Let's support CTA's Belmont bypass, and make sure it looks great

CTA sponsored a public hearing last week to take public comments on the proposed Belmont bypass. The bypass would be constructed to "fly over" the other three tracks. The Red and Purple could proceed north and south instead of stopping to wait for the northbound Brown Line train to pass over three tracks.

You can see the full presentation, and check out selected boards explaining the project in the gallery below.

We've heard plenty from bypass opponents - most of whom live near the Belmont station, many who will lose their homes - but not much from regular riders whose commute would be shortened by the bypass. The bypass also will provide more capacity, allowing:

  • CTA to increase peak service on the Red Line by up to 30%.
  • CTA to add up to 8 more trains per hour during rush hour on the Red Line alone.
  • Additional capacity to accommodate up to 7,200 more passengers per hour.

We need to look to the future and support the bypass. And we also need to make sure it's nice to look at. I like this comment that my friend Eric made to the CTA:

The flyover and rebuilt "Clark Junction" will be around longer than anybody working on it. CTA should give the project the greatest possible visual interest; make it something people want to look at and even be around, not an eyesore people try to avoid. Let's open up the design process to architects and others who may bring some fresh, artistic artistic thinking.

I couldn't agree more.


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  • As for your friend's comment, "art" is in the eye of the beholder, and any roller coaster 35 to 40 feet in the air is going to be an eyesore.

    Nobody seems to have answered my question whether this is a cost effective solution for using a half billion that at the moment does not exist. Which gives rise to another question--if this is going to be a dispute between the riders and the neighbors as Streetsblog and Scooter suggest, are the riders willing to pay a fare increase necessary to fund this half billion in construction and render the issue of "a source of funding has not been identified" moot and get this on the "fast track"? I remember when you advocated for a fare increase about 6 months ago for capital.

    BTW, maybe something I suggested is going to come to fruition. Pace has a requisition for a consultant to actually have service coordination in Evanston and Skokie and says CTA is on board. Maybe you can get Dorval Carter to confirm that.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack, I think the CTA successfully answered the question of why it's needed: to meet the transit needs of the 185,000 new residents who will be using the Red, Purple and Brown lines by 2040.

    The price tag of $500 million includes about $150 million in track they would have to do anyway.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    As I said before, CTA unsuccessfully put out numbers on the Ashland BRT, which is now at least comatose, and people have questioned the delay numbers CTA put out on this project and CTA has apparently retracted those.

    Even less than Theo Epstein, I certainly don't take what CTA says on faith, especially since it has not received Federal construction grants since the half done Brown Line project was completed.

    But that still begs the question I raised--if this is going to be so beneficial to the residents of the 49th Ward who go downtown--why don't they pay for it through their fares and get construction going?

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    You’re playing the role of shill even more than usual on this one!

    To get to 185,000 by 2040 the areas along the Red and Purple lines would have to replicate the same type of (record) pace that the Central Area is currently seeing FOR 25 UNINTERRUPTED YEARS IN A ROW. And, of course, since those areas aren’t currently growing at anywhere near that pace they would have to grow at a significantly faster rate after a ramp-up period.

    Watchdogs like you are why Block 37 contains the world’s costliest basement.

  • In reply to jack:

    "any roller coaster 35 to 40 feet in the air is going to be an eyesore"

    Such a defeatist attitude.

    Paris: http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d107/Vincentthomas/Album%205/La_station_au_centre_du_dispositif.jpg

    The CTA design is a heavy, over engineered, dark, miserable piece of infrastructure. As if someone from IDOT did the design work. In keeping with the new 'design first' task with the new stations (Morgan/Washington/Cermak), they should through the design contract to Ross Barney and Epstein.

  • In reply to untitledreality:

    I think you answered your own point that this is not Paris. Also, your link does not show anything 40 feet in the air in Paris, in the middle of what stands for a residential neighborhood in Chicago.

    Besides that, the "design" in the drawings for the flyover doesn't match what is in the video simulation, so probably nobody can draw a conclusion other than (a) CTA will have an eyesore, and (b) it isn't going to raise the estimated cost just to hire an architect.

  • In reply to untitledreality:

    The pictures in that link doesn't even look like it could hold any weight. Those supports look very tiny.

  • In reply to chris:

    They might be able to. However, we don't know how heavy whatever vehicles run on it are, either.

