Friday, August 14, 2009

Extended Chicago

Chicago is looking to extend their Red, Orange, and Yellow El lines at their ends. I'm not going to say that I know Chicago as well as some other cities but I'm wondering if 9 miles of rapid transit on the outside edges for $1.7 billion is a higher and better use than greater capacity in the core? Especially with the Olympics coming up.

Considering the North South deficit of rapid transit on the Western edges of the El network, would North-South LRT/Rapid Streetcar lines and dedicated bus lanes be a better use of money? What do you all think?


Matt Fisher said...

Ideally, not more cheap BRT/rapid bus/whatever crap for me, thank you very much. We're not a Third World country like Colombia or Indonesia. But sometimes it can make sense. ;-(

Carfree Chicago said...

I'd agree with you for the Orange and Yellow lines, but I think the Red line extension could be good. The Red line currently stops far short of the edge of the city, and the south side really doesn't have adequate transit service. The Orange and Yellow line extensions, however, both would serve primarily suburbs, and both would terminate at a shopping mall. Politically, I also have a problem with extending service in the suburbs, because they contribute a smaller percentage of their sales tax the CTA.

This map is also interesting to compare to the extension plans:

Note how high transit use is on the far south side of the city where the Red line would be extended to. I think for that kind of demand there should be a train, not just buses.

As for the Orange and Yellow projects though, I'd rather see that money spend on streetcars and light rail. Would be great to get a north-south route on Ashland or Western, and a couple east-west routes on streets on both the north and south sides.

Dave said...

just a frequent visitor, but chicago could definitely use some surface transit. i know the STAR line is being discussed to connect the lines radiating from the loop, but there are plenty of neighborhoods that could use a juice from streetcars connecting to high-volume El stops.

or why not reconstruct some of the elevated lines for improved performance?

Alon Levy said...

Chicago is also proposing a Circle Line, which would allow north-south travel west of the Red Line without going through the Loop.

theo said...

The Red line extension is about transit demand and about equity -- those neighborhoods are served by commuter rail, but not very well.

The problem with the current Circle line proposal is, it's not really that much further out than the loop, and won't shave that much time off most non-radial trips.

I think it's a very good idea to extend the Orange and Yellow lines, although I wish they could manage to do it more cheaply. Those neighborhoods are big job centers, especially the Skokie terminus of the Yellow line, and it will really improve the access of city residents to those jobs.

kenf said...

Extending the Orange and Yellow lines to malls might actually be a good thing. Malls generally are surrounded by acres of parking (gray fields) which can be redeveloped into new compact walkable communities. Add decent transit, and you can minimize car use in and out of the community.

Adam said...

Chicago needs their circle line and it needs to be heavy rail. Maybe LRT for the outer fringes but Chicago is just too dense for LRT.

And please no BRT. Streetsblog is posting again and again how people block the bus only lanes in NYC, including cops.

Jerard said...

Having lived in Chicago for 6 years I can attest to the merit for a South Red Line extension to the Pullman District.

The two other extensions are warranted because they are connected to the busiest malls that are currently being served by very busy bus service corridors.

For a crosstown corridor there is a right-of-way about two blocks from Western Avenue, a portion of which is currently in-use by the Orange Line to Midway.

John said...

First, these are far from a done deal. There's no money for these extensions, any of the other major projects Chicago wants to do, or even maintenance to keep the systems in a state of good repair.

However, I would say that if we have to choose how to spend a billion dollars, the Circle Line would be better. However, I think these other extensions have merit too. It's a shame we have to pick and choose and that we probably won't get any of it.

Matt Fisher said...

Actually, maybe I could talk about when Chicago once had the largest streetcar system in the world, operated by Chicago Surface Lines (CSL), but other American cities (New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles et al.) appeared to have claimed that title, at least back then, unlike that today, Melbourne has that title. In its prime, streetcars formed a big grid (as seen in this map, though it's in Dutch). Wish it hadn't all been shut down, as well as the North Shore Line to Milwaukee. It just makes me surprised that the largest surviving operation is in an Australian city, rather than an American (or European) city.

But then again, I feel Western would be a good example of where streetcars (or LRT) can run. Several other north-south and east-west lines (and maybe a few diagonals?) would be very good. Why aren't they talking about this? Why do they continue to pander to a "suburbs first" mentality?

A little footnote: The current route of the Pink Line once continued west to the suburbs, but then again it was cut in a highway frenzy of the '50s. I haven't been in Chicago, though.

The ideas for extending the Red, Orange, and Yellow Lines are not bad, although they aren't all the best.

Finally, caution: The map I linked is a VERY large file.

david vartanoff said...

several points. Yes the Pink and the Blue lines both had extensions further out, the Blue also had an extra branch on the North Side (Humboldt Park) as well as the Green having Normal Park, Kenwood, and Stokyards branches. It is also the case that the various Metra commuter lines had more local stations within the city as well as more frequent midday service.
The Western Ave Crosstown was proposed by CTA in he 50's. So far, nothing except the tiny stretch of the Orange has been built, but the space exists in the mainline ROW to link the Blue and Orange lines near to Western Imagine a straight shot between airports skipping downtown!
For many years, a neighborhood activist (no clout thus no chance) has advocated turning Metra Electric into a CTA fare service within the city--They stop in the Pullman Distict. This Gray Line

proposal seeks to exploit underused ROW. As a further upgrade, extending frequent all day CTA fare service along the existing South Shore to Hegewisch would further address neighborhoods far from the existing Red Line in a shorter time frame at less cost.

John said...

I'm all for these extensions, but the comments in the article and here...but seriously, we have our priorities all messed up. FIX what we have first! Our north side embankments are LITERALLY crumbling, our rail cars are way beyond recommended life, our signaling system is a testament to the 1950s...just, cmon! Is extending the Yellow line to the mall really more important than fixing the viaducts and embankments or the signaling system?

Get that Circle Line here now! Why must Chicago be do downtown-centric? Not everyone needs to go downtown to transfer. ...not like anything will get built soon anyways. The transit building process in NA is so backasswards.

david vartanoff said...

agree about fixing the structures/tracks. The cars are good for a number of years, heck, New York is still running cars delivered in 64. CTA cars built of stainless are essentialy indestructible--a general upgrade to guts, maybe newer seats another decade or so.
As to the signalling system, no the cab signalling now used was NOT there when I commuted in the 60s.

neroden@gmail said...

The Red line extension is worth it. There's currently a huge, rather dense are full of people driving to the final station.

Orange line extension is actually much like the Red line extension; it doesn't look that way because the initial part has to pass through an intense industrial area near Midway Airport, but then it pops out into a pretty dense area which would use it pretty heavily.

Yellow line deserves the infill station, and the extension station is "not much work"; it's all on former railroad ROW.

All of these would be quite extensively used; they're not really "suburban" in any sense, unlike Metra extensions.

The question is simply whether the CTA's downtown core can support the traffic. The need to repair the existing structure and tracks is tremendous, and the extensions should not under any circumstances take away from that.