Grid Bits: Pace increases bus frequency on Stevenson and other transit news


The Morgan Street Green/Pink Line station will be open in May, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation. This photo was taken April 2, 2012, by Jeff Zoline, a frequent photo contributor.

There are 8 transit stories in this post (1 for Pace, 2 for Metra, 4 for CTA, and one story about how transit users save money because they’re not driving to work). Hat tips to CTA Tattler and Riders for Better Transit for keeping up with transit news in Chicagoland.

1. Pace yesterday began putting more buses on routes 755 and 855, both of which can drive on the shoulders of I-55/Stevenson Expressway during rush hour periods when traffic is moving slower than 35 MPH. They’re doing this because of increased demand for a route that’s seen its reliability improved and travel time decreased. There’s no word yet on the status of running buses on the shoulder of I-90/Jane Addams Memorial Tollway.

2. People who take transit to work instead of driving save $1,006 per month because of the cost of gas, insurance, parking, and other expenses. This is actually just a monthly calculation the American Public Transport Association releases. See the savings in the top 20 cities on the APTA’s website (via Chicago Sun-Times).

3. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) will be replacing tracks on the elevated loop structure as well as switching and signal equipment at Tower 18, the junction of 5 routes (Brown, Orange, Pink, Green, Purple) at Lake Street and Wells Street. The work will require weekend closures in the summer (via Chicago Sun-Times). As always, stay connected with CTA and visit their website before traveling in the Loop on weekends.


A Metra Electric train (with the older series Highliner cars) sits on the tracks next to a South Shore train at the 55th-56th-57th Streets station in Hyde Park. Photo by Eric Pancer. 

4. Metra will receive new passenger cars on the Metra Electric line. The first cars will arrive in September for testing with six new cars per month arriving beginning in November. Half of the cars will be manufactured in Japan by Nippon Sharyo and the second half will be made in Rochelle, Illinois: “The first car that they build from scratch in the Rochelle plant they’re actually going to send back to Japan to make sure everything was done 100 percent the way they intended it to be” (via CBS Chicago).

5. Metra’s on-time performance has improved, including over some periods when the figures were artificially inflated (because of a weak reporting formula they developed). The Heritage Corridor, previously the worst performing line, has seen better performance because of finished track work and collaboration with Canadian National, the line’s track owner, to reduce freight train interference (via Chicago Tribune). Freight train interference is a top cause of delays on Metra, and there are only two lines without it: Metra Electric and UP-North.


The CTA is looking for an organization to sponsor the holiday train. Photo by Michelle Reitman. 

6. The CTA and its partner, IMG World, are seeking sponsors for several of the transit agency’s more notable events and services: Holiday train, Bus Tracker, Train Tracker, penny rides on New Year’s Eve, and free rides for Chicago Public School students on the first day of class. What I like about the partnership is that IMG World won’t be compensated until “sponsorships are secured and approved by the Chicago Transit Board” (via CTA press release). If your company would like to sponsor one of these, you can view the RFPs.

7. The CTA issued a press release indicating that it had the highest annual ridership since 1991. Congratulations! But 2011, while higher than 2010 by 15 million rides, saw 9 million fewer rides than in 1991. The CTA listed several projects it believes helped generate the increase: more station cameras, Train Tracker, bus tracker LED signs at bus stops, and the Station Renewal program.

8. The CTA Morgan Street Green/Pink Line station (over Lake Street) will be opening in May and the Chicago Journal explores the stations that used to be here (which opened in 1893), and at Halsted Street, Racine Avenue, and Loomis Avenue. Additionally, they discuss the station that used to be at Cermak Road between State Street and Wabash Avenue. This story should help us understand that once stations are closed and removed, it’s difficult to get replacements, even decades letter.

21 thoughts on “Grid Bits: Pace increases bus frequency on Stevenson and other transit news”

  1. The numbers on #2 are deliberately inflated, to the point of being ridiculous.  They’re basically assuming someone buys a new car, finances it, pays for parking in an expensive neighborhood *and* parking in the loop.  The only people I know that regularly park in the loop can easily afford it or aren’t paying for it (ie company comped parking, alderman, etc).

