Confusion, delays mark Day 1 of CTA Wells St. bridge closure

After the first work day of no Loop "L" service over the Wells Street bridge, all I can say is: "Just wait till the south Red Line shuts down May 19."

There was much confusion and plenty of delays during the morning rush Monday as Brown Line riders into the Loop looked for alternatives during this week's shutdown of the Wells Street bridge.

And riders took to Twitter and Facebook with complaints bordering on whining.

It's not like we haven't been warned.

The CTA has been telling us for weeks to find alternate ways to work and school, such as bus routes. But some people acted surprised that the Brown Line was stopping its route at the Mart, or being rerouted into the State Street subway.

The Tribune curated these posts from social media about the morning commute. And if you didn't leave extra time for your commute today you really should tomorrow, when up to 10 inches of snow is predicted to fall by 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, these CTA photos from the weekend document what all this hub-bub is about. At the same time that workers are sliding into place the new south end of the Wells Street bridge, other workers were replacing track at the Tower 18 junction and the Hubbard curve. As usual, the CTA photographer did a very nice job. Check out the whole Flickr photo set.



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  • You pretty much summed it up.

    Some on also indicated that there was some sort of changeover of cars with Blue/Green/Pink line signs to the Brown Line, which further messed up the signage issue.

  • Some of those commuters bordered on whiny but CTA couldn't keep a single thing straight all day. Mismatched destination signs, confused operators, interior maps from other lines. I knew where trains were going but for any novice it was confusing. I rode a Roosevelt train from Montrose. The operator was making announcements but from Belmont through Fullerton said the train was going to make the Armitage stop. A couple of tourists and a DePaul student got on at Fullerton after the Operator said the next stop would be Armitage. The foreign tourists wanted to make sure it was going to Armitage and the student said she thought so because the operator said it. The door closed before they said anything so I did not correct them before we left. Of course the crossover is before Armitage and we went into the subway as they sat with a melancholy look on their face.

  • Kevin, when all the Tweets are collected in one place, I guess I can see them as whiny (especially people who live in Lakeview or Lincoln Park lamenting that their commute took 35 minutes). But I think you're being very kind to the CTA. This is a big deal and they have done only a little to mitigate it, and the bare minimum to warn people. I only started hearing announcements on the trains late last week. I follow your blog and read Hilkevitch ... but I still didn't even know this was happening until about two weeks ago. People have busy lives ... it's not necessarily their fault if they didn't happen to notice the CTA whispering about this.

    Don't get me wrong ... I know this had to be done, I am very impressed they are planning to do it in such a short period of time, and it was bound to be an inconvenience. But it still could have been communicated better, and more bus alternatives could be in place.

  • Mikely, maybe I am being too easy on the CTA. I'll give you that. I should have said that they get one "pass" to get things right. That is, see what went wrong during the first morning rush Monday, and then fix problems for the afternoon rush.

    I think they did that, at least according tot he Tribune story this morning.

    For instance, the mysterious trains that said "Loop" disappeared by the afternoon rush.

    Time will tell if better communications continues.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    I agree there. Despite the inconvenience, yesterday wasn't as bad as I feared it would be. My door-to-door of the usual 60 minutes was 90. Today it was 75 (took the 136 instead of the Red Line). I'm glad some people can work remotely because I have a feeling a lot of those who can are doing so this week.

  • cta can f**k up a one car funeral.

  • Exactly how hard is it to have a supervisor at the south end of the Kimball platform making sure that the correct destination sign is displayed.
    And exactly how does a single decal in the front window help?
    Not everyone can see the front window, especially if you're just coming up the stairs to catch the train!
    They should have had Lee Crooks record new announcements & programmed them into the system!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Oh! We could have so much fun thinking of variations on the standard announcements.

    TOOT! TOOT! TOOT! Your Attention Please. This train is standing, waiting for we're not sure what. Everything is all messed up. We may tell some of you when we have it figured out. Or not.

    DING DONG! This is a Maroon Line Train, It doesn't go to da loop, it goes Beep Beep. The next stop will be some station that was taken down in the 1940s

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    OK, I know you're attempting to be funny.

    But the announcements are simple & would be used again in late April.
    "This is a Brown Line train that will use the subway to the Loop, with Roosevelt as the last stop."
    "This is a Brown Line train that will use the subway to the Loop & then continue on the Orange Line to Midway."
    Not complicated!
    Except for the gaggle of incompetents that run the CTA!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Yes, I was having fun.

    But not disputing that your idea made sense. It goes directly to my point, that the CTA needs to focus on bringing information about the unexpected directly to passengers while they're on the system. This includes having an informative statement worked out, using a non-mumbly voice and putting it through non-garbly loudspeakers.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    Ha! Good stuff CC!

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:


    I assume you know the old joke about "does this bus go to the Loop."

  • Yes, it's only one week. Most people can put up with anything for just one week. Most bosses will understand the disruption.

    The real story at the end of the week will be not just how the CTA planned for it, but if it made any progress at all in handling communications with passengers in real time while they travel and as things happen, if they realize it's impossible to have it all covered with the before and after and with media that don't penetrate to all passengers in transit. Will they ever manage to figure out that this is important and come up with some better strategies? And will they learn anything from this experience that they can apply generally?

  • I agree that the CTA gets one "pass" for some issues, but would it have killed them to test the destination signs out first to make sure they were working correctly? Or as Scooter said to check them at Kimball?

    Even today, there were still some big issues, like major delays getting trains into and out of the Mart, and unhelpful operators and supervisors at Belmont. I was on a subway Brown line that pulled into Belmont where there were tons of people waiting for the Red line, and nobody bothered to tell them the train on the right was headed into the subway.

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