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New Wilson "L" station, commentary on Blair Kamin's column

November 13, 2017

The new Wilson "L" station opened Monday, October 23, 2017. It's on Wilson, just west of Broadway, and serves the Uptown neighborhood. It was a $203 million project announced in 2011. The auxiliaryy entrance at Sunnyside, one block south, is not yet open. The main entrance, fully accessible, is on the south side of Wilson. There's a farecard-only entrance on the north side of Wilson. The facade of Uptown Station, now called the Gerber building, was preserved, but its interior and roof were demolished. Brand-new "L" structure was built to the west and a new bridge over Broadway, a decision that prevented the continued use of this building as a train station.

Please post your thoughts here: New Wilson "L" station

Graham Garfield's history page Chicago-L.org: Stations - Wilson

Commentary on "New Wilson station shows CTA's Red-Purple Line modernization is on track" by Blair Kamin, November 10, 2017 1:50 PM, Cityscapes, Chicago Tribune

I was disappointed in Blair Kamin's column reviewing the new CTA Wilson station. I was appalled by the statement, "The project also is restoring the beaux-arts Gerber Building, once the station's main entrance and still one of Uptown's architectural gems."

This statement is not true. The building's interior and roof were demolished. All that remains is the facade.

Arthur U. Gerber designed the Uptown Station, which opened in 1923, with both lovely and practical touches. It was important because Uptown was a growing neighborhood with an important business center, a major transit stop for passengers for both the rapid transit to the Loop and the interurban to Milwaukee. Baggage was handled for long-distance passengers.

There was a grand staircase to a mezzanine. It once had brass handrails. There were separate restrooms for male and female passengers, lounges, telephone booths, even a barber shop.

There was terrazzo flooring and art marble wainscoting. Please note that these architectural features were in place until the interior was demolished. Because terrazzo flooring is an ideal product for railroad stations, given heavy foot traffic, the floor was still in excellent shape. Some of the wainscoting was cracked, of course.

Mr. Kamin stated that the old station was "cramped and antiquated", but clearly, given that it was built to handle large numbers of both local and intercity passengers, this isn't the case at all. It's just that CTA had cut it up into retail space in unkind ways, retail tenants whose leases all ran out over the years and weren't replaced in the last decade.

There had also been a ground-level terminal on the south side of Wilson added a few years after the "L" was built, which remained in use till CTA rearranged its routes in 1949.

The old upper-level station had a 24 foot wide center platform, as wide as modern platforms built at CTA terminal stations like Jefferson Park (remember, this was a terminal station from 1970 to 1982) and 95th Street. This was wider than platforms at Chicago Union Station. Therefore, there was ample room to add an elevator and plenty of room at platform level for passengers and to get passengers in wheelchairs around obstacles. Note that on the new platforms, wheelchair clearance around obstacles like stairways is just a few feet wide, minimal clearance. Even wheelchair accommodation (required under federal law) doesn't require new station construction but could have been done at the old station.

The old station was dirty and lacked adequate maintenance, but that's because CTA has wanted to do a major project here for close to three decades. That means all maintenance stops, not that CTA had been keeping up with maintenance in the first place.

The roof, undoubtedly, required replacement. The station's interior, particularly the floor, did not. It required cleaning. The decorative elements should have been repaired and/or recreated as necessary. The generously wide staircase should have remained with an elevator added.

Mr. Kamin stated that there's a farecard-only entrance on the north side of Wilson through the Gerber building. Well, not exactly. The entrance incorporates the southwest corner of the building facade, but nearly all of it is brand new exterior and the interior is also entirely new. Mr. Kamin might have criticized the exterior walls of the secondary station, unornamented concrete block that makes no attempt to match the old station's decorative facade. The building has to be new and to the west, dictated by the very expensive decision to build all-new structure west of the old "L" structure.

Please note that at other important "L" stations, like Addison, Belmont, and Fullerton, the "L" structure is a mix of old and new. Half of the structure is original (one hopes with all failed steel replaced) and half new with the station projects. Instead of making this choice, which would have allowed the Gerber building to remain in use as a train station to an island platform serving the two northbound tracks, CTA made the decision to spend another $100 million or so.

It's only taxpayers' money.

Wilson is an example of typical CTA excess that grabs huge amounts of money for one project and starves the rest of the region's mass transit system of capital monies. This project by itself is more costly than Metra's entire 2018 capital budget.

I am excited by transit projects that make incremental improvements, not massive architectural statements. I'm also excited by transit agencies that live within ungenerous means, prioritizing capital spending where operating costs can be reduced and more passengers can be served.

The massive canopy at Wilson not only doesn't impress me but I have concerns about its ability to cut down on wind on unpleasant winter days. I'd rather have doors at the top of stairs (which we once had at every single Howard "L" station on the embankment north of Wilson) because that provides an actual break from the wind. I like human-scale canopies, like those that remain on the old Met stations California and Damen on the O'Hare line, although canopies should have extended the full length of the trains. The SOM-designed stations for the Kennedy and Dan Ryan projects in the late 1960s are simple and practical and effective, and I like those modern station designs.

Mr. Kamin praised the project for combining engineering with urban planning. What urban planning? Wilson College is immediately to the west, which had replaced typical Chicago low-rise housing but in an area intended that transit would bring students and faculty to its campus. Well, it wasn't too long that parking was deemed inadequate. Recall the era in which tennis courts were turned into additional parking. The area that had been used by the lower Wilson station and yard was used for college parking.

Today, we've largely surrendered to the automobile, even in a north side area as well served by transit as Uptown. The "L" is flanked by multi-story parking decks for shopping and for the college. I find this to be a failure of urban planning, not a success.

Proposed revisions to Metra Electric schedule; 60th Street entrance; changes in Metra fare policies

June 1, 2017

At Metra, in which periods between change can be measured in multiple decades, things are evolving.

Metra Electric schedule proposes 20 minute midday headways to Hyde Park, more service to 63rd, hourly service to main line stations 75th to 111th, while sharply curtailing service on the Blue Island and South Chicago branches

Metra is to be complimented for presenting the proposed Metra Electric schedule change to the public in advance and for scheduling four community meetings. Meetings will be held June 19-22, 2017. The meeting schedule and proposed Metra Electric schedule can be found here:

Metra proposes revised Metra Electric schedule

We want to hear your thoughts on the proposed changes to the Metra Electric schedule. Please post them here: Metra proposes changes to Metra Electric schedule

Major changes have been proposed to the Metra Electric schedule: More train service to Hyde Park, more midday and Saturday train service to main line stations 75th Street to 111th Street, with adverse changes to the Saturday schedule for south suburban passengers and to service on the South Chicago and Blue Island branches. All Blue Island branch service would be eliminated on Saturday. It's death by a thousand cuts to service on the two branches.

The schedule has existed in its present form since 1987. At that time, Blue Island branch service was eliminated on Sunday. Middays on weekdays and Saturdays, through train service to the Blue Island branch was restored but put on a two hour headway that also stopped at main line stations 63rd to Kensington. South suburban main line trains ran express in the city, stopping only at 55th-56th-57th and Kensington middays and Saturdays, made all stops on Sundays. The previous schedule change in 1981 eliminated half hourly midday service on the main line to the south suburbs and the South Chicago branch and midday through service to downtown on the Blue Island branch. All midday weekday and Saturday south suburban main lines trains made all stops.

More frequent midday service to Hyde Park and 63rd; more trains would stop at 51st-53rd and 59th

Trains would stop at Hyde Park stations — 51st-53rd, 55th-56th-57th, 59th — every 20 minutes on weekday middays. Because Metra is thinking about providing some service to the future location of the Obama library, four trains every two hours weekdays would stop at 63rd on an uneven headway. On Saturday, between south suburban main line trains, South Chicago branch trains, and a new class of main line train to Kensington only, there would be four trains in two hours on an uneven headway to Hyde Park and 63rd. No significant improvement is proposed for Sunday.

Right now, during midday on weekdays and Saturday, south suburban main line express trains are timed to make connections with South Chicago branch trains at 55th-56th-57th to allow transfers. Blue Island branch trains, on two-hour headways, also stop at Hyde Park stations. On Sunday, both main line trains and South Chicago branch trains make all stops, giving Hyde Park stations two trains in two hours on an irregular headway.

