Posts tagged with "CTA":

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CTA announces route of proposed Red Line expansion

On January 26, the Chicago Transit Authority announced its ideal path for the proposed expansion of the city’s Red Line south branch. The expansion, the system's first since 1993, is a major aspect of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “Red Ahead” initiative to modernize and lengthen Chicago’s busiest train line. Over 240,000 Chicagoans ride the city’s Red Line on an average weekday, representing over 40 percent of "L" ridership. The “Red Ahead” initiative has already delivered tangible improvements to the second largest transport system in the country. Currently, a transit terminal designed by Chicago-based Exp. is rising on 95th Street, the current southern terminus of the Red Line. The $280 million project entails the renovation of the existing North Terminal and the construction of an entirely new South Terminal, with the intended goal of increasing passenger capacity for existing and future commuter demand. The renovated and expanded station will also include two new public artworks by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, and is expected to open in 2018. The Chicago Tribune reports that the proposed route runs from 95th Street, along the preexisting Union Pacific freight tracks, to 130th Street. This route will expand the Red Line by 5.3 miles, add four new stations, and is estimated to cost $2.3 billion. State and local funding for the project is not yet fully realized, and considering the budget priorities laid out by the Trump administration’s recently-leaked infrastructure plan, crucial federal funding remains precarious at best. The earliest the project will break ground is 2020, with an approximate four-year construction timeline. The new stations, located on 103rd Street, 111th Street, Michigan Avenue, and 130th Street, will feature bus and parking facilities as a measure to decrease vehicular congestion within the greater Chicago area. As noted by NBC Chicago, the 5.3-mile extension primarily serves Chicago’s Far South Side, an area currently designated as a “transit desert” due to its lack of public transport. Expanding transportation opportunities in Chicago’s South Side could dramatically impact the area’s residents. According to CBS Chicago, the extension of the Red Line could shave 20 minutes off the commute from the Far South Side to Downtown Chicago, boosting the accessibility of affordable housing in the area. Although transportation projects tend to draw the ire of community groups, interviews conducted by the Chicago Tribune with residents and businesses across the proposed Red Line expansion reveal widespread support for the transit initiative. According to Progressive Railroading, a final environmental impact study for the project will be released following a February 13 open house with the surrounding community. Following the study, the CTA can apply for over $1 billion in federal funding. If funding is secured for the extension of the Red Line, the CTA will still have to contend with the approximately 150 private parcels along the proposed route. The financial and logistical hurdles are great, but the large-scale expansion of Chicago’s “L” could prove a boon to residents and city alike.
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Chicago “L” celebrates 125 years of operation

Few things in Chicago are as iconic as its extensive elevated rail system, locally known as the “L.” June 6th marks the 125th anniversary of the system, making it the second-oldest rapid transit system in the Americas. To mark the occasion the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is rolling out some vintage cars and giving away commemorative posters. The original elevated rail was built by the Chicago & South Side Rapid Transit Railroad Company, which began regular service on June, 6th 1892. That first leg of the rail rain from Congress Avenue, just south of the downtown, to 39th street. A small coal-burning steam locomotive pulled wooden passenger cars, and the entire trip took about 14 minutes. One year later the tracks were extended to 63rd Street, where there was a station at the Louis Sullivan–designed Transportation Building. To this day, some of those very same tracks are still in regular use by the southern portion of the Green Line. It would only be a few short years before elevated lines spread across the city in all directions radiating from the downtown. It would be five years, though, before the many separate lines would be connected to the downtown-encircling Loop, making the train one of the most convenient ways to get to the city’s commercial and financial center. More branches and extensions were continuously added for the next 30 years, and eventually, some of the lines were continued underground, making them true subways. This year also marks 70th anniversary of the transfer of the “L” from private ownership to public control. In 1947 the Chicago Transit Authority took over the system and began modernizing. This week’s celebration will include train cars from both pre-, and post-CTA eras. For a limited time on June 6th, starting at noon, 4000-series cars from the 1920s will make trips around the Loop. At 1:45 pm, 2400-series cars from the late 1970’s, complete in their red-white-and-blue bicentennial livery, will make trips around the loop. Passengers will also be able to get commutative posters on the inner-Loop platform of the Clark/Lake stop. Many Chicagoans have a love-hate relationship with the L. While it is sometimes late, the elevated platforms are frigidly cold in the winter, and the small cars are packed every morning and afternoon rush, there are some things about it that Chicagoans would trade for any other city’s transit system. Unlike New York’s sticky and sweaty subway stations, the “L” subway stations are a relief from the summer heat. There is also nothing quite like riding through the downtown at eye level with beautiful architectural details and workers at their desks just feet away from the tracks, or rumbling through the neighborhoods, so close to residential balcony’s you can smell the barbecue. And as for that rumbling echoing through the city, as Elwood Blues said, it goes by “so often you won’t even notice it.”
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Chicago moves forward with plan to extend a train to its far South Side

It is better late than never for the South Side of Chicago. The Chicago Transit Authority is extending its Red Line to the city’s far south side, adding four new stops. Currently, the line runs to 95th Street; when completed it will run to 130th.

