Red-Purple Modernization

Referencing Cecil’s column, mainly part 2.

So, Cecil. I enjoyed hearing you weigh in on the Red-Purple Modernization project (although that was a questionable choice encoding those images in JPEG; they have some artifacts large enough to drive a truck through). I have a couple questions, though.

[ul]
[li]You promised “more on” your idea of why having Evanston trains call at Bryn Mawr is a key component to your plan, but later in the article you brushed that away as “minutia[e]”. Why’s Bryn Mawr so important? Crosstown bus, maybe? If so, why the 84 over the 92 (Berwyn), say?[/li][li]Turning trains efficiently on the disused incline south of Roosevelt would pretty much require a new interlocking. Take a look at the track map; there’s no easy way to do it without getting in the way of southbound Green Line trains.[/li][li]Given this, if a station at 18th or Cermak ends up not being feasible, wouldn’t it be a reasonable option to have southbound Evanston trains use that incline, but go all the way to 35th and terminate there? They could use the center track just south of that station to turn, much like short-turned Blue Line trains do currently at UIC during rush hour.[/li][li]What with all this hullabaloo, why doesn’t the RPM seem to include anything about ten-car service on the Red Line? It’s something I’ve heard mentioned in the past, but doesn’t seem on the table for this project.[/li][/ul]
Hopefully come 2016 or thereabouts we’ll actually see some fruits of all this planning and discussion. Of course, no telling if I’ll still be a North Sider then (I’m in Edgewater now, so this project would affect me significantly if I’m here when/if it gets off the ground), but if the North Side is to experience much more growth, it has to have some better transit infrastructure in place, that’s for sure.

Having spent the week getting the CTA straightened out, the Master has gone back to working on the environment, specifically the prospects for wind technology (seriously - this job is never dull), so has asked me to respond. BTW, we switched the JPEGs to GIFs; I agree it looks a lot better.

[quote]

[li]You promised “more on” your idea of why having Evanston trains call at Bryn Mawr is a key component to your plan, but later in the article you brushed that away as “minutia[e]”. Why’s Bryn Mawr so important? Crosstown bus, maybe? If so, why the 84 over the 92 (Berwyn), say?[/li][/quote]
It’s a little complicated. We had a long debate about this with the transit sachems. Cecil’s argument is that an express stop at Bryn Mawr (and probably also at Morse) makes for a more robust system that requires fewer people to transfer and allows for more slop in the schedule. Making everybody transfer at Wilson requires more precision (the local and express trains have to arrive simultaneously) and in addition, the locals have to be held for a minute or so after the expresses leave to keep the trains evenly spaced. This assumes no stops close, as seems likely. If some stops are consolidated (few would dispute that they’re too close together), that changes matters and the boss would have to refigure.

[quote]
[li]Turning trains efficiently on the disused incline south of Roosevelt would pretty much require a new interlocking. Take a look at the track map; there’s no easy way to do it without getting in the way of southbound Green Line trains.[/li][/quote]
If you look at Google Maps there’s enough room - none of the transit sachems argued about it, anyway - but we don’t dispute that it would be ugly operationally.

[quote]
[li]Given this, if a station at 18th or Cermak ends up not being feasible, wouldn’t it be a reasonable option to have southbound Evanston trains use that incline, but go all the way to 35th and terminate there? They could use the center track just south of that station to turn, much like short-turned Blue Line trains do currently at UIC during rush hour.[/li][/quote]
You could do lots of things, but Cermak has the advantage of being (a) in a redeveloping area (b) reasonably close to McCormick Place © with plenty of space in the immediate vicinity for the necessary layup tracks, so land acquisition costs would be low, and (d) the station would be built from scratch and thus could have double island platforms, allowing Purple Line trains to lay up on berthing tracks in the middle while Green Line trains passed them on the outside tracks. (This involves less switching than the improvised UIC turnaround.) The farther south you go, the longer the run, the more trains and crews you need, etc.

We asked about that. They certainly expect to allow room for expansion to 10-car platforms - this was done at Belmont and Fullerton. One of the reasons to realign the tracks at Sheridan, a major project, is to allow for a 10-car platform. We didn’t get a real good answer on why they weren’t going to bite the bullet and do 10-car trains now. Yard capacity may be an issue, but if they extend the Red Line to 130th, as everyone apparently now agrees they should, that problem goes away because a new yard will be built there.