Main line service changes

In the proposed schedule, a new class of train making local stops downtown to Kensington is introduced that would run midday on weekdays and Saturday, timed to make connections at Kensington for travel between the south side and south suburbs. Off peak south suburban main line express trains will also stop at 51st-53rd and 59th, in addition to 55th-56th-57th. During midday on weekdays and Saturday, stations from 75th Street to 111th Street would receive service every hour because Metra would like to better serve the Pullman historic district. There would be no significant improvement on Sunday. Main line express trains from the south suburbs could serve 111th Street if crossovers were installed, but Metra hasn't proposed that.

Every other south suburban main line train on Saturday would make all local stops, increasing travel time for south suburban passengers. The number of inbound and outbound trains south suburban main line trains on Saturday is reduced from 23 to 20.

In the current schedule, during midday on weekdays and Saturday, stations from 75th Street to 111th receive service every two hours. South suburban main line midday weekday and Saturday express trains do not stop at 51st-53rd nor 59th.

South Chicago branch to have shorter span of service, fewer trains

In the proposed schedule, all shuttles have been eliminated on South Chicago branch, although through service would run later Monday through Saturday. Nine trains would be eliminated weekdays and Saturday, ending early morning and late evening service weekdays and Saturday.

Weekday outbound, the span of service departing Millenium Station would be 5:30 am until 8:50 pm. Saturday and Sunday outbound, 5 am until 11 pm. In the current schedule, the span of service Monday through Saturday is 5:15 am until 12:50 am next day, no change in span of service on Sunday.

Weekday inbound, the span of service to departing 93rd Street would be 5:40 am until 9:40 pm. Saturday and Sunday outbound, 5:59 am until 11:59 pm. In the current schedule, the span of service Monday through Saturday is 4:53 am until 12:09 am next day, 5:49 am until 11:49 pm on Sunday.

Blue Island branch to have shorter span of service including elimination of most evening trains and all Saturday service

In the proposed schedule, all Blue Island branch shuttles but one evening round-trip would be eliminated, ending early morning and evening service. Nine trains would be eliminated weekdays. All Blue Island service would be eliminated on Saturday.

Weekday outbound, the span of service departing Millenium Station would be 6:38 am to 7:20 pm and no service on Saturday or Sunday. In the current schedule, the span of service Monday through Saturday is 5:15 am until 11:20 pm, with no service on Sunday.

Weekday inbound, the span of service departing Blue Island would be 5 am until 7:41 pm and no service on Saturday or Sunday. In the current schedule, the span of service Monday through Saturday is 4:39 am until 11:43 pm.

Discussion of Metra Electric proposed schedule changes

Metra is sacrificing branch line service to improve service to Hyde Park and 63rd. There's no reason to make such a choice. If more service is warranted in Hyde Park, just add trains.

The branches should be looked at as an opportunity to encourage development in the city neighborhoods and Blue Island along the routes, given that underutilized infrastructure exists. Bus service should be coordinated to feed train service and not compete with it. We should consider whether it's cheaper to serve these areas with more train service than bus service. As a start, this requires fare integration and service coordination.

Without fare integration and service coordination, branch line passengers simply lose service. If only there were through fares, buses could meet main line trains to replace branch line service. There's plenty of CTA bus service in the south lakefront area served by the South Chicago branch. Pace 359 and CTA 119 could replace Blue Island branch service if bus service were rerouted to meet main line trains at Kensington.

We want to hear your thoughts on the proposed changes to the Metra Electric schedule. Please post them here: Metra proposes changes to Metra Electric schedule

Reopening the 60th Street entrance at 59th

In discussion with Metra, I asked if the 60th Street stationhouse and entrance to 59th Street could be re-opened, given the proposal to add service. I also pointed out that 59th should be made accessible and if 60th were re-opened first, it would make it easier to install elevators at 59th. The Metra staff member said they're discussing it with the city but they are required to make 60th accessible per FTA regulations.

Given the fact that numerous Metra Electric stations aren't yet accessible, it doesn't make sense to create a situation in which 59th would have two accessible entrances. If there was one project to re-open 60th Street entrance and make 59th accessible rather than separate projects at 59th and 60th, we'd have a logical result.

Metra ends ticket-by-mail program

The ticket-by-mail program has ended. This began around 1960 at C&NW under Heinemann and spread to most of the other railroads. UP's ticket-by-mail program remained separate from that for the other commuter railroads until some time in 2016. The passenger could set up a recurring order for a monthly pass and had to pay by the 10th of the month. It was the only ticketing program we ever had that gave the passenger a short period of credit.

Metra had set up a separate ticket ordering program through a Web interface that also sold monthly passes and 10-ride tickets, but they are slow fulfilling orders, which is absurd. That program remains. It's pre-pay and doesn't accept checks. Why it wasn't an expansion of the existing program...

Metra Electric cash vending machines eliminated

The cash vending machines on Metra Electric have been turned off. Metra complained about lack of parts; Cubic last rehabbed them in the 1990s. Also, Metra had to stock them and maintain them. However, if a passenger paid with cash, he could purchase any full-fare ticket--one way, 10-ride, monthly, or weekend. Now, cash fare payers will have the option of buying one-way fares on board and nothing else.

IC/ICG had modernized cash fare collection in the early 1970s. In 2017, Metra has reverted to manual cash handling.

You make things convenient for new passengers and they might ride more often. You certainly want them buying 10-ride tickets and not one-ways, but that option has been taken away.

"L" stations being made accessible, including two stations with three accessible entrances each

April 18, 2017

Regional Transportation Authority, the umbrella agency for Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, and Pace, has an advisory board, now combined of the regional accessibility advisory board and the general advisory board. No one showed up at meetings of the latter board, so they were merged.

The person from the CTA advisory board made a report about upcoming work:

Quincy/Wells (Loop "L", the station in the Loop closest to Union Station) is getting two elevators, directly from street to platform. Fare collection has always been in the station houses at platform level, never moved to the mezzanine as it had been at other stations. Now, the station houses are relatively tiny. The cheap way to do it would be elevators directly to platform with separate fare gates. I'm sure CTA will do major modifications to the station houses because that's the expensive way to do it (and blame passengers in wheelchairs for excessive costs).

I'm going to make some historical comments: The Metropolitan West Side "L" left the Loop "L" at a junction at Wells and Van Buren and also had a three-track stub terminal at Wells Street, typically used by the CA&E but some rapid transit trains also originated here. It split into three branches at Marshfield Junction, Douglas to the southwest, Garfield to the west, and the Northwest branch. Garfield became the CA&E main line (ownership changed at Laramie) and rapid transit trains served the Westchester branch. The Northwest branch further split into Humboldt Park and Logan Square branches. Today, Douglas "L" is the Pink Line, the former Congress "L" (which replaced the Met main, Garfield Park branch, and CA&E as far west as Des Plaines Ave) is now the Forest Park branch of the Blue Line, and Logan Square branch and Damen station of Northwest branch are incorporated into the O'Hare Blue Line. Humboldt Park, the rest of the Northwest branch, and Westchester branch were abandoned.

Medical Center (Forest Park ex-Congress Blue Line). This is on the portion of the Congress "L" that ended up sharing right of way with the expressway as CTA had volunteered the right of way of the Garfield Park branch and Met main and the homes of everyone who rode that route for the new expressway in the late 1940s. Because these stations were built with long ramps without landings, they're very lengthy, and often with multiple entrances at cross streets that had Garfield Park branch and Met main stations.

Ogden entrance of Medical Center is the main entrance. It has stairway access to the platform. Ogden had been a Garfield "L" station. Its eastern entrance is at Paulina (there had been a transfer station serving the various branches of the Met at Marshfield nearby) and the western entrance at Damen (Hoyne Street had a Garfield station).

Medical Center opened in 1958. Like the other ramp stations, the platforms were 600 feet long, more than double the length of then typical 6-car consists. With Chicago's 8 blocks to the mile street grid, the platform itself is nearly a full block long.