The extension will be the first addition to the L system since 1993, and is part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “Red Ahead” initiative, aiming to modernize the city’s busiest train line. So far $425 million has been spent on its southern branch, and $280 million on the total reconstruction of the 95th Street terminal. The design architects, Chicago-based Exp., recently released new renderings of the terminal showing a sweeping red station surrounded by improved bus stops. When completed in 2018, the 95th Street terminal will also include two new major public artworks by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates.

The extra 35 blocks of train line will serve a “transit desert” that severely lacks a public transportation connection to downtown and other parts of the city. The new stops will be at 103rd Street, 111th Street, South Michigan Avenue, and 130th Street, running through the neighborhoods of Roseland and West Pullman, ending in Altgeld Gardens. The new stations will also include improved bus stop facilities.

The exact path of the line is still being decided through a series of environmental studies, as well as public forums. Two options are being investigated, both of which will run parallel to an existing active freight line. In either case, the line will be a mix of elevated and at-grade tracks. The 5.3-mile extension will likely involve the city negotiating with approximately 250 property owners to make a wide enough path for the new tracks.

Though the project promises a new level of accessibility for a large swath of the city, it will be some time before it is complete. Construction isn’t expected to begin until 2022, with a completion goal of 2026. New legislation has recently been approved to allow for a transit tax-increment financing district, which could possibly help fund the project. A new amendment has also been proposed to the State of Illinois Constitution ensuring all money made through transportation taxes and fees will be directed to transportation projects and improvements. The estimated cost of the project is $2.3 billion.

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Chicago recycled an old rapid-transit station and sold its pieces at public auction

More than 800 people flocked to Chicago's premier recycled building materials clearing house, the Rebuilding Exchange, last week in search of a piece of Chicago history. The nonprofit was auctioning off chunks of the Chicago Transit Authority's (CTA) Madison-Wabash CTA El Station, which will be replaced next year. Buyers included an ice cream parlor, a theater company, an art studio, and various individuals intrigued by the defunct station's benches, signs, railing sections, pressed tin sheets, and vintage doors. “We did not auction off the facades—those are being stored here for up to two years until a history museum can take them,” said Caitlin Grey, outreach coordinator for the Rebuilding Exchange. “Almost everything sold the night of except for some screens, decking, joists and doors. Over the weekend almost everything else sold. We still have a door, decking and joists.” Chicago recycles as much as two-thirds of its construction and demolition debris, but other municipal recycling programs are lagging. As for what will become of the old station's downtown location, renderings show a clean white plane sheltered by rows of knife-like brise-soleils. The so-called “Gateway to Millennium Park” will replace both the Randolph-Wabash and Madison-Wabash stations, and is designed by Chicago-based expformerly known as Teng + Associates.
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Explore Chicago’s regional transportation network on this interactive website

