Brown Line expansion finished -- on time and on budget!

We criticize the CTA plenty around here. So when they deserve praise, I don’t mind giving it to them.

And I think they deserve a big round of applause for completing the Brown Line expansion project on time and on budget. This week the new elevators at Fullerton and Belmont opened, more or less officially marking the end of the multi-year, $530-million project.

The escalators at those stations are installed and undergoing final inspections before becoming operational. The auxiliary entrances and exits at both station were expected to be completed by the end of the day today. The roof canopy expansion project at both platforms is done. There are a couple other small itmes to complete on the punch list, but the project is substantially completed.

So here’s to you CTA – nice going!


Leave a comment
  • Never mind that they had to renege on the promise not to close stations in order to get it done on time and budget.

  • In reply to JWirtz79:

    JW: Sometimes things just aren't perfect and nothing is for free. If they tried to "not close stations," the project never would have been done and then, JW, you'd be bitching about how they "never upgrade anything."

  • In reply to JWirtz79:

    Very awesome! Glad to see it finished. This is the day we were looking forward to when they started this. Hopefully it is a long-lasting upgrade to our CTA system.

  • In reply to JWirtz79:

    There isn't any reason for Purple Line trains to stop at Wellington, Diversey, Armitage & Sedgwick. anymore!
    Now that 8 car trains run on the Brown Line, its capacity has increased by 33%.
    The purpose of an express train is to be faster, making all those stops defeats the purpose.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    The real question, raised by one prominent critic about a decade ago, is whether capacity has been increased by 33%, or in effect is the same, because frequency is down. Frequency was cut when Three Track started. I don't recall any announcement that it was restored to prior levels.

    Two things that indicate that frequency won't be restored in the near future are that there won't be any car fleet increase for at least a couple of years (assuming that the last 60 or so cars of the 406 car order were for the purpose of increasing capacity on the Brown Line, as the first 340 or so are needed to replace the 2200 and 2400 series), and, of course, the proposed February service reductions. The critic also mentioned that the Kimball Yard wasn't expanded, but there appears to be adequate yard space elsewhere (in that Brown Line trains coming from the Orange have been reported, and there is about 60 cars of excess yard capacity at 54th).

    I guess we'll have to wait and see.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    My only wish is that the auxiliary exits were actually auxiliary and not alarmed emergency exits.

    Kevin: did you know that they finally got the bus tracker by text up and running? Also, a few weeks ago I saw them running a test train of the new series cars with the LCD destination screen on the Brown Line. Looked awesome, though I wonder how people are going to identify them by color anymore?

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I'm pretty satisfied that the frequency of service has increased following the "three track" construction period. Sure, there are occasional delays, but seldom do I wait more than a few minutes for a train during the morning rush. Boarding at Addison, it is now almost always possible to get a seat.

    Yeah, the commute was torture for awhile -- particularly with my station closed for a year -- but I agree that the CTA did a better job with the project than I expected.

  • In reply to Mark2400:

    But to the frequency it was before Three Track?

    All one can determine from the posted station schedules is that a.m. rush is 4 to 10 minutes, p.m. is 4 to 8. They are no longer publishing "exact" times at a station (i.e. the row with :04, :09, :13...). See, e.g.

  • In reply to Mark2400:

    "On time and on budget" WTF?! Is this Chicago? Someone call Skilling, these frigid temps aren't El Nino's fault. Satan must be shivering.

  • In reply to Mark2400:

    Kevin - nice of you to bring out the praise. I'm all for it -- not just for the CTA, but for those we tend to overlook when things go well. BUT I still think SF + NYC have far superior transportation systems than Chicago's. I often wonder why doesn't the CTA *learn* from other cities -- notice what works, what's better, and implement it here?

  • In reply to MareSwallow:

    New York is just going to have better public transportation for obvious reasons; with three times the population and over 2x the density just in the cities proper, there's just no comparison. As for San Francisco, few of the public transportation options are older than 1 generation (BART, for example is 38 years young), meaning they haven't had a chance to get weighed down by the bloated union pension obligations that are killing the CTA. Give San Francisco another 20-25 years, and their budgets will be choked the same way the CTA's is.

  • In reply to NativeChicagoan:

    The SF Municipal Railway goes back to the cable cars of the 1880s. If things haven't become entrenched in the past 130 years to the extent they are here, maybe that indicates that Illinois is doing something wrong.