In a few instances, like Damen entrance to Medical Center, the ramps were close enough to meeting modern standards for slope and length between landings that (shockingly) CTA added landings and made accessible stations cost effectively. Making Damen the accessible entrance forced CTA to reopen exit-only Damen as a full-time entrance in 1998. Both Paulina and Damen had been closed as entrances (remaining exits) in 1973 when CTA was purging ticket agents. (After 1973, Paulina was a part-time entrance afternoon rush hours between 1988 and 1992 when more ticket agencies were purged.) Also in 1998, Paulina re-opened as an entrance with high barrier fare gates but no vending machines. In typical CTA cost-saving fashion, regular maintenance activities on the Paulina station house were ended, which got noticeably decrepit within a few years.

Paulina was closed for 10 days in January, 2017, to make the station house accessible. The high barrier fare gates were removed and replaced with two wheelchair-accessible fare gates. I haven't yet looked to see how the ramp was modified, one of the longest in the system. I guess it received more than one landing.

Damen is closed right now but is supposed to re-open in a month.

Finally, Ogden station house will be gutted and an elevator added.

For $23 million, CTA will have a second station with three, yes, three accessible entrances. This will serve the needs of wheelchair passengers boarding at one end of the station and using another end of the station to exit without having to ride the train at all. This is a major achievement in accessibility. Meanwhile, there are almost four dozen stations without wheelchair access. All "L" stations will be made accessible within two decades (CTA promises) but you know, there's just no funding, because the priority is additional accessible entrances at already accessible stations.

Why ask if putting an elevator at the third entrance to Medical Center is a priority over adding elevators to stations with no accessible entrances?

UofI-Halsted also received a lot of work. The Met main line had a station at Halsted. The current station opened in 1958 with the Congress "L" with a secondary entrance to the west at Morgan, with long ramps from each end to the platform. In 1965, with the opening of University of Illinois Chicago Circle campus (now just University of Illinois at Chicago; "Circle" was named for the massive expressway interchange to the east), another entrance was added in the middle at Peoria Street, with the station house built on the bridge and the bridge becoming pedestrian only. It's much larger than the station houses built in 1958 and could be used as a waiting room. Platform access was via stairs and escalator. Both secondary station entrances were part time, with Morgan entrance closing in 1981 (later briefly reopened), although Peoria would get longer hours. CTA is very slow to notice when there could be demand for transit.

In 2000, the Morgan station house was made accessible and the ramp modified for wheelchairs. Also, stairways at platform level from Peoria Street were modified to allow wheelchairs to pass. Later that year, the main entrance at Halsted became accessible, both station house and ramp. In 2001, they got rid of the escalator at Peoria Street.

Expressway construction in 2014 required partial or full replacement of the three street bridges, including supporting columns to accommodate major new expressway ramps. As part of this work, the Peoria Street station house was partially demolished, not retaining the part on the street bridge (which I believe was entirely demolished and replaced). The new, smaller station house now has an elevator down to platform level in a $16 million project. This station was CTA's first station with three accessible entrances.

Please offer your thoughts on Making "L" stations accessible

Long-time resident complains about adverse impact of gentrification from The 606

March 31, 2017

A letter to the editor from a long-time resident near The 606 complains about the loss of long-time residents small shops in the area as an adverse impact of gentrification. I can't but help noting that she observed that her property is now worth four times what her family bought it for. Wow.

"Logan Square gentrifiers have a choice: Help longtime residents or push them out" by Melissa Torres

My previous discussion of The 606 is here: Opening of The 606, abandoned Bloomingdale Line of the Milwaukee Road. Please offer your thoughts on The 606 Bloomingdale Trail here.

Pedestrian bridges over CN-IC lakefront freight route, Metra Electric, and Lake Shore Drive to reach Burnham Park, re-opening passenger stations

March 9, 2017

I wrote these comments after reading "Rauner-Emanuel dispute over $2M halts 41st Street pedestrian bridge project" in March 9, 2017, Chicago Tribune.

There's no need to make every pedestrian bridge an architectural masterpiece. There's nothing wrong with utilitarian. The problem is that Burnham Park has always lacked easy access from adjacent neighborhoods. I'd rather have a practical but inexpensive bridge today than an engineering and architectural marvel decades from now, or not within my lifetime.

One critical issue that the city of Chicago invariably overlooks is that Metra Electric is a passenger railroad with massive amounts of underutilized capacity, perfectly suited to supporting the transportation needs of high density development along the south lakefront, but an amenity that the city has always ignored as a transportation solution.

Those utilitarian bridges over the railroad exist because there were once passenger stations there, at 31st, 35th, 39th (Oakwood Blvd), and 43rd, with no street bridges at 35th and 43rd. Those two provided part of the pedestrian route to the lakefront for decades after the railroad stations closed.

Why can't civic improvements be designed in such a way as to incorporate other adjacent civic improvements as part of a master plan? Most expensive example along the lakefront: Relocating southbound South Lake Shore Drive into the railroad r-o-w and building the Roosevelt Road viaduct but failing to make adequate pedestrian improvements on Roosevelt Road to connect it to the museums. The 11th Street improvements came years later. The Metra Electric station should have been part of the Lake Shore Drive project. To this day, the new Metra Electric platforms aren't connected to Roosevelt Road nor the adjacent new neighborhood.

18th Street: Absurd switch-back ramps without stairway access make for significant extra walking. After spending all that money on a handicapped- accessible pedstrian bridge, no provision was made to make the 18th Street railroad platform accessible; there's plenty of room for an elevator. Instead, they kept a small portion of the previous pedestrian bridge and connected it to the new bridge with more stairs.

Burnham Park has always been largely cut off from adjacent areas by lack of provisions for bridging the railroad and the expressway. The current expressway portion of South Lake Shore Drive was built in the 1950s through ball fields in Burnham Park west of the earlier carriage ways that had become heavily-trafficked local roads. Essentially the park and highway swapped sides. Portions of the old carriage ways still exist.

I'd love to see four points of access to the lakefront each mile from the neighborhoods, and I'd like railroad stations restored at about 1/2 mile intervals, eventually supporting higher density housing. But we have to think about how handicapped-accessible railroad platforms can be connected to the pedestrian bridges so there's room for ramps.

Look at the new 35th Street pedestrian bridge. Is there any evidence that any thought was given to the possibility of re-opening the railroad station?

"New South Side pedestrian bridge spanning Lake Shore Drive a striking design"

"New 35th Street bridge between Bronzeville and Chicago’s lakefront opens: The serpentine white suspension bridge has been in the works for a long time"

Please give us your thoughts on South lakefront, access to Burnham Park, Metra Electric stations

Don Orseno and Mike Noland talk on Metra Electric and South Shore

June 9, 2016

Don Orseno and Mike Noland (Metra and NICTD executive directors) spoke at a Northwestern University event actually held at DePaul.

Various Chicago South Shore & South Bend projects

West Lake (extension via the out of service portion of Monon through Hammond)

It's now up to a whopping $571 million and they're no longer discussing the possibility of putting passenger service back on the Canadian National-Grand Trunk Western (CN-GTW) to Valparaiso. The state of Indiana has committed to fund the local share, which just boggles the mind, given the poor relationship between the state legislature and the post-industrial suburbs in the northwest part of the state.

The previous commuter rail service to Valpo was via Pennsy PFtW&C (historic Broadway Limited route), foisted off on Amtrak as part of Conrail being allowed to shed its remaining passenger operations. After the Erie and Pennsy Panhandle were abandoned and Pennsy PFtW&C was downgraded to a secondary main and threatened with abandonment (which never happened; instead, it's been fixed up nicely), ex NYC LS&MS received all the freight traffic from three other railroads plus passenger trains and is overloaded. Amtrak used Conrail's proposed abandonment of portions of the Ft.W to abandon the remaining Valpo train, together with Indiana's refusal to kick in subsidy. The train was abandoned in 1991. Amtrak had abandoned the other Valpo train a few years earlier, after which ridership went to hell on the route.