    The impression I first got from the picture was that it was of a platform canopy rather than an L structure. Nonetheless, it still isn't a 35 foot high roller coaster.

  • I don't know why you uncritically accept CTA's assertions regarding this proposal as fact? At the pm rush hour how many north bound trains do you think are delayed at all by having to wait for another train to pass. And of these what is the wait time?

  • In reply to Commentator:

    You're missing my point. This isn't about today. It's about 10-20 years from now. I agree the current delays, while annoying, aren't worth the expense.

    But when you look at the expected population increase, and the added capacity the bypass will provide to handle that population, the bypass makes sense.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Again, urban planners have ways of projecting that., CTA does not. Given that it was reported that Chicago grew by only about 35 residents in the past 10 years, maybe your point doesn't exist. Or maybe CTA should forget the Red Line to 130th proposal, because with all the gang warfare, nobody is going to live in that territory, For that matter, it should get rid of the Green Line south.

  • In reply to Commentator:

    I take this route twice daily commuting from Edgewater to downtown for work. I can attest to the need for this project. Every morning my train slows down after leaving Addison and comes to a halt before the junction as we wait for a Brown Line train to pass. Estimated time loss - probably 1 minute (multiply that by the 800 or so other riders on the same train with me, then multiply that by the number of trains daily).

    In the evenings my train is always stopped at Belmont as we have to wait for another Brown Line train to pass in front of us, there's usually enough time for the next Brown or Purple train to reach Belmont before we are able to leave the station. Again, loss is a minute or two (multiplied by every rider, times every train)

  • In reply to urbaneddie:

    Which Brown Line train? This is going to do nothing about the southbound ones.

    So, how much are you willing to pay to save that minute? Remember, CTA originally said that it was 5.

  • Kevin,

    That 185,000 figure that CTA quotes as to justify the need to add capacity, is just someone's educated guess as the increase in population in the area of the north side L lines by the year 2040! It is not--repeat NOT--the number of additional people who "will be using the ...lines."

    And no, CTA would not have to spend $150 million dollars for track improvements just north of the junction. Many things are desirable, few are necessary.

  • In reply to Commentator:

    If you don't believe lots more people won't be moving into the area on 20 years, then I guess you won't support the bypass. So be it.

  • Have you ever thought that may be this 25 year projection of a population increase may turn out to be wrong, that instead of an increase, there could be a decease. Between 2000 and 2010 Chicago lost 200,000 people. Was that predicted? If it was, it wasn't predicted by CTA.

  • In reply to Commentator:

    You do know where that 200,000 drop in population occurred, right? They cleared out the CHA slums on the south and west sides and gave everyone the boot. Most areas of the city didn't see a drop in population, some slight increases/decreases overall & downtown actually saw a surge.

  • In reply to urbaneddie:

    So, I guess you are agreeing with my post that CTA should disinvest on the south side. I wonder why Emanuel keeps going to 95th and promising an extension to 130th. I wonder why CTA just borrowed $200 million to build a $240 million bus terminal there. And if the population surge is downtown, they aren't riding the L to get to downtown.

  • In reply to urbaneddie:


    The decline of 200,000 was not even throughout the city; however, the northside communities along the red line experienced an even greater percentage drop than the city as a whole:

    Rogers Park: 13.4%
    Edgewater: 9.1%
    Uptown: 11.4%

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    Sorry, Kevin, but I couldn't DISAGREE more! I live in Wrigleyville, but not near the proposed flyover. I take the Red Line often and have never experienced any long delays at the switch. In fact, I know someone who used to work in the old tower and have been up there when he had to manually switch the tracks.

    IMHO, this project would be a vast waste of money, it would destroy too many buildings and displace residents and businesses, and be a total eye-sore.

    On a separate issue, when is the CTA going to get around upgrading the Sheridan station? I'm 65 and will soon appreciate an elevator!

  • On Wednesday a Temporary joint Federal, State, and Local Title VI Non-Compliance Civil Rights Suit will be announced by the Stop the Flyover Coalition, and the CTA Gray Line Project, at the CTA Board of Directors Meeting -- against CTA, Metra, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, for unequal distribution of available Transit Funds between all of Chicago's neighborhoods: http://stopbelmontflyover.com/ http://www.civicartworks.com/projects/museum-campus-transportation-study?order=popular&phase=1

    By specifically ignoring Black Communities on Chicago's South and Southeast Sides; Bronzeville, Oakland/Kenwood, Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore, South Chicago, Grand Crossing, Chatham, Burnside, Pullman, etc... In favor of North Side Communities ($570M for 1 (one) bridge.

