Talking transportation with 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett Jr.


Alderman Burnett with John

[This piece also runs on the website Gapers Block.]

This is the first of a series of interviews I hope to conduct with all fifty Chicago aldermen about walking, biking and transit issues in their wards. As “mini mayors,” these City Council representatives have a huge influence on the kinds of projects that are built in their districts.

For example, a handful of aldermen have opted to use menu money discretionary funds to stripe additional bicycle lanes in their wards or to bankroll innovative transportation projects, like the Albany Home Zone traffic-calmed block in Logan Square. On the other hand, they can stand in the way of progress, like when former 50th Ward Alderman Berny Stone vetoed a bike bridge on the North Shore Channel Trail in West Rogers Park. Continue reading Talking transportation with 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett Jr.

Metra’s storm delays and on-time performance reporting

Storm-related delays affect the three Union Pacific (UP) routes more than the other routes because of UP’s stricter rules. The Chicago Tribune reports that UP will be letting up on this rule just a tad.


A taxi driver rolls through a flooded viaduct at Montrose and Ravenswood, under the UP-North tracks, in August 2007. Photo by Andre Alforque.

In the same article, the Tribune lets readers know how instrumental it was in encouraging Metra to changes its on-time performance reporting. Before, Metra would produce a systemwide average, but that ignored some lines and runs that had performance ratings a full standard deviation away!

Open discussion: What suggestions do you have for bikes on trains?

Update: Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) blogged a new report about this connection. I haven’t read it yet, though. 

I am passionate about the nexus of bicycling and transit, and I’ve written often on Steven Can Plan about how bikes are stored on trains in the United States and around the world. When I travel, I look at this relationship closely.


Bikes on the subway in Seoul, South Korea. Photographer unknown. 

Recently I’ve had several discussions with people (the latest while volunteering at Pitchfork Festival in early July 2011) about getting bikes on the South Shore Line that goes to Indiana. What I’ve learned is that it will probably take an act of legislation to make this happen, as well as a reconfiguration of the trains. This is what forced Metra to change its policies, but they caved before the legislation passed. Continue reading Open discussion: What suggestions do you have for bikes on trains?

Bombardier building 706 rail cars for CTA and Congress’s view of transit

Bombardier, of Montréal, Québec, announced via a press release on its website Wednesday, July 20, 2011, that the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), has exercised an option in its contract for the 5000-series rail cars that expands the number of cars on order by 300, to 706 cars.


You may have seen the CTA testing its new train cars – at least one of the cars is painted like in the photo above. The first of the incoming new cars will be used on the Blue Line. Photo by Jeff Zoline. 

According to the CTA’s first press release about ordering these trains in 2006, 200 cars were initially ordered, then another 206, and now the final 300 cars available in the original contract.

This announcement will no doubt bring unwarranted criticism against the CTA, centering around the CTA’s budget and how the agency must cut service and raise fares to stay operational. “If the CTA has $933 million to pay for new train cars, how come it doesn’t have money to run a bus route past 7 PM?”

Continue reading Bombardier building 706 rail cars for CTA and Congress’s view of transit

Advantages of paid area bike parking at transit stations

John and I met on Monday at the Harold Washington Library winter garden to talk about the Grid website design after our live radio interview on Vocalo. You’ll see some design changes in the coming weeks and months.

We then got to discussing bike parking. John and I essentially performed the same work at the Chicago Department of Transportation, arranging for the installation of bike racks, but several years apart.


Photo of bike racks at the Logan Square Blue Line subway station by Brian Vargas. 

I told him that I was never convinced that there existed a conclusive advantage over whether to install bike racks inside the paid area of Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) train stations, or in the unpaid area. He was adamant that the paid area was better, but I disagreed.  Continue reading Advantages of paid area bike parking at transit stations

Transit reform really just transit features


Riders on this bus will have access to new, to the region, features that make taking transit more convenient and pleasurable. Photo by Eric Pancer.

Governor Quinn’s office issued a press release last Thursday calling House Bill 3597 “major transit reform legislation.”

What he signed into law today was not reform, but a package of new, “cool” features that the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra, and Pace – collectively called the service boards – are now required by law to implement.

This post is a summary of the legislation he signed today. Analysis of the universal fare system will be published later on Grid.

Continue reading Transit reform really just transit features