Today’s Headlines for Monday, August 24

  • Sun-Times Claims Ashland BRT is Dead, “For Good Reason,” Endorses O’Hare Express Boondoggle
  • RTA Hopes It Will Receive a Funding Bump, Rather Than a Cut, in the Coming Year (CBS)
  • Ex-CTA Chief Financial Officer Is Joining Claypool at Chicago Public Schools (Tribune)
  • Man Dies After Single-Car Crash in Lincoln Square (Sun-Times)
  • 7 Injured After CTA Bus & SUV Collide in Oak Park, Motorist Cited for Failure to Yield (Tribune)
  • Green Line Service Resumes After “Minor” Derailment Near 63rd/Ashland (Tribune)
  • RedFlex Stock Plummets After CEO Pleads Guilty to Corruption (The Newspaper)
  • Metra Will No Longer Assign a Gender to Monthly Passes to Prevent Fraud (Tribune)
  • CDOT Launches New Websites for Bike Rack & Abandoned Bike Removal Requests (Curbed)
  • Why Are Food Carts Legal in 23 of 25 Largest U.S. Cities But Not Chicago (Illinois Policy)
  • Hilarious Gripes About The Bloomingdale Trail on Yelp (DNA)
  • Public Hearing on the Removal of 2 NW Side Red Light Cameras This Wednesday (DNA)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Kevin M

    Car crash was in Lincoln Square, not Logan.

  • Dan Johnson

    It takes a special kind of transit advocacy blogger to call a transit expansion like O’Hare Express trains (likely built as part of expanded Metra service) a boondoggle. Our country, state and region should be investing roughly twice in capital alone what we’re currently investing. Sneering at top priority projects just because they aren’t CTA projects hurts that cause. Do you really think all the people who live around O’Hare shouldn’t get expanded transit service? Those are constituents we need to support greater transit investment. And do you miss the chance to connect O’Hare Express service to the underserved south side and south suburbs? Get on board the train, John.

  • ohsweetnothing

    Ashland BRT is dead “for good reason”…then proceeds to list several reasons why a project like Ashland BRT should be a go. Bravo Sun-Times.

  • ohsweetnothing

    The skepticism re: O’Hare Express is not because it isn’t a CTA project. It’s that there is already an O’Hare Express…the Blue Line.

    Honest question, because I don’t know the answer (although I have a hunch): Do other major cities have redundant rail service to their airports? A local rail and express rail?

  • Dan Johnson

    The Blue Line just isn’t an express train. It’s a nice service. But the smaller size of the train car, the lack of any place to put your luggage and the all-stop scheduling make it a cheap, convenient, non-express option.

    London certainly has express and local trains. And anything that we build for Metra/Amtrak-style large express trains also can offer local service as well. The upgraded tracks are the important part. With that asset built, we can serve lots of different constituencies with different price points — especially with upgraded tracks that connect to the existing Metra-owned / passenger-friendly freight network (like the Rock and the Metra Electric). That connection to the broader network makes this a game-changer.

  • There’s no way to put an express on the Blue Line tracks without paying exorbitantly for a pile of new construction whose costs will never be recouped even slightly by the new service.

    Why are people willing to spend eight times as much on an “O’Hare Express service” than on four BRT lines to help tens of thousands of Chicagoans every day boost their economic output?

  • RW

    I think the concern over an O’hare express is that in order to make it economically viable, fares would be need to be fairly steep. This would likely deter/prevent most of us from using it. High prices and low frequency (plus the need to connect to destinations downtown) would also prevent it from competing with cab/black car service for business people.

    It’s not that it wouldn’t be a nice amenity, rather that in the current fiscal environment it would benefit relatively few people/dollar spent. I know I’ve never taken the Heathrow Express when in London, due to price. Similarly, Vienna has both local and express airport service. The express train is more than 3X as expensive as the local, and having taken both I can say the express is usually empty compared to the local. It strikes me an express train to O’hare would meet the same fate.

  • London, Madrid, Tokyo, Copenhagen, Zürich, Manchester, and Paris (After the Arc Express is built) spring to mind as those that have Local and/or Express Mainline services along with Metro/Tram service.

    Might have missed one or two but it’s not a very long list.

  • I’m pretty sure an empty, elite service is exactly what people pushing for this want.

  • ohsweetnothing

    Your description of the Blue Line makes the O’Hare Express idea sound even more like what I think of it as: A luxury legacy project.

    Looking at a map of London’s rail network, I think there are quite a few more traits of theirs that we should be looking to emulate before we get to local/express airport service.

  • ohsweetnothing

    Thanks (seriously)! I’ve been to 3 of those cities and their local rail networks IN GENERAL blow Chicago’s away. I’d prefer we spend money there than focusing on express airport service.

  • Dan Johnson

    Yes, fares should be more expensive on premium, express service. Transit should emulate air travel and offer lots of different types of services with different price points. Planners and advocates should welcome that because it (a) allows for more capture of the driving market and (b) it helps build the case for capital investments that benefit all types of services (everyone uses the tracks, signal system and stations).

