are let with bonuses for on time/early completion.

The inconvenience really isn't that horrific, especially since the work is being done when the system is at minimum use. Personally, I'm quite enjoying faster trips through the subway during my weekday commute so I don't complain if I encounter minor trouble getting about in the weekends.

The idea on doing track work on the loop now is to correct problems before they reach the point of requiring slow zones that take a year to get around to fixing (as was the usual CTA way of doing business).

IIRC, both the signal and switching plants in the loop have been due for replacement for some time. I believe they have already accomplished the latter of those.

I'd imagine most tourists are inherently confused by or afraid of public transit anyway. Half the time, they can't even figure out that you're supposed to push on the back door of the bus.

"The inconvenience really isn't that horrific, especially since the work is being done when the system is at minimum use. "

There are A LOT of people who use the system on the weekends. Yes, it is much less than at rush hour, but I think it is a bit of a stretch to say it is at "minimum use". The people that use it at this time are the ones that are most likely to decide not to use it because of delays and reroutes, which means a financial strain on the CTA's budget. Yes, the work needs to be done at some time and it probably would need to be done on weekends. But it would be nice for them to space these things out so as not to cause more inconvencies than neccessary on one trip. I certainly agree that when there are serious slow zones or the immediete potential for serious slow zones the work should be done as soon as possible. But that is not the case here (nor do I think it is the case for the brown line work later this year).

People with cars are used to this sort of thing. That's because the money has always been budgeted far more liberally for road maintenance and expansion.

In an ideal world, a lot of this work would already be done. It's only happening all at once because it's all, in the overall scheme of things, last minute. Delaying any of it any longer would be too expensive.

The time to complain was all those years when there weren't multiple delays happening each weekend. It's too late to complain now.

A transit desert? I didn't realize all of the tons of buses in that area of town were shut down, too. You can't hardly trip over a street in "the entire eastern half of River North and the Loop" without six different bus routes running on it..

Dude, the rarity of the 136 in the evening, though annoying, wasn't why I quit taking it; it was the sudden and significant departure from the published schedule, especially in the morning. Was it a cutback in the schedule? Was it some internal problem with bus availability? Either way, many scheduled 136s just weren't showing up any more, after being more or less on track with the schedule for at least 6 weeks. And it wasn't one day only, but kept on happening.

If they're now showing up every 8 or 9 minutes, they may have restored some of them, but at the beginning of the Red Line project I think they were running even more often than that. I'd know for sure if I hadn't tossed out my downloaded schedule in disgust. What made me maddest was that many of those that did show up tended to break down almost immediately, which just added to the chaos. I called the CTA on the phone a couple of times and got verbal shrugs. After about a week, I said "@#$% this" and walked from my stop to the L station, making dismissive gestures at the very late 136 I finally encountered on the way. Never looked back.

The inconvenience of the slow zone elimination is one thing that RonH was very clear about and didn't try to spin, sugarcoat or blame on anyone or anything else. Also, the signal upgrades on the Loop elevated structure are apparently very necessary and may have been planned and contracted out prior to the subway track work, so the unhappy perfect storm of trainlessness might be unavoidable. Transit User makes a good point; there are many buses that serve the weekend "transit desert."

It takes at least 5 times as long, with the always congested weekend traffic downtown, (not even taking into account the fact that the busses run less often than the trains) to take a bus from the loop just to the North Avenue area where someone could board a train if they wanted. It might be an overstatement to say the east side of the loop will be a transit desert. But it certainly is correct that it is a mass transit desert. I do agree with the person who said earlier that the delays and reroutes are "not horrific". And I'm really not complaining primarally as a result of my own annoyence of how this might effect me. I don't mind walking a few extra blocks all that much. But what annoys me is that this will severly discourage ridership and, as a result, there will no doubt be a fare increase that is higher than it otherwise would have been. And for something that is clearly unneccessary. Like I said, the CTA plans to do the same work on the Wells and Van Buran portion of the rail structure next year. It seems so obvious that, if they are going to do the work on this timetable, it would make more sense to do that this year and then do the Wabash/Lake portion next year when the red line is running. I can't for the life of me think of a good reason for that not to be the case. The Wells/Van Buran area is primarally office buildings and does not have very much foot traffic on weekends. The exception being the far eastern point of this where people can very easilly walk to Wabash.

I do think, however, that it is far better that the CTA is going overboard with this stuff than it was when they obviously didn't bother to maintain and upgrade the tracks to any serious degree.

By the way, I should also mention that this will no doubt cause a pretty large effect on the businesses in the loop. There will, no doubt, be a large drop in business that would be far less severe if the red line and inner loop projects were done at seperate times.

I'll also point out that I was on the train today and I saw several signs at stations stating that this weekend's red line reroute would start and 9:00 P.M. and several others that said it would start at 10:00. The CTA's website also stated these two different things in different places. I have no idea which one was correct. It might not seem like a huge deal, but with Ron Huberman making a major statement a few months ago that he was going to be the savior and solve all problems with communication and had hired someone (a person with the title of "Vice President", no less) whose job is SPECIFICALLY to make sure communication is good, he had better follow through and make sure these mistakes don't happen. The Tribune had an entire article bout how everything is now wonderful as a result of Huberman's hiring of this man (and, like always, they didn't follow up on it). I'll also point out that last week the signs informing passengers of the reroute around Diversey incorrectly stated that southbound riders (or nothbound, I don't remember) who wanted to get to Diversay would have to board a Northbound brown line train at Fullerton. In reality, northbound (or southbound, whatever it was) red line trains were also stopping there. And a few weeks ago, during the usual red line reroute, I noticed the sign at North/ Clybourn suggested people use the #22 bus. That is sort of odd since the bus is around ten blocks away. And oh, I think station agents on the red line are putting up the signs stating that no trains are available in one direction a little early, before they are actually rerouted. These may seem like nitpicks (although the last one can cause severe inconvenciences for people who unneccessary walk several blocks) but if Huberman has created a major job for someone whose ONLY DUTIES are to communicate about this stuff, it had better be flawless.

As one of the resident CTA "fanboys," I'm fully with MK on this one, the Loop work should have been scheduled differently so as not to be so disruptive. It's ridiculous that the reroutes are now being rerouted themselves. This will significantly discourage off-peak ridership, which is the most elastic and hardest to win back once those trips are lost (unlike the rush hour commuters, who will grin and bear it riding through a slow zone for an extra couple months or something).

Given that the west and south side Loop stations are a pretty short walk away and the weather is nice, I actually think it's better that they try to do as much all at once as possible. I think the walk from the east side of the Loop to the west side is less than the walk I make to the train every morning. We're not talking about the Incredible Journey here.

Mergning the orange/brown lines is kind of creative. Should make travel from Midway to the north side more convenient than usual, not less.

Has anyone checked out the CTA "service" on east Loop today? It's an absolute mess! TRY finding your way home. Closing the Loop L and the State St. Subway at the same time is no rookie mistake. This is a clear disregard for the passengers by an executive staff who doesn't care to ride. Don't they even bother to check their weekend riding numbers? Who plans this?

Staff is non-existent and when there completely clueless and unhelpful. As for walking to Wells, good luck if you're older and have mobility issues -especially with tomorrow's weather!

So... One of the objections to all this was the confusion about the Brown and Orange trains, and their signage while at the loop. Did anyone get a chance to observer what's happening?

I'm guessing that by the time the trains were at the loop, they were displaying signs for their destinations rather than their origins. Perhaps even trains leaving Kimbal were already signed as Orange, and trains leaving Midway were already signed Brown.

But did anyone observe what actually happened?

And speaking of observations, did the sky fall as predicted? Or did the Saturday "crowds" adapt?

FormerCTAcustomer: All CTA buses are accessible now, so the only extra step to getting to the train station is boarding a bus. I don't know what kind of mobility impairments you have in mind, but boarding buses is generally less involved than getting up into an El station and then up to the platform.

More interestingly, though: did anyone notice that they've announced the initial streets for bus-only lanes?


"More interestingly, though: did anyone notice that they've announced the initial streets for bus-only lanes?"

Yeah and, in fact, someone posted about it on the logical thread to do so.

I went downtown today. The sky did not fall. I decided to take Metra UP North because I was initially headed to Union Station. For those who think Metra is perfect, the train was delayed 20 minutes due to track work. This might be understandable if their trains ran more often than once an hour on Saturdays, but I digress. As I made my way east, there were confused tourists, suburbanites and Cub fans who were only unconfused by helpful locals. CTA communication was next to non-existent except for the colorful sandwich boards telling potential riders that the subway was closed. East of the transit desert, the Art Institute was packed and there were huge crowds on Michigan Ave and State St. Either all of these people drove, took cabs, took Metra or, more likely, they were able to navigate adequately with the CTA closures. I took a bus back north. Yeah it took longer, but it was, as the 36 always is, amusing. When worlds collide....