Unlike in the East, in which significant portions of various railroad rights of way were taken over or transferred to the states, no such thing happened in Indiana, which lost more railroad right of way than any other state. Illinois and Ohio received no right of way in the Conrail plan either. The Northeast Corridor was created for the states along the Atlantic Seaboard but there was no national plan to continue all passenger service in the Midwest on ex-NYC, Pennsy, and the other railroads, let alone create corridors of service.

My usual comment: This part of the Monon, between CN-GTW (Maynard interlocking in Munster, Indiana) and Hohman Avenue interlocking (in Hammond) was abandoned FOR CAUSE. While the Monon was a pioneer railroad across Indiana, it was built toward Michigan City (1854), anticipated to become a major lake port, in lieu of Chicago, a mistake that had to be corrected. In 1881, when it became one of the owners of Chicago & Western Indiana Railroad (owner of Dearborn Station); the route toward Chicago splits off at Monon, Indiana, its namesake city. In early planning discussions for C&WI, the Monon would have come in on a different route: via Thornton Junction, through Yard Center, and via the Dolton branch of C&WI, which would have avoided crossing other major railroads senior to the Monon at Hohman Avenue interlocking. Interestingly, this is the route used today.

In modern history, Hohman Avenue is now on a viaduct above the interlocking, so any grade separation here is difficult, although allegedly possible.

Now, NICTD and city of Hammond are considering building an elevated railroad along Sheffield Avenue to reach the South Shore directly, instead of picking from three other less than ideal choices.

The yard might be in this area where the new connection would be built. They can't use the old Monon Yard site as Hammond has spearheaded this project to redevelop that site. The proposed yard location is in a poorly used former industrial area that's not being redeveloped any time soon.

The trouble is that it must cross major freight railroads including IHB, EJ&E, and Nickel Plate and it's got to be grade separated, so most of the capital cost is just getting it to the reserved right of way. The other trouble is NICTD just refused to consider coming in at LaSalle Street Station, which would have saved all sorts of headaches and wouldn't have required electrification. The earlier plan to use CN-GTW past Munster to reach Valpo would have required dual-mode locomotives (twice the cost for half the reliability) as CN-GTW wasn't proposed to be electrified.

If the Sheffield Avenue viaduct is build, then they'd build a joint station on CSS&SB for Hammond, which would replace the brand new Hammond station. All this infrastructure is to be built for five pairs of trains a day to downtown Chicago. With the joint station, they're now discussing off peak shuttle service. Why not build a turnout toward the east so the shuttles may serve the existing Hammond station?

The three new stations would have lots of parking. In other contexts, Noland spoke of transit oriented development though.

On the South Shore, double tracking ends at Tennessee Avenue, Gary. Noland himself talked about a 1961 South Shore timetable he found in which they ran 75 passenger trains a day, plus many more freight trains than what is run today, plus street running in East Chicago (which was double track).

The double tracking is estimated to cost $210 million. This includes double tracking through the streets of Michigan City. Unlike what I'd reported a couple of years ago, they're now thinking of getting off 10th Street entirely and using a private right of way; I have no idea where. 11th Street would still be double tracked.

They have no local match for this.

A couple of other points: Two state highways, US 12 and 20, are concurrent through part of Gary. They propose to make them concurrent further east, putting US 12 onto 20 and putting the railroad onto US 12 to improve the route through the east side of Gary.

The Gary "plugs" (short turns back to the Loop) go to Gary-Broadway Avenue. They'd turn these back at Miller on the east side of Gary. The east side of Gary is still decent.

They want to expand parking at Ogden Dunes, so they'd put it on the opposite side of US 12 and build a pedestrian overpass.

Noland spoke of making Michigan City 60 minutes from Chicago and putting it well within the commuter shed, which right now ends at about Dune Park.

Vacancies on Pace Citizens Advisory Board

April 25, 2016

As you know, yours truly (Adam Kerman) is a long-time member of the Pace Citizens Advisory Board. We're supposed to have 10 members by law, but we're down to 5 members and haven't met for over two years. We're meeting on April 26, 2016, at 10 am at Pace headquarters.

If you're interested in suburban bus transportation issues, we'd love to have you join us as a member. We're particularly interested in people with real world business experience and personnel/human resources experience. Transit agencies can be rather insular, so someone with common sense who can discuss the business implications of various proposals would be more than welcome. The reason we're looking for someone with personnel experience is that we'd like to address the issue of how to get more employers to offer the pre-tax commuter benefit (qualified transportation fringe benefit) and how to make the program easier for employers to take advantage of.

Contact me: Adam Kerman ahk [at] transit [dot] chicago [dot] il [dot] us or 312 725-0872

Chicago Tribune fills transportation beat

Mary Wisniewski, transportation reporter

March 13, 2016

Mary Wisniewski returns to the transportation beat after a five year absense. The long-time Chicago Sun-Times reporter had been working for the Reuters wire service covering news in 14 states. With the transportation beat at the Trib unfilled after the retirement of Jon Hilkevitch (city transportation beat) and Richard Wronski (suburban transportation and Metra beat) in December, 2015, and Greg Karp (business columnist and airline industry beat) in November, 2015, she fills a big vacuum. She's covering the transportation beat, including Metra, herself. We'll see if Trib hires any other reporters.

She started working at the Trib in March, 2016. Welcome back, Mary.

Chicago Transportation Journal

February 1, 2016

Richard Wronski has begun writing for his own Web site, Chicago Transportation Journal. A long-time reporter for Chicago Tribune, he covered the suburban transportation beat, Metra, and the tollway system for many years until he retired in 2015. We're glad to see he's still in journalism.

South Connect Proposal

Fare integration and service coordination between Metra Electric and Pace South

January 12, 2016

The Transit Riders' Authority will be having a planning session for the South Connect Proposal. South Connect is an integrated rail and bus transit proposal that builds on the most marvelous piece of rail infrastructure, the four-track fully grade separated Metra Electric, with its branches to South Chicago and Blue Island and also incorporating service to Hegewisch on the South Shore. Fares between bus and rail would be fully integrated; perhaps zone fares would be eliminated. Buses would make connections with specific trains. The purpose would be to eliminate very long shuttle bus rides, some as long as six miles, from the south suburbs to the Dan Ryan "L" Red Line at 95th and State. Passengers to the Loop, Hyde Park, and other areas closer to the south lakefront would be served with well-coordinated transit service between bus and "L".

Event: Planning session for South Connect Proposal
Date: January 18, 2016
Time: 1 pm till 3 pm
Location: The Henry George School of Social Science, Chicago, Illinois
30 E Adams St Ste 1207

To confirm your attendance, please call 312 725-0872 or send email to tra [at] transit [dot] chicago [dot] il [dot] us

Retail development at Chicago Union Station

June 29, 2015

Jon Hilkevitch was conducted on a nice tour of Chicago Union Station, which he wrote about in Getting Around. "Amtrak plans Union Station makeover" I'm glad to hear about some of these developments, especially fixing up for rental enormous long-closed spaces on the Clinton side of the main waiting room that once had restaurants and lounges. The Canal Street entrance to the main waiting room will close for two months starting July 15 as the two grand staircases will be replaced. Metro Deli bar and restaurant, in the space underneath the north grand staircase, had closed June 19 in preparation for this work. I'm especially pleased to hear that the long-closed Adams Street entrance to the main waiting room will be re-opened.

Amtrak's plans to get 25,000 square feet of retail space leased out are ambitious. Let's hope it's done right. As a friend commented, empty retail space, not rented since the 1970s, doesn't generate any income.

The worst aspects of Chicago Union Station have yet to be addressed. These are:

  1. Lack of washrooms

    Two small washrooms opened in the south hallway to Clinton, but it's simply not enough. CUS was built with enormous washrooms that haven't been available to the travelling public in decades. In the lower level, there were separate men's and women's washrooms, complete with showers for use by intercity travellers. The roped-off stairway in what's now the Legacy Club led to the enormous men's room. There was another staircase from the women's and children's lounge (the large closed room with murals, northwest corner of the main waiting room) to the enormous women's restroom.

