Saturday, April 11, 2009

Upgrades, No New Transit for Chicago Olympics

So says the bid book for the 2016 Olympics bid:
Chicago’s consolidated and compact venue plan places 21 sports, the Olympic Village and the IBC/MPC along Lake Shore Drive, a magnificent thoroughfare on the shores of Lake Michigan. An additional 4 sports will take place within the Olympic Ring. Venues have been proposed near existing public-transit lines and high capacity roadways, maximizing the use of existing infrastructure and eliminating the need for any new lines or roads. Thorough pedestrian and vehicle flow modeling will ensure the safe, efficient movement of all constituent groups.
In addition, the plan is to have a two tiered dedicated road lane system for moving people around and increase headways of existing transit.
Olympic Lanes will connect venues and provide freeflowing, safe transport for Olympic Family vehicles and spectator shuttles on a network of more than 590 km of dedicated roadways.
To meet the heightened demand for rail transport, Chicago will increase the frequency of train cars during the Games period.
Now that's not to that using funds to upgrade existing systems in need of serious funding is bad. That is an extreme need Chicago and other legacy systems have needed for a while. The book states that over $1.5 billion would be budgeted for track, signal and terminal facility upgrades of CTA Heavy rail lines, $2.8 billion for Metra Commuter rail upgrades. This is half of what is planned for O'Hare at $8.2 billion dollars. (Update: Payton says that these are already budgeted in regular formula funding, meaning there would be no new expenditures for the Olympics) I would like to see this coincide with a plan and start of high speed rail lines into Chicago from other regions. It would be amazing if a plan was set in place to upgrade infrastructure like this so that it could be in place for the Olympics. Talk about stimulus.

But the plan lacks imagination for my taste. Especially considering what could happen if they spent $10 billion dollars on dedicated rapid streetcar lanes. That would be 333 miles of new fixed rail infrastructure that would serve the city long after the Olympics. Think about the reduced energy usage, the reduced operations costs per passenger and the increase in value that would be generated by such an ambitious expansion plan. Alas nothing like this is planned and no new transit infrastructure would be built.

So if Chicago is really getting nothing new out of this in terms of transit but the idea of pedestrian ways is something I'm willing to think about. Is there specific bike infrastructure for the city in these ped ways? Will there be consideration to keeping these ped ways after the Olympics are over? The big question is though, is an Olympic bid worth it?

I'm still fuming at Gavin for screwing this up for San Francisco. It would be amazing to have the games here and it surely would have pushed for serious upgrades to infrastructure and a speeding up of long term projects that need to be sped up. That said, its expensive and you have to weight the pros and cons. But being able to live in the city and go see the track events would have been amazing for this former aspiring olympian. I'll get to the Olympics eventually. Hopefully here in San Francisco.

H/T Payton C via FB Status


Anonymous said...

Rapid streetcar line? That sounds like an oxymoron, but intriguing nevertheless. Do you have any examples of existing "rapid streetcars?"

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

There haven't really been any applications in the United States though the Lake Oswego line in Portland will be one when completed. If you google Rapid Streetcar you'll find more information on it.

cosmoflanker said...

Jeff, I believe you meant *decrease* in headways. Increase in frequency (as the quote states) equals decrease in headway between vehicles. Also, for what its worth, in regards to what anonymous said, I have "argued" (for no particular reason, just intellectual excercise) that what we built in Phoenix is really a rapid streetcar line - that is, it's closer to a streetcar that was upgraded to a protected lane and limited stops, than it is to "light rail" as represented by systems such as Calgary and San Diego with fully protected ROW and greater distances between stations.

Matt Fisher said...

The "rapid streetcar" you're talking about, I consider this to be more like new tram systems in France, Spain, and Dublin, Ireland (and, in a way, England and soon in Edinburgh, Scotland, where the return of trams is starting towards construction).

Some other legacy operations (I use "legacy" to describe those that have been preserved) appear to have some characteristics used as well.

It could appear as though the Metra upgrades might just include electrification! Some routes in Chicago would be quite ideal for a return of streetcars.