How many people get on the train at your "El" or Metra stop each day? Which county's roads make for the roughest ride? How long do Chicago-area drivers while away waiting for train crossings? The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) just unveiled a new tool to stir discussion about transportation in the greater Chicago area that can answer all of those questions, as well as many more about the regional transportation system as a whole. CMAP planners said they hope the interactive website, which is full of clickable maps and tables compiled from mountains of public data, will resonate with policy makers as well as frustrated commuters. When it comes to transportation infrastructure, Chicago has an embarrassment of riches—and a wealth of problems. Some 25 percent of the nation's freight traffic travels through the region, but the seven-county region's 1,468 rail crossings snarl traffic for a total delay of 7,817 person-hours every day. In total traffic ate up more than $6 billion in wasted time and fuel in 2011 across the roughly 30,000 miles of roads in Cook, Lake, McHenry, Will, Kane, Kendall and DuPage Counties. As the authors of GO TO 2040, the 2010 comprehensive plan that sought to renew Daniel Burnham's regional vision, CMAP officials said they made the website to encourage more data-driven planning and regional policy. The website gives a mixed assessment of public transit in the region. While 71.5 percent of residents had at least moderate access to transit, progress on increasing that share of people has occurred at a slower rate so far than will be necessary to meet the 2040 goal of 78 percent, CMAP's analysis shows. Although Chicago lauds its growing open data culture, CMAP's Tom Garritano said arbitrary policies persist. For example Illinois' 55/45 rule, whereby 55 percent of highway funds typically go downstate, while only 45 percent stay in the Chicago region—despite the fact that more than two-thirds of the state's population and economic activity occurs in and around its largest city. “We believe strongly that the best decisions are driven by data,” said Garritano. “We want people to get excited about data.” While the website shows the region has made considerable progress on meeting GO TO 2040 goals in recent years, CMAP officials stressed that stats inflated with stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 may paint a rosier picture of transportation infrastructure's finances. CMAP pointed to the declining share of crumbling roads and bridges in the area—without continued funding for maintenance, they said, that progress would soon be overwhelmed by mounting infrastructure repair needs. More than half of non-highway roads in Cook County were judged less than “acceptable,” but that figure was less than 10 percent in McHenry and Kendall counties. More than 300 bridges in the Chicago area were deemed “structurally deficient” in 2013—a distinction CMAP pointed out does not mean they are necessarily dangerous, just below civil engineering standards. The total share of deficient bridges in the area was 9.7 percent, slightly below the national average of 11.1 percent. A section of the site named “Forward” links to a public-private fundraising campaign called FUND 2040. Last year CMAP called for a quarter-penny sales tax hike that would net $300 million per year for infrastructure work. “Metropolitan Chicago must compete globally against regions whose public investments have for decades far outpaced our own,” reads the site. “Current infrastructure funding mechanisms are simply not adequate to meet our region's infrastructure needs.” New spending, however needed, is politically risky in fiscally troubled Illinois, but CMAP's ideological influence recently got a boost in Springfield. The agency's executive director, Randy Blankenhorn, was recently appointed to head the Illinois Department of Transportation by incoming Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.
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Chicago’s Wilson CTA Station gets a $203 million makeover

Patrons of the Chicago Transit Authority's 91-year-old Wilson station (above) on the El's Red Line will be happy to learn the city broke ground this week on its long-planned, $203 million Wilson Station Reconstruction Project. The track structure is more than 100 years old. The Uptown station has been somewhat of a squeaky wheel in the CTA system, with neighborhood residents calling for improvements for years. The new station house will be ADA-compliant and, as CTA explained, feature myriad other improvements:
The project will also include significant track and structural work that will allow for easy and convenient transfers between the Red Line and Purple Line Express; enhance the street-level environment on Broadway; and improve CTA operations. New, brighter lighting and the installation of more than 100 security cameras throughout the stations and its three entrances will help improve customer safety. Additionally, the restoration of the 1923 stationhouse facade and former clock tower (at the corner of Wilson/Broadway) would make it a viable space for future retail or business development, thus creating an anchor for revitalization and economic development in the Uptown neighborhood.
It's one of the biggest (and costliest) overhauls in CTA history, and is part of the agency's $1 billion "Red Ahead" initiative to modernize the north branch of the Red and Purple Lines. CTA rebuilt the south branch last year, streamlining construction with massive closures—a strategy that angered some area residents. Elsewhere on the Red Line, 95th Street—the line's southern terminus—is getting an inspired revamp led by Parsons Brinkerhoff and Johnson & Lee, with art from Theaster Gates.
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Unveiled> Chicago’s Newest Loop ‘L’ Stop Could Be Best Yet

Move over Morgan—the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) released renderings Monday of a redesign for the ‘L’ station at Washington-Wabash whose modern look could unseat the sleek Morgan as CTA’s most handsome stop. The so-called “Gateway to Millennium Park” will serve the Brown, Green, Orange, Pink and Purple lines by consolidating two Loop stations: Randolph-Wabash and Madison-Wabash. Replacing two century old stops, it will be the first new ‘L’ stop in the Loop since the Library/State-Van Buren station was built in 1997. Chicago-based exp, formerly known as Teng + Associates, designed the bone white, undulating station. The color and curvature call to mind Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum, or perhaps a ribcage. With 13,375 daily entries, it’s expected to become the fifth busiest CTA station on weekdays, according to city estimates. Scheduled to open in 2016, the station will feature 100 percent LED lighting, bike racks, and  “a significant amount” of recycled material. The reveal follows news of the planned McCormick-Cermak CTA station, designed by Chicago’s Ross Barney Architects (Ross Barney also designed the system’s newest stop, Morgan Station). Construction on the $75 million station is scheduled to begin in 2014. That money will come entirely from the Federal Highway Administration’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) program.
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New Navy Pier Plans, McCormick CTA Renderings Revealed