  2. Inadequate ticket offices, especially the Amtrak office

    The original ticket office was in the enormous space under the south grand staircase. The now closed Metro Deli space, under the north grand staircase, had been a full-service drug store. Ticket counters were shared with intercity and commuter passengers. Intercity travellers making more complicated travel arrangements involving transfers to trains of other railroads would have used the passenger agent's office elsewhere.

  3. Security-theater idiocy that forces passengers to board taxis outside the train station on Canal Street, instead of out of the weather in the station's own taxi courts

    Passengers would have enclosed boarding areas for taxis inside the train station if Amtrak would re-open the taxi courts. There is unnecessary congestion on Canal Street due to boarding taxis in a location with inadequate space. The post 9/11 claims of "danger" if the taxi courts were still in use are specious, given that the Canal Street is above important public parts of the train station, so who's kidding whom. The city's plan to rebuild Canal Street for taxi boarding is wasteful of the taxpayers' money and entirely unnecessary.

  4. Those narrow boarding platforms under the leaky Adams and Jackson viaducts interrupted by columns

    I don't like the proposal to get rid of the baggage platforms. The baggage platforms are higher than standard-height platforms, so using them for boarding would make things easier for passengers. Eight inches above top of rail as a standard platform height had been insisted upon by the railroad industry forever. It allows brakemen and switchmen to hang from the outside of railcars, which hasn't been railroad practice for a long time.

A lot of what's wrong with Chicago Union Station is easily fixable by putting it back to its original design. "Noteworthy Passenger Terminal Completed at Chicago: Union station provided for Pennsylvania, Burlington, St. Paul and Alton roads" by Walter S. Lacher Railway Age July 4, 1925

Discuss your ideas for Chicago Union State here.

Opening of The 606, abandoned Bloomingdale Line of the Milwaukee Road

June 10, 2015

Chicago Reader June 4, 2015 "Is the Bloomingdale Trail a path to displacement?"

The 606, which opened June 6, 2015, is a new jogging path/bike trail in an abandoned railroad right of way, the Bloomingdale Line of the Milwaukee Road. The railroad once served an important industrial area. Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail

Good infrastructure that increases land value is affordable

The Chicago Reader article laments gentrification and the resulting horror that long-time property owners will pay higher property taxes, but not mentioning that they'll cash out upon selling, receiving fabulous free monies from rising land values that they themselves did nothing to create. We should all be "adversely" impacted like this. The article mentions that before the Bloomingdale Trail project became a reality, developers converting nearby properties to condos couldn't sell all the units.

This transportation infrastructure project, although it was just for cyclists and pedestrians, still created fabulous wealth as reflected in rising land values. One wonders if the project had been built as a passenger railroad instead if land values would have risen even higher. Was the project entirely charged to land? Why, no, it was mainly financed with a federal grant, private donations, and a little city money. The project had a budget of $95 million.

The area around the Bloomingdale Line was underpopulated and considered undesirable, although there wasn't any significant housing loss. It took a long time to recover from the loss of nearby industrial jobs.

Please offer your thoughts on The 606 Bloomingdale Trail here.

Historic loss of "L" service through the Humboldt Park neighborhood; opening of Dearborn subway

One more point: Before the area along the Bloomingdale Trail went into decline, it had been served by the "L". In 1895, the Northwest Branch of The Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railroad Company opened. It ran along Paulina St. with stations at Madison, Lake, Grand, Chicago, and Division, then turned to run along Milwaukee Avenue with a station at Damen. Beyond Damen, it split into two branches: the branch to Logan Square terminal on Kedzie Blvd. continued along Milwaukee with stations at Western and California, and the Humboldt Park branch along North Ave. with stations at Western, California, Humboldt Park, Kedzie, and St. Louis to a "temporary" terminal at Lawndale. Humboldt Park trains ran downtown in rush hours (to the Loop "L" or Wells Street Terminal or Franklin Terminal, depending on the era). During off peak, there were cuts and adds to Logan Square trains at Damen; passengers from both branches had one-seat rides at all times.

The Met would never complete the Humboldt Park branch; it had no storage and no maintenance facility. It would never be extended west to Harlem Ave. as intended. Lawndale station was incomplete, just a single platform. It was built at an elevation intending to cross the Milwaukee Road. Bankruptcy of the rapid transit system prevented any extension. Competing services discouraged extension: The Elgin line of the Milwaukee Road itself had local stations, and there was a car line on North Avenue.

In the post-war era, CTA planned to abandon the Humboldt Park branch even though ridership was comparable to the Logan Square branch being retained. In 1948, CTA decided that cuts and adds at Damen that were convenient for passengers were inconvenient to operations. CTA downgraded the Humboldt Park branch to a shuttle during off peak. During rush hours, Humboldt Park continued to run downtown to Wells Street terminal. Logan Square trains served the Loop "L" at all times. A Humboldt Park shuttle would arrive at the inbound Damen platform ahead of a Loop-bound Logan Square train. The shuttle would change ends then cross onto the outbound track then onto the branch; the outbound transfer required changing platforms.

In 1951, Logan Square trains were rerouted into the brand-new Dearborn subway. The Dearborn subway was a Depression-era PWA project begun in 1939. Construction embargoes during WWII delayed its completion. The subway's temporary terminal downtown was LaSalle/Congress. Logan Square had been re-equipped with brand-new all-steel PCCs in 1950 as the city had passed an ordinance requiring the use of all-steel cars in subway. This alleged safety measure was one of the excuses that would lead to the eventual abandonment of all streetcar lines, as one series of PCCs for the "L" system was cannibalized from barely-used PCC streetcars.

The Humboldt Park branch wasn't re-equipped with all-steel cars, given that CTA intended to abandon it instead of rerouting it into the Dearborn subway. In 1950, CTA drastically cut hours of operation, eliminating late evening and overnight service. Upon opening the subway in 1951, CTA eliminated revenue service on the Paulina alignment of the Northwest branch, but didn't yet abandon the Humboldt Park branch due to neighborhood pressure. At that point, Humboldt Park became a shuttle at all times prior to final abandonment in 1952.

I've been told that the 1951 Humboldt Park shuttle operation was incredibly inconvenient for transferring passengers. A temporary platform was built over the eastbound main immediately west of Damen tower. Passengers walked from this platform through a room at track level in the tower, then onto a narrow walkway connecting with the inbound Damen platform. Needless to say, ridership was horrid after that.

Later in 1951, the former Met routes Garfield Park and Douglas Park stopped using Wells Street terminal and all trains served the Loop "L". Wells Street terminal remained in revenue service for Chicago, Aurora, & Elgin trains until 1953, when CA&E was cut back to Des Plaines Avenue in Forest Park. Wells Street terminal was demolished in 1955 so that a temporary connection to the Loop "L" could be built for Garfield Park trains, to replace the connector demolished to double deck Wacker Drive (Market Street). Garfield Park trains used the temporary connection until 1958 when the route was replaced by the new Congress "L" (Blue Line Forest Park branch), now connected to the Dearborn subway.

Portions of the Met still exist. The Milwaukee alignment of the Northwest branch and Logan Square branch are incorporated into today's Blue Line to O'Hare. The Pink Line incorporates the former Douglas Park branch and a portion of the Northwest branch along Paulina.

In the post-war era, CTA didn't intend to retain the entire rapid transit system. CTA's decision-making about which "L" services to retain led to winners and losers among city neighborhoods. Parts of the near west side and northwest side that lost "L" service with the opening of the Dearborn subway in 1951 went into decline, some of which might have been avoided if rapid transit service had been retained.

The North Avenue car line was converted to trolley coach in 1949. A limited stop service, rush hours only, ran between 1952 and 1973, as a substitute for the abandoned Humboldt Park branch. The bus transfer at the Damen station was inconvenient. A narrow walkway extending from the outbound Damen platform and a bridge crossing North Avenue to transfer to the bus were constructed. The inbound transfer required bus passengers to walk around the corner on Milwaukee and Damen to enter the "L" station. The limited stop service was eliminated in the 1973 purge; diesel buses replaced trolley coaches. The transfer I described is still in effect today. CTA spent $13.6 million on Damen in 2014; the bridge to the North Avenue bus stop was replaced. Despite the generous construction budget, no elevators were added.

