« Status of new rail cars and three-tracking: More of your questions answered | Main | Blue Line, Loop El work continues; Ron drops cop pension plea »

Blemishes pop up at new Brown Line stations; security firm wants job back

Chicago's two daily newspaper transportation columnists reported on two interesting subjects this week.

The Trib's Getting Around columnist, Jon Hilkevitch, focuses on "design issues, construction flaws and blemishes that customers are noticing as 12 of the 18 Brown Line stations are now completed."

"There are early signs of rust, due in part to cost-saving decisions to eliminate some stainless steel on platform railings, canopy decks and other locations and use galvanized steel, [the CTA] acknowledged. Splintering already is seen on some of the new wooden platforms. Rivets are corroding quickly at the Southport station because contractors used the wrong fasteners on some windbreak panels."

Hilkevitch reports that the shortcuts can be laid at the feet of CTA ex-President Frank Kruesi, who ordered changes after the project came in higher than estimates.

Over at the Sun-Times, Mary Wisniewski tells us that the CTA former security firm, Action K-9 Security, has busted the current security firm for not doing a full day's work.

"[Action CEO Timothy] Clancy claims he's talked to former Securitas employees who say the firm was charging the CTA for its travel time back and forth to CTA stations.

The CTA says Action's claims are "unsubstantiated."


"There is a train behind this one"

When does Chicago get one of these?


As mentioned over on the Trib site, galvanized steel will not rust within a couple months if at all. John is right in mentioning that some work needs to be done still on some stations that are "finished". However, most of these are punch-list items that need to be sorted out after any major construction job.

Besides, the whole reason he brought some of this stuff up was to try and convince us that the brown line expansion was not needed. That is bull$hit. He compares average daily brown line rides to all CTA rides (including buses) which is simply flawed logic. Brown line is the 3rd most utilized rail line. He also states that crowding on brown line trains only occurs for about 45 minutes each business day which is also way off. Ask anyone who rides it.

He also never says where they should have used the money instead.

I'd vote for using the money for shelter/roofing on the platforms so that the riders can be protected from the sun/rain/sleet/pigeons while waiting for a train...but maybe I'm just being unreasonable.

My perspective is that they could have updated/improved the existing stations with ADA access, escalators, stairs, etc without going the "whole hog" and the artsy route and it would have cost much less but the problem is that they can't or won't think in those terms.


Galvanized steel does rust if the zinc coating is damaged or not done right.
It's obvious that inferior materials were switched by the contractors to make more money from the taxpayers & riders.
That's fraud & if we're lucky, the feds, which paid the biggest chunk will indict them over this.

If there is truly fraud happening, then something needs to happen. However, I think most of these items are small in issue and can be fixed easily (other than the canopies).

The only points he makes in his article that have any merit are the short canopies and the lack of heating lamps at 1 station.

Just a thought, does the CTA space out the canopies on their platforms so that some riders are motivated to board at cars other than the middle 2 to space out crowding on trains?

Why do you hate art so much Mr. B?

I love art. I have art on my walls. I admire artists. I go to museums. I support PBS.

Actually I'm a little jealous that I have techie cells where I would have like to have some art cells in my brain ;)

But, if it's a choice between functionality and art, then guess which one I'm going to chose.

I even went to two of the meetings the CTA held to choose art for the Belmont station. It didn't cost the CTA anything since it was paid for by a federal grant.

Art should be something you add AFTER and only after you take care of the basics and it should not impact the function of a station.

It would be like putting the Mona Lisa blocking the entrance to the turnstiles at the Belmont Redline station. Do I hate art if I say that it should be put somewhere else out of the way?


he only points he makes in his article that have any merit are the short canopies and the lack of heating lamps at 1 station.

He was talking about rockwell, where everyone waits for their trains inside of the station house.

The canopies at Fullerton and Belmont should run the full length of the platform.

