Today’s Headlines for Friday, August 28

  • Kendall County’s Dream of Metra Service Is “100s of Millions of Dollars Away” (Tribune)
  • Gold Line Would Bring Better Transit Access to South Lakefront (Active Trans)
  • Developer Pays $56K to Have Divvy Station Installed Outside S. Loop Buildings (Tribune)
  • CDOT Is Removing Hyde Park’s Only Red Light Cams, at 57th & Cornell (DNA)
  • Low Gas Prices Will Likely Lead to Heaviest Labor Day Traffic in 7 Years (Tribune)
  • Skyway Workers May Go on Strike on September 3 (Crain’s)
  • Suspect Charged With Murder After High-Speed Police Chase Ends in Fatal Crash (Tribune)
  • TOD Not Needed to Make Affordable Units “Feasible” for Jeff Park Project After All (DNA)
  • A Map of Rent Changes Along CTA Lines (Chicagoist)
  • New Hotel in Wicker Park’s Coyote Building Will Have Almost No Parking (DNA)
  • How Burke Engineering Got One-Third of Their Employees to Start Bike Commuting (TFA)
  • Limited Service on Green & Pink Lines Tomorrow Due to Bridge Work (DNA)

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  • Is there any government group that sets their sights lower on what it can accomplish than Metra? Besides being totally hands-off on land use issues surrounding stations, they seem to resent their own existence. Even when they do expand, it’s so modest it hardly increases Metra’s relevance (i.e. the North Central line). All Metra seems to want to do is provide weekday, forward-commuting service for affluent communities.

    Look at what Pace is doing. Considering they have a much harder job (i still don’t know that suburban bus service can ever truly work), they have been much more aggressive at innovating how they provide service.

  • Metra needs a management and philosophy update. One massive improvement that would be easy to implement is Proof-of-Payment. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proof-of-payment

    First thing would be to Install the Ticket Machines in every station and make sure the Terminals have enough to handle rush hour. Then transform conductors into “fare inspectors”. No longer would you need 2+ conductors per train instead maintaining a small group of inspectors that would pay for themselves if not make a profit. This would be accomplished through raising the penalty fare to something more fitting, $50-$100 sounds like a good start.

    Even if that doesn’t happen at least we have the upcoming Ventra app.

  • duppie

    I have been testing the Ventra app for the last two weeks and it is pretty neat: Skip lines at the station, user friendly interface (unlike the machines or the ticket agents), useful trip tools. Main negative is that it won’t allow for CTA fare payments from within the app until sometime next year at the earliest.

  • david vartanoff

    More important, Metra needs to integrate fares w/CTA so that any CTA pass holder has access to all Metra service within CTA’s territory at no surcharge. The Active Trans “Gold Line” (better known as the Gray Line Project–http://www.grayline.20m.com/–) should be the first phase of installing the TVMs and going POP. The ROW has the capacity to restore the dense service patterns of40 years ago. The major impediment is Metra inertia.

  • Thanks you answered my question of was if the Gold line was what has been called the Gray Line for quite a while. I guess they hope by upgrading the name they can also upgrade the chances of it happening, eh?

  • david vartanoff

    As a onetime resident of South Shore and IllinoisCentral Electric commuter to a job in the Loop, I am appalled at the underuse of the South Chicago Branch and the mainline local stations down to Kensington. Metra owns the trackage thus there is no “host RR” constraint on scheduling, yet service is the uselass once an hour. Sadly this has meant ridership is abysmal–fewer riders in a full day than used to board at Bryn Mawr for a single rush hour train. On my last visit to the ‘hood 2 years ago, many of the SB riders in rush hour were heading for the parking lot at the South Chicago terminal. Which, of course points to another part of the Gray Line idea–service to Hegewisch on theSouth Shore–far cheaper than extending the Red Line to the 130th Street area.. FWIW, early 1950s South Shore Line TTs showed 4 local stops between Kensington and Hegewisch so really we talking restoration. Similar Rock Island and C&WI timetables of that era included more stops within Chicago. C&WI gave up completely in 1963–I rode the last SB train– but vestiges of the route remain.

  • duppie

    I don’t agree with the no surcharge opinion. Despite all it’s shortcomings Metra is a much faster option than CTA. That can and should command a price premium.

  • The kind of people who want to live in Kendall County assuredly do NOT want density of any meaningful sort. They want to move far enough from the city for spread-out, wide-lawn, large-lot, big-house living to be cheap enough for them to afford (while discounting or ignoring the costs of transportation to get there, or to get their life basics done while living there).

  • Only if service moves to 10min headways. If you have to wait 45-180 minutes for the next train, there’s no reason to pay extra for “speed”.

  • david vartanoff

    So all of the riders one way or another are taxpayers–irs, sales, real estate either directly or via rent, and as we both know, without tax derived subsidy no public transit would exist. That said, should fares be designed to encourage ridership (reduce GHG/traffic congestion etc) or discourage ridership by charging higher fares?
    For comparison, the times NB in AM Rush from Bryn Mawr to Van Buren are within 2 minutes of the J14 Jeffery Jump (interpolated time at 71st) to Madison & Wabash which I would call “in the noise.” So, why should a resident of South Shore pay extra to use the train?
    Historically the 5 Jeffery local in the early 50s emptied out to the IC for a faster trip to the Loop. CTA invented the 5X Jeffery Express to serve that market. Ridership on the IC melted away over the dacades as the higher fares and lack of transfers to other transit made it less useful for non Loop jobs.
    Bottom line, Metra owns the ROW which is underutilized. What should they do to make better use of the asset? How does surcharging/discouraging ridership benefit anyone?

  • So how interesting would it be for metra to consider investing in a long term funding if Kendall County demonstrated an appropriate land use plan?
    I’d like to see metra tell suburbs they’re going to increase service to areas that make land use decisions that would increase ridership.

  • R.A. Stewart

    That would make a lot of sense.

    I realize that, in Illinois, “would make a lot of sense” = “will be done when pigs fly,” but still.

  • I am a fan of the idea since hearing of it a few years back. I so agree with you.