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More answers to your questions: Train schedules; more slow zone work

Here's another installment of questions you had for Ron Huberman and the CTA.

Why did (Huberman) take the very consumer-hostile move of doing away with schedules on the train lines, and when will he restore them? (From Bob S.)

We’re not sure what is meant by "doing away with schedules on the train lines." Every station has a posted timetable and there are also brochures with schedules for the whole route for each of the eight rail lines – just like the bus timetable brochures. Earlier this year, the CTA switched  to using intervals instead of exact times during times when trains run very frequently, such as rush hour.  Now the timetable might say that between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m., a train runs every 5-7 minutes, for example.  This mirrors what we've long done on the bus and rail route timetable brochures and is basically industry standard.

Now that the Red line subway slow zone project is wrapping up, is there going to be a focus now on eliminating slow zones that exist around the Wilson/Lawrence area (they DO exist but not on slow zone map) and in proximity to the Loyola and Granville stops? (From Ed.)

CTA crews are currently working on two slow zones around Wilson/Lawrence. The slow zones are reflected on the slow zone map as of Oct. 15 on CTA’s web site.  CTA is currently looking for the funds to complete slow zone work in 2009 – including around the Loyola and Granville Red Line stations.

Were the crews for the subway project CTA track workers that can now be redeployed or were they contractor workers for that project? (From Ed again.)

They were contracted crews for that project.

Ron mentioned in a few news releases that newly reconstructed tracks would be increased above the 55 mph limit to 65 mph or possibly more. What is the status on the speed increase on the new sections of track such as on the Blue Line from Jefferson Park to O'Hare and in the subways? Are there specific areas identified that will be increased to 65 mph? (Three's the charm for Ed.)

When the Blue Line work is complete later this year,  the CTA will conduct testing to determine the top speed for the current cars.   In addition, there are new cars on order  that are built to be able to operate at higher speeds than the current fleet.  The prototype is scheduled to arrive for CTA’s review in 2009.

When will the auxiliary exit open at Sedgwick? The station was done last winter, yet the auxiliary exit has yet to open. The one at Armitage is now open, and it was just finished in June. (From Paul.)

There will be no auxiliary entrance at the Sedgwick Brown Line station. There is still work to be done on the auxiliary stairs that exit at Hudson Street. When the work is complete, those stairs will be for "emergency exit only" and customers will still be directed to exit through the main station house at Sedgwick.


The schedules are useless because:
1. Trains never arrive at the scheduled times, even one stop from the start. [And before some smartass says my watch is wrong, I'm looking at the clock on my cellphone which is extremely accurate as the cell company is getting its time signals direct from NIST!]
2. Because the CTA can't or more likely, won't provide running times between stations on the web site.
I would love to know what the supposed running time is between Loyola & Garfield , but that's nowhere to be found!

This isn't a comment about today's entry, but I'm not sure where else to put it. I haven't been on this site for a while, and I just went to the crazy commuting tales section, but it's only showing entries from 2005. What happened to the rest? Am I missing something?

A --- scroll down to the bottom of the crazy commuting stories comments, those are the most recent.

Thanks, Kevin. That's about the non-answer I expected, I suppose. (Although I'm not sure about their reference to buses. The brochure PDFs I see on the CTA's Web site generally show half a dozen or more stops and an expected arrival time for each.)

[I would love to know what the supposed running time is between Loyola & Garfield , but that's nowhere to be found!]

55 minutes. Try the trip planner.

At least these answers are slightly better this morning.

As long as Cabrini-Green and the "mini-Ghetto" around North & Orleans still exist, the aux exit at Sedgwick will be closed. Seems like a safety thing to me.

Did I hear correctly that there is a CTA public meeting tonight at their HQ? And if so, are all of the regulars here going to be there?