While KevinB makes a good point that artwork tends to divert some money away from other possible station amenities, I think that art has its place at CTA stations. A wall full of artwork will be cheaper for the CTA in the long run, because it is less likely to get vandalized. I've seen studies - that I wish I could provide a link to, but can't find right now - that a blank wall is many times more likely to attract grafitti artists as a wall that has artwork on or in front of it. So, artwork instatllations not only make the palce look a little less antiseptic, it may save the CTA the cost of having to have grafitti removed over and over again.

Like so much federal money, the funding for the art in the new stations can't be used for anything else. It's FTA Arts in Transit program money specifically designated to spruce up stations. Some of the projects are great. Some are frightening. I'm not sure if there was a public meeting back in 2006 to consider the "art" work at the Rockwell station since I was mad at CTA at the time and was avoiding it, but that thing is an atrocity. The photos at Armitage are great and the mosaic at Franciso is magical. I just hope it doesn't get trashed by successive winter freeze and thaw cycles.

[It would be like putting the Mona Lisa blocking the entrance to the turnstiles at the Belmont Redline station.]

I, for one, would be more than willing to deal with a turnstile bottleneck if I could look at the Mona Lisa while I was waiting. Look at it this way: it seems like an inconvenience, but it's much more convenient than traveling to Paris.

I'm talking about when you design the station around art and at the expense of the rest of the station or added costs in construction of the station to make places to have the art?

How about art and functionality? Have an artist design a cool arty canopy? Maybe we could have a "Bean Canopy" and get the Feds to pay for it? Is there any rule that says art can't be functional too? Anything so I don't get wet...after all I'm so sweet, I might melt like sugar in the rain ;)


But living in Edgewater, it's easier for me to get from O'Hare to CDG than it is to get from my home to O'Hare.


How about if it was just a copy of the mona lisa then? Would you still put up with the delay? lol


The Mona Lisa would be perfect. She's enigmatic and mysterious, just like the inner workings of the CTA

Oh, and gosh maybe they could've designed new canopies with room for ad space if they're really concerned about the cost. I mean, they're slapping ads on bus ceilings now. Station canopies can take the same stick-on ads if they're designed right -- but the corrugated ones they installed can't. If Huberman has no other legacy, we'll remember him for trying to monetize every miserable square inch of flat surface the CTA controls.

What exactly is wrong with trying to sell as much advertisements on a public transportation system as possible to pay for things and lower costs Bob?

It seems to me the flower boxes in front of some stations (like Sedgewick) are actually dual purpose. They are art that the CTA didn't have to pay for, and they make it a lot more difficult to ram a truck into the station.

I'm not sure what I think of the art at Rockwell. It seems like if you fell and hit it, you would come away seriously injured.

Pointing out splintered wood seems petty. It's wood!


They also make it much more difficult for a bus to let off passengers at the station without blocking traffic on the street.

Can't we have the flowerboxes and a little functionality too? Quite frankly those flowerboxes aren't going to stop a truck. They do however stop the legit loading/unloading of a bus. Have a little common sense before you argue an a point not backed by facts.

The flowerboxes aren't art, at least the ones paid by the feds grant, they are actually paid for as part of the station construction, so they do cost money.


[How about if it was just a copy of the mona lisa then? Would you still put up with the delay? lol]

No. But a copy of Dogs Playing Poker, that's another matter...

KevinB: we get it. You don't like the flowerboxes. You've said so every week for the past 100 years. Seriously, we know! I would give anything to have them remove the boxes just so you'd stop yapping about them.....

Let's give the CTA credit where credit is due. The flowerboxes are outside, in the sun. I would assume with the piss-poor management and planning, they would just start planting flowers inside under stairwells and in the subway.
Let's not forget where they placed the solar-powered garbage compactor--the subway. Gee Whiz

They don't have to remove the flowerboxes, I'd just be happy if they moved them out of the way of the bus loading/unloading. If they moved them a foot or two further in, it would solve the problem or shave a bit off the front. Flower box still there. Terrorist truck protection still there. (This is a joke, BTW, there's no way to get a truck through the big metal supports for the track and those flowerboxes wouldn't stop a yugo). Bus can unload there.

