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CTA Ignores Transit Needs of Downtown Residents

(Photo: Shhh, maybe no one will notice…)

If I could post this entry in a “Not Getting Around” column, I would.  Last spring, Ron Huberman’s CTA planning masters came up with a rotten plan to shut off all weekend ‘L’ service on Lake Street and Wabash Avenue to speed up track work.  I and others lambasted the plan, and it was revised.  Unfortunately, it was only revised to miss the downtown festival season.  It’s still designed to make life easier for people who visit downtown, not for the thouands of Chicagoans, like me, who actually live in the neighborhood.

The Trib’s John Hilkevitch is reporting that beginning today, much overnight and all weekend ‘L’ service will be eliminated on Lake and Wabash.  The idea seems to be by screwing 24/7 downtown residents out of convenient ‘L’ service in the northern (River-North adjacent) and eastern areas of the Loop where many people live, the CTA will be able to improve service more quickly for people who spend eight hours a day down here.

What’s worse, while Red Line slow-zone work continues, many weekends Red Line trains will be rerouted to the Wells and Van Buren sides of the Loop, too.  Meaning it will be a lengthy walk or crowded bus ride (assuming CTA personnel give rerouted riders correct detour information this time) for anyone in the eastern half of downtown to connect with that rerouted service.

That sucks. Overnight work sounds just fine to me.  At least I’d still be able to get where I need to go without walking half a mile to find the rerouted Brown or Green Lines on Wells Street on the days when all of my time–and thus all of my trips–are beginning and ending downtown.

You do know that’s what it means to live downtown, right Ron?  Actually, er, living here physically?  Overnight and on weekends, especially.  Maybe you spend too much time in Uptown (or Boystown) to notice.  But lots of people actually have need of the ‘L’ services you’ve so casually decided aren’t a priority to maintain every weekend from now until Thanksgiving.

I’ll remember that.  The next time I’m asked in the media–or by an alderman–as a downtown resident how I think the CTA is doing.  Definitely the next time I try to ride a train in my neighborhood on the weekend.  And I’m pretty sure the next time I have any desire to write a kind word about Windy City transit on any of my bylines.

You’ve obviously just told me and thousands of my neighbors to drop dead–every weekend between now and Thanksgiving.  Consider this missive me returning the favor.

Categories: Chicago Transit Authority TRANSIT

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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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6 replies

  1. Seriously, get some perspective.

    Doing the work on weekends means that the work is *now done*, as of December 1. If it had been done only at nights, it would still be going on…and on…and on… and it would still be going on next June…. and next December… and the trains would still be slow and late and unreliable for the entire period….

    In the UK, there has been a trend towards doing all track maintenance in massive “blitzes” where an entire segment is shut down for a long weekend, because it’s a lot more efficient than shutting it down at nights every night for six, eight, or more weeks, which was previously necessary. Both choices cause a lot of inconvenience, but one causes the inconvenience for a *lot longer*, and the other gets the job done a lot faster *and* cheaper.

    Seriously, the Loop is hard to fix at *all*. Stopping and starting work, having to clean everything up for trains to pass again every six hours, makes it much, much slower. One weekend shutdown, working around the clock, can get the equivalent of over a month of nighttime work done — because you don’t have to set up the temporary track nearly as often. It also costs the CTA less money.

    Enjoy your on-time trains. If you still want to complain about the CTA’s choice to give you faster, more reliable trains this year rather than next year — well, that’s kind of stupid, isn’t it?

    Now, doing the work at the *same time* as the subway work was definitely a mistake. I’d say it was an avoidable one, but the Loop work was badly, badly overdue, by decades. The subway work was actually *less* urgent and the Loop work probably should have been done first, but some stupid complex issues with new signalling apparently delayed the Loop work.

    None of this would have been necessary if the CTA had had a reasonable level of capital funding for the last hundred years. It never has.

  2. Dave, I believe I already gave my solution in my last sentence: Finish the subway work first, then start the elevated work.

    How does transferring at Roosevelt and going north solve any of the problems I mentioned? You’ve confused me with that suggestion. And if you think I’m afraid to walk four blocks, then you missed the part where I mentioned I often walk two and a half miles without even thinking about it – and that’s what, 20 blocks?

    It appears you don’t live on the east side of downtown/River North. I can’t think of any other part of the city that’s been as inconvenienced by CTA capital improvements as this neighborhood.

    Now it’s time for me to walk to North & Sheffield and burn some calories at the gym. Maybe the rain we’re expecting will hold off until I get back…

  3. I agree with Charles, overnight for a year is fine with me. Where do you live, Dave?

    Why should Charles have to ride fully a three-mile round trip out of his way because the CTA can’t get its act together?

  4. If you’re that concerned about not having to walk, can’t you just transfer to the red line at Roosevelt and then ride the red line back north? Seems like if you won’t/can’t walk 4 blocks, that is your solution. A little inconvenient I guess, but what solution would YOU propose if the track work is necessary? Overnight work for a year+?

  5. I’ve been irritated with the Red Line reroutes for the past several months, especially on hot, humid, and/or rainy days.

    I live in Marina City, but my gym is at North and Sheffield. I used to be able to catch the Red Line at State/Lake, get off at North/Clybourn, and walk two blocks. Since I normally work out in the evenings and weekends, it’s a lot less convenient now. I can still catch the train at Lake, but I have to get off at Sedgwick and walk about three quarters of a mile. Thanks to the unreliability of the trains, such a trip often takes me around 35 minutes from start to finish. It’s only 2.5 miles; I can walk it in 45 – and often do.

    While I frequently walk long distances without even thinking about it, it’s on the aforementioned hot/humid/wet days that it’s inconvenient. And with winter approaching, you can add cold to that list.

    It’s also annoying when I’m out running errands on weekends. I often exhaust myself walking through River North, the Loop, and the South Loop because I can’t just hop the Red Line to get from, say, Clark/Division to Roosevelt/State. Don’t suggest taking the buses; those are even less reliable than the trains – and require either memorizing routes or taking a map with you to figure out how to get from A to B.

    So, yeah, those of us who live downtown are getting screwed by the CTA. They should have postponed Loop El work until the subway slow zone work was finished.

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