    The Suit in part requests that Governor Bruce Rauner create a Transit Project Review Board, to Study and Rank Major Capital Projects submitted by the Transit Agencies; and Prioritize them by Capital Cost, and Relative Benefits.

    Once the Review Board is formed, the Suit will be dropped.

    The Board Meeting is at CTA Headquarters, 567 W. Lake St., 10am 2nd flr. Board Room (one block west of the Clinton Pink/Green Line Station).

  • Apparently the only conclusion from the pro flyover contingent here (especially urbaneddie) is that they deserve the money more than other parts of town.

    I don't know if your suit is going anywhere, but I agree with your point about the need for a Transit Project Review Board, If nothing else, a prioritized list of projects would have a better chance of getting funded.

    In a sense, your point is similar to the one the Tribune made about the Illinana Tollway--politicians ramming through projects without considering the need for regional planning.

    Also, I don't know if the CT Board has seen an audiologist, or whether Rauner's two appointees will make a difference, but good luck.

  • In reply to jack:

    Along with the Stop the Flyover Coalition, the CTA Gray Line Project announced a Title VI Civil Rights Complaint against Mayor Emanuel, CTA, and Metra for spending available Public Transit Monies unequally among all of Chicago's neighnorhoods. The Complaint is being drafted now on the Federal, State, and Local levels: https://youtu.be/get2wPjbJxg

  • Aside that it has to be filed to count, the answer can be that they have spent as much on this as they have on the 130th extension, which is of course only consultant money. Both the Wilson station and the 95th bus terminal are each getting about $240 million, from about somewhere, and I don't think that black people of the Spokane type live around Wilson, but Afro-Americans do.

    As I said, the only point was whether the CT Board had seen an audiologist, and a You Tube doesn't prove that.

  • Also, don't forget that Rahm Emanuel personally rebuilt the Red Line Dan Ryan segment and as a result, won the runoff. That goes into the lawsuit calculus.

  • In reply to jack:

    As I've said before, the Red Line Extension running south from 95th St. would NOT serve
    Black Communities on Chicago's South and Southeast Sides like Bronzeville, Oakland/Kenwood, Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore, South Chicago, Grand Crossing, Chatham, Burnside, Pullman, etc..... What about improving their Public Transit?

    The present MED operation doesn't accomplish crap for those Communities!

  • The last I remember, communities such as Roseland, West Pullman, and Altgeld Gardens lost their white populations maybe 40 years ago, so extending the Red Line to 130th isn't serving the white community. Chatham and Burnside are already served by the Red Line.

    And, I seem to remember that you played the Title VI card for the communities you mentioned 10 years ago, and it took you about 5 years to admit that it didn't work.

    The only thing I was trying to say in my post is that the people who claim they have a Title VI claim here can't prove discrimination, other than it probably will be white people who will be displaced by this project. They can't prove discrimination against blacks. Furthermore, any suit is undoubtedly not ripe in the legal sense.

    Finally, my understanding is that Metra does serve Lisle.

  • In the discussion of flat junctions in use by the CTA Rail, only one flying junction is in service, the so-called "Grand Junction", 17th St. interlocking, used by the Green and Orange lines. The other day-to-day operations today are handled by flat junctions: at 59th St. on the south side; Paulina Jct. on the west side; Clark Tower and Howard on the north side; and two flat ones on the Loop "L"....Tower 18 and Tower 12. Two other flying junctions are only used for transfer, work trains, another non-revunue moves.

    Referencing the second photo at the beginning of this post, I think the lay-person doesn't take it into mind that more has to go on before a move can be made at Clark Tower. Some people say it's only 20, or 30 seconds for a train to travel the distance through Clark Tower. What they fail to account in their timing that it takes time to clear the first routing before setting up the next route. The Brown line train in the picture has to complete its move and clear, then the next move can be lined up. In the meantime, trains approaching have to limit their speeds, adding to their time. Often its THESE MINUTES that gets overlooked when the lay-person says it only took 20-30 second.

  • In reply to chicagopcc1:

    Somebody forgot that the Purple Line goes over the Yellow Line and the Howard return loop goes over the Purple Line.