  • ohsweetnothing

    Personally, I don’t object to an express service in theory. But we have way too many other more important transit gaps that residents face everyday that we should be addressing before we get to whether we should be offering redundant service for travelers.

  • rohmen

    The Blue Line can get you from O’Hare to the Loop either faster or at least as quick as a Taxi can during rush hour periods (and during most times during the work day considering how bad the Kennedy is). Sure, fast is better, but the train is already a realistic alternative when compared to driving.

    I would be in favor of any additional lines that would help better connect the system outside the loop, as it’s really people in the north, west and south sides of the city—not the loop—that suffer from poor rail access to the airports. The last proposal I paid attention to, though, focused more on getting people from O’Hare to the loop super station super quick—and I just don’t see the need for it.

    Moreover, the luggage concern could also be addressed by adding one or two cars to trains which do allow for luggage storage.

  • RW

    Transit and air travel are completely different economic entities. Public transit is a public good, receiving public funds to support economic growth and accessibility in dense metropolitan areas. By design, it needs to be affordable to as many users as possible. Air travel is a for-profit enterprise run by corporations for the fiscal benefit of their shareholders (it can be debated whether air travel at this point should be considered a public good, but that’s a different issue).

    I disagree with you that limited public transit dollars should be spent to provide a premium service to a limited few. If market share could be captured without sacrificing changes to benefit the whole network, I would support it but thus far no one has presented math that suggests that’s possible. In terms of capital investment, how would investment in express tracks/stations benefit the rest of the system? In order to maintain express service the two would need to be discreet.

  • You lost me when you said I don’t support the O’Hare Express because it’s not a CTA project. According to the the city’s new aviation chief, it may well be a CTA project, although her absurd vision is for a “double-decker” Blue Line: http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/7/71/718291/new-aviation-chief-double-decker-blue-line-could-carry-express-train-to-ohare

  • Kevin M

    Yeah, I agree–that made no sense at all to me.

  • Kevin M

    I rode the Heathrow Express in April. Booking my ticket well in advance, I found the cost tolerable and value high (it is much faster–perahps 3Xs as fast–as taking the Underground subway).

    However, the Heathrow Express opened in 1998. Prior to that, London’s rail systems (subway, light-rail, heavy-rail) was vastly superior to Chicago’s current CTA and Metra systems. Pushing for airport express service in Chicago is like to buying a $300 tie for a $100 suit.

  • Dan Johnson

    Fair enough on the CTA point. But as for the larger point — sneering at a mayoral initiative to expand transit — don’t you see how you are making the perfect the enemy of the good?

  • Dan Johnson

    There is currently Metra service to O’Hare on the North Central line. That could be the path for high speed trains to O’Hare — which can then (and this is where things get really exciting for the everyday rider) continue on to serve the south side and south suburbs, offering one direct connection from the jobs in and around O’Hare to the people looking for work in the south side. Check out CrossRailChicago.org for details.

  • Dan Johnson

    Air travel is a public good receiving public funds. Who do you think builds those airports? And who pays for the FAA?

    To maintain our transit network, we need more volume in order to help pay for the capital costs of regular maintenance. If we upgrade tracks along Metra’s North Central, local service can use it as well.

  • Kevin M

    I’m a huge fan of CrossRailChicago. Unfortunately, at this time, the biggest noise coming out of city hall in favor of O’Hare Express service is in the context of using the CTA Blue Line tracks. Likely, they are reluctant to admit the huge waste of money that the Block 37 sub-station development was, so they’re sticking to a CTA-focused plan for now.

    If and when O’Hare express service changes context to CrossRailChicago, I’ll be a loud supporter.

  • Attrill

    Building an O’Hare Express line on top of the Blue line is an idea that has failed multiple times, and is likely to fail again. The expense of building the double lines on the Kennedy, combined with limits on service that the subway portion impose, make the project both ineffectual and cost prohibitive.

    What makes the idea even worse is that simply connecting the Metra MD-W and NCS lines with a station under O’hare would provide two Metra lines to use for express service. That would provide much more flexibility at a much lower cost. Using Metra would also provide better O’Hare rail service for suburban Metra passengers as well.

  • Dan Johnson

    Fair enough. But Commissioner Evans said she is in a deep dive until September to get a handle on what she thinks is the best way to get more rail to O’Hare. I don’t think any decision has been made on the plan yet. So let’s encourage her and the city to go for an investment that helps improve mobility for the whole region — and *not* call it a boondoggle in a pro-transit blog (especially when we don’t know what it is yet!)

  • FG

    Is there really enough demand for a premium express service to/from O’Hare to make the expenditures worth it? Wouldn’t increased Metra frequency fit the bill without a lot a construction beyond an improved station and shuttle extension at the airport itself to the station?

  • That’s why I said “on the Blue Line tracks.”

  • R.A. Stewart

    Of those, I’ve only been to London and Paris, and the visits to Paris were back when the local Latin was just starting to turn into French. Well, maybe not quite that long. But yeah, Paris, London, I’ll add Moscow though that was a long time ago too … just about any of what we like to think of as our peer cities leave Chicago in the dust where rail transit is concerned. Money spent on expanding it beyond the sparse skeleton we have now would be a sound investment. I’m not holding my breath.