Orange Line connector project gives CTA riders smoother ride

The CTA recently finished the $25 million Orange Line 18th Street connector project, providing South Side riders with a smoother, more reliable ride.

The project disrupted service between the Halsted and Roosevelt stations for four weekends in May and June. But the result was the 45-year-old elevated structure receiving significant repairs, including track renewal work. Additional project work included painting and waterproofing the structure to mitigate leaking water from the structure, which created icy conditions in adjacent parking lots and alleyways during the winter months.

"Customers now have a smoother and more reliable trip in and out of the Loop along the Orange Line, while the surrounding community no longer has a leaking eyesore," said Catherine Hosinski in an email to DNAinfo Chicago. The project was financed with tax-increment financing funds.

Meanwhile, in other Orange Line news, StreetsBlog Chicago reports that "Lack of planning along Orange Line resulted in missed opportunities."

Based on a new report by a University of Chicago graduate student, the piece by Daniel Hertz "identifies three factors that may be holding back job growth along the Orange Line":

First, zoning was not updated when the line was built. Much of the land around the three stations studied is zoned for manufacturing, which prohibits the neighborhood-serving retail — like corner stores, hardware stores, and restaurants — that clusters around other ‘L’ stations all over the city.

Second, the stations were designed for riders to arrive by bus or car, not by foot. As a result, the entrances are often set back from the street, and face bus bays instead of sidewalks. That sort of isolation ... “will generally discourage riders from walking to and from the station and from patronizing nearby business establishments.”

Finally, because the neighborhoods around the Orange Line were built before the area had rapid transit access, they are much more car-oriented than communities that grew up around older ‘L’ lines. Population density is relatively low, which means fewer potential customers.

Read the rest of this good report.
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  • Also, Ed Burke remains in control of much of the area because most of the population counted in the census isn't legally eligible to vote, so, as long as he gets his, he doesn't care.

  • In reply to jack:

    Shhhshh! 35th/Hoyne is a free-park n ride goldmine (plentiful parking along Archer) as long as you can delay your arrival until after 9am or be back from the Loop by 3:55pm.

  • 45 years? The Orange Line opened in 1993, so I assume the connector was originally built to allow Red Line trains to route from the Dan Ryan segment *north of Cermak) to the subway, correct? Does anyone know why/when this was abandoned in favor of the tunnel entrance at 16th and Wentworth? I assume it was done in the early 90's as part of the Orange Line project to free up the segment for Orange Line trains only.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Yes, the original route of the Dan Ryan trains was up the ramp north of Cermak-Chinatown, and on the connector to the L, and then via Wabash and Lake to Harlem.

    The tunnel was built in the early 1990s as part of the HoDar project to connect the Dan Ryan with Howard, and create what is now the Red and Green Lines, because the Lake and southside portions of each of the former routes became totally unbalanced compared to the Howard and Dan Ryan has the complete history.

    You should note that the Red Line tracks go to the outside of the ramp, which is an indication that they were built later.

    The Orange Line opened at about the same time, but the purpose was not to accommodate it. In fact, the first time I rode the Orange Line (after many years of riding the Dan Ryan), I was somewhat disoriented by the fact that it did not go down the ramp.

  • In reply to jack:

    If I recall, HoDar was a guy with a briefcase and a lunchpail, whereas L.E. Jack was a casually dressed fellow with a chaffeurs hat who kicked up his legs while catching a nap. Revruns would have had a field day with that one, although with all of the post-crash vacant residential along the Michigan/Indiana corridor, there might not be much "flock".

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    The other thing you seem to misconstrue is that the Lake-Dan Ryan ran on the Loop L, not the subway, while the subway was Englewood-Jackson Park-Howard.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thanks! I grew up in the south burbs, so the IC (Metra Electric) was our main public transportation option. I recall riding the L once or twice in the 70's to get to Wrigley Field with my dad.

    Is there a good source, i.e. website, that has old CTA maps? It would be interesting to see the evolution of the L routes over the decades.

  • maps page has maps for various significant times.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thanks again!

    Wow, the North-West line opened in 1969, and it took them 24 years to finally address the load imbalance by creating the Red Line. That's planning for you. The tunnel was started in 1985, but the realignment didn't occur until 1993. Sheesh. How much money was wasted running the imbalanced system?

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    Whoops, meant South-West.

  • In reply to SpinyNorman:

    I think you mean the West-South (LDR) line. However, traffic on the south portion of the North-South route (EJH) didn't deteriorate immediately; there used to be apartment buildings between King Dr. and State, before that and other vast parts of the south side were depopulated. There used to be a large Sears and shopping district at 63rd and Halsted. There wasn't the community demand to cut back the Jackson Park branch from Stony Island to Cottage Grove, even tough Woodlawn started burning in the early 70s (landlords were torching buildings that were still occupied). West-South trains got by with 6 cars for a while.

    Labor was cheaper in those days, too.

    Basically, though, I don't know how old you are (and don't post it), but things weren't always as they are now. But there is further evidence that the south side passenger situation is deteriorating, from certain Green Line trips ending at Roosevelt to provide Oak Park with better service to the stories posted here a couple of years ago that the north and south ends of the Red Line are still unbalanced, and, essentially, there should be some sort of express service between Howard and Roosevelt.

    Bus situation isn't much different; while I didn't see the justification for the #1 Indiana-Hyde Park bus (which didn't get to Hyde Park), that's been cut back to IIT, even though CTA had a JARC request to run it all day.

    On the other hand, Ravenswood (Brown Line) was considered a pretty lost cause in the 1970s, but now is the most overcrowded line. Essentially, Albany Park was repopulated with a new generation of immigrants, for instance.

  • In reply to jack:

    Well, that and Lakeview is a much more popular place to live than it used to be in the 1970's and 1980's...

    It's been a while since I rode it, but is it still overcrowded even with the longer train sets?

  • In reply to chris:

    I was referring more to the justification for the Brown Line project, and bringing in trains from the Orange Line,* rather than to the condition inside the cars.

    *See M and K trips on the schedule.

    Even Uptown isn't the wasteland it once was.

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