CTA year in review: system improvements, controversial decisions

The bold announcement that the CTA would totally shut down the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line for five months in 2013 to rebuild the tracks was the top story of the year.

Or was it the decision to raise prices for all CTA passes next year?

No wait – the big story of 2012 was the rehab of seven deteriorating stations and track at the north end of the Red Line.

A case could be made for any of these big CTA news stories as the No. 1 story of the year. Or maybe you have another favorite? But any way you look at it, 2012 was a big year for news from the CTA. Here’s a look back at those stories.

Rail improvements

After a few years of transferring capital dollars to the operating budget, the CTA poured millions of dollars into various rail system improvement projects:

The CTA this year also announced a number of future rail improvements:

Bus system improvements

The CTA made some long-awaited bus improvements:

Controversial decisions, words

Certainly it was not all sweetness and light for the CTA in 2012.

  • Under that plan to reduce crowding, service was eliminated on the No. 11 Lincoln bus between Western and Fullerton. Despite a dedicated grass-roots campaign to save the route segment, the CTA board voted to eliminate it.
  • The board also went along with Forrest Claypool’s recommendation to raise the price of all passes in 2013, while keeping the base fare the same for those paying cash or using a transit card.
  • The board did back off a bit on raising the price of a rail ride from the O’Hare station. The board agreed that the CTA will work with the Chicago Department of Aviation to develop a system to exempt employees working on O’Hare International Airport property.
  • Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in talking about the increase in passes for 2013, said “commuters can ‘make that choice’ about whether to drive or take buses and trains.” Well, not really, since about 40 percent of CTA commuters don’t own a car.
  • President Claypool created some controversy with his sharp words about archaic union rules. He does deserve some credit for getting a good contract for both the CTA and its workers.

What have I missed? I have a feeling you’ll let me know.

Here’s to a Happy New Year for all my CTA Tattler readers. Thanks for being here!


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  • It didn't take 4 installments of the CTA in Review, as it did last year. Maybe that's because Claypool and Peterson did not make any pretense to look transparent.

    You do imply that CTA did several things that, as Scooter put it, "They hate the passengers," but surprisingly, the only one that got blowback was Lincoln Ave. I was sure that there would be a bigger stink over the Dan Ryan shutdown. Maybe promising 400 bus driver jobs defused it in that community.

    And there were several stories that got minimal press coverage, including that the CTA budget was a month late and the RTA rejected it. Not to mention the crocodile tears of several CTA board members in the Sun-Times article that they wouldn't have voted to can the Lincoln segment, even though one did and the other didn't even attend the board meeting.

    And you certainly didn't mention that Claypool lost the perpetual "blame the union" for this or any future fare increase (the converse of that being that there was an agreement with the unions, which was the actual story you missed).

  • In reply to jack:

    I went to eat dinner and remembered that I had forgotten to write about the union contract. So I came back to add it and see that you already have commented about my omission. You're fast.

  • I'll repeat what I wrote about the Dan Ryan reconstruction: If they use limestone ballast again, like they did in 2005, then it will fail once more, even if they "improve" the track bed drainage. The limestone can't stand up to the water in the roadbed.
    They need to use granite as the C&NW used, it lasts for decades, possibly a century or more under loads 5 times that of an L car.

  • 2013 is going to be a Very interesting year --
    coupled with the Dan Ryan reconstruction is the election to replace JJJr's Congressional seat; there are sure to be debates -- and that will be a subject (I'll be there to make sure of it).

    The MED is almost entirely within that District, so the Shutdown and the Extension will be very important topics; and local Community leaders are already planning meetings concerning the $1.5B Extension's delay.

    I don't think the Feds have around $1B for it; nor do I think Ill. State and local sources have $400 to $600M to match it with.

    This is Fun.

  • I'll agree to the point that JJJr didn't do anything for transit in his district, and pretty much relied on his mythical airport. Some Jackson sycophant took umbrage with me pointing that out on N'Digo, but that's the way it was.

    It will be interesting to see whether any of the remaining candidates mentions transit as an issue. If it is anything like the representatives in the 5th and 9th CDs, I bet no. In the meantime nobody has explained how Bill Foster and Tim Schneider are going to stand up for transit, but the Dems. sure wanted Biggert and Dold (written here as supporting a bipartisan approach) out.

    I previously noted that the borrowing of $240 million to rebuild the 95th St. bus terminal was an acknowledgement that no one expects the money for the Red Line extension in our lifetimes.

  • Judging by all the red arrows on the slow zone map, it looks like the Congress line is now being "let go." Expect an announcement after the Dan Ryan rebuild underway that the Congress line is now heavily slow zoned and will need capital funding for a rebuilt or face worsening service. Is this also likely the product of the use of cheap limestone ballast?

    It seems the CTA just can't keep it's rail lines in good shape and slow zone free. I can understand short sections of slow zone popping up now and then until it gets attention, but there are now THREE lines that have long sections that are a mess. Even the Red line subway, which if I remember correctly, had a complete rebuild of it's tracks just a few years ago even has slow zones already. Looks like the Pink line is also starting to suffer from track issues. What is the point of spending huge sums of money for rebuilds if the funding isn't there to properly maintain it once complete?

  • In reply to Matt:

    The project on the State Street subway was to replace the wooden ties with the concrete "ties." Same was done in the Blue Line subway with ARRA money.

    But essentially you are making the same point I have for the past couple of years, except that I doubt that it was ever built correctly in the first place--which reminds me of another story of the year, the Brown Line platforms rotting after about 4 years, and CTA's discovery that they specified the wrong wood treatment.

  • It's not just shutting down the #11 that makes it more difficult to get around--oh wait, de-crowd the trains by making more people use the trains. They also eliminated Lake Shore Drive express routes and changed the route of one of them to make sure more people just give up and take the Red Line--oh wait, de-crowd it by making more people use it.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    They couldn't have "eliminated Lake Shore Drive express routes and changed the route of one of them." In fact, what they did do is reroute the north end of 144 into 148, and folded in 145 except for Wilson Ave. into 146, with very little change in frequency. Hence, the only net loss is on Wilson and Lincoln.

    And, as someone pointed out in chicagobus.org, GTFS data mining indicates 9 Brownage (Ravenswood using Midway equipment) trips not reflected in the public schedule brochure. Maybe someone riding that line can report if it is less crowded (and, based on the pictures in the next post, whether they saw da Mare).

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