What would you ask CTA President Rodriguez?

Next week I will have my first interview with new CTA President Richard Rodriguez. And as I’ve done in the past, I’m collecting questions from CTA Tattler readers to ask Rodriguez and his staff. So post them here in comments.

While I probably won’t get them all asked and answered in the short 45 minutes I have with Rodriguez next week, I’ve been promised answers to all good questions in a reasonable period of time. So let’s get them down here, folks.

In the meantime, if you didn’t catch the Redeye column of Tracy Swartz’s interview with Rodriguez earlier this month, it’s definitely worth a read. Tracy learns Rich wear Birkenstocks and has Tito Puente, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin on his iPod.

It’s official. $240 million in stimulus funds. The Feds last week confirmed what’s been reported for months — the CTA is getting $240 million in funding from the government under the stimulus act.  


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  • I would ask why the 1-day visitor passes aren't sold in the vending machines anymore. Are there any plans to bring them back? Also, why aren't all pass options available at all train stations?

    Would it be possible to put the locations of places that sell transit passes on a Google Maps mashup on the website? The PDF only lists them in alphabetical order and some of the information appears to be out of date.

  • What is the progress of slow zone removal projects both current and planned on the system particularly in the Blue Line subway and the Howard Line from Sheridan north?

    What is the status of the signal system replacement project in the loop which has already had signifigant delays?

    What is the projected time frame for the completion of the Grand Ave. Red Line station reconstruction (though we understand this is a CDOT project)?

    Is it possible at some point that the canopies at Fullerton and Belmont will be extended to full platform length?

  • Questions to add:
    1. Is there any rationale for the assignment of bus series to particular garages, why so much swapping, and what is the cost of playing "chess" with them?

    2. Will the CTA publish a revised capital plan, based on the stimulus bill and two state capital bills, showing how many of what type of buses, where they are to be deployed, and what rail lines and stations are to be repaired, in what time frame?

    3. Does CTA have a garage construction plan (especially with the potential need to house 1050 hyrbird articulated buses, per contracts and options)?

  • I want to know how he reconciles the cognitive dissonance of Tito Puente, AC/DC, and Birkenstocks. But seriously, what's the status of the BRT project? How can Cleveland pull it off and we can't?

  • 1) Which rail extension project does he believe will happen first?

    2) What are his thoughts on the city's future plans to make Union Station a multilevel commuter hub, put a Carroll Street Transitway, etc? How feasible is this and does the CTA support it?

    3) When will some of the most dilapidated CTA stations on the North side be given their due attention? These stations include Wilson, Lawrence, Argyle, but many others are not very good near there. Also, all the bells that rang for oncoming trains in the lower level of the station were removed. Can these be added back?

    4) Would you support the removal of some bus stops on certain routes to speed up service? Some stops are very redundant. Also, it would be nice if we could make people aware that using the back doors speeds up transit for everyone. Making a how-to video of how to properly load your bike on and off a bus would be very helpful to many people.

    5) Are we on track to receive the new train cars for testing later this year?

  • 1. The MTA locks the doors between train cars. Why can't we?
    2. Before considering expansion, shouldn't the CTA concentrate on revamping the existing system? State/Lake has not been updated since 1895. 1895.
    3. When can we expect the new Bombardier cars?

  • 1) BRT. After a flurry of press and public presentations, we haven't heard anything for most of the last year. Have we permanently lost the federal money that was going to fund this? (Remember, privatizing parking meters was what we had to do in exchange for this money - did we really just make a terrible mistake and not even get anything for it?) What about signal priority? We need an update and we need accountability.

    2) The Circle Line. The Crosstown El (Mid-City Transitway) would more effectively connect the El lines, it would dramatically improve reverse commutes, it would finally bring El service to many dense, low-income neighborhoods that have been excluded up till now, it would open up far more possibilities for transit-oriented development, and it would be far more cost-effective. Are we really going to spend huge amounts of money building the Circle Line instead, which mostly duplicates existing service?

  • Did Ron leave any advice? We know he's said that the CTA was the hardest job he's had (although the education people likely have changed his mind about that by now), so did he leave any parting words of wisdom or tips for his successor?

  • 1) What plans does CTA have to add HD cameras on board buses and trains, inside rail stations, and within bus terminals? What about cameras on buses to capture vehicles turning illegally in front them? Moving violation tickets could easily fetch a few hundered dollars per occurance and several hundred thousand dollars per year.

    2) Beside the new hybrid buses, what is CTA doing to reduce energy consumption? What plans are in place to make current facitilies green? What green design criteria is the CTA considering for design of new facilities?

  • In reply to GaryChicago:


    How does traffic violations help out the CTA? That money goes to the Police/City. Adding cameras might be beneficial, but not for the reason you state.

    Also, the CTA has added solar panels to at least one of their bus facilities. They've also used money to modernize others to save energy. Beyond that, Rodriquez would have to answer your question.

  • In reply to GaryChicago:

    Jake, I don't think the meter project had anything to do with BRT. The City was supposed to implement another parking plan built aroud peak-hour pricing on parking lots, not just meters. In fact, because the City implemented the meter project instead is probably what killed the BRT project--not the other way around.

  • In reply to JMan01:

    J Man, you are wrong. The parking meter concession was part of the BRT agreement. I posted the link before, http://www.crd.dot.gov/agreements/chicago_agreement.pdf, but I see that the government has taken it down. Also, the home page for Congestion Reduction Demonstration only mentions Los Angeles. Therefore, one can presume that even the feds think this is dead.

  • In reply to JMan01:

    JMan, privatizing the parking meters was a condition of receiving the federal money for BRT. But Daley probably would have done it anyway - it was something he was working on before the BRT money became available, and robbing future generations to keep his personal slush fund full of capital is his well-established M.O.

