Chicago L station ridership (and inequity?)

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AmtrakMaineiac

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I thought there was a project to extend the Red Line further South to deal with some of these issues.

Sadly I think this is an issue in many cities in the US where less affluent areas get short thrift. For example Boston where they tore down the Orange Line elevated and replaced service in the Washington St. corridor with a glorified bus. Another example is the Blue Hill Ave section of Dorchester where a fast trolley line in the median of the street was torn up and replaced by a bus that is slowed by traffic. This bus route 28 is the busiest bus route in the city and is an obvious candidate for a light rail system in the median of the street separated from traffic. But not something being considered by the T.
 

me_little_me

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Those that most need good public transit have the lowest income, least political clout and generally come from minority-dominant areas. They also have the least representation in the transit system upper-level bureaucracy and decision-making/suggesting boards.
 
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I thought there was a project to extend the Red Line further South to deal with some of these issues.
Yes, there is. It'll extend from 95th St to 130th St.

Interestingly, the 95th St terminal was never intended to be the end of the line permanently and provisions were made on the I-57 (Dan Ryan Spur) for the el to continue running in the median along that route, but it's never happened (obviously).

I found the Edgewater/Englewood comparison slightly off: Edgewater is slightly closer to the loop than Englewood and is on the lake, hence their express bus routes run on LSD. I'm sort of mystified by the hour to the loop claim via the CTA as well, since the Red Line from Englewood should be pretty speedy (Englewood also has two L lines unlike Edgwater). Chatham, also mentioned in the article, is quite a bit further south.

Another inaccuracy is the bit about Metra fares - currently, as Tim posted the other day, there is a pilot program for lower fares, both on MED and the Rock Island which put in-city fares pretty much at CTA parity.
 

bratkinson

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It's a very slanted story, even to this non-Illinois resident.

It's noted that the trip to Englewood takes about an hour using the L and buses vs 30 minutes or so to northside destinations. Obviously, the writer never rode the L to some location and then waited and waited for a bus to finish the journey. On one of my trips to Chicago a couple years ago, from the State St subway to Howard St was, as I recall, about 20-25 minutes. Waited 10 minutes or so for the Skokie Swift to get me to Dempster St. and it's 5+ minute ride. Then another 20 minutes or so wait for a Dempster St. bus to take me about 15 blocks or so in 8-10 minutes. Of course, traveling during rush hour or during off peak times makes a difference as well.

The 'problem' as the writer sees it is 'discriminatory' issues facing lower income residents. Blaming the slower transit options on discrimination is a joke. The obvious issue is that with the exception of the 2 subways the entire L system was designed and mostly built over 100 years ago to effectively reach the population areas at that time! Yes, the various freeway median routes were built in the 80s and later largely replaced existing lines that were later abandoned. (Mayor Daley's (the 1st) visionary freeway plan in the '50s made it possible) And yes, the line extensions to O'hare and Midway airports came later. But that's where people want to go.

So was it discrimination that defined where the L went 100+ years ago? I strongly doubt it. And in the past 50+ years? Is the problem lack of 'visionary' leaders, lack of funding, or lack of political 'will'? I suggest it is a combination of all 3. Oh, and don't forget that the NIMBYs will do everything possible to stop ANY plans!
 

NorthShore

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The reality is that, unlike in many other cities where rebuilding transit networks has received investment, there hasn't been a ton of new start stuff in Chicago, especially over the last couple of decades. Add to this an absolute inability of Metra/Pace/CTA to work together and about the best that occurs is a struggle for repair and maintenance. CTA, itself, is a hodgepodge of inherited separate legacy systems. Surface systems are largely from Chicago Surface Lines (itself, a receivership operating institution for several bankrupt streetcar companies.) The north side express busses were from Chicago Motor Coach double decker buses (which is why they, traditionally, end near the lakefront to avoid viaducts.) The L was its own system, seriously rationed after CTA came into being and took it over from Chicago Rapid Transit.

These systems were, each, established to serve specific growing markets of their own day. With population and economic shifts over the years, things evolve. 40 years ago no one would have thought of lines along the Ravenswood/Brown Line as monied either. Though, it can be rightly argued that ready access to developed transit has a lot to do with regenrification of the area.

