Riders “voting with their feet,” says Rahm, and more Red North investment on the way

Riders “voting with their feet,” says Rahm, and more Red North investment on the way

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool came to Morse Avenue on Tuesday morning to celebrate a completely rebuilt Morse L station and a 16-month streak of ridership increases.

Combined bus and rail ridership was up four percent for the first half of 2012, following a similar jump in 2011, when CTA carried 532 million riders, its highest level in 20 years. The rail system has seen 51 consecutive months of growth, adding 6.2 percent in the last six months.

“People are voting with their feet,” said Mayor Emanuel, citing recent investments in security cameras, station renewal projects and new trains and buses.

Emanuel was joined by Claypool, Ald. Joe Moore (49th) and State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (14th) in an empty storefront across from the station, which re-opened late Friday after a six-week, $11 million gut rehab and platform replacement.

The Morse project includes rehabilitation of five storefronts that had been unrentable because of leakage from the tracks above. “We’ve had a number of people calling about those spaces,” said Emanuel. “So what was once an eyesore is now an investment in the community.” (See “How CTA facelift will transform Morse Avenue”)

Emanuel and Claypool also spoke about other current and planned improvements, including:

  • Crime – It’s down overall, said Claypool, but there’s been a recent increase in theft of electronic devices. He said the CTA’s 3,000 new cameras have led to several arrests. “So many crimes are committed by recidivists that when you take them off the street you make a huge dent in the problem.” Emanuel said cameras on new rail cars will “create an envelope of security” for riders.
  • Slow zones – The $15 million recently added to the Red North project for track and viaduct repairs will eliminate 7,000 feet of slow zones, shaving two to three minutes from North Side commutes. That work begins this winter.
  • Loyola and Wilson – Repairs of the Loyola viaduct will begin very soon, followed by the five-month rebuild of the Dan Ryan branch starting in May 2012. Design work is underway for what Emanuel calls a “spectacular” new Wilson express-transfer station, which will be constructed next year along with a significant portion of new track and signaling on either side of the station.
  • Sheridan and Bryn Mawr – These two stations will soon become the last ugly ducklings of the North Red Line, but they haven’t been forgotten. Carole Morey, CTA’s Vice President for Infrastructure, says they will be rebuilt after Wilson, starting in 2014.

Claypool and Ald. Joe Moore answered the question that many started asking as the Morse station was completely gutted and then rebuilt with glazed brick walls, terrazzo floor and plenty of stainless steel. Will the other five stations (Jarvis, Thorndale, Berwyn, Argyle and Lawrence) get the same treatment?

“President Claypool assured me that Jarvis will be just as nice,” said Moore.

Claypool added that “they are all a little different so the work will vary from station to station, but they are getting a roughly equal amount of focus, attention and capital.” The Thorndale station is next up, closing for six weeks starting this Friday, August 17. Argyle will close the following Friday, August 24.

Read the CTA press release here.

This story initially appeared at CTA Station Watch, a crowd-sourced web site tracking the CTA’s Red North station work.


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  • Thanks for this great report, Patrick. Good to hear the other five station should get the full "Morse" treatment.

  • That's State Rep. Kelly Cassidy in the photo, not State Senator Heather Steans.

  • In reply to Edgewater Roadie:

    Yikes! Thanks for catching that, Edgewater Roadie. It's fixed.

  • “People are voting with their feet,” said Mayor Emanuel.

    The real question, given that a lot of this is financed by sales tax bonds and other borrowing is whether the passengers are willing to vote with their pocketbooks.

  • Fixing up Sheridan is a complete waste of money!
    Straighten out the S-turn & build a new station between tracks 2 & 3 at Irving Park.
    Since there won't be a total replacement north of Belmont as in any of the proposals, anything else is foolish!

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    In that no one has released architectural drawings yet, one doesn't know if they are going to do what you imply or what you say they should do.

    Given bms's comments under the Morse topic of August 12, which I believe are correct, it is doubtful that Sheridan could be made accessible with the current platform clearances.

    And you are wrong that "there won't be a total replacement north of Belmont," as all indications, including in this article, are that Wilson will be a complete replacement, at least at track level. Maybe they save the terra cotta storefront, but indications are that that's about it.

  • In reply to jack:

    If Wilson is rebuilt along the lines of Belmont or Fullerton, that ends any possibility of either the subway or 3 track line.
    Only the repair option is left as the aerial structure would mean no L service up north for 5 years.

    There's no possibility of an elevator at the current Sheridan as the platforms are just barely long enough for 8 car trains & the curves preclude the installation of elevators at either end.
    And building a new island between tracks 2&3 in the current configuration makes no sense so...
    To become ADA accessible, it will require straightening out the S-turn.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I had intimated as much earlier, and the RPM page now states that the 3 track and underground alternatives are "no longer considered" (see the table on that page).

