Dan Ryan job like “ripping off the Band-Aid,” says Claypool

Dan Ryan job like “ripping off the Band-Aid,” says Claypool
June 20: Dan Ryan job like “ripping off the Band-Aid,” says CTA President Forrest Claypool in an interview with CTA Tattler. (CTA Tattler photo by Patrick Barry)

CTA President Forrest Claypool sat down with a few transit-oriented bloggers today for a wide-ranging conversation about ridership trends, slow zones and what Bus Rapid Transit will look like in Chicago. Since the various Red Line projects are in the news these days, we’ll start with that. Stand by for other topics in future posts.

Shutting down the Dan Ryan leg of the Red Line for five months sounds like a drastic step, Claypool acknowledges, “but once we are able to explain it, and really go into the detail on it, we have gotten overwhelming support.”

“Our decision is to do a very short five-month project – rip the Band-Aid off, so to speak – and deliver a modern railroad with trains going 55 miles per hour. Not just trains, but brand-new trains and facelifts for all those South Side stations, which were last rehabbed in the 1990s.”

Those less-crowded new trains will start running three years earlier than under the alternative approach, which is to shut down sections of the route every weekend for four years.

“We’re going to provide a modern experience, and a comfortable experience for riders, in five months." The alternative, he added, "would still be four years of station closings on weekends, and that line has the highest level of ridership on the weekends, two-thirds of the weekday ridership levels."  That ridership averaged 39,000 people on Saturdays and 30,000 on Sundays, according to the 2011 annual ridership report, compared to about 51,000 on weekdays.

By the time the project begins next year, Claypool adds, there will be customized alternative travel plans for each neighborhood along the line. “If (riders) just bear with us, they will be very happy with the product and the results.”

South of 95th Street, the CTA is still pursuing the South Red Line Extension, Claypool says, with continued strong support from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin. But in addition to getting through the "plodding" federal review process, the extension will depend on passage of a “robust” federal transportation bill. “And I would be shocked if there were any action on that before the (November) elections.”

As for the nearly three miles of slow zones that remain on the North Red Line, those will be pursued. “We will attact them all in priority order, you’ll see over the next few years the slow zones on Brown, Green, Blue and Red eradicated,” he says. Funding isn’t yet in place, he acknowledged. “But this is part of our capital acquisition goals and I’m very comfortable that we’ll get there.”

Next: Chicago-style Bus Rapid Transit.

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  • In short bloviating of his usual type.

    Besides not addressing whether the slow zones won't return (ask Frank about that), he says "those South Side stations, which were last rehabbed in the 1990s" when most of them got work in 2005-2007, although 3 didn't get lifts, as Adham would say. So Scooter will say that he is lying again.

    "there will be customized alternative travel plans for each neighborhood along the line." Someone on chicagobus.org who went to the meeting pointed out that nothing was said about Chinatown. Is Rahm going to have his Cermak-Wabash station built by then?

    "South of 95th Street, the CTA is still pursuing the South Red Line Extension, Claypool says, with continued strong support from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin. But in addition to getting through the "plodding" federal review process, the extension will depend on passage of a “robust” federal transportation bill." Besides the implied partisanship, there was a story in the Tribune a couple of days ago about getting the usual planning grant but then searching for funding to expand the 95th St. bus terminal because it has the "most bus routes of any CTA rail station." A fair conclusion is that since a rationale for that extension is to move a lot of those bus routes to a 115th station where the city does have the land, either CTA is in search of federal dollars for a project that won't be needed, or the extension is not in the conceivable future. Despite what Frosty says, I'm betting the latter.

    So if riders are not "very happy with the product of the results" (more department of redundancy gibberish), does he care? No. At least so long as the Brown Line is not affected.

    And I assume that he didn't take questions and didn't get off the notes prepared for him.

  • In reply to jack:

    "And I assume that he didn't take questions and didn't get off the notes prepared for him."

    Actually, Jack, the whole thing was a free-wheeling conversation full of questions, and President Claypool didn't have any notes "prepared for him" or otherwise. He spoke with authority about operational details, technology and construction engineering, and when he didn't know the answer, he said so.

    Your point about the 95th Street bus terminal rehab is similar to comments about the North Red Interim Station Improvements . . . why fix something now if you're going to replace it later? I've asked that myself, but if you think about five or 10 years of daily use, and the fact that ridership is likely to increase over that time period, we're going to make good use of the improvements in the meantime and even after a new bus terminal gets added farther south, because 95th Street will always be a major hub.

    I've used that bus terminal and it is both crowded and worn out.

  • In reply to Patrick Barry:

    "He spoke with authority about operational details"

    "all those South Side stations, which were last rehabbed in the 1990s."

    I clicked my prior comment before mentioning "how about the Cermak-Chinatown station, which was rebuilt after a truck hit it and with ARRA money? That happened in the 1990s?"

    So, if you thought he spoke with authority, no, he spoke in his usual corporate speak without knowing what he was talking about.

    And your statement about 95th St. seems a concession that, after 40 years of promising the extension, it will be at least another 10 years, if then. Probably not even then. At least they were somewhat honest about the north side project that it had a 10 year service life. After then, are they going to shut it down like they are the south side one, because the supports for a "modern aerial structure" have to be installed where the embankment is now?

    The salient point in both the extension and bus terminal cases is that while the consultants are being paid, no funding source has been found. And hence, nothing is being built.

    Which, other than ripping out the Dan Ryan, which had construction 5 years ago, appears to be the only point that Forrest can say with any authority. Too bad you didn't realize it when you transcribed his remarks.

  • Patrick, thanks very much for this great report and for representing CTA Tattler at the interview.

    Note to readers: Patrick is the "idea guy" behind CTA Station Watch, A crowd-sourced info stream for CTA's North Red Line renovations. CTA Tattler (me) partnered with Patrick to launch the site.

  • Last week, Claypool took Jay Levine of Channel 2 onto the roadbed of the Ryan & the camera gave us a closeup.
    It was obvious that the limestone ballast had been crushed by the trains into fine gravel & dust.
    My guess is that it was a combination of the weight, which is relatively low with the small size of CTA L cars & the poor drainage which caused the limestone to disintegrate when it was wet all the time.
    Since I doubt they will manage to correct the drainage, common sense demands that granite ballast be used, just like the Class 1 roads use, or the line will be in the same shape in 5-7 years.

    I'm sure they won't use granite, they're too stupid, plus then the private contractors get to do it all over again!

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