Very cool, thank Kevin. I didn't think my questions on train speeds and slow zones would be asked. However, there are still no slow zones shown anywhere near Lawrence or Wilson on the Oct 15 slow zone map. I'm not sure what map they are looking at, but certainly not the one posted on the CTA website. I'm hopeful one of the slow zones they mentioned being worked on is the creeping one Southbound from Lawrence to just South of Wilson.

Also, if anyone here can back this up...I'm fairly certain all of the CTA trains currently in use are approved and designed for speeds up to 70mph. I also have heard that the Dan Ryan line and O'Hare line from Jefferson Park to O'Hare were designed for 70mph speeds. Of course this all depends on the trains, tracks and signals being in good condition.

What timetable says, per the example given above, "between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m., a train runs every 5-7 minutes"?

Let me quote from the current Francisco Brown Line schedule to the Loop: Weekdays 4:42 a.m. to 10 a.m., every 3 to 10 minutes.


That is not a one hour time span with a 2 minute range, that is a 5+ hour time span that covers a 7 minute range. Over morning rush hour! HUGE DIFFERENCE. Good luck making your transfer every morning.

Also, the whole schedule is intervals, except for the very first and last trains, and not "when trains run very frequently, such as rush hour" as stated above.

The new schedule is useless.

Count me in for the meeting!

They are probably saying that they are working on the slow zones near the Sheridan Red line stop.

As for why the train goes slow between Wilson and Lawrence could be because of the slight turn in the track. It might not be able to take certain speeds, but I'm just guessing.

Hmm, well the trains went at least 25-30mph between Lawrence and Wilson for at least 5+ years prior to this summer. Its either the tracks are in bad shape or the bridge over Leland that looks like it could suffer a partial collapse at any moment that I'm sure is the cause of the somewhat recently instituted slooooow zone.

Intervals make more sense to me than exact times for the train schedules. I wish they would switch to that for the PDF bus schedules, too.

The "emergency exit" at Sedgwick baffles me. How exactly will it work? Is Sedgwick more likely to be subject to an emergency than all the other stops, none of which have "emergency exits"?

On the subject of brown line station redesigns: The Chicago station has been redesigned to require MORE staffing! Rather than just having one booth serving the whole station, there's now one on each side of the station, which would seem to require that there be two people on duty now.

Why renovate the station so as to cause an permanent operating budget cost increase?

As a side note, this will only make it more expensive to operate the brown line 24/7 should we ever get around to doing that.

You can't do a trip planner while you're on the platform or don't have a computer!

I never use trip planner but I could probably give very accurate estimates of travel time from any 2 stations just by guesstimating. I think most people who rely on the CTA for travel could too.

Not UCC apparently. He seems to believe that the CTA should somehow inform its riders everything about everything at the stations. I bet he also is annoyed that they don't have signs explaining exactly how much room is available to stand or sit in each train. He probably also thinks the CTA should estimate the amount of noise from passengers on the trains from each part of the day and post that at the stations.

MK, you self centered moron!
Every commuter railroad in the country provides a timetable that shows the trains number & when it leaves each station which gives you the running time.
The CTA has such schedules, it just won't make them public.
Because that's the way they've always done it.

Yes, Ivy, that's why I didn't see any point to their answer either. If their example had any basis in reality, that answer would make sense. With intervals that essentially say "Either waits as short as three minutes or as much as two and a half times longer" over a stretch of time so long that the entire morning rush hour merely falls in the middle of it, there's no useful information there.

I have to side with UC on this one (slightly). I too found/find the schedules on the el platforms hit or miss. Even the intervals (which they listed for trains after midnight I believe) were not always accurate. They used to list "exact" times of train arrivals to each station, now they just list approximate, which I guess is the best they can do. But when it was exact times, I thought it was a joke. In fact the only exact times they list now are for the wee small hours of the morning, when ridership is so sparse staying on schedule is easy.


(can't provide a clickable link to this)


Tell us how you really feel about MK ;)

I don't think the schedules would even be worth it. You have the purple line that has a published schedule and even with only 4 stops before it gets to howard with it's own tracks, it never gets there on time.


