Grid Bits: CTA modifies Red South plan, hearing Tuesday; bike crashes at intersections


Bonus: The Chicago Transit Authority is building an auxiliary entrance at the Roosevelt Green and Orange Lines station, on the south side of Roosevelt, near the Starbucks, Jewel, and dry cleaners. This was previously exit-only. The new entrance will speed up trips for those who transfer from the eastbound #12 Roosevelt bus to this train station. Photo by the CTA. 

There are six stories (five transit, and one bicycling) mentioned in this September 4th edition of Grid Bits. The Chicago Transit Authority has been very busy in the past few months.



Chicago Sun-Times will sponsor three years of the “first day of school free rides” program that gives all Chicago Public Schools students a free ride today and in 2013, and 2014.

Sun-Times Media is contributing more than $150,000 to the program, designed to promote first-day attendance for CPS elementary and high school students.

After multiple public hearings on its Red Line South track renewal project, the CTA is amending and expanding plans for alternative service. One of the improvements they’re adding is a new shuttle bus between Roosevelt Red/Green/Orange Lines to Cermak-Chinatown Red Line station.

In addition to the station upgrades on the North Side Main Line section of the Red Line, the CTA has added track work to eliminate slow zones:

“We hope to eliminate slow zones and shave two to three minutes off the commute in 2012 instead of having to wait (to do the work) until 2014,” [CTA President Forrest] Claypool said. “Why disrupt service twice for our customers, why close stations twice for our customers, why do it two years apart when we can take advantage of this opportunity?”


Crews work on Thorndale, which closed August 17, for six weeks

The CTA has fired more than 6 times as many bus and rail workers in 2012 (up to August 20th) than in all of 2011. The Chicago Tribune reports on the agency’s “zero tolerance” stance, and how some workers are fighting back:

Discharges for several other key work violations, including absenteeism, which the CTA says costs the transit agency millions of dollars a year, are also occurring at a higher rate this year, the personnel data show. At the same time, the CTA is hiring more workers, mostly part-timers and temporary workers, compared with the previous two years, the records indicate.

CTA decrowding

The CTA is holding a hearing Tuesday night to discuss the “decrowding initiative” that adds more trains, more buses, but also eliminates 12 bus routes.

A public hearing will be held September 4, 2012 at CTA Headquarters, 567 W. Lake St., Chicago, at 6 p.m, to analyze proposed service changes and receive feedback from the public as to the best ways to improve the restructuring effort. The CTA Board will vote on the De-crowding Initiative at its next board meeting September 12, with the schedule changes to take place on December 16, 2012.

More information on this initiative is available from other sources:



The very wide intersection at Chicago Avenue and Halsted Street. Photo by Mike Steele. 

Chris Fusco and Tina Sfondeles in the Chicago Sun-Times discuss bike crashes at intersections, particularly Halsted Street and Chicago Avenue, where the pavement has abysmal quality in multiple directions*, and at Chicago-Ogden-Milwaukee, the most crash-prone for cyclists in the city. The authors interview me, in which I explain the problem with signal phasing: its short duration can put cyclists in the intersection on a red light and in harm’s way.

The article interviews Leah Jones whose crash in 2010 might have been influenced by this phenomenon.

“It all squeezes into this intersection where there’s a ton of potholes and a really short yellow,” she says. “Even if you leave on a green, it could be really hard to get through the intersection before it goes red.”

Jones isn’t sure if the light on Halsted went from green to yellow to red while she tried to cross Chicago Avenue’s six lanes of traffic, a trip that was cut short when a woman driving an SUV east on Chicago crashed into her.

“She hit me full on,” recalls Jones, now 35. “Her bumper went into my thigh.”

* I believe the only intersection approach that is not awful is Chicago Avenue, west of Halsted Street. The intersection’s size also bothers me: 4 lanes southbound north of Chicago Avenue, 3 lanes northbound north of Chicago Avenue, and 3 lanes eastbound east of Halsted Street. None of these match the width of their continuing lanes on the other side of the intersection. Street and intersection width has an influence on driving speed and other behaviors, none of which lead to safe roads. Additionally, because of the detour caused by Goose Island/Halsted Street bridge construction, this area had (and still has) other issues.

7 thoughts on “Grid Bits: CTA modifies Red South plan, hearing Tuesday; bike crashes at intersections”

  1. Told of the complaints about Halsted and Chicago, city transportation
    officials say that the yellow lights there — as well as all others in
    the city — are set according to federal standards based on the speed
    limit and that changing them would open up the city to lawsuits in the
    event of crashes.”

    Crashes are happening NOW. Why aren’t they concerned about it NOW? Is somebody taking CDOT (or whoever is responsible) to task for this effing ridiculous excuse?

    1. The city is always at risk to lawsuits. The city is losing the lawsuits against it for the metal grate bridges, and for good reason: it knows they are dangerous and elects to do nothing about them.
      Their response could be interpreted as an admission that the federal standards are *wrong* and they should be changed. How so? The standards are based on the posted speed limit for that area, which are not always the practiced speed limit. The standard, at least how it is programmed in Chicago, also doesn’t take into account slower users (people cycling) who cannot pass through an intersection in the programmed amount of yellow phase time.
      The city has a working (at least in my view) complaint system to mitigate bad taxi drivers. It also has a complaint system to repay drivers whose cars have been damaged by low quality city roads. Perhaps each of these can be taken advantage of (at least the roads part): people who bike can start filing complaints that deal with all kinds of road deficiencies. (I’m reminded of these complaint mechanisms because I received a thank you letter in the mail today for helping the city achieve its “goal of 100% clean and safe taxis and 100% courteous and safe taxi drivers”.)

  2. The Sun-Times also ran a piece today about pedestrian/car collisions:

    I found this tidbit regarding last month’s pedestrian death at Chicago/Milwaukee a little disturbing:
    —Last month alone, 11 pedestrians died in crashes citywide — an unusually high number given that there have been fewer than 35 pedestrians a year killed in crashes throughout the city in the past three years.Among them was Eric J. Kerestes, 30, an engineer and University of Chicago business school graduate student who died the morning of Aug. 14 after an out-of-control taxicab struck him as he waited for a bus near Chicago and Milwaukee.The taxi, which seriously injured two other pedestrians, had no mechanical defects, police have found. But officers from the Major Accidents Investigation Unit have acknowledged “vehicles may malfunction for a split second,” police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton says. No charges have been filed.—-No mechanical defects found, but “vehicles may malfunction for a split second”? Has anyone else heard of this phenomenon? Sounds like a great excuse to shirk responsibility for any collision. It wasn’t me, it was the car! Yikes.

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