  • In reply to jack:

    The Howard Loop goes over the Yellow Line, not the Purple.
    It's in between the North & South Purple bridges.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Oh, well, it goes over something.

  • fb_avatar

    Why is it always Black and White? Why not "By specifically ignoring Communities on Chicago's South and Southeast Sides; Bronzeville, Oakland/Kenwood, Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore, South Chicago, Grand Crossing, Chatham, Burnside, Pullman, etc... In favor of North Side Communities ($570M for 1 (one) bridge."

    Dude. You wanna fight. Fight for everyone. Dont add race to a North Side Vs South Side fight.

  • In reply to Lloyd Peters:

    He filed a Title VI complaint about 10 years ago essentially on the same subject.* While DOT regulations allow such complaints, he said that it was thrown out.

    The issue essentially is that he believes that it is discrimination if a Black man doesn't get what he wants, my point 3 weeks 1 day ago was that there was not any factual basis for a claim of racial discrimination cognizable under Title VI.
    *I agreed with him about 2000 that it made sense to run the Metra Electric other than the main line as a CTA operation under a purchase of service agreement, since it is there and doesn't serve Metra clientele, but that the difficulty was that CTA has no incentive to work with Metra, something that has been manifestly demonstrated over the past 15 years. However, when he brought up the racial issue, in which he still persists, and other collateral matters such as that the city gave him a consultant who turned on him, I "got off that train."

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to jack:

    Im truly sick of the "Black Communities" Thing. I am from the "Slums" that someone mentioned earlier. Born and raised in Robert Taylor. Ive seen areas change in 28 short years. These are not "Black Communities" The mix of all races stay in all communities. and ALL should be services. I live up north. Rogers Park. And it seems like on the daily. Trains are becoming more and more packed. As parking gets more crowded, Red light/speed cameras keep flashing, and other factors, More and more people are taking public transit.

    If the CTA can add up to 8 more runs. Im down. (and while your at it. Change the damn seating configuration on the 5000's Its annoying during rush. lol)

    Now on the south side. The extension to 130th will probably still happen. its made way too much noise not to. The south side is changing. And with the revamp of the red line to eliminate slow zones, The addition of the Cermak/McCormick place stop (Green line). and looking into expansions id say they are doing work down south as well. Id like to see more. But hey. Time and all.

    But look. People of all races board from the south. I havent been on one train north that didnt have multiple ethniticies on it. There are Historic African American communities. But thats not because of who lives there. Thats because of the rich history of the actual neighborhood.

    Those. I want those to get more service.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Lloyd Peters:

    Forgive the typos. i haven't had my morning coffee yet. haha!

  • It's not about the delays, it's about the ability to run an additional 8 Red Line trains per hour, which is a huge increase in service!
    And straightening out that idiotic jog around the ugly & useless Vautravers Building will also speed thing up, as will straightening out the Sheridan Rd. S-Turn.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Again, I ask Scooter--Are you willing to pay the fares to cover the half billion in bonds, plus the extra operating costs of the 8 additional Red Line trains per hour? How many more operators is that? Current rush hour schedule is every 3 to 6 minutes. That's 10 to 20 trains. Do you really think They will ever be able to run a train every 2 minutes with the amount of equipment and the signals CTA have throughout the rest of the line, even if they partially fix this junction?

    As it is indicated abovem that this is based on 2040 projections, the 5000s you detest will still be here, but I know you and I probably won't.

  • In reply to jack:

    That may be what the schedule says, but there is no way they are running 20 Red Line trains per hour during rush. You should know that Jack.

  • In reply to chris:

    Maybe only 15 can be extrapolated from the schedule, but otherwise you are saying that CTA has engaged in another fraud with the numbers. If it is only 15 trains an hour, do you really believe that CTA is going to expand that by 53% by promising 8 more Red Line trains an hour?

  • In reply to jack:

    I'm not sure it rises to the level of fraud, but I know the addition of a flyover will allow more trains. But as Greg Hinz points out, so would a turnaround track (which the norther part of this project would allow for I think) and upgrade of the signals. As you point out, does this make sense for the amount of money which is a valid debate.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Delays (alleged) and capacity are related. If for example there were no delays as a result of the junction, then the junction would not be the cause of inability to add capacity. If the delays are minimal, then the impact to adding additional trains is minimal.

    CTA has not produced any evidence that it cannot now add additional trains at rush hour.