"Why renovate the station so as to cause an permanent operating budget cost increase?

As a side note, this will only make it more expensive to operate the brown line 24/7 should we ever get around to doing that."

My guess is that it would be too complicated and expensive of a setup to do it this way. Because Franklin Street is directly below the current station, you couldn't build a street-level station nor would there be enough room for a mezzanine-type station without knocking down more buildings or reconfiguring the street. The other option would be to leave the station where it was across the street, but then, like with the old station, you'd be stuck with having to walk quite a bit to where the trains load (usually missing one in the process). Don't know how much room there'd be for elevators plus stairs either.

I'm not holding my breath for 24/7 Brown Line anytime soon, at least not south of Belmont. The CTA seems to believe that rush hour is the only time people use the Brown Line.

[You can't do a trip planner while you're on the platform or don't have a computer!]

I suppose that's true, but your original complaint was:

[2. Because the CTA can't or more likely, won't provide running times between stations ON THE WEB SITE.] (emphasis mine)

I was simply pointing out where on the web site this info was available. I apologize for not realizing that you in fact wanted information on a web site that could be accessed in poster form on the platform.

That's my bad. By now I should realize that I can't assume that I know what you're talking about simply by taking the words you write at face value.

There's a few reasons why they don't post the schedule for every train:

1. How big would the sign have to be to post every train's schedule?
2. If we're just talking about every arrival time at a particular station, how much money would it cost to produce unique signs for every station? And how much utility would that have compared to a whole schedule?
3. If the cost of posting the signs once doesn't seem too bad, what's the cost of doing it every time the schedules are revised?
4. How often do the trains actually travel according to their schedule? The longer the line, the more stops, the higher the diviation. And let's not forget slow zones. Or daily mantenance operations that don't even make it to the slow zone map.
5. How many people really care about the exact time? Aren't intervals more useful once the headway drops under 10 minutes?

"Weekdays 4:42 a.m. to 10 a.m., every 3 to 10 minutes", however, does seem a little too vague. There's a big difference between waiting 10 minutes, and waiting 3 minutes. On the other hand, 4 to 8 minutes wouldn't be an unreasonable interval in my mind. So close, but yet so far!

I will agree that there should be some aproximate run times between some points on the map of each line. If the map were drawn to scale, it would be less important, but it's not.

I'm not saying times between every station should be posted. Just major points. And the normal run time could be expressed as a range, too. At least enough to give some scale to the map.

I agree with your conclusion, Rusty. (And while some can't be bothered to contribute anything and so just engage in ad hominem comments and slippery slope failed logic, the CTA used to provide travel times for segments of each line until relatively recently, as they still do for buses.)

But to answer your questions, a bit lightheartedly: 1. As big as the current ones, which are the same size as the signs on every platform that had every train's scheduled arrival time. 2. About what it used to -- doesn't the CTA have an internal signmaking or graphics shop? Every station used to have its own specific schedule posted. 3. That depends on the CTA's graphic designers and printers, but if they're on staff, the cost's the same as not updating them, yes? 4. I think this is the real issue, and it would've been nice if the CTA had just said, "We admit we no longer have any ideas when trains will reach stations. And you've probably heard how bad we are at telling you when trains *won't* reach stations. So we give up." 5. Apparently you haven't picked up on the enthusiasm for the bus tracker and the frustration when it's just one minute off, even if it's for a perfectly logical reason.

And yes, knowing when the trains are going to arrive every 3 minutes or every 10 minutes makes a huge difference, especially if you're standing on an El platform two blocks from the lakeshore in a subzero wind chill. Whether the train arrives at 8:02, 8:03, or 8:04 isn't my concern so much as, if I miss it, is the next one at 8:05 or 8:12? That would affect commuters' travel plans.

