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CTA to North Siders: Drop Dead (from Crowding) or Drive

Throughout the CTA’s Brown Line reconstruction project, it’s been no secret that the agency planned to reduce north side service on the Red, Brown, and Purple lines from four tracks to three during construction at the Belmont and Fullerton stations this spring. However, even for the CTA, the ineptitude of today’s announcement and lack of planned service alternatives is, frankly, stunning.

Early in the CTA’s construction plans, the laughability of reducing service on the rail system’s most crowded corridor for two years in order, eventually, to alleviate crowding was pointed out by community members. That’s a moot point now. Beginning in April, the CTA plans to reduce inbound rush hour service from the north side by 13 percent (the equivalent of 16 fully loaded trains, or 8,600 riders).

But that’s nothing compared to the CTA’s evening rush hour plan. Outbound Red, Brown, and Purple Line riders will see an astounding 25 percent reduction in service. That’s 31 fewer trains, folks, or more than 17,000 riders who simply will no longer be accommodated by the CTA’s evening north-side ‘L’ service. (Browse these links for the CTA’s press release and initial coverage from the Chicago Tribune).

But don’t cringe just yet. Wait until you read the details of the CTA’s alternate service plan. Actually, you might as well cringe now if you’re a north-side rider: there is no alternate service plan. No special bus shuttle. No new bus service following the ‘L’ lines with reduced capacity. In fact, beyond running a few additional buses on existing north-south bus routes, the totality of the CTA’s advice to riders: travel at a different time; plan for your commuting time to double; or take Metra.

That deserves to be repeated: travel at a different time; plan for your commuting time to double; or take Metra.

Great advice CTA, thanks. North-side riders with flexible job schedules (hands up how many of you have that?) should travel outside of rush hour. Those with strong legs and stout constitutions should plan to spend and extra half hour or so on horrendously crowded ‘L’ trains. Everyone else who can’t fit on the train or the few additional buses should leave the CTA system entirely and take Metra. At additional cost.

Or, simply, just get in your car and leave public transit behind for two years or forever.

This is not the way to run a world-class transit agency. This is not the way to retain, much less attract, transit riders. This is not the way to instill in Chicagoans any confidence whatsoever in the ability of CTA management to actually manage the CTA.

The CTA Board should reject this plan, even if it means delaying construction work, until CTA management comes up with a plan that doesn’t effectively tell 17,000 riders to dump transit and drive. CTA Chairwoman Carole Brown should be leading the charge for that better service plan.

And CTA President Frank Kruesi should be fired. Telling 17,000 riders to go to hell is just about the definition of how not to run a transit agency. He needs to go before he does more damage to one of Chicago’s most important civic and economic assets.

Mayor Daley, do you really want this albatross hanging around your neck during election time? Whatever political debt you own him, whatever political reason there is for him to be retained in public employ at all, it’s time for Frank Kruesi to be shuffled off somewhere where his ability to do damage that affects thousands of Chicagoans on a daily basis is, finally, ended.

As a CTA rider, I’m tired of suffering from his mistakes.

(Update, January 11, 2007): Also tired, apparently, are Chicago aldermen Joe Moore (49th) and Ricardo Munoz (22nd), who today called for City Council hearings on the CTA’s and Kruesi’s phenomenal lack of performance. The above link leads to CTA Tattler‘s report on the call for hearings (likely the first Joe Moore-sponsored hearings not to involve foi gras or other forbidden foodstuffs), and you can read the Sun-Times’ coverage here. CTA Tattler also covers the whole CTA reconstruction mess here.

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Michael Thaddeus Doyle

I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.

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7 replies

  1. Neighbors Project Says “Text Your Way to the CTA”

    (Photo: Any minute now. Any minute now… Credit: Looper.) Last year, a couple of former office colleagues of mine set up the Neighbors Project, an Internet-based movement to celebrate and strengthen cities and the socially conscious “urban generation…

  2. I emailed the CTA asking exactly what their problem was, and they actually responded back stating they were planning on running extra buses and possibly increasing how often the Blue line ran to make up for it. I’ll believe it when I see it.

  3. Makes one happy to be a blue-liner.

    But hey, Kruesi’s gotta go. Run some extra buses during rush hour – brown line express, red line express. The buses stop at/near all el stations on the route. This ain’t exactly rocket science.

  4. I do not like delays and cram…

    Would you like ‘L’ delays and cram? Not during rush hour, Frankie man. I do not like them on the ‘L’. I do not like them very well. I don’t like them in Rogers Park. I don’t like them at…

  5. This is why Chicago needs a strapperhanger alliance or some other organized tranist riders pressure group. CTA, RTA, PACE and METRA operate outside of democratic accountability channels and we get hosed.

    For example, could they just splash a little water on the floor of the cars on Green Line Run 7 every morning to get the homeless people’s urine off?

  6. I have a great idea. This could also be a permanent change. Take a street that already has too many cars. Impose congestion pricing or a permit on the street during rush. Use CTA’s articulated buses on this route. Give everyone in a bunch of specific zip codes a free Chicago Card (with no value on it).

    Make these articulated buses accept only Chicago Cards. Limit the amount of stops these buses make. Make the stop shelters at these stops larger with more bus rider information.

    Call the bus BRT and say you’re a genius.

    This would very well be the fastest way to implement the world’s highest quality/lowest cost high speed local transit system.

  7. I’m starting to think that moves like this are simply Kruesi’s MO, like a sort of reverse Robert Moses where he threatens the very worst possible scenario and then pulls back to a slightly less terrible but still shitty position that people would have freaked out about just as badly if it had been proposed at first. (Remember the nightmare service cuts proposed with last year’s revenue shortfalls and discussion of the RTA funding formula, and how they ended up not nearly as bad as predicted?)

    Or it could be that they’re trying to work up exactly the kind of outcry for public transit that you’re talking about, since it’s the kind of thing that people take for granted and even bitch constantly about until it disappears. I expect it’s pretty rough to get the general public excited about the details of operating and capital budgets for public works until those works are about to be gone.

    I think it’s also wrapped up with the mayor’s own public image; after the great outcry on service cuts, expect to see Daley publicly intercede on the city’s behalf, and a compromise emerge that will make everybody a little happier than the alternatives. I think all of these strategic machinations come straight from the mayor.

    Kruesi is just a weak hand there to play whipping boy so that at some point the mayor can easily replace him with the candidate of his choice (I don’t believe it’s technically the mayor who chooses the CTA prez). I just wish he would go ahead and take the next step and install a strong leader there. But maybe they’re waiting until all the unpleasantness of the northside reconstruction is over with.

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