    Straightening out the Sheridan Rd S-curve would reduce travel time for those boarding north of Addision, but that is not what is proposed. In my view that would be a better expenditure of funds.

  • fb_avatar

    I feel that the CTA does not pay enough attention to the ridership data it now has, so don't trust their ability to forecast additional red line commuters. CTA repeatedly fails to recognize the jump in riders commuting North to Evanston and not south to the loop. Purple line service is abysmal with a 15 to 20 minute wait time during morning rush. Brown line train interference is not the barrier here but poor scheduling is. To fix CTA scheduling would cost far less than 600 million and it would be immediate.

  • In reply to CTA to Evanston:

    It is going to get worse if there are going to be maybe 10 years of two or three track to do the Wilson project, the Lawrence to Ardmore project, and whatever they intend to do between Ardmore and Rogers.

  • Here is a more critical, but still supportive view on the matter from Crain's.


  • In reply to chris:

    If nothing else, he reenforced what I said before reading that--that the rest of the line, including signals, would have to be upgraded first, and he brings up upgrading all the stations to 10 car platforms. His point is also essentially the same as I made, " Is it worth having the Chicago Transit Authority spend that much to build a flyover bridge ....The answer: probably yes. But the call is much closer than this daily CTA user expected. I would like to think that half a billion bucks would buy more."

    Since Kevin, Scooter and the other riders are apparently not willing to front their shares of the necessary funds, that's the question CTA has the burden of answering if it wants the grant.

    Thanks for posting the link.

  • Is it a good idea? Perhaps. Is worth over a half billion dollars? No.

  • To me, this project was needed 20 years ago. At this point in time, its ludicrous that it hasn't been done yet. I don't understand how any more trains, same or longer length can get through that junction on the red line at rush hour without preventing NB brown line trains from crossing over red line tracks. Getting more red line trains through there would be critical for both the North and South side, having more buses or cars in the same neighborhoods served doesn't seem possible. If this project were done 10 years ago, it would have cost more. Waiting for more years until its woefully obvious that it needs to get done will make this project cost even more, so its worth getting done now.

  • Instead of rebuilding the Clark junction, has the CTA analyzed what it would cost to rebuild the Wellington, Diversey and Armitage stations so that they are island stations instead of outside stations? In addition with some track re-work from Armitage to Belmont, the Brown and Purple line could run on the west side of the tracks while the red line can run on the two eastern tracks.

  • In reply to Richard S.:

    They were rebuilt about 6 years ago, so the initial cost would be repaying the feds maybe $80 million for that.

    I think you brought this up before, and all it does is screw up the Red Line because (a) it would have otherwise unnecessary crossovers at Armitage (the subway portal is in the middle and is not close to the Armitage platforms; also at least one direction of the Brown Line would have to get from the middle to the outside if you are preserving the L between Armitage and Sedgwick) and then at Clark, and (b) supposedly the platforms for tracks 2 and 3 are for 10 car trains, as the track 1 and 4 sides of the islands are more pointed. So, then you would have to pay a couple of hundred million to redo those stations.

    While I am not a fan of what CTA consultants "plan," the riders seem to have far worse ideas.

  • In reply to jack:

    It would be an alternative to the flyover which the residents seem to be objecting. I wonder if the CTA has done any analysis to determine what the costs would be. While it may not be the best solution, it is definitely an alternative that could be explored. The Ravenswood connector does have room for at least one set of tracks that could be used for crossovers so that all the Brown Line/Purple Line trains could use the west tracks south of Armitage. As for the red line, tracks can be reworked to allow fewer crossovers when they come out of the tunnel and north of Clark.

    As I said before, this is something the CTA should have explored before the Brown Line reconstruction if the Clark Junction has been a problem for decades. But hey the City of Chicago has no problem resurfacing streets only to have them torn up to do sewer work, plus CTA history has shown they have done repairs on stations and tracks only to do a huge rebuild a few years later.

  • In reply to Richard S.:

    Two points:
    1. The point of the HoDar project in 1993 was to give the Red Line a straight shot on the middle tracks, including moving the Addison platform.
    2. The supposed point of this project is to increase capacity or reduce delays on the Red Line.

    How does shifting the Red Line to the 2 east tracks do anything other than cause more problems switching the Red Line?

    As I asked you the last time you raised this, how does this do anything other than move the bottlenecks to Armitage and north of Clark Jct?

    Instead of repeating yourself, why don't you answer those?

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