Part of the problem with the expressway median L lines is that they were developed with bus transfer riders in mind rather than walk-ins from the surrounding neighborhood. Even the Red Line extension has been called into question as to whether it really reaches the areas that need it.

Travel times are often related to transfers and state of repair. Right now, the Congress branch of the Blue Line (west down the expressway out of downtown) is painfully slow, akin to the Green Line in the early 90s. But "nicer" areas have experiened such challenges, also. Sometimes, once things are rebuilt up to speed, it attracts real estate investment in an area, pushing those who could only afford so much out.
 

cirdan

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Those that most need good public transit have the lowest income, least political clout and generally come from minority-dominant areas. They also have the least representation in the transit system upper-level bureaucracy and decision-making/suggesting boards.
I think actually it can sometimes be the other way around.

Areas with good public transit become desirable and eventually gentrify and this drives up the prices and forces poorer people out. There are plenty of examples of areas being totally transformed after being connected by light rail for example and this is often one of the driving forces behind light rail expansion.
 

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I think actually it can sometimes be the other way around.

Areas with good public transit become desirable and eventually gentrify and this drives up the prices and forces poorer people out. There are plenty of examples of areas being totally transformed after being connected by light rail for example and this is often one of the driving forces behind light rail expansion.
It is indeed an interesting conundrum. Jersey City is a prime example where the Hudson Bergen LRT system was built serving a somewhat downtrodden area. The result was that the area got entirely gentrified and I doubt if any of the original residents of the area live anywhere near there anymore since it is likely that they got comprehensively priced out of the area.

When the LRT was being built, the local residents opposed it as they saw it coming, but on the whole it has been a huge boon to Jersey City and Bayonne further south. The gentrification effect in Bayonne has been much subdued comparatively. So it is not a one size fits all kind of situation.,
 
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The poster child of how a neighborhood was negatively changed by transit access was Watts. When there was a streetcar network, Watts was pretty much at the center of it, however, when they were discontinued, Watts was far from easy access to the freeway network.

(actually, I just saw a link posted somewhere that people in San Diego who have cars [vs transit access] had access to 30x more jobs or something to that effect)

Even some areas with good transit access struggle - looking in your direction South Shore - sometimes struggle. It's got multiple express buses downtown as well as the South Chicago Branch of MED but still struggling, though that may be changing with the shift from the Obama Presidential Center getting it attention from investors. Plus a new grocery store.
 

NorthShore

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The example of South Shore really starts to bring some of these Chicago transit issues back into focus, especially concerning rail access.

Chicago is sort of legendary for perceived (or real) classicism, as represented by what you ride. Have money? You get to ride commuter rail. Poor? Take the bus!

Despite the South Shore ME/IC branch being more of a transit oriented operation, it's part of the commuter network at commuter fares. While the 14 Jeffrey Jump will get you downtown almost as fast, it's perceived as "poorer" service.

Of course, this leads to all the Grey (or do you say Gray or is it Gold?) Line proposals; perhaps none of which will ever prove practical.

And that leads back to the experiment with County subsided reduced fares for all on Metra Southland trains, to see if such creates equity, increased ridership, or perhaps even draws outside interest in redevelopment.
 
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Certainly on the south side, even taking Metra makes you look poor, you need a car or you haven't made it.

Interestingly, a lot of people aren't even aware of MED, even people who live a couple blocks from a station, will take the bus to the el.
 

NorthShore

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Certainly on the south side, even taking Metra makes you look poor, you need a car or you haven't made it.

Interestingly, a lot of people aren't even aware of MED, even people who live a couple blocks from a station, will take the bus to the el.
That's a far way from when University of Chicago students were told at orientation to take the I.C. or stick to the #6. No one in Hyde Park wanted to take the L, at that time, it seemed.

I once (for variety and timliness) took the expensive Coach USA shuttle from Midway to South Bend. Hardly anyone (all complaining about cost and discomfort) even knew South Shore existed as an option, especially to Michigan City.

Sounds like Metra has a marketing issue on the south side.
 
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That's a far way from when University of Chicago students were told at orientation to take the I.C. or stick to the #6. No one in Hyde Park wanