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CTA finishes Red Line subway slow zone work early

The final Red Line subway slow zone repairs were finished this week, about a month earlier than schedule, a CTA spokeswoman confirmed Thursday.

Trains are now running full speed between Clark/Division and North/Clybourn. We've noticed the northbound trains have been traveling at full speed for about two weeks. But it was just Thursday morning that I noticed my train southbound was zooming along that stretch, including on the curves.

Noelle Gaffney, CTA spokesperson, said the main work was finished this week. "We still have some clean-up work to do so we expect to still have single track/over the top routing for the Red Line subway some weeknights (usually Mondays) for the next few weeks," she said. She also mentioned that the CTA now has lowered slow zones to under 10% of track -- down substantially from last year's high of 22.5%.

Perhaps now the CTA can redeploy those workers to the slow zones north of Thorndale to Loyola. But in the meantime, congrats to the CTA for the good, quick work.


Better idea - redeploy these resources to the Loop track signal boondoggle.

The CTA claims they're more than a year behind schedule and likely over budget for this project. But if you scrutinze the coverage and media accounts more closely, it's going to be well past September 2010 before this work is completed. Fixing the signal problems at the Lake/Wells and Wabash/Van Buren junctions would result in a positive ripple effect throughout the system.

If the contractor has been determined to be unqualified, the CTA should take immediate action and replace them with another vendor. This apparently ho-hum, aw-shucks, woe is me attitude is unacceptable. Swift, decisive action is necessary.

Think about a company you hired to perform certain tasks informing you that they're unqualified to perform the work for which they were hired, but perhaps could complete the project given an extra YEAR to do so.

Consider the precedent being set (or maintained) by accepting this excuse. The contractor has no accountability, at least in the public domain, and thus the CTA has no accountability to its riders. And if there's no language in the contract protecting the CTA against this possibility, that's even more despicable.

Huberman et al continually beg Springfield for more funds, and whine about billions in capital needs, but if I'm a legislator, it is gaffes like this that would give me great pause to throw more cash at the agency.

I am waiting for the KevinB comment that asks you to confirm with your sources that the slow zones are really gone and that you really were "zooming along"?

It's nice to see a project come in early and on budget. I had the pleasure of riding this part of the line the other day and was pleasantly surprised how fast the trip was. Once three tracking finishes in the next couple months at Belmont and Fullerton things will really be moving nicely.

Moving the whatever track crews the CTA had working on this to other slow zoned parts of the Red Line or accelerating the tie and track replacement in the loop would be a good move.

As to the signal project there has to be a non-performance clause in the contract that the CTA I'm sure is wanting to exercise. The contractor is obviously well in over its head in this project.

I sure as hell wasn't zooming along through the subway northbound Tuesday evening around 6PM!
The train was slow from Clark/Division to past the crossovers at 1300 Clybourn.

I have noticed the same thing for the most part, but I still don't understand why a train must slow to a stop or almost stop when there is a green signal and no slow zone because of the automated "beep" system (sorry,don't know the technical term).

It seems this happens alot (and as recently as this morning).

This also happens alot from Fullerton to North/Clybourn as well again with no rhyme or reason I can see....

On another note, is there any reason that the red and purple lines have been switching tracks before Addison the last couple days?

I realize I haven't been riding the purple line very long, but my understanding of an express was that it didn't stop. As far as I can figure out the only place it possibly could be stopped would be after Addison and before Belmont where it meets up with the brown line but this doesn't seem to be the case.

Inquiring minds.


My experience has been that the red line has been much quicker. From State & Lake to Argyle was about 26 mintues, and the previous day to Lawrence was about 22 minutes. Both were so fast that I arrived to my destination too early! :)


They said they were finished this week. They didn't say it was finished before Tuesday. It could have been finished on Wednesday, after your trip.

"On another note, is there any reason that the red and purple lines have been switching tracks before Addison the last couple days?" - KevinB

Nah, it's probably only because they know you're on that train and they want to screw with your ride.

Is Hilkevitch right? Will some trains really be "seatless"? Or will he have to correct his article after someone else reports the correct info?

"CTA to begin using some seatless train cars"

By Jon Hilkevitch | Chicago Tribune reporter
8:40 AM CDT, September 12, 2008

The CTA is expected to announce plans Friday to begin running trains in which the seats have been removed on up to two cars of an eight-car train, according to the CTA.....


Yes, I noticed that the trains just started moving faster in the subway going southbound in the AM. It partially makes up for delays that take place regularly further north that didn't used to; unfortunately it still nets out to being late to work.

I must say, i road the redline north from roosevelt to sheridan on monday and was amazed at the speed. Yesterday I came to the loop from O'Hare and was again amazed. granted, both trips were at off-peak times, but at least I know the track is capable if not the scheduling and pacng of trains

I used to time my rides on the red line (I got bored). Before Ronnie took over, Loop to Granville took 50+ minutes.

Last night, 26 minutes.


This is awesome news!

I noticed the speed increase myself last week. I got from Lake to North/Clybourn in under seven minutes. I was impressed – I don't remember the last time the trip was so fast.

I hope this means the subway will now be open on weekends. I would love to take advantage of it when I meet some friends up north for drinks tonight.

Cool, now maybe they can fix the trains so they don't howl like banshees on the turn at Clark/Division. I blame the trains because it doesn't happened every time, but it does happen frequently. I live by there, and you can hear that squealing 3 blocks away and 20 stories up. And of course, it's worse when you're actually on the train.

I'm still waiting to hear exactly how fixing the signal system in that area is going to reduce delays. The press certainly has not done so. All the CTA states is that it is a fairly old system and that trains sometimes stop and start. Obviously they stop and start because there are several lines that intersect and it is a busy area, especially during rush hour. My observations is that there are not any delays at all when there is nothing ahead of a train. That does happen often during non-rush periods. So it would be great to hear an explanation as to why the signal upgrade is beneficial and neccessary. I'm not saying it isn't. Doc, you sound like you have some knowledge about this. You state "Fixing the signal problems at the Lake/Wells and Wabash/Van Buren junctions would result in a positive ripple effect throughout the system." So perhaps you would be a good one to explain.

@JW: That howling really is aweful! I heard it on the train last week and thought, "What the hell?!?"

Overall, though, with these new ties they've put in place, the trains are noticeably quieter – even more so with the new concrete sections at Belmont and Fullerton.

I have noticed the red line is noticeably quieter in the tunnels along with the new speeds.


I understand what you mean. They explain that the old system is outdated, which I'm sure is accurate, but there is no explanation as to why. How and what will the new system do to improve the situation? Perhaps there is some automation involved...

MK, I'll try to help on the signal. Older signal systems require a much larger "block" of track to be assigned to each train. An updated one should enable the CTA to run safely on tighter train separation. IF the update in this case means smaller "blocks" it means trains are better placed to clear the junction, which is especially important when you have several different lines following different patterns through the Loop. The efficiency of modern signaling on freight rail lines is well documented -- for example, on what is now Canadian National's main line from Chicago to New Orleans, a new signaling system in the 1980s enabled it to carry as much freight on one track between Chicago and Memphis as it had formerly done on two. (Unfortunately, with the growth in traffic since, they're wishing they hadn't taken out that second track). I would assume upgrades would have a similar benefit on busy rapid transit systems too.

Of course what would be really good is if someone could develop "moving block" signaling where the block actually moves with the train. But no-one has invented such a thing yet, and indeed the British infrastructure company Railtrack literally went bankrupt trying to invent moving block on their busiest route, with the result that their rail network was effectively renationalized into what is now Network Rail.

Thank you, DBX, for that explanation. It makes sense. It is too bad that the Trinbune's Jon Hilkevitch (as usual) didn't do his job as a reporter which would have been to ask the CTA for this basic information. Instead he just regurgated what was in the press release.

Also IIRC, the signal system in the loop (particularly WRT Tower 18) has been prone to failures.

A failure in any of the loop switching or signals at a rush period ripples through the system quickly.

Fantastic news. It is really exciting to have the old speedy trains back (in any form at all, if not in their entirety). Though I do second/third/eighty-fifth the call for shushing the banshee wailing. :-)

So with modern signals, trains could run 1) significantly faster and 2) closer together? What's the MTBF of these signals?

While I am thrilled by the news about the Red Line and have experienced the progress firsthand, I'm more than a little disturbed by the latest news about the Loop signal work. The Sun Times reported that, "Transit signal work is complex, and this is the contractor's first major signal project." Why was the contract awarded to Divane Brothers Electric Co. (the vendor) if they had no prior work on such a complex and vital project? Who awarded the contract? Did it happen under Kreusi or Huberman? There is a lot of conflicting timeline information floating out there in the papers. I've read that the work is supposed to be done by this Thanksgiving and that it will take until September, 2010.

Everyone has had their morning/evening/day ruined by Tower 18 snafus. I realize that the Loop configuration, and its signal system, is unique. At the same time, I can't help but think that the contract could have been awarded to a more experienced and capable vendor. Campaign contributions, anyone? It's one more piece of evidence about who is really running the CTA. Poor RonH is just the latest marionette in Mayor Mumbles puppet show.

It sure is a crazy, pouring rain, morning. Due to flooding, Blue line bus shuttles between Rosemont and O'Hare, and Yellow line service suspended. Switching problems on the Green line, with bus shuttles between 35th and Roosevelt, and a note that Green, Orange, Brown, and Pink Line trains may operate less frequently. Plus scheduled closures Lake and Wabash closed in the Loop, Blue line Jefferson Park to Irving Park closed with shuttles, and Brown has separated service Kimball to Belmont and Belmont to Library.

Wow, the Red Line looks GREAT today!!

Update from CTA on O'Hare flooding: Blue line is ending at Rosemont with NO bus shuttles due to rail AND road flooding. It's been years since anyone has had to walk IN water under the plane bridges to get in and out of the O'Hare terminals 1, 2, and 3. I wonder if the "in airport" shuttle is also shut down. If it's the only thing running, CTA could run shuttles from Rosemont to the Pace bus drop off area. It's probably flooded with the rest.

I think another part of the delay on the signal project was due to the Red Line slow zone removal / tie replacement. The loop signal project was originally supposed to be going on this past year, but they couldn't do these weekend loop reroutes/closures while they were simultaneously doing the Red Line reroutes.

The loop signal project was negotiated and signed under Kruesi, and the ASAP slow zone removal was a Huberman initiative. Divane's inexperience alone probably only would have caused a few months of delay, as opposed to the lack of holistic project scheduling that cost nearly a year.

I don't see why that would be a major impediment off peak to also run the Red Line on the same through routing on the weekends and late at night that all other lines are using during the loop work.

"I don't see why that would be a major impediment off peak to also run the Red Line on the same through routing on the weekends and late at night that all other lines are using during the loop work."

Well, obviously that depends on what your definition of "major" is. The reality is it would inconvenience those who travel from this area on the brown and northern red lines (taken together, by far the busiest on the CTA) by around 10-15 minutes. And this effect would not just be felt by the passengers but also by the businesses who would be less convenient to get to from these very highly travelled lines. So since there was not a huge urgancy to do this work (the current slow zones add about 12-15 seconds to the commute, about the same as the inconvenience would be from the reroute except in seconds instead of minutes), it obviously made sense for them to wait. I don't see any harm in waiting. Do you? Are those extra 12 seconds for a few more months so important?

It isn't like we weren't dealing with he same thing all the weekends/nights the Red Line ran over the top to facilitate the subway slow zone work anyway.

Well, so much for having regular service on the Blue Line to O'Hare again. Now that's back in the shitter.

"Blue Line trains to O'Hare resumed Sunday after being suspended for much of Saturday, but service is not normal, agency chief Ron Huberman said. Blue Line trains still are running from Rosemont to the airport but at reduced levels. A vault fire caused by flooding at the airport caused "significant damage" to cables that control signals and switches for trains going into O'Hare, he said. It could take more than a month to complete repairs and testing, Huberman said. Train service from Rosemont to downtown Chicago is running normally, he said."

"It isn't like we weren't dealing with he same thing all the weekends/nights the Red Line ran over the top to facilitate the subway slow zone work anyway."

Well, you may have been dealing with that. I, in many cases, did as well. But those who got on and off of the train in the loop (i.e. the stations from Lake on south) were not. And they would have if the reroutes occured at the same time.

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