    What lost us the money was that Daley caved to businessmen who didn't like the idea of raising rates on downtown parking lots. As usual, that ordinance combined a good idea (raising the cost of driving) with an extension of authoritarian control for Daley (instead of devoting those revenues to improving transit, he would have been able decide where the money went).

  • In reply to JMan01:

    Why don't commuters e-mail pictures of a crime in progress from their Internet equipped camera phones?Where would they send this to reach C.T.A. security?Or should they deal directly with the Chicago police?

  • In reply to JMan01:

    I thought I had replied earlier (but it wasn't posted), but in coming to the conclusion that the parking meter lease was part of the BRT deal, I discovered that the link I had to the memorandum of agreement no longer was valid, and that Chicago is no longer listed on the Congestion Reduction Demonstration site; only Los Angeles is mentioned. So, it appears that BRT, in that form, is dead.

  • In reply to JMan01:

    Jack: Sorry about your comment not getting published in a timely fashion. It turns out I have to approve comments with links embedded. I didn't get a chance to do that till just now.


  • In reply to JMan01:

    Hi Jake, I really have to flush-out this point of contention--sorry to load-up the Tattler with this seemingly minor point, but I think understanding what happened here really exposes some power-plays and internal fighting that probably went on at City Hall last Fall.

    The meter privitization was an independent effort that was not formally part of the CRD/BRT project the City applied for. In fact, Jake, your own post has a link to a Crains story , that says that fact. And I quote Mr. Hinz: "...a pending ordinance that would have hiked fees and taxes for off-street parking in garages and on surface lots downtown." My emphasis added. And: "The off-street parking ordinance was stalled, in part, because of delays in privatizing the city's parking meters...Mr. Kruesi said." In other words, the CRD ordinance was not the same ordinance as the privatization ordinance. Later the article cites the fact that the CRD ordinance would have only lasted 18 months, and we all know by now the meter ordinance is a 99 year deal.

    I also will reference you to an earlier Crains story that Mr. Hinz wrote in April 2008 when the CRD/BRT project first went public. Two main quotes: "The remainder of the federal funds will be used to set up a new peak-period pricing system for both on-street and city and private garage parking, and for building loading zones." [My emphasis, again.] And the very last sentence tells it all, "While proceeding with these plans, the city also is privatizing operation of its thousands of parking meters. That could provide the city with a substantial cash infusion."

    So, long story short: the CRD/BRT is dead, BECAUSE the City did not follow-through on the congestion-pricing component.

    So I good question for RRod really should be: "Since the Congestion Pricing project isn't happening, will CTA (instead of the City) pursue on its own Small Starts or other Federal Grant Programs to revive the much needed BRT project?"

  • In reply to JMan01:

    Would the Authority like to be allowed to return to the private bus charter business (with appropriate indemnification)? This was an activity which had its heyday in the 1950s, typically for movements to | from Soldier Field; but CTA continued advertising this through the 1960s. I believe it lost this opportunity officially with the RTA referendum enabling law.

  • In reply to JMan01:

    Do we have any of the 1000 series Rohr built railcars similar to the ones that have been criticized for safety in the DC system? http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/2009/06/22/old-questions-about-crashworthiness-of-metro-cars/

  • In reply to JMan01:

    With the Brown Line renovation work, why wasn't a station re-established at North Avenue and Halsted? This is a booming and developing neighborhood with lots of stores, shops & theater and sure seems like a no-brainer to benefit those who work on the west side of the Loop, traveling to Union Station
    or the United Center.
    Yes, there was a station there once upon a time!

  • In reply to JMan01:

    I guess I'd ask him why it seems to be such a problem to keep the purple line on-time?

    One of the biggest delays is not moving out the other trains on both the North and Southbound runs and having to wait to pull into the station NB for 5-10 minutes sometimes because 2 Red Line trains are sitting in the station. Same problem on the SB side as well...two Redline SB trains sitting in the station and the purples that are on a schedule have to wait for them to clear the station and sometimes wait for a redline train to cross over onto it's tracks out of the station. It happened to me just this morning.

    Also, I've been seeing NB Red line trains crossing move and ending at the SB side and that causes lots of problems for those who need to connect with a Yellow or Purple line NB train.

    From my observations, alot of it could be handled by a little more control over the employees. It seems like the train operators and employees spend a lot of time chatting each other up just outside the control room on the South end of the SB platform.


  • In reply to GaryChicago:

    My question: what will be your approach towards deciding which services to cut on Jan 1st, 2010? When he answers with "we don't want to have to do that, it's our last resort, but we have to keep that on the table." you reply with, "no, really, which services and when will you tell us, because it's so obvious it is going to happen."

    [Chris: what bus facility has solar panels? That's good news, I didn't know that.]

  • In reply to JMan01:


    I can't remember which bus facility. I also remember they added more windows (maybe to the same facility) so they didn't have to use artificial light as much. I just remember reading it somewhere in a press release. I do know they did it with grant money...

  • In reply to GaryChicago:

    JMan, privatizing the parking meters was a condition of receiving the federal money for BRT. But Daley probably would have done it anyway - it was something he was working on before the BRT money became available, and robbing future generations to keep his personal slush fund full of capital is his well-established M.O.

    What lost us the money was that Daley caved to businessmen who didn't like the idea of raising rates on downtown parking lots. As usual, that ordinance combined a good idea (raising the cost of driving) with an extension of authoritarian control for Daley (instead of devoting those revenues to improving transit, he would have been able decide where the money went).

  • What projects are being fast tracked if Chicago hosts the 2016 Olympics?

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