Look strannix, I don't have time to waste with that trip planner crap!
But what I could do is print out one of those intersecting charts you see in Rand McNally's book of maps of all state highways that you use to figure distances between cities.
The CTA could do the same for each train line.
And anyone that says you can guesstimate times is loony.
If I haven't ridden a line in a long time & it's full of slow zones, I don't know how long the trip will be.
And just like an abacus user can beat a calculator, I can figure times faster with an intersecting chart faster than with a trip planner online, which of course requires me to be online.
These charts could also be posted on each platform. Or is that too complicated for you to understand? It's certainly too complicated for the CTA to understand!

UCC: Please tone down the personal attacks on other commenters' intelligence. You can get your point across without questioning whether Strannix is intelligent enough to understand something.

So it's OK to question the intelligence of those running the CTA?

[Or is that too complicated for you to understand?]

No. I think I got it; you want each station to have internet stations for passengers to access the trip planner.

"MK, you self centered moron!
Every commuter railroad in the country provides a timetable that shows the trains number & when it leaves each station which gives you the running time."

So what? What is your point? The CTA is not a commuter railroad. You do know that, right?

Every bus driver, motorman & supervisor schedules that list the time points of every run run, every day.
It's obviously in the CTA's computer system & could easily be placed online!
They don't want to & the reason is also obvious: people would then be able to compare the scheduled times with the actual times & there are ephemera collectors that have older schedules with even faster times.

I guess I don't understand your logic, UCc. You claim that the CTA knows its schedules are wrong. But you want them posted anyway, apparently for no reason other than to bitch about them. After all, you already know that they won't actually help you plan out your trips.

Then you say that the reason they won't post them is that people will see that they're wrong. But that's a good reason not to post information! It's hard to think of anything as aggressively consumer-unfriendly as knowingly posting incorrect information.

I don't see where the complaints about Brown Line running times are coming from. It goes to the Loop till 1am on weekdays, and to Belmont until close to 3. There's a grand total of 1 to 3 hours out of the day when I given Brown Line station isn't in service. That's hardly a "rush hour only" philosophy. (Personally, I tend to take it basically any time BUT rush hour, and I do fine.)

What an amazingly ignorant comment strannix.
The object of having the schedules posted is to get an idea of the time it will take to go from point a to point b & to see if the CTA can somehow adhere to such a schedule.
Arguing with you is pointless as all you want to do is disagree with anything I write. If I wrote that the sky is blue, you would complain that that day it was gray.

The object of having the schedules posted is to get an idea of the time it will take to go from point a to point b & to see if the CTA can somehow adhere to such a schedule.

Okay. That's two reasons.

The first reason is "to get an idea of the time it will take to go from point a to point b". This could better be accomplished by a graphic representation of the line with a time scale.

That's better than a posted schedule for two reasons: One, a posted schedule would imply a precieceness that isn't there, and two, schedules change.

The second reaon is "to see if the CTA can shomehow adhere to such a schedule."

In other words, you just want another thing to bitch about.

I absolutely agree that there should be some guide to help people tell how long it typically takes to get from point a to point b, but posting a complete schedule is far from the best way to meet that goal.

It is, however, an excellent way of getting more fodder to use to bitch about the CTA.

Umm... Rusty, not to be an ass or anything, but there's no such word in English as "precieceness," so what exactly are you trying to say? (head scratch)

Here's a real argument against posting the timetable at stations; the overwhelming majority of Americans cannot read a train schedule, unlike the readers (and posters) on this blog.


You really couldn't figure that one out from the context?

Well, it was either that or "prescience," which is a little off the deep end, but still would've made sense in context, hence the head scratch :-D

I'd just like to hypothesize that anyone who can add seven comments to this thread alone -- not naming names, now, strictly hypothetically! -- probably *does* have the time to check the trip planner.

You know, I didn't even know "preciseness" was a real word; I would have thought "precision" was the correct form. But as it turns out, they're both correct. Go figure.

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