  • In reply to Mark2400:

    Mare, you should check out the huge funding problems and potential service cuts now facing SF and NYC. The problems CTA is experiencing with inadequate funding are being replicated in virtually very major U.S. city for very similar reasons.

  • In reply to Joe001:

    Nonetheless, the people you defend don't ever seem to want to pick up "best practices" from anywhere else. Just because everyone is facing operation funding issues doesn't mean that they don't have other ideas, either for better use of the capital they have or operating their systems in a more efficient or more passenger friendly manner.

    Although it would be interesting to find out if other areas have the type of passengers so frequently chronicled in the Tattler, summarized this week... .

  • In reply to jack:

    In the sake of fairness, for Joe's sake, I will qualify that by saying that the proposal for the smart bank card as a fare medium was acknowledged as coming from New York.

  • In reply to jack:

    Hong Kong and London started using smart cards with RFID chips; a year or two later, we have the Chicago Card. We were the first American city to do Bus Tracker, so CTA had to develop the technology itself. LA has fancy MetroRapid express buses now - like CTA's express buses on steroids. CTA was very interested in getting something like this done in Chicagoland, and the Feds were willing to fund it - but Daley whiffed.

    CTA found a way to make money through advertising AND put plasma screens in rail stations that display train information (or at least, they will soon). They've placed large bicycle facilities near stations with high bicycle usage. They're working towards doing transit-oriented development on CTA property. They're working towards using bank cards for fare payment, as you acknowledge.

    I don't know what "best practices" you're referring to, but CTA's been pretty damn innovative within the legal and political constraints they have (which are pretty onerous). You want to complain, then please do so in an email or letter to your elected representatives asking for increased CTA funding.

  • In reply to ardecila:

    I wrote my representatives in 2006 and 2007 about the conditions on which transit funding should be based. Basically, the 2008 RTA bill was a mockery of that. Until the General Assembly does something serious about the transit board disfunction in this area, like abolishing all 4 boards and starting over with one board properly apportioned among the six counties and abolishing about 80% of the board and manager positions, I'm not getting into that cesspool again. The 2007-2008 legislative experience shows that this area does not have the political will to clean up its act.

    You acknowledge that Daley whiffed on the federal grant. Also, you have to acknowledge that Rodriguez now intends to dismantle the X bus system. LA didn't get the idea from here. It was under court order to upgrade its system, and did so.

    All the "working toward" hasn't shown results yet. They have been "working toward" the Red Line extension for 40 years now. Maybe something will happen after another 10 years of consultant reports, but I doubt. However, if you look at, one of the proposals is an L over Halsted Street. Is that really 21st century thinking?

    Since your excuse is the "the legal and political constraints they have (which are pretty onerous)", I mentioned in my first paragraph what really needs to be done about them. If that reform can't be done, the least Daley could do is conform to the Metropolitan Transit Act, and appoint an independent CTA board consisting of people with business experience, and let them appoint an Executive Director with a transit background, instead of telling them to ratify his political hack or manager of anything. Then you might actually see some improvement.

  • In reply to JWirtz79:

    There isn't any reason for Purple Line trains to stop at Wellington, Diversey, Armitage & Sedgwick. anymore!
    Now that 8 car trains run on the Brown Line, its capacity has increased by 33%.
    The purpose of an express train is to be faster, making all those stops defeats the purpose.

  • Always a dark lining in the silver cloud, eh, JW? The CTA had to make a number of changes and compromises to get this project done on budget--that's something which happens on many major construction projects--but it still is an enormous benefit to people with disabilities who were unable to access the trains until elevators were installed at these new station buildings. As our population ages with the "baby boomers" reaching senior citizen status, the number of people living with disabilities is expected to soar and the Brown Line is now ready to accommodate them. The fact that this project was done at all--and at a time when funding for public transit was not generous--is a significant positive accomplishment.

  • Actually there are political legal restraints. Negotiating with the union is restricted by the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act, and apparently by arbitration clauses in the preceding contract. This contract one arose after the 2008 RTA Act was passed, and Huberman and the union heads jointly announced that they had compromised an arbitration. In the prior case, CTA lost the arbitration, and Kruesi's President's report said that the Board had to ratify the arbitrator's award.

    Hence, I have no argument that the union is within its rights in saying it won't renegotiate.