    The problem is that the $1006 number is so inflated that it ends up hurting rather than helping the point.  They should break that number down into its components, it would hit home a lot better for people to see all the numbers involved so that rather than just say “pfft, inflated number from a buncha transit dorks”, they say “okay, $1006 *is* too high, but damn, my number is still $750!”

    1. I’ve heard that $1,000 plus number before and it just isn’t believable.  I doubt most people even pay anywhere near that per month to operate a car, let alone simply drive to work.

      1. Now that I look at the link more closely the figure is assuming you give up a car entirely, not just give up driving to work.

    2. Agreed. Such numbers are absurd, and they’re based on a very purposeful translation of numbers. My own personal cost if I chose to drive to work would be nothing close to that number.

      First of all, I would own a car regardless of whether or not I drive to work, because I have family living in places very inconvenient to get to via bus or plane. I never buy a new car. If you want to base my spending on the purchase of the car itself, based on my spending the last five years or so, it boils down to about $100/month, for what is currently a 10-year-old Honda Civic. (I drive cars until they die with no expectation of having them retain any value, so there’s no need for shady math involving depreciation. The money I spend to buy a car is spent.) Insurance adds another $100. Parking at my home costs $30. (Though I could park on the street for free if I wanted.) Over the last five years, I’ve averaged about $100/month on maintenance. That’s $330 I’m going to spend regardless of whether I drive to work … which I don’t. If I did, though, I could get parking at my workplace near downtown for $72/month. My workplace is almost exactly five miles away from my home, which with my average city gas mileage would cost me around $27, at $4/gal. That means driving to work would add only $99 per month, bringing my total monthly cost to $429.

      I bike to work, which is free. If I took CTA, I would have the cost of a Chicago Card, which I think is $86. That means in this case, if I owned a car solely to drive to work, I would save $343, I get a lot more out of my car than going to work, though, so I would only count the $99 extra I’d have to spend to drive to work. Biking instead of driving saves me $99. Taking CTA instead of driving would save me $13.

    3. When they moved our office from the Loop to the hellhole that is Northfield I calculated that my drive there would cost me about $125/month due to gas costs and increased insurance. My two-train one bus trip to that worthless place was $65 and I got to read, sleep, play games or stare out the window. Infinitely better than driving the godamned Edens.

      1. It’s a different kind of stress to drive too and more dangerous to be a passenger in a car than a train. There are a lot of costs associated with driving a car that people do not often consider.

    4. I like your idea of making a kind of calculator for people to enter their own figures and get an accurate savings for them.
      But the $1,006 result is based on data that AAA collects, so their data needs to be solid before the APTA’s data can be reliable. But who out there who drives to work every day knows their own cost of driving? I predict that any number they enter into said calculator would simply be their own estimate.

      1. A calculator could be put together that gets pretty close without asking people to estimate too much.  ie, what’s your monthly car payment, what’s your monthly parking cost, what is your one-way commute, what class of car do you drive, compact/midsize/tank SUV (to get an average mpg instead of asking the user to estimate it).

      2. There already exists such a calculator. I can’t remember where it is, but practically everyone in the alt-trans blogosphere was linking to it during the previous gas price crisis a few years ago.

  2. Regarding #1: Pace and Metra are currently engaged in some preliminary planning discussions with the Tollway over how to accommodate some type of transit service (to be determined) in the I-90 Jane Addams tollway corridor. I do not believe transit service will happen until after the tollway reconstructs the Jane Addams in the next few years.

      1. The tollway will be expanding its right-of-way to accommodate the additional fourth lane in each direction plus a transit corridor. The discussion is centered on having a median reserved for transit with enough room to accommodate a possible center platform. This would be useful for BRT, light rail or the Metra STAR Line.

        Thanks for the shout out. I appreciate it.

        1. Ah, the Metra STAR Line. My fingers are still crossed. I’m as much excited as Metra operating DMUs as I am about them providing a service that links up its spokes.

    1. I was too much in a hurry to read the on-time performance of the other train lines.
      It might be a decent exercise to compare the performance of UP-operated trains versus BNSF operated trains. It might tell how well the freight RR treats Metra trains over how it treats the freight trains it also operates.

  3. High gas prices and the economy generated the extra riders on CTA, not CTA tweaks. All those projects listed by CTA are excellent improvements but CTA should be careful not to operate using the logical fallacy, afterwards-therefore-because.


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