Grid Bits: UP-North construction to restart, taxi drivers and street safety, new CTA Loop station

John and I are still gathering information for our Open Streets article, which will be co-written and published Tuesday. Also on Tuesday is another public meeting about the Bloomingdale Trail, where the designers and consultants will showcase the results of this past weekend’s open house and charrettes (I went on Saturday). I will publish an article about the Tuesday presentation on Thursday, October 6. There are five stories in this edition of Grid Bits.


(1) Taxi drivers


Click on the photo to read the photographer’s caption. I found this by searching on Flickr for “stupid taxi chicago” in order to find people’s opinions. Photo by Nick Normal. 

The Chicago Tribune reported on September 23, 2011, that many of the tickets Chicago police give to taxi drivers are dismissed in court. When a taxi driver receives commits three moving violations in one year, they risk having their chauffeur’s license not renewed.

But this year, the process was made automatic: their license is automatically not renewed when they have three moving violations in one year. When tickets are dismissed, the license is renewed and the taxi driver can stay in business. The issue of ticket dismissal is divided in two parts: Dropping cases, and the court jurisdiction. Cases are dropped when police officers or witnesses don’t show up. The City of Chicago’s ticket dismissal rate is 75%, while the Cook County rate is 40%. Taxi drivers are in disproportionately more crashes than the general population (not adjusting for vehicle miles traveled). The Tribune highlights and interviews several taxi drivers who received many tickets. One driver, Matthias Okpe, received 18 tickets since 2008; 16 were dismissed. Read the full story.

(2) Michigan Avenue reconstruction

Michigan Avenue will be reconstructed between Illinois Street and Bellevue Place, a distance of 0.75 miles. Construction should have started Wednesday, September 28, 2011. In addition to the repaving some utilities may be moved (like sewer covers and grates). This project will make for a smoother ride for bicyclists and bus riders. I hope that the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) will repave other sections of Michigan Avenue, especially where buses stop (concrete bus pads are ideal). The intersection of Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue should be redesigned and reconstructed. Pedestrians are not allowed to cross Michigan on the south side of Randolph, making a crossing here take the time of three signal phases; funneling pedestrians into a single crossing overcrowds the sidewalks. The pavement quality and utility placement is such that it makes it dangerous to ride a bicycle through the intersection, no matter west, south, or northbound – there are large bumps and cracks. From Alderman Reilly’s (42nd Ward) weekly newsletter. Construction will complete in early to mid-November.

(3) Gas stations defrauding the State of Illinois

Attorney General Lisa Madigan is in the middle of an investigation of gas stations in Illinois who are not remitting the sales tax they collect from consumers to the Illinois treasury. Customers are paying the sales tax that state law mandates but the state is not receiving it. This matters to all users of the road, including sustainable and active transportation advocates, because this money goes to funds that pay for transit projects and operations, and are also used to match federal funding for pedestrian and bicycle projects. The Chicago Tribune reported on this on September 25, 2011.


(4) Perhaps a new CTA station in the Loop


Say goodbye to this downtown eye sore. Photo by Norma Fernandez. 

Back in 1998, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) discussed plans for a super station that would replace Randolph/Wabash, and remove State/Lake, and Madison/Wabash, with entrances on all three streets. Then in 2003 it announced that it made an agreement with CDOT to design a new elevated ‘L’ station at Washington/Wabash to replace the stations at Madison/Wabash and Randolph/Wabash. Both are dated and inaccessible. Fast forward 8 years and the plans are back in motion (State/Lake would remain). CDOT, which often designs and constructs stations for CTA, has applied for $3.6 million in funding from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program (CMAQ). The full cost is estimated to be $$63.6 million (PDF).

(5) UP-North bridge replacement to restart

Union Pacific and Metra will replace 22 bridges on the UP-North Metra line (downtown Chicago to Waukegan, and Kenosha, Wisconsin) in two phases. The first phase will take place at 11 crossings, including at Lawrence (Ravenswood station) and Irving Park. The first attempt at this construction failed because of many customers’ complaints: Metra had drastically adjusted the schedule, grouping fewer trains at rush hour times so they could operate on one track. This time, they will keep both tracks open, at an additional cost of $42.4 million. A new Ravenswood station will be constructed, with longer platforms and ramps to become accessible – it should be finished in 2013.

The Urbanophile wrote in August 2010 that Metra’s original plans permanently destroyed future opportunities to build a third track in this right of way. It seems that plans have changed. In Metra’s newsletter, “On The Bi-Level” (April 2011), they published drawings and an explanation that the bridges would be built in such a way that wouldn’t prevent the construction of a third track and bridge in the future, “if there is demand and money to do so“. Read more on Metra’s website, and find station plans at the Center Square Journal.


Existing Ravenswood station. Photo by Eric Pancer. 


Rendering of proposed Ravenswood station. Photo by Eric Pancer. 


A UP-North bridge at Berteau Avenue that will be replaced. Photo by Mike Innocenzi. 

13 thoughts on “Grid Bits: UP-North construction to restart, taxi drivers and street safety, new CTA Loop station”

    1. It’s funny how I turned a story about repaving Michigan Avenue from Illinois Street to its north end into a story about Randolph needing fixing. The repaving is necessary because there are so many potholes and the buses and other traffic keep ripping it up. The concrete bus pads should also be constructed longer than normal because of bus bunching.

    2. Yep, Randolph & Michigan should be the site of Chicago’s first “pedestrian scramble”, where all traffic stops for a couple of minutes and pedestrians–even those using wheelchairs and walkers–can cross at any angle or diagonal they wish.  If motorists get fed up with having to wait a few minutes there, and begin avoiding that intersection: win-win!

      1. Ah yes, pedestrian scrambles. Milwaukee-North-Damen is another good candidate. See the comment thread there:

  1. Regarding the UP-N, the tracks are being designed in a way that could allow a third track, but my understanding is that the stations are not.  It’s not likely they’ll replace expensive new stations for a third track anytime soon.

    1. Ah, I didn’t consider that. I would like to see the plans for this project, but Metra’s still learning how to use its website to publish information like this to its customers. It was very difficult to find what I did find on their website.

  2. Somebody on Metra’s staff is obviously bitter about having to backtrack on the third track option. Did you read that piece on their web site?  When is the last time you’ve ever seen a transport agency drone on about how badly something they are planning to do is going to affect the neighborhood? It’s like the staff is almost hoping to provoke neighbors so that they can go back to what they originally wanted to do.

  3. Replacing the stations would have to be done in the future if a third track was put in place, but that’s really just the way things are going to work out. It’s good that certain transit advocacy groups really stuck it to Metra.

    Hint: it wasn’t ATA…they wouldn’t know what to do if they were handed an idea for transit.

    1. I wasn’t aware any transit advocacy groups communicated with Metra about the third track, just The Urbanophile (Aaron Renn). 

      Yeah, the stations will have to be moved or replaced if a third track is built. But I’m happy the bridge design has changed to allow for third track construction. 

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