    However, this isn't really the thrust of my argument, so I'll reply to another of MK's posts.

  • Since that is the point of this thread, yes I do remember. However, I didn't want to get into the hair of people like joe001, who believe that Kruesi did no wrong, but was merely "controversial." Obviously, what happened, is as you as described in the first couple sentences. It might be on time and on budget, in the sense of the amended plan and the signs saying that Fullerton and Belmont would be done by the end of 2009, but not in the sense of the scope of the original project.

    Also, I took Mare's comment to deal more with the physical amenities provided by those systems, rather than be led off track by joe's comments about that everyone has tax collection problems during this recession. Besides the possibly false patting on the back you mention, one would have to question if the CTA is engaged in innovative thinking when it used New Start money to basically renovate a 100-year-old facility. True, they did make it accessible (if they were doing anything to the stations, the ADA required that they do so), extended platforms, and put in new substations, but it is still essentially the 100 year old facility. At least with the Pink Line, they found a way to build a new structure under the old one, and tore out the 110 year old work. Here, they couldn't even figure out a way to have a flyover track for the northbound Brown Line trains.

    I previously mentioned why there was a need for "vision hearings" on the north main, when CTA certainly let it fall apart in the past decade, and needs to address "state of good repair" issue first.

    I mentioned the lack of innovation in saying that one Red Line alternative is still a Halsted St. L. Also, despite what someone was arguing here about the need to extend the Yellow Line to urbanize the Old Orchard area, apparently the locals did not prefer the "locally preferred alternative" foisted on them by the CTA's consultants. As to the alternative, see and the local reaction, see (unfortunately, STMG doesn't appear to archive its articles, although a search for "SWIFT" on the Skokie Review site will give you an abstract: ).

    So, at least with capital projects, if, except for the Pink Line example, above, if CTA is showing innovative thinking with regard to passenger facilities, or picking up best practices from others, please let us know specifically how.

  • In reply to jack:

    The Old Orchard extension controversy is just bizarre & again illustrates my point that no one at the CTA has the faintest idea of where an L station should go or how to correctly design it for the easiest passenger flow.
    The fools at the CTA want to put the L station where the abandoned North Shore Line & C&NW Valley Line were.
    Obviously that's the cheapest solution, but 90%+ of the people using it will be going to Old Orchard Mall, not the courthouse or the offices on Old Orchard Rd.
    But I'm sure the "geniuses" at the CTA thought this was a wonderful compromise!
    So 90% will be inconvenienced & have to take a bus from the L to the mall, while the few that go to the courthouse, will also have to take a bus there. The courthouse is open 5 days a week for about 9 hours a day and a short day on Saturday. The mall runs 7 days a week, about 14-16 hours a day!
    I haven't seen anything whether Westfield, Old Orchard's owner objected to the station being on their property, preferably near the Garage west of Field's not far from where the buses all stop.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Actually, this shows what a farce the New Start process has been.

    Skokie had earlier done its own study, which was on its site, but apparently is no longer. It had various alternatives, including a subway circling the shopping center.

    Then, the RTA, Skokie and Evanston had the study about other stations on the Yellow Line.

    Then CTA brings in its consultants to start studying, apparently de novo.

    In fact, the fools are not proposing putting it on old North Shore property. That would put the station on the west side of the Edens. Instead, they propose curving it on the east side of the Edens, resulting in having to condemn school property for the station. Hence the uproar.

    My view is that if the locals want a transportation management solution, put a couple of traffic signal priority devices on a couple of traffic lights and buses, and be done with it. That would be a far less disruptive and far more inexpensive solution, but that would leave federal funds that probably really don't exist "on the table," and local politicians have pledged not to do that, regardless of the consequences.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I walked into the auxiliary entrance on the north side of Belmont early Tuesday morning. The Transit Card vending machine on the west side of the vestibule was malfunctioning (an 'out of order' sticker was pasted over the dollar bill insertion slot). Well, at least the other Transit Card machine {east side} was functioning.
    Now CTA should strongly consider relocating the westbound route #77 Belmont bus stop from the Sheffield corner in front of the Big City Tap to in front of this auxiliary entrance.

  • I'm going to guess that the reason for pay phones is that if your cellphone is stolen, that's how you call the police. I believe that at least one of the phones is also a texting phone for the deaf.

Leave a comment