Transit report card shows CTA and Metra doing OK vs. other city agencies

Chicago-area transit modes hold their own when compared with transit agencies in nine other big cities across the nation. That’s according to a recent review of federal transit data by the Regional Transportation Authority.

A key finding: “The system performed the best of all 10 urban areas in reliability of service, even though its equipment ranked second from last in terms of age,” according to the Tribune story. “The report card is intended as a benchmark so the RTA and the transit agencies can measure how they perform in comparison with their peers and against themselves, said Grace Gallucci, the RTA’s deputy executive director for research and policy.”

The report card also showed that despite running antiquated equipment, the CTA and Metra do very well on performance compared with systems in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia and Washington.

Some results for the CTA, from the Trib story:

  • CTA bus operations ranked above the peer average on 10 of 11 measures.
  • CTA rail ranked No. 1 for lowest operating cost per vehicle revenue hour, and it outperformed the peer average for miles between major mechanical failures, despite having the oldest rail fleet.
  • Although significant money was spent keeping old trains in good repair — combined capital and operating expenses averaged $575,000 per rail car — it paled when compared with other transit agencies with similar yearly ridership and annual vehicle miles, CTA officials said. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority spent approximately $1.1 million per rail car over the same period, CTA officials noted.
  • CTA rail underperformed its peer agencies in the service coverage area, likely because CTA rail cars hold fewer passengers than the larger trains operated by other agencies.
  • The report pointed out that CTA runs more trains with excess capacity during non-peak hours.


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  • I'm somewhat surprised that this article took two weeks to come up here.

    One thing pointed out in the article was:

    The analysis is based on 2010 data, the latest available, and does not reflect more recent events such as CTA and Pace service reductions that year and Metra fare hikes that went into effect Feb. 1.

    If nothing else, reducing CTA service 20% on the bus and 9% on the rails, while getting rid of the oldest buses, certainly has an effect on service reliability and wear and tear on the equipment. Not to mention that the CTA budget points out that the average age of the equipment is now two years older, since no new equipment has been put in service in the past two years. Maybe that changes in May.

    Same for Metra equipment, too. Not to mention a prominent "police activity" on the tracks at Crystal Lake, also in 2010.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack, glad to see you wasted no time in showing how this report card is just wrong wrong wrong. I knew I could count on you.

    And just for the record, it took awhile for this to show up because I didn't think it was that hot of a story. If I had, I would have posted it when it appeared. Just waited for a slow news day. Perfect story for such a day.

  • In reply to jack:

    I think there's another reason why CTA rail is reported to have such a good record on repairs.
    When the trains are running so slow, there's far less wear & tear on the car's trucks & their individual components.

    The reason WMATA spent $1.1 million per car is due to the problems I mentioned the other day due to collision repairs & their attempts to strengthen the car structures to prevent them from be crumpled or telescoped in a collision.
    So WMATA's high costs should be taken out of this rating. That is a one time cost that will drop when they receive new cars. Those 1000 series cars are the originals & some date to 1976.

  • In today's news Hilkevitch reports on an apparent [certainly not real] rift between Emanuel and Claypool about giving Bombardier a single source contract to build a rail car overhaul facility at the 61st St. Yards.

    In fact, the bottom of the article states the real objectionable portion, that CTA was thinking about giving Bombardier a no bid contract to do the midlife renewal of the 3200 series cars, at about $1 million a car.

    But I guess that everything is fine at CTA contracting and this wasn't news, either.

  • In reply to jack:

    Slight correction, jack.
    Bombardier was going to build on the 63rd St. Lower Yard, where there is now is a storage lot for ties & rails, etc.
    Bombardier was trying to get a contract to maintain the new cars at 54th Ave. in Cicero.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I caught that after posting.

    But I don't think "Bombardier was trying to get a contract to maintain the new cars at 54th Ave. in Cicero," as it had previously been reported [in connection with the wheel bearing housing mess] that they were doing that to fulfill the existing warranty obligations on the 5000s.

  • In reply to jack:

    No, Bombardier was trying to get a maintenance contract for the 5000s.
    From the Trib article "Bombardier was also offering a separate deal to maintain its new cars after the warranty expires, Sullivan confirmed. The work would have been done by Bombardier at the CTA's 54th Avenue maintenance yard on the Pink Line."

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    O.K. In effect, they wanted to lock something in after the warranty period (I guess it depends on the parts, but if it is like buses, 12 years on the car structure) expired.

    You would have to wonder what, if anything, would remain for the Skokie Shops at that point. Maybe that was the intent, in which case I suppose that the craft unions there would want to know.

  • In reply to jack:

    Yeah, that is strange as not only is there lots of room for expansion on the CTA's property in Skokie, but there's room to lease more from the adjacent empty Sanitary District property on the east side of the Skokie Shops.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Isn't the sports park right east of the shops? Or is there still some room between the two?

  • In reply to whateva:

    I don't know if that that's relevant, as my point was that union contracts, although supposedly now under negotiation, generally restrict contracting out.

    I suppose that one could debate if there is room there or if one can find stainless steel welders and electronics technicians near 63rd and Calumet, nor that Emanuel would bring jobs and the employees' spending to Skokie, but the thing that hit me is that if CTA in about 4 years has about 960 Bombardier compatible cars out of about 1200 (or 1300 if expansion), and it is unlikely that it would keep about 200-300 obsolete 2600s just for mixed service on the Blue Line (based on past reports on where the 5000s would go) by then, what is there for Skokie Shops to do if the work is contracted out?

  • And the shocking statement was that an agency as large as the CTA has no facilities to do a mid-life rehab on a railcar. Isn't that what Skokie shops were built for? How insulting to all the CTA craftsmen and craftswomen that the management was willing to give all their work to a private company. And isn't a little fox-in-the-hen-house to have Bombardier who built the new trains so shabbily, to secure the work to rebuild them. Ah Rahm. Mr. Transparency.

  • In reply to oconnorm:

    That isn't that surprising. The 2600s were taken off the property 40 at a time in about 2000-2002 and shipped to Alstom to overhaul them. Similarly, the 2200s were shipped to Morrison Kundsen around 1991.

    Froim what one can infer from the budgeted amount of about $900,000 to the reported amount of about $1.16 million per car, to statements in the article, the 3200s are apparently going to be stripped to the shells and rebuilt as compatible with 5000s, which would include changing the entire propulsion system from DC to AC, with the necessary change of controls. While the Surface Lines were building their own cars in the 1920s, I don't think CTA has the crews essentially to do that now. It did have the crews to do the relatively minor quarter life rehabs.

    As indicated by my posts above, my question had to do with regular maintenance, which the part of the article Scooter quoted indicated would also be contracted out.

  • In reply to jack:

    Correction--NY Rail Car Co. for the 2200s, according to Krambles. Some single units went to M-K.

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