Chicago Transit Authority Red and Purple Modernization Program brief description
Red-Purple Bypass Project (Flyover at Clark Junction) Environmental Assessment documents

June 4, 2015

CTA held a public hearing on the environmental assessment of Red-Purple Bypass Project on June 3, 2015. The project includes construction of a flyover at Clark Junction and straightening two tight double curves just north of the junction. Clark Junction is just north of Belmont station; Ravenswood "L" branches off from Howard (Red Line).

Construction is estimated to cost $570 million. CTA would apply for a grant under Section 5309 (49 U.S.C. 5309) core capacity improvement project. The grantee must demonstrate that capacity would improve by at least 10%. These grants are competitively awarded.

Despite the cost of the project, the environmental assessment (which includes the alternatives analysis) doesn't include a cost-benefit analysis. CTA asserts that Red Line trains will avoid being delayed by up to two minutes waiting for outbound Ravenswood trains to clear the interlocking such movements cross three mains. But CTA didn't calculate any saving in operating costs. In summarizing the rejection of various alternatives, CTA didn't calculate their costs and benefits either.

There are alternatives that haven't been considered.

  1. CTA asserts that Clark Junction is the major bottleneck on the Red Line, without providing information on typical delays at Howard and 95th terminal that also constrain capacity. Can CTA add trains by addressing constraints at the terminals?
  2. Before cab signals but with automated block signals in the State Street subway, in peak of the peak, CTA trains departed Howard Street every 90 seconds. What will it cost to improve the current signalling system to handle trains operating more frequently?
  3. Single-story buildings are adjacent to the "L" structure at curves on either side of Sheridan "L" station. Should improving these curves be a priority and would it improve capacity? Would it allow CTA to consider using cars with larger dimension?

Discuss your ideas for the Red and Purple Modernization Program here.

Skokie Swift closure due to destabilized embankment from construction at sewage treatment plant reminds us of a historic lesson on paying for infrastructure

May 18, 2015, updated June 19, 2015, June 22, 2015, June 30, 2015

On the night of Sunday, May 17, 2015, construction of the disinfection facility at North Side Sewage Treatment Plant of Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago destabilized the Skokie Swift (CTA Yellow Line) embankment. There's no support under one track at all and inadequate support under the other track. "Yellow Line collapse" "Yellow Line to Skokie out of service indefinitely"

On Friday, June 19, 2015, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District announced that service won't be restored until October. "After month without Yellow Line, news gets worse in Skokie" by Mike Isaacs Skokie Review June 19, 2015. The construction accident cut off Skokie Shops from the rest of the system; rail cars are trucked back and forth. "Yellow Line closure creates rail car repair headache for CTA" by Jon Hilkevitch Chicago Tribune June 22, 2015

According to transit historian Bruce Moffat, the rapid transit line runs on air rights across sanitary district property.

Existing wastewater treatment lines were damaged and will have to be repaired. The sanitary district decided to complete all construction and repair work under the embankment before reconstructing the embankment and allowing CTA to restore tracks and other damaged systems in the right of way. "Yellow Line repairs more complicated than thought, CTA says" by Jon Hilkevitch Chicago Tribune June 30, 2015

For those of you familiar with the construction of the Skokie Valley subdivision of Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee, this is just west of the massive structure that carried the railroad on an unusual deck truss over North Shore Channel, McCormick Blvd, and the abandoned Weber subdivision of C&NW, just west of the famous series of trusses. Yellow Line Bridge (Skokie Swift Bridge)

McCormick Blvd is, of course, named for the Colonel, who was a public official on the board of what was then Sanitary District of Chicago. He owned swampy land in south Evanston that wasn't developable.

North Shore Channel and North Side Treatment Plant were major drainage and sewage treatment projects built over several decades. The Channel replaced an earlier poorly-engineered drainage ditch, a failed attempt to drain parts of Evanston. It was also built to supply more water to the north branch of the Chicago River so that barges with deeper drafts could serve industries. Sewage treatment plants are also part of the drainage system given Chicago's combined sewers. No one calculated how problematic draining the swamps would be in future years as more and more land would get paved over.

The Colonel was no dummy and benefited directly from this project. To this day, parts of Evanston and most of Skokie flood, addressed with ever more expensive flood control projects, because we messed with Mother Nature.

These are examples of badly planned infrastructure requiring ever more expensive solutions today and cost-shifting within society to pay for it.

  1. Industries along the north branch didn't pay for the North Shore Channel and re-channeled north branch. Part of this project created a short shipping channel parallel to the north branch, resulting in Goose Island.
  2. The developers of Evanston and Skokie didn't pay for the water project that drained the swampy, unbuildable areas.
  3. I'm sure the project at North Side is some combination of replacing worn out infrastructure and expansion of water retention. Is it necessary? Undoubtedly. Is it a good project? Not the way it's getting paid for.
  4. Doesn't do society any good if new infrastructure construction ruins something else because bad assumptions were made about stability of the embankment. The article suggests that the destabilization was due to ruining an open-cut trench, but that doesn't explain much. I'm not saying anything controversial here by being in favor of avoiding carelessness. This could have been deadly if a train were passing over; fortunately it wasn't.
  5. If the American Society of Civil Engineers wants to impress me with their grading system "2013 Report Card for America's Infrastructure", then they'll start linking costs and benefits and stop leaving out the business analysis.

Criticize my comments here.

IDOT Listening Tour testimony
TRA president Chuck Metalitz testified at the Illinois Department of Transportation Infrastructure Listening Tour event in East Hazel Crest on Thursday, May 7, 2015.

May 7, 2015

It was very crowded, and I had to stand part of the time, finally sitting next to an operating engineer. It is structured as about 10 minutes for Randy Blankenhorn (Transportation secretary), a guy from the state Capital Development Board, and local notables or two to talk about their concerns, then the rest of the hour everyone is welcome to raise her/his hand and have his/her suggestions "listened" to. While there's no timekeeper, folks are encouraged to be brief, and most were. Of course there were comments about the need for more and better, or at least more expensive, infrastructure, and, given the location, quite a bit about the south suburban airport. A UTU representative pointed out that wages paid to Amtrak and Metra workers help boost the local economy quite a bit. Don Orseno (Metra executive director) talked about how Metra needs a lot of money, noting also that when stable capital funding is assured he can get better prices on rolling stock. A bridge contractor talked about how bridges could be better built. As Randy Blankenhorn mentioned his desire for more revenue, I made two revenue suggestions and two saving money suggestions:

A: Revenue

  1. Collect at least part of the land value increase which transit creates.
  2. Stop giving property tax favors to absentee farmland owners, in order to better fund local government needs.

B: Saving money

  1. Instead of expensive projects like Red Line Extension, find cheaper and faster ways, like more service, schedule coordination and fare reduction for trips involving Metra. Gray Line is another example.
  2. Get transit users involved in transit governance, as they will focus on better service rather than spending more money.

Randy expressed sympathy with collecting something from the land value increase transit brings ("collect some, but not all of it")

There was no possibility to read my written statement, but I did drop a copy in the suggestion box, and it is attached here.

The vast majority of the 80 or so people did not ask to speak.

Discuss your ideas for infrastructure funding here.

South Commuter Trunk and Commuter-Freight Conflict Elimination Proposal (CWI Proposal)

January 22, 2003

All maps and schematics by Thomas A. White, Rail Operations Consultant, VTD Rail Consulting.

For answers to questions about this proposal, please contact the proponent, Adam H. Kerman, at ahk [at] transit [dot] chicago [dot] il [dot] us, or call The Transit Riders' Authority on 312 725-0872.

Reference: Transportation proposals submitted to Chicago Area Transportation Study Regional Transportation Plan (Shared Path 2030) Proposal 07-02-9012, "CWI To South Side And South Suburbs", on page 71 of list dated 1-22-2003 in South Council of Mayors - Capital Addition section

The Transit Riders' Authority has submitted for consideration in the 2030 Regional Transportation Plan the South Commuter Trunk and Commuter-Freight Conflict Elimination Proposal.

The purpose of the plan is to eliminate all major points of conflict between passenger and freight routes on the south side of Chicago. The result will be a greatly improved commuter rail and freight rail network.