Rahm seems to be on fire to get this going and is just the guy to shake some money loose; it’s a question of agreeing on what to do. We sent a long letter explaining this to the CTA and I’d say it’s even money they’ll come around. Crowding is getting to be a problem on the Red Line again; you may have seen that they’re experimentally starting a southbound train at Addison in the morning.

The thing about this plan that has me scratching my head is the idea of closing the Lawrence stop on the Red Line. I understand the reasoning to eliminate Jarvis and Thorndale but I don’t get why they want to take out Lawrence. Surely there is a decent amount of traffic through there what with the Lawrence bus connection and local music venues like the Aragon and Riveria as well as the number of people who live in the area. As Uptown finally seems poised to begin gentrification I see this as a very odd decision.

The problem is that the stops at Wilson (4600N), Lawrence (4800N), and Argyle (5000N) are only a quarter-mile part. Even in a densely populated parts of town like Edgewater and Uptown, I think most people would agree a station every half mile is plenty. The question is which ones to consolidate. Lawrence has no station house so presumably that’s why it was chosen. However, it’s on a busy bus route and draws more passengers than Argyle (1.1 million annually vs. 875K), so it’s a dubious choice. Argyle on the other hand has a strong local business constituency. There’s an argument to be made for centering a single station on Ainslie with entrances off Argyle and Lawrence (a lot of the stations on the Forest Park branch of the Blue Line are laid out that way); whether that could be made to fly politically I don’t know.

What is wrong with letting a high-density population access a rail transit line at convenient locations? A compromise like Ainslie, or closing well-used stops, just makes transit less convenient and less relevant to nearby residents, and reduces usage to trips such as downtown journeys-to-work that are expensive or inconvenient to make any other way. It’s particularly silly to argue for eliminating stops to speed up throughput on a facility that has the capacity for limited and express service.

Can I hijack this and ask is there any serious discussion about a non-stop from O’Hare to downtown?

I assume that this has been a political non-starter since the CTA pulled out of Block 37.

I’m just saying there’s an argument to be made for consolidation. I don’t say it’s a particularly strong argument. Jarvis is the least used of the Howard branch stops that were proposed for closing, and there’s zero chance of that happening, so I’d say there’s very little likelihood any other north side stop will close. I agree an improved express service would reduce travel times and is a much easier sell politically. The CTA is going to have to pick its battles - the realignment of the Sheridan/Irving Park stop will be controversial once people realize how much land acquisition is involved.

The O’Hare nonstop was misbegotten from the outset. The expense far outweighed any possible benefit, considering the narrow potential market. I can see an argument for a limited with a few intermediate stops someday, but I have to think 70 MPH operation for all trains in the Kennedy would give you a comparable speed benefit. (The upper crust would still have to mingle with the proletariat, of course.) Connecting the Red and Blue lines downtown is an interesting notion, although I think the way the Block 37 connector is laid out is awkward.

I bet if their model had the purple line go on the red line tracks before the brown line crossover north of belmont and then skip wellington and diversity and then merge back AFTER Armitage, the purple will get into the loop nearly 10 minutes sooner (that is my guess). But, there is an added bonus of not having to stop southbound brown trains north of belmont.

Back in 1991-93 I lived in Evanston and worked on the museum campus. So I need to go from Main (on the Purple line) to Adams or Jackson. I would switch at Belmont every day, both ways, to take advantage of the shorter leg of each line (Purple north of Belmont, Red south to Jackson).

My complaint at the time was that the last Evanston Express train left Belmont too early – at least once a week I would arrive at Belmont to see the last Express pulling out of the station, leading me to sit on the Red train all the way up to Howard for every. damn. stop.

The sachems’ goal, which I heartily support, is to have the Purple Line Express run all day, with the Howard-Linden shuttle just for early in the morning and late at night. Davis Street in particular has become a thriving entertainment and restaurant district, and undoubtedly would support much higher transit usage if the service were halfway decent. If the trains terminated at Cermak, you’d have had a reasonable walk to the museums from Roosevelt, which these days is a busy stop. And it would have been a one-seat ride.

No can do. The point of having Purple Line trains stop at Wellington, Diversey and Armitage (a practice that began in 1997) is to pick up the overflow when Red and Brown Line trains are full. In any case, as a rule of thumb, you save roughly a minute per skipped stop, so you’d pick up only three minutes by skipping these stops. The real time savings is using the subway instead of the elevated. The many curves on the latter slow things down and kill a good five minutes.

Well, maybe the big saving would straighten the curves at north avenue.

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