    You have to keep up.

  • In reply to jack:

    OK, so, if I understand this right, what they're doing right now is the basic rehabilitation we saw in the presentatin a year and half ago--plus Wilson as a transfer station and what they're doing to Loyola.

    That buys time to make the full modernization thing happen, with or without station consolidation. In either case it will be a 4-track, no subways, and will probably involve acquiring some more right of way. This will include a new aerial structure all the way up to Howard (replacing embankments where they exist), and rebuilding of embankments in Evanston.

    Do I have it about right?

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    Yep CCWriter, that's about right, though there is also a basic rehabilitation alternative that would cost about a billion dollars less than the full modernization. If that is chosen, the embankments would not be replaced with aerial structure, and thus most existing curves would remain. But elevators would be added to meet basic ADA accessibility standards.

  • In reply to Patrick Barry:

    I would to add that while the basic rehabilitation probably has a 10 year FTA service life, making a station accessible probably has a 30 to 40 year one.

    Thus, my statement previously made, which I cited in reply to Scooter, that stuff like the Wilson and Bryn Mawr "much more than basic rehabilitation," constrains how the RPM can move forward, that is if CTA ever gets the money, for which there is no current source.

  • In reply to Patrick Barry:

    Wait, so what's going on right now isn't the same as the basic rehabilitation? Perhaps under that, might they at least widen the platforms that are too narrow?

    I'm sort of hoping for the full aerial structure. Somehow in my head it comes out looking sort of Jetsony. Plus, there'd be interesting uses for the ground underneath, maybe.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    It isn't Jesony, it is the same thing as the Pink Line parallel to Cermak. Which, after about 10 years, already has slow zones.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    I could be wrong about this, but I think the separate, more intense rehabs of Bryn Mawr and Sheridan are at least partially due to their being busier than the 7 stations receiving generic interim improvements. Aside from Wilson and Howard, these are the two busiest Red stations north of Addison.

    When compared to the Red North stations north of Wilson, Sheridan's a slightly different animal with regards to making it ADA compliant, for the following reasons:

    - The island platforms are functionally side platforms since trains serving the outer tracks rarely call here
    - There's a ton of open, disused space under the 'L' into which the station house can expand westward (steel structure instead of filled embankment north of Wilson), increasing flexibility/lessening cost for elevator placement
    - Using an aerial in GIS, I measured the inner length of each platform at about 440 feet (platform curves included), and an southbound 8-car train shown pulling out of the station at about 390 feet. I could be wrong, but surely a small portion of each platform's west edge could be eliminated and replaced with an elevator and shaft, and still allow room for 8-car trains.
    - The budget for Sheridan is $17 million, compared to a $8.2/$12.3 million average for the interim stations (depending on real price tag being $57.4 or $86 million for the project). $3.2 million (20%) would thus be allocated for ADA improvements.

    I don't see a purpose for maintaining access to the outer tracks at Sheridan after Wilson is rebuilt (when renovations at Sheridan would begin); thus, the stairwells could be realigned to the outer edge of each platform (which itself could be walled off), allowing for a proper ADA clearance (4 ft width minimum) past the stairwells.

  • In reply to bms2535:

    Other than Loyola, your ridership #'s are correct.

  • In reply to chris:

    Sorry about that, my fault. Just double checked the data, and yes, you are correct. I guess I probably meant to say that they'd rank 1 and 2 in ridership of non-ADA stations north of Addison once Wilson is rebuilt.

  • In reply to bms2535:

    Good analysis, bms2535. Another option you didn't mention is to build a single, wider center platform that would be large enough to provide clearances around the elevator. Of course that would involve track realignment and if you're going to all that trouble, you'd want to at least soften up those 90-degree curves at each end of the station, which would involve property acquisitions. So that's a topic for another day.

  • In reply to Patrick Barry:

    Agreed. Though at this time, it'd probably be too costly to build the wider center island platform, especially as a) I imagine that would cost more than $17 million and b) it'd be a waste of time and $$$ if CTA gets the RPM cash within the next 10 years to do the full renovations.

  • In reply to bms2535:

    I was going to say that I predict doing the same thing as at Addison. But I see that Patrick beat me to it, in effect.

  • Well, since we're talking about something that hasn't been built yet, it's in the future, so technically it could be anything. Including Jetsony.

  • In reply to CCWriter:

    One thing CTA has proved is that it is not futuristic. Take, for instance, delaying the rail cars about 5 years because they issued an obsolete specification. Or hanging new L stations off a 120 year old structure.

    And since "no source of funding has been identified," technically it could be nothing. Sort of like the Monroe Subway/Distributor Light Rail. Or the Circle Line. Or a heck of a lot of other projects listed on chicago-l.org.

    Anyway, the RPM materials have drawings.

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