Simple enough, huh?

But then that seems to be beyond the combined intelligence/capability of the CTA. I mean anyone with half a brain (like Frank) could see that it's a problem

I mean, even Frank might have been able to figure this one out....and a solution...


You're right, chris. What could possibly be wrong with it? It's great!



Don't you think you can at least try to come up with an answer to Chris's question? That seems to me to make more sense than being sarcastic and not even giving a clue to the reasoning for your strange opinion. I am pretty mystified as to why you would be against advertisements on bus ceilings. Normally, when someone states an unusual opinion I can at least think of some sort of reason, bizarre or not, that they could use to argue for that point of view. In this case I can't even begin to imagine why someone would be against these advertisements.

Indeed Bob what could possibly be wrong with it? Apparently MK doesn't understand your logic either.

The only thing I can think of is you might have some sort of dislike of advertisements in general. In that case, I hope you never turn on your TV, radio, step outside, or go on the internet... Oh wait... Ads are everywhere and if an additional ad or two on the ceiling of a bus sets you off, make sure you don't do any of the activities I previously mentioned.

chris, MK doesn't know what a block is. I'll let the troll stand, especially with such a professed lack of imagination. It would be like talking to a wall.

You aren't like that, so, given that advertising pays my salary, with only a minor indirection, I'll say that you're wrong about your assumption and leave it to you to explore where your logical jump may have been in the wrong direction. To help, let me restate your case in the same spirit in which you restated mine: All advertising is good!

The thing about advertising space: You need to have someone willing to pay to advertise in it, and you need to be sure that it will be a desirable into the future.

For example, those changing ads on the right sides of certain buses that they're testing. Interesting concept. But will it work? (And I don't mean technically.) Will advertisers be willing to pay for the space after the novelty wears off?

Put some ads up on the undersides of a canopy at an El station, and I'll bet you could find enough advertisers to give it a shot. But would you be able to keep selling the space long-term?

Since you said you are paid via advertising revenue, and additional advertising caused you to earn a higher salary, would you be willing to accept this?

I think your problem with it boils down to how you would answer this question. If the answer is no, then I understand where you are coming from. If not, then you seem conflicted on the issue.

Well, I tried to word what I said to convey that I'm *not* paid via advertising revenue. It provides a cash stream to my employer that in part funds employees' salaries. Like most people, I'd want my salary and salary increases, I suspect, to be based upon the quality of my work. Since I'm not an ad rep, quantity isn't relevant.

Rusty summarizes the situation well, I think. But even here, there's a level of abstraction. The CTA doesn't benefit from advertising; it benefits from the contract it signed with an advertising company. I believe, from past discussions here, that it's an annual or short-term contract and the CTA receives most or all of that money whether the company sells a few ads or a ton. I know there are plenty of people, including Rusty and MK, ready to jump on that statement if it's wrong.

Incidentally, I read that buses in New York are not only using those digital signs but using the GPS systems in each bus to change the ads based on the bus' location. I don't know if the CTA's contract with its ad rep would increase the CTA's cash intake but I think that's a great idea. It's just that if the CTA doesn't get more money from it, I'd expect the ad rep to pay for the development of that software.

I guess if I have to spell out what I was saying before, and it seems I do, I think there are many times and many places where advertising is intrusive regardless of the cash flow it provides. If you disagree, let me suggest an extreme-case hypothetical to you: Would you accept a lower fare on the condition that a CTA employee hand you an advertising sign as you enter a station and hold it so other people can see it until you leave the system at your destination?