[beforeafter] navy_pier_redo_01 navy_pier_redo_02 [/beforeafter] Above: "Gateway Fountain" in warm and cold seasons. (Courtesy Navy Pier) Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration Wednesday revealed details about two initiatives they said would amount to $1.1 billion in investment: a new 10,000-seat arena for DePaul University located across the street from McCormick Place, and an overhaul to Navy Pier — the city’s largest tourist attraction. Navy Pier’s remodeling, which includes a new water feature and an expansion of the Children’s Museum, will total $278 million. Future phases of the project will involve redesigned public and commercial spaces along the pier, additional dining space, and a new park featuring a bicycle flyover on the pier’s west end. Marilynn Gardner, president of Navy Pier, told Crain’s Chicago Business’ Gren Hinz that the pier “was becoming too carnival-like,” as proposals for the aging tourist mainstay picked up momentum. Last year High Line designer James Corner was chosen to head the renewal. “We're creating a more authentic experience,” she said, “celebrating the fact that it's a pier.” Gensler's Elva Rubio wondered aloud in a blog post, "What Will it Take to Make Navy Pier a Real Place?" The $140 million DePaul basketball arena plan calls for an additional $33 million in public TIF funding for land acquisition and streetscaping. A sky bridge would connect McCormick Place West to the arena, which would double as an event center for shows smaller than McCormick Place is accustomed to. It would be between Cermak, Prairie, 21st and Indiana streets. Two hotels — one 500-room boutique hotel and a 1,200 “headquarters hotel” announced last year — would round out the area’s new development. Also previously announced, Ross Barney Architects will design a new CTA Green Line station for McCormick Place, on the south side of Cermark and 23rd Street. New renderings reveal a bit more about the project, expected sometime in 2014. Emanuel’s team made the announcements on the first day of the Mayor’s third year in office, and the initiatives reflect his oft-repeated promotion of tourism and trade shows in the city. McCormick Place is the largest convention center in North America.
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Cermak is Next: New CTA Stop Primes Chicago’s South Loop

The CTA is abuzz with new projects these days, having successfully avoided fare hikes during dire budget negotiations this summer. Now another $65 million investment will deliver the new Cermak / McCormick Place El Station Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised early this year, as well as new library, school and three-story building rehab for the South Loop. New renderings presented by the Mayor on Friday show the new Green Line stop, which will be designed by Carol Ross Barney, principal at Ross Barney Architects. It’s a sleek tunnel shape, reminiscent of Rem Koolhaas’ IIT Green Line stop. Coming from the same architect who designed CTA’s last major addition, the celebrated (if pricey) Morgan station, news on this improvement to El service was highly anticipated by residents in Motor Row and South Loop. The neighborhoods rode higher and fell further than most in the city over the past decades; now a resurgence of downtown residents may have primed the pump for a broader renaissance just south of the Loop. If it does, new CTA service should soon make it easier to check out.
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Rail Picking Up Steam in the East and Midwest

(Bruce Fingerhood/Flickr) According to the New York Times, Amtrak is gaining riders in the northeast corridor thanks in part to arduous airport security procedures and frequent airline delays. Amtrak also beats airline shuttles in on-time arrivals and proximity to major business centers. In Chicago, the Chicago Transit Authority is counting 16 months of ridership increases for both rail and bus lines. The rail system has seen 51 consecutive months of ridership growth, including a 6.2 percent jump over the last six months. Last year the CTA carried 523 million riders. [Photo: Bruce Fingerhood/Flickr]
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Taxing Parking for Transit in Chicago

Mayor Emanuel’s proposed $2 congestion tax on downtown parking is facing stiff opposition from, you guessed it, the parking lobby. According to the Tribune, the Parking Industry Labor Management Committee is posting placards in member facilities and handing out flyers opposing the tax. The committee argues the tax will not improve traffic flow and could encourage businesses to relocate to the suburbs. Emanuel believes the tax will foster greater transit ridership and raise an estimated $28 million annually for CTA improvements. The $2 tax on parking at garages and lots in the Loop and River North will be added to the existing $3 tax that goes to the city’s general fund.
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Rahmbo to City Workers: Take the Train!

Mayor Emanuel has made transit, biking, and sustainability some of the top priorities of his young administration. The same goes for fiscal restraint and transparency (something notably lacking in the administration of his predecessor). Drawing on his experience as White House Chief of Staff, his most recent edict combines these two sets of goals. Emanuel is mandating that city employees use public transit when on the job. According to NBC Chicago, employees who use other means of transportation to conduct city business will have to justify their expenses when submitting for reimbursements. The new rules are in response to the report compiled by city comptroller Amer Ahmad. "Across the board we found inconsistency in the policies and enforcement in our departments and sister agencies,” Ahmad said. "This new policy provides the necessary structure to ensure that city travel is efficient and above all an appropriate use of city resources."