The bold announcement that the CTA would totally shut down the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line for five months in 2013 to rebuild the tracks was the top story of the year.
Or was it the decision to raise prices for all CTA passes next year?
No wait - the big story of 2012 was the rehab of seven deteriorating stations and track at the north end of the Red Line.
A case could be made for any of these big CTA news stories as the No. 1 story of the year. Or maybe you have another favorite? But any way you look at it, 2012 was a big year for news from the CTA. Here's a look back at those stories.
After a few years of transferring capital dollars to the operating budget, the CTA poured millions of dollars into various rail system improvement projects:
- In April, the CTA started a $34 million Loop Track Renewal project to replace two miles of rail and track components on the downtown "L."
- Work on the Purple Line viaducts continued this year, with completion set for May 2013.
- Rollout of the new 5000 Series rail cars continued this year with cars now on the Pink, Green and Red lines.
- With an $86 million investment, the CTA rehabbed seven north Red Line stations and platforms, and eliminated slow zones in and near stations. This work will continue into early 2013.
- In a separate project, the CTA is renovating the Loyola station and repairing the viaduct.
- CDOT has begun renovation of the Clark/Division Red Line station, with completion set for 2015.
The CTA this year also announced a number of future rail improvements:
- The biggest without doubt is the Red Line South Track Renewal Project funded at $425 million. The Red Line from Cermak/Chinatown to 95th will be closed for five months beginning in May. Everything in the track bed will be replaced.
- In 2014, work will begin to expand and improve the 95th Street Red Line terminal. That's a $240 million project.
- Farther north on the Red Line, work will begin in mid-2013 to rebuild the Wilson station.
Bus system improvements
The CTA made some long-awaited bus improvements:
- Bus rapid transit finally came to the CTA, even if it's more like "BRT light." Jeffery Jump service started in November.
- And planning started for real BRT along the Western and Ashland corridors.
- CTA added service to 48 bus routes under its plan to reduce crowding.
Controversial decisions, words
Certainly it was not all sweetness and light for the CTA in 2012.
- Under that plan to reduce crowding, service was eliminated on the No. 11 Lincoln bus between Western and Fullerton. Despite a dedicated grass-roots campaign to save the route segment, the CTA board voted to eliminate it.
- The board also went along with Forrest Claypool's recommendation to raise the price of all passes in 2013, while keeping the base fare the same for those paying cash or using a transit card.
- The board did back off a bit on raising the price of a rail ride from the O'Hare station. The board agreed that the CTA will work with the Chicago Department of Aviation to develop a system to exempt employees working on O’Hare International Airport property.
- Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in talking about the increase in passes for 2013, said "commuters can 'make that choice' about whether to drive or take buses and trains." Well, not really, since about 40 percent of CTA commuters don't own a car.
- President Claypool created some controversy with his sharp words about archaic union rules. He does deserve some credit for getting a good contract for both the CTA and its workers.
What have I missed? I have a feeling you'll let me know.
Here's to a Happy New Year for all my CTA Tattler readers. Thanks for being here!