CTA needs to tackle efficiency before adding service

September 10, 2012|By Tracy Swartz, @tracyswartz | RedEye

Wednesday may be doomsday for some CTA riders.

The CTA board is expected to vote Wednesday morning on the agency's proposed "decrowding" initiative—which would add more trains and buses to some lines, at the expense of more than a dozen bus routes that are up for elimination because they have low ridership or duplicate service.

At the hearing last week, which drew more than 100 CTA riders, the CTA revealed the details of how it plans to increase rail service. But perhaps the CTA doesn't need more buses and trains to reduce crowds—it just needs to fix train and bus bunching and the gaps between service.

Under the CTA's proposal, three trips will be added on the Blue Line, two trips will be added on the Brown and Red lines and one trip will be added on the Purple, Orange and Green lines during morning rush hour.

For evening rush hour, the Red Line will see three additional trips while the Blue, Purple, Orange and Green lines will see one more trip. The Brown Line will not see a change.

The CTA plan for the Brown Line seems to contradict its decrowding mission because the agency is not adding extra trains at night but it is encouraging No. 11 Lincoln Avenue riders to take the Brown Line. The agency wants to split the No. 11 bus into two routes and eliminate service between Western and Fullerton avenues.

The CTA says the Brown Line will suffice for the 2,500 weekday No. 11 riders who ride between Western and Fullerton. (The route sees 5,500 riders overall each weekday.)

But by adding No. 11 riders to the Brown Line and not adding extra train service at night, it seems like there will be more crowds on the Brown Line, not less.

During its presentation at last week's hearing, the CTA also illustrated how it plans to reduce crowds on buses.

One example: On the No. 8 Halsted bus, which runs between Lakeview and Auburn Gresham, frequency of service is expected to improve from 5 1/2 minutes to 4 1/2 minutes at 8 a.m. Bus loads at this time would be reduced from 54 riders to 48, the CTA said.

But instead of adding more buses to decrease the gaps in service, perhaps the CTA should work on spacing out its current fleet. Bus bunching (when buses arrive in twos after a long gap of service) is a longtime practice in Chicago.

The CTA met its goals in June for bus bunching but not for large gaps in bus service, which have been increasing since February, according to CTA performance reports.

Meanwhile, on the rail side, May and June each saw 125 rail delays of 10 minutes or more, up from 77 of these delays in April. Rail delays can range from signal problems to a sick rider.

Perhaps before the CTA decides to add service, it should work on improving the consistency of its current service.

A new beginning for the end

The CTA is hosting public meetings this week about overhauling the 95th Street Red Line station. The meetings will be held 5-7 p.m. Tuesday at Harlan High School, 9652 S. Michigan Ave.; and 6-8 p.m. Thursday at Palmer Park, 201 E. 111th St.

Stationary

A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note

This week: 54th/Cermak Pink Line

End-of-the-line stations are an integral part of linking the city to the suburbs, and the 54th/Cermak station in Cicero provides a seamless transition with its amenities. The stop is clean inside the stationhouse and outside on the tracks and has shelter to wait for connecting buses, an ATM and soda machine and ample bike parking. If only CTA riders didn't have to leave the city to get such great service.

Next up: Pulaski Pink Line.

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