The commuter rail service improvements are the core benefit of the plan. For an incremental cost, a rapid transit route (operated as commuter rail) could share the same right-of-way and new infrastructure. Because they'd be developed together, the two different kinds of service would be coordinated so that they complement each other to serve the greatest number of riders.

The plan has these major infrastructure elements:

  1. A north-south passenger railroad between LaSalle Street Station and Dolton. The route would be grade separated from all major points of freight conflict.

  2. A grade separation near 41st Street to avoid conflict with freight at CP 518. Construction of this facility would improve SouthWest Service in its present alignment without building a 1/4 mile connection to the Rock through the Hamilton Park neighborhood in 75th Street.

  3. Rerouting Rock Island service at 79th Street to avoid conflict with freight at Englewood Junction.

  4. Improvements in the 75th Street corridor to eliminate freight conflict, including:

  5. An improved east-west freight railroad using the Chicago Junction and Chicago River and Indiana between Root Street (40th on the Rock) and Ogden Junction (Ogden at 14th and Campbell) grade separated from most major points of passenger conflict. The improvements include:

  6. Re-installing the Nickel Plate connection at Grand Crossing.

  7. Improving the turnout in the northeast quadrant at Englewood between the Rock and NS Chicago Line for a second route free from passenger conflict to the Chicago Junction and Ashland Avenue Yard. This route avoids 51st and 55th Street yards.

  8. A better entrance into Chicago for Amtrak from the east, between South Chicago and 81st Street via the 94th Street corridor, avoiding conflict with NS 51st and 55th Street yards.

  9. A new connection near Wildwood between CN/IC Chicago subdivision and the South Commuter Trunk for Amtrak from the south.

Description of the South Commuter Trunk

The South Commuter Trunk is a four-track passenger railroad, two express tracks and two local tracks, generally in the alignment of the main line and Dolton branch of the former Chicago and Western Indiana (Metra SouthWest subdistrict, UP Villa Grove division). The trunk route would serve a network of commuter rail passenger routes with branches to Oak Lawn and Orland Park, Blue Island via Beverly, Joliet via Rock Island main line, and brand-new service to Roseland and Dolton. Proposed Southeast Service to South Holland, Chicago Heights, and Crete would also use the South Commuter Trunk. Amtrak from the southeast uses this route today.

The route begins at LaSalle Street Station. The route then diverges from the Rock Island north of 16th/Clark Junction, remaining at grade below the Saint Charles Air Line to head southwest to 21st Street adjacent to the Midway "L" (Orange Line). There are four tracks in this vicinity. At 21st Street, the route turns south and crosses under the Orange Line. Between 21st Street and 41st Street, it is a six-track railroad in Stewart Avenue (400 West) joint right-of-way of the CWI and ex Pennsy Fort Wayne (NS Chicago Line); the two freight tracks are on the west. To avoid conflict with freight at CP 518, the passenger route is grade separated over NS Chicago Line. The South Commuter Trunk stays in the CWI alignment as it separates from the FtW alignment at 47th Street to head southwest. The CWI alignment is in Wallace Street (600 West) between 49th and 79th Streets.

There are five tracks between 47th and 74th Streets; the freight track is on the west. The new Rock Island route begins south of 74th Street, diverging to the east side of the alignment, then grade separated over the South Commuter Trunk and adjacent Belt Railway at 79th Street. The Rock has four tracks between 74th and Gresham Junction. The South Commuter Trunk has two passenger tracks south of 74th Street. The route uses the existing grade separation over the Belt Railway at 86th Street. There are four tracks between 87th Street and Dolton, two freight to the west, two passenger to the east.

SouthWest Service branches off the South Commuter Trunk at 74th, as it does today. It shares the 75th Street alignment with the Belt Railway, which handles traffic to Clearing Yard and NS traffic to Landers Yard. In the present configuration, SouthWest Service and the Belt cross each other at Belt Junction. East of the junction, SouthWest Service is on the north half of the right-of-way; the Belt on the South. West of the junction, the Belt is on the north half and SouthWest Service is on the south. NS traffic to Landers remains on the south half along the corridor. It is proposed to eliminate Belt Junction by keeping SouthWest Service on the north half of the right-of-way and Belt and NS on the south half. Traffic to Clearing and traffic to Landers would diverge at Forest Hill. SouthWest Service would be grade separated above Forest Hill, allowing it to cross both the Belt and CSX Blue Island subdivision without conflict.

Commuter Service and Transit Service on the South Trunk

There would be two classes of service:

  1. Traditional commuter service to the suburbs on hourly headways base period running express on the south side to downtown.

  2. Transit service running locally on the south side, making stops every 1/2 to 3/4 mile and terminating on the far south side.

On the Rock Island, all service from Joliet would be via the main line for a faster trip to downtown. 99th (station still exists) and Givins would be re-opened. The Beverly Branch would have 15- or 20-minute base headways.

On the SouthWest, service from Oak Lawn and Orland Park would have hourly base headways, running express from Oak Lawn. Western, Ashland, Racine, and Halsted (all in the 75th Street corridor) would be re-opened. There'd be local service on 30-minute base headways within the city.

To Dolton, local trains would run on 20-30 minute base headways.

On the proposed Southeast Service to Chicago Heights and Crete, trains would run on hourly base headways, express to downtown from Dolton.

Certain local trains would meet express trains at transfer stations. Possible transfer stations are Englewood and Gresham.

There would be new stations at the best locations to serve neighborhoods and to ease transfers from connecting bus service. The railroad is immediately west of 35th and Shields. Previously, the commuter rail service had stations at 47th, Garfield Blvd. (5500 South), 59th, 63rd (platform and canopy still exist; immediately east of Englewood business district), Normal Park (6900 South), Hamilton Park (7200 South), Auburn Park (7900 South), Oakdale (9000 South), Euclid Park (9700 South), Fernwood (10300 South), North Roseland (10700 South), Roseland (11100 South), Sheldon Park (11400 South), Kensington (116th/Michigan), 134th, and Dolton (at Lincoln Avenue, 13900 South). Other locations to consider for stations: Cermak Road, 26th Street, 32nd-33rd Street.

Station Environs

There is much potential in the South Trunk corridor for new urban development. Because the rail line is by itself, away from the influence of the Dan Ryan Expressway and doesn't run adjacent to a major arterial street, there is potential to stimulate nodal development evoking a village or small town ambience, as the Beverly and Morgan Park neighborhoods enjoy. The areas around the stations should be "pedestrian pockets" Construction of stations along the way should be synchronized with announcements that the lands at the favored location is being redeveloped, so that developers and Metra can work together. Stations that are a mile or less apart will naturally stimulate nodal development, in lieu of strip or main-street (linear) development, Such a development might be designed well enough (including a full range of shops and services to meet residents' needs) so that the presence of cars can be greatly reduced.

By bringing back transit and walking (a matched pair), land values increases.

Integrated Fares; Coordinated Services

To get the biggest bang for the buck, to draw in users from several miles around the stations, fares between bus and rail must be fully integrated and riders must expect to make a real-time transfer within minutes on a regular basis. We need to reverse a century-old trend in which riders could obtain a transfer between routes on the surface system (later, including the "L" system as well), but the railroads were left out of the scheme. This has lead to today's anomalies in which express bus routes to the Loop run within a few blocks of Metra service, in which riders on the south side and in the south suburbs pass one or several Metra stations on their way to the Red Line terminal at 95th and State.

This system is inefficient, redundant, and time consuming. It costs more to operate, yet it hurts ridership.

The bus route network needs to be redesigned so that it feeds into Metra services instead of competing with it. Metra must accept and issue bus transfers at all fare levels as part of the regular commuter fare.

Stations should be designed so that there is as short a walk to the street as possible. The bus stop should be on the street but out of traffic to ease brief layovers that will need to be built into the schedules to affect service coordination. If the rider will need to cross the street to reach the bus stop (because it's not possible to have stairs on both sides of the street), then the street must be narrowed to improve pedestrian safety.