"For those who think Metra is perfect, the train was delayed 20 minutes due to track work."

That's probably more likely around 5 to 10 minutes due to track work and another ten due to the usual large crowds on the weekend. Metra is incapable of stating that a delay is the result of more than one thing so they usually just resort to saying "track work" even if that only resulted in a small portion of the delay. I think also that since they mention on their website that certain trains may be delayed because of track work that this allows them to count them as on-time in their stats as long as they don't arrive at the final destination more than six minutes beyond the time they say on the website that the trains may be delayed (even if the track work had little or nothing to do with the delay).

I was not downtown today, but I am sure the sky didn't fall. I don't think anyone said that it would. And yes, I'm sure everyone adapted. But undoubtadly quite a large portion of these people adapted by not taking public transportation. Others did take it but would have been so annoyed by the hassle that they will be discouraged from taking it again. This means that there is less revenue for the CTA and they will need to make it up somehow, probably with a larger fare increase than otherwise would have been the case. Obviously these things are sometimes neccessary. I, for example, have never complained about the red line reroutes even though that without a doubt discourages ridership for many people traveling to and from the Michigan Avenue-River North area. These things need to be done. And certainly the blue line work does as well. But closing the red line and Wabash-Lake portion of the loop line at the same time is clearly not neccessary. I don't think they even thought it through very much. Again, I'd love to hear a good reason why they are not doing the Wells-Van Buran work now instead.

The stretch of Halsted on which they're planning on have the bus-only lanes is both short (less than 2 miles) and not nearly as congested as the portions of the road that lie to the north of North Ave. It's also, conveniently, a wasteland with little residential or retail presence.

If the presence of businesses is going to be a barrier to making a road bus-only, though, then suggests the bus/bike-only lanes idea will be limited to pretty desolate areas of the city and highways. That's a somewhat disappointing limitation if it's true.

via my iPhone... The red line is a clusterf$uck right now, apparently there is structural damage in the loop. Sat 40 min at Belmont, been on train for 2 hours stuck between Belmont and merchandise mart. The sky is falling. Its 1:43am right now

Has anyone checked out the maps at transitchicago.com lately? It looks like the Blue Line has additional stops downtown. There appear to be stops on the river, somewhere between Dearborn and State, a transfer station to the Metra Electric, and two stations out on the Lake! http://www.transitchicago.com/maps/maps/200804C.html

I don't work in the Loop but I had no problem getting to Streeterville this morning other than problems relating to that monsoon out there. An eastbound bus to Marine Drive, 146 south to a few blocks from here. This route actually works better on Sundays than it does during the week because there's less traffic and the buses run closer to their schedules.

It could be that they're starting with Lake and Wabash because they're more heavily used (Green Line all day every day, Red Line nights and weekends, plus half of the traffic from the other Loop lines) and therefore more at risk of deterioration -- thus it would make more sense to get them to a state of good repair before ALL elevated traffic has to be rerouted onto them.

But I also can't discount the theory that it's being done strictly to piss people off.

ebob: No doubt the extra stops are to compensate for the loss of the blue line on the 54/Cermak line. And the new stops appear to provide convenient transfers to ferries waiting off-shore...

They also had portions of Wabash blocked off this mourning. State Street and Michigan aren't very bike friendly streets.

All I can say is that I took the orange line from Midway on Sunday, and it turned into the Brown, which was fantastic, as the time it took me to walk off of the plane and into my house, two blocks from the Rockwell stop was exactly one hour. My normal commute during the week takes longer than that, I am am only going to the West Loop. Now I am usually the first one to jump on the CTA for lack of communication, but I think that the CTA had made appropriate announcements, communication appeared to be in good order, the conductor was very clear as to what would be the next stop and what was happening, and it seemed like the only people confused were those on their cell phones chatting to others and not paying attention as to what train they needed to board.

I say turn the Brown and Orange lines into one big Midway-Kimball line. Seems much more efficient than two lines simply circling the Loop. Just my two cents.

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