It really isn't neccessary for me to say anything. For the third time you failed to answer why the specific advertisents you mentioned earlier were intrusive and instead gave what you admit is an extreme hypothetical of using the other persons arguments to a ridiculous extent. When that is the only thing you can resort to it clearly indicates you have lost the argument. I could do the same thing for you and say "imagine if there was no advertising in the world and the nobody had any good method to get word of their product to people. Industries that depend on advertising, such as television, newspapers, and most websites would collapse.". But if I made that argument it would be pretty silly and misleading because you are not suggesting that all advertising should be abolished. When someone has no other option to support their opinion than to do this it clearly means that their whole argument has failed.

Even though it is not neccessary for me discuss this farther, I just can't resist responding to this sentence:

"The CTA doesn't benefit from advertising; it benefits from the contract it signed with an advertising company."

Umm, what in the world are you trying to say? It is like stating that Brian Urlacher does not benefit from his salery but instead benefits from the contract he signed with the Bears that provides his salery. The statement makes no sense.

As long as the advertisement is not loud or obnoxious I believe most people will be in favor of it if it provides money to run the CTA. If you can find a transit system in the world that doesn't use advertising to partially fund its self I am sure we would all like to know. Do you avoid watching television because it has commercials inbetween? Really your statements have most other people on this blog lost.

Lone Gawker, I'm as confused by your comments as you seem to be by mine. I haven't said anything against advertising on public transportation, TV, or any other medium or venue. Quite to the contrary.

Although I'll say that yes, one of the reasons I enjoy using my Tivo is that I can easily skip commercials. But I don't mind them being there and sometimes go back to watch an ad that catches my eye. It's just a time saver. People have been fast-forwarding through commercials since the earliest consumer VCRs.

Still, you're making the mistake chris made of extrapolating considerably from one slight comment.

I know there are plenty of people, including Rusty and MK, ready to jump on that statement if it's wrong.

But you're not... although I'm not sure how long the contract is for, and I don't feel like spending the time to find out how long it is.

I'd also be willing to bet that it gives them at least some kind of limited exclusive rights to keep the competition from getting too close.

So if they're not willing to spend the money to install the advertising, the advertising isn't going to get installed, so Ron's legacy won't be that he monitized every flat surface.

I can't help but wonder what's going to happen to all these expensive toys the ad agencies are buying if they stop making money. We keep hearing that the ad company will replace the broken units, and such, but that's only going to be true if they're making money.

It won't be long before we're pointing at dark screens while talking about what a good idea they seemed at the time since someone else was paying to have them installed.

Thought you criticize me for extrapolating your argument, it does not seem unreasonable that if you find the current condition of ads on the CTA annoying that you would find the general state of advertising to the public annoying today. What specifically do you find annoying in the CTA placement of advertising? I still feel most people would take a piece of paper from a station employee if it meant a reduced fare and better service.

I don't believe I extrapolated much if anything from your original statement. The point is that advertising is everywhere.

Ads are already near the ceiling of the bus on the sides, so what harm is having an additional ad less than a few feet away on the ceiling?

That's the issue at hand here, and everyone is having trouble understanding why you feel this way. I have not advocated the posting of ads on every available surface or having customers walk around with placards either.

The comparisons to other mediums that are largely supported by advertisements are valid and not extrapolated. You came back and said you are not paid by ads, but your posting did not state that clearly, if at all.

Advertisements support many industries and the CTA acquires a significant portion of its revenues from this. In most people's eyes, additional revenues from ads would help support the CTA and maybe limit the need for fare increases or enable system improvements.

and the CTA acquires a significant portion of its revenues from (ads)

I believe that the correct word is actually "insignificant".

Pin money. Pocket change. Petty cash. A little on the side. Those would be apt descriptions of their revenue from advertising. Significant is on the other side of the spectrum.

Transit advertising isn't the most attractive form of advertising. It's best use is to reinforce the message of a huge campaign using multiple media. Occasionally you'll get an advertiser who'll try a campaign who's centerpiece is transit, but not often. But there are few advertisers who will even consider tranist advertising.

The comparisons to other mediums that are largely supported by advertisements are valid and not extrapolated.

Comparing public tranist to *any* business supported by advertising is laughable.

