Open thread: What have you noticed on day three of CTA’s decrowding plan?

On Sunday, new bus and train schedules went into effect. The Chicago Transit Authority added service to 48 bus routes, eliminated 12 bus routes, and removed service on segments of 4 bus routes. Additionally, the CTA added 17 trains on the Red, Blue, Brown, Purple, Orange and Green lines (during rush periods). Pace Suburban Bus modified some of its routes to accommodate the CTA’s eliminated routes. See the full details on CTA’s website.

Map of modified and eliminated bus and train routes.
CTA’s map of modified and eliminated bus and train routes.

Did you notice your train or bus was a little less crowded?

Note: Northwestern University Transportation Center (NUTC) was a consultant to CTA to study the decrowding initiative, but there was no report issued. I asked CTA spokesperson Brian Steele about this: “To conduct the study, NUTC took multiple CTA data sets (including ridership, service planning, entries/boardings, operating costs, fare revenues) and did an analysis of service. NUTC then met with CTA and their analysis confirmed CTA’s initial analysis of the data – identifying the best routes on which to augment, discontinue, or reduce service.”

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Eyes on the street: Roads become a little sweeter each day for people who want to bicycle

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Photo by Adam Herstein. 

The City of Chicago is running full steam ahead in this wacky period of warm weather to meet its goal of installing 30 miles of protected and buffered bike lanes before the end of the year.

The photo above shows a little more sanity has been added to the Desplaines/Milwaukee/Kinzie intersection: a green-painted left-turn lane for bicyclists has been added for the left turn from northbound Desplaines Street to northwest-bound Milwaukee Avenue.

However, and this is very important: CTA buses have a different path than most people who are making a left turn. They are aiming for the bus stop in front of the restaurant The Point and cyclists on the outside (right side) of this left turn could cross paths with the bus on the inside (left side) of the turn. See the map below.

Read more about the bikeway additions to Desplaines Street. We hear on #bikeCHI that the flexible posts have been installed, but we’ve also heard of problems in front of Old St. Patrick’s church and school, between Monroe and Adams Streets.

View CTA and bike left-turn path from Desplaines to Milwaukee in a larger map

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Grid Bits: Speed camera testing, CTA riders don’t own cars, I-90 bus lanes, driver’s license legislation

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SAFETY ZONE painted on California Avenue, immediately south of North Avenue. 

There are four news stories in this edition of Grid Bits.

Speed cameras

The Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications announced two weeks ago that it will be testing speed cameras from Monday, December 3 (yesterday), to Thursday, January 3.

“City officials are testing both mobile camera systems and permanent camera systems, which will be temporarily installed at:”

  • McKinley Park, at approximately 2223 W. Pershing Road
  • Warren Park, at approximately 6541 N. Western Ave
  • Dulles Elementary School, at approximately 6340 S. King Drive
  • Near North Montessori School, at approximately 1446 W. Division

The Department of Transportation will install signs that tell drivers no citations will be issued. Continue reading Grid Bits: Speed camera testing, CTA riders don’t own cars, I-90 bus lanes, driver’s license legislation

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A great leap forward? Riding the entire Jeffery Jump express bus route

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7:58am After waking up at an ungodly hour, cycling to the CTA’s Fullerton stop, riding the Red Line south to 95th Street and pedaling a few more miles to the 103rd Street & Stony Island garage terminal, I board a shiny blue J14 Jeffery Jump express bus. As I load my cruiser onto the front bike rack, the driver calls out the open door, “Could you hurry up please? I gotta go.”

Launched on November 5, the Jump is a new service that’s the transit agency’s first venture into bus rapid transit (BRT), systems that create subway-like speeds for buses via car-free lanes and other timesavers. The Jump, funded with an $11 million Federal Transportation Administration grant, isn’t full-blown BRT. But it does include several pioneering features that will hopefully pave the way for bolder bus corridors downtown and on Ashland and Western avenues later this decade. I’m here to ride the entire sixteen-mile route from the Far South Side to the Loop, to see how these elements are working out.

Continue reading A great leap forward? Riding the entire Jeffery Jump express bus route

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Moving beyond the shock of CTA fare increases to doing something about it

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Drive? Drive! Photo by Dan O’Neill. 

I’m not going to try to make sense of the pending Chicago Transit Authority fare increases, why they’re necessary, or of Rahm’s insensitive remarks on Monday that he clarified yesterday. There are already great responses on these matters:

You will have to figure out for yourself if it’s still worth it to buy single or multi-day passes. Need a primer on what’s proposed to change? Check out the CTA’s FAQ (.pdf). The fare increases will be voted on by the CTA board on December 18, 2012, at 2:30 PM, and the increases would take effect January 14, 2013.

I’m going to try and inspire you to take action and give you some tools that may help lessen the impact on your household’s finances. Here are 12 ideas.

1. Illinois legislators control the CTA so you have to tell them how you feel about fare increases and transportation subsidy policies. They decide how much financial assistance transit agencies will get. Tell them which way you tend to vote. You can find their contact info on the Riders for Better Transit website.

2. There are pre-tax benefits available at supportive workplaces. Money is removed from your paycheck to purchase a cash transit card or a monthly pass before taxes are calculated. You can save hundreds of dollars per year. This applies to Metra and Pace riders, too. You cannot get this benefit individually: your employer most offer it. If they don’t, give your boss or HR manager this information. Learn more at LessTaxingCommute.com.

If you get pushback, educate your coworkers or contact Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and Riders for Better Transit to see if they can help you reach out to company executives.

3. The mayor of Chicago and the governor of Illinois appoint four and three members to the CTA board, respectively. Direct your attention to those two.

4. The budget recommendations for the following budget year (2013) are created by CTA president Forrest Claypool and his staff and then presented to the appointed board members for their approval. If I kept better track of the board’s activity I could tell you if they’ve ever told the CTA president to revise the budget recommendations. You can speak to the board at two public meetings in December: Continue reading Moving beyond the shock of CTA fare increases to doing something about it

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New CTA buses and mid-life overhaul of more than 1,000 vehicles will avoid dismal situation 6 years ago

A 4400-series TMC RTS bus on State Street. Photo by Kevin Zolkiwicz.

I arrived in Chicago in 2006 to attend the University of Illinois at Chicago for a sociology and urban planning degree. I visited home in Batavia, Illinois, quite often. I took route 60-Blue Island/26th from campus to Northwestern Station to catch the Union Pacific-West line to Geneva. I distinctly remember how decrepit these buses were (this route seemed to have the oldest ones in the fleet, 4400-series TMC RTS). They lumbered; they were dark inside; they had stairs to climb aboard; passengers who wanted or needed to use the ramp had to spend several minutes waiting for the ramp to deploy and then be elevated.* I don’t know how much was just old design, no upgrades being made, or broken down equipment.

That was at a time of major service cuts, fare hikes, and deliberations about new legislation determining how to fund the Regional Transportation Authority and the three service boards it oversees (Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, and Pace).

The Chicago Transit Authority made announcements this year that should ensure this won’t happen again. Continue reading New CTA buses and mid-life overhaul of more than 1,000 vehicles will avoid dismal situation 6 years ago

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