Chicago Transportation forum on chinet

Here's a transportation forum to discuss issues in and around Chicago. Discussion of traffic, transportation, and transit is most welcome. Consumer advocates and riders and drivers will raise concerns, suggest solutions, and discuss the history of what led us to this point. Occasionally, members of government agencies will join us to either defend current policy or to broadcast their opinions of what should have been done had they ranked higher in the bureaucracy.

You may lurk without logging in. But to post a reply, you'll need to register and log in. Accept the cookie so you can be informed of new items and replies since your last visit.

The Web BBS on chinet uses the Simple Machines Forum open source conference system. Chinet itself is owned by the original BOFH himself, Randy Suess.

Consumer organizations and advocacy

The Transit Riders' Authority

The Transit Riders' Authority is the premiere consumer organization of transit riders in the Chicago area. Our purpose is to promote the benefits of safe, clean, comfortable, rapid, and reliable transit that goes where riders want, when they want, at a reasonable fare.

The Transit Riders' Authority
PO Box 529
Chicago, IL 60690
312 725-0872
tra [at] transit [dot] chicago [dot] il [dot] us

Do you support our purpose? Then, join TRA! Support public transportation by making a donation

Other consumer and advocacy organizations

Active Transportation Alliance, formerly Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, are excellent advocates on issues for bicycle riders. Randy Neufeld, their past executive director, has been around for years and is well respected by transportation policy makers. They tend to set the city's policy on bicycle traffic. They broadened their mission beyond cycling a number of years ago to advocate for transit and pedestrian issues, but aren't very effective.

The Civic Federation is the voice of the establishment in Chicago. While unlikely to take controversial positions on transportation policy, they are capable of producing neutral research results. They are respected by the media, the government, and the business community. It's worth following what they are up to.

Tri-State Transportation Campaign is an advocate for transportation policy in the New York metropolitan area. They pay particular attention to suburban issues on Long Island, the suburbs to the north of the city and the New Jersey suburbs. They don't seem to track Connecticut issues as widely. They promote more economical movement of freight within New York by ship, rail, and truck than the overburdened local road system. "Mobilizing the Region" is their informative weekly newsletter, which you might find interesting. It's distributed by e-mail.

Southern California Transit Advocates is a nonprofit consumer organization for the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

The National Motorists Association promotes speed limits based on driving conditions and lobbied to eliminate the federal 55 mph limit.

Perils for Pedestrians is a monthly television program on pedestrian issues. This site has some good links on research concerning walking.

What are others doing?

Aaron M. Renn writes The Urbanophile, about transportation and urban affairs of Midwestern cities. Between 1998 and 2000, he had written The Weekly Breakdown, a series of articles on transportation issues.

Bill Vandervoort's site, Chicago Transit & Railfan has a historical perspective on the Chicago transit system, including a nice list of locations of former bus and streetcar barns! There are also railroad maps and past and present routings of intercity trains approaching Chicago.

Graham Garfield's site, Chicago "L".org, has an easy-to-use history of the "L" (Chicago rapid transit system), current operations, news headlines, and a list of proposed additions to the system from historical plans.

For a comprehensive history of the New York subway and el system, read nycsubway.org.

Transit agencies

Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) This site has schedules for buses and the "L" and general information about the system. If you are extremely patient, you may view the system map.

Metra Commuter Rail After completing a mail-in application, you may order 10-ride tickets via their Web site.

Pace Suburban Bus Service Suburban bus schedules and system information.

Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) (South Shore Line) Convenient Train Service to Chicago and Northwest Indiana

Regional Transportation Authority

Henry George and site-value taxation

Why did cities develop as they did? Why did they start out compact and contiguous, well served by street cars, and turn into the sprawled messes we have today?

Who gains, who loses from today's system of taxation and distribution of governmental benefits?

For a better discussion of these issues, and an effective way of charging those who benefit, take a look at Henry George.


The Henry George School of Social Science, Chicago, Illinois
Understanding Economics; Henry George Institute
Earthsharing Australia
Land Value Taxation Campaign [UK]
The International Union For Land Taxation

Transit news reports

  1. Taiwan On the Gravy Train: Anger over mass-transit troubles and the new cabinet

Other interesting items

This article discusses the Railway Post Office and has the recollections of an old RPO clerk in Sacramento.

Transportation reference links

  1. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, US DOT Research and Innovative Technology Administration
  2. Transportation Research Board
  3. American Public Works Association (APWA)
  4. Community Transportation Association of America
  5. alt-transp
  6. Constitutions, Statutes, and Codes
  7. Code of Federal Regulations
  8. LawGuru Legal Research
  9. Substantive Law
  10. AASHTO
  11. ATIS
  12. Northwestern University Infrastructure Technology Institute
  13. Intermodal Passenger Terminal Facilities Project Summaries
  14. Internet Sources in Transportation
  15. Association of American Railroads Transportation Technology Center
  16. Association of American Railroads
  17. San Diego Commute Links
  18. DIRT search engine
  19. On-Line Libraries
  20. link to transportation images
  21. Transport Chicago
  22. US Government Printing Office
  23. Highway bill reathorization
  24. ISTEA legislative updates
  25. Government Financial Officers Association
  26. Government Financial Officers Association
  27. Complete World Rail Transit List
  28. railroad abandonment notices
  29. Innovative Transportation Technologies
  30. traffic and capacity
  31. US public transport 1985 to 1995 data by state
  32. ATRA Newsletter
  33. United States Government Manual
  34. Grade Crossing Safety Information: FHwA OMC
  35. Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century
  36. Municipal Codes Online
  37. Tax links
  38. Are Compact Cities a Desirable Planning Goal?

To sort reference links

  1. National transportation statistics
  2. Texas Transportation Institute
  3. Transportation Policy Program.
  4. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  5. U.S. Department of Transportation.
  6. National Highway Traffic Safety Administation
  7. Amtrak
  8. Washington State Ferries
  9. Public Transportation and Rail Division
  10. Intelligent Transportation Systems
  11. Rail Server
  12. PRT
  13. Current PRT and Related Systems Development Efforts
  14. Bridge Server
  15. Bridge Information Page
  16. American Public Works Association (APWA)
  17. Roads and Bridges Page
  18. Structural Engineers Association of California
  19. Illinois Railway Museum
  20. Chicago Sun-Times
  21. Chicago Tribune
  22. alt-transp
  23. comp.infosystems.www.authoring
  24. DIRT
  25. DIRT search engine
  26. Constitutions, Statutes, and Codes
  27. transit discussion, Puget Sound
  28. BART, MBTA, Santa Cruz Metro, Riderlink
  29. New York City subway route map
  30. Track diagrams
  31. Track diagrams, other information
  32. Code of Federal Regulations
  33. LawGuru Legal Research
  34. Substantive Law
  35. Institute for Economic Democracy
  36. AASHTO
  37. ATIS
  38. Bureau of Transportation Statistics
  39. DOT Bureau of Transportation Statistics
  40. NWU Infrastructure Technology Institute
  41. Intermodal Passenger Terminal Facilities Project Summaries
  42. Internet Sources in Transportation
  43. Association of American Railroads Transportation Technology Center
  44. Association of American Railroads
  45. On-Line Libraries
  46. link to transportation images
  47. Transport Chicago (Metropolitan Conference on Public Transportation Research)
  48. US Government Printing Office
  49. Highway bill reathorization
  50. ISTEA legislative updates
  51. Government Financial Officers Association
  52. Government Financial Officers Association
  53. Complete World Rail Transit List
  54. railroad abandonment notices
  55. Innovative Transportation Technologies
  56. traffic and capacity
  57. COMMUTERS GET COMFY ON LUXURY BUSES
  58. CTA SERVICE CUTS OKD
  59. US public transport 1985 to 1995 data by state
  60. All Aboard - USA
  61. Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technologies
  62. ATRA Newsletter
  63. United States Government Manual
  64. Grade Crossing Safety Information: FHwA OMC
  65. Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century
  66. North American Commuter Railroad Schedules
  67. Municipal Codes Online
  68. Tax links
  69. Are Compact Cities a Desirable Planning Goal? Gordon, Peter; Richardson, Harry W American Planning Association. Journal of the American Planning Association; Winter 1997; 63, 1
  70. Wisconsin Department of Transportation

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