In most people's eyes, additional revenues from ads would help support the CTA and maybe limit the need for fare increases or enable system improvements.

That's the preception, but it's not the reality. Ad revenues, even if maximized, would not come close enough to limit the need for fare increases.

As for system improvements, advertising might pay for the initial installation of luxury items like video displays, but even under the best conditions, other operating funds will still be needed for the CTA to make use of the minor capital improvements provided by the ad agency.

And what happens when ad revenues no longer support the displays? Then more operating funds will be needed to maintain them, or they will go dark and/or be removed.

There's a great _preception_ that advertising revenue is the greatest thing since sliced bread for transit agencies. The reality is that it's chump change, and the pursuit of advertising revenue only occurs because of that unrealistic preception that to not pursue it is to leave some huge windfall of cash on the table.

The bottom line is advertising has as much potential for significant revenue for a transit system as selling advertising on your car, house, and person would have on your personal budget.

Let's just be glad we're not in New York where an agreement has been reached to project moving advertisements on subway walls as trains pass by.

What's wrong with that, Martha? Do you enjoy looking at the bare walls that much? Would you feel that you are missing out on something in your life that you currently cherish?

"Ad revenues, even if maximized, would not come close enough to limit the need for fare increases. "

Yes, it would. I don't think anybody here thinks advertising revenue represents a large percentage of the budget. But neither does the senior free rides the governor implemented. Nor would the revenues for any two days of the year be a very large percentage of the budget. Yet, if somehow the CTA lost two days worth of fare revenue there would be people who would be outraged. Nobody would say "Oh well, who cares. This is small compared with the rest of the year." We know that the senior free rides are responsible for more than half of the proposed fare increase for next year despite the fact that it is a tiny portion of the agency's expenses. Whether the CTA uses its advertising infrastructure to its maximum will clearly affect fares. It may causes the fare to be five cents lower or 25 cents lower. But that is not nothing.

As long as projected advertisements don't interfere with my enjoyment of apparitions of the divine in the limescale on the subway walls, everything's groovy. Ever so slightly more important, test groups mentioned that when trying to read, the flashing images disturb one's peripheral vision and disrupt the ability to focus on text. Since I like to use my transit time to read (and occasionally keep apprised of what's going on with transit agencies in other cities), yes, I believe projected advertisements might cause me to miss out on something I currently cherish.


Actually the CTA briefly had those this summer for the movie SpeedRacer on the southbound blue line in between Chicago and Monroe (i forget whether it was north or south of clark/lake).

Ironic.... Until recently that section of the Blue Line was neither speed nor racer. It was more like Dante's Inferno except that you could never be sure exactly which level of hell you were stuck in.

"Let's just be glad we're not in New York where an agreement has been reached to project moving advertisements on subway walls as trains pass by."

You mean these ads that have been on the CTA system for three years??


Still, nobody has answered the real question.

What is wrong with an additional ad on the ceiling of a bus?

If no one can answer it, then there's probably nothing wrong with it.

I really don't have a problem with any one advertisement. The problem is that it seems that I am bombarded with advertising every minute of the day. It seems that everywhere I go there is advertising taking up every available square inch of space. As there is so much advertising many people start tuning it out so the advertising tends to become louder and more difficult to ignore. While ads on the ceilings of buses aren't a problem by themselves, it is the combination of advertising that becomes bothersome.

It wasn't too long ago that some phone company had people with blue-painted faces board trains and have loud, annoying conversations as part of an advertising "campaign". There are appropriate times and places for advertising, but there are also places where no advertising should be allowed to appear. Also, not every kind of advertisement is appropriate in every situation (e.g. television monitors in restrooms). Heck, even the gas station has monitors built into the pumps to feed advertising while fueling. It's just too much.

Thank you, ebob. I had given up that anyone else would get this thought.

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the author has approved them.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Blemishes pop up at new Brown Line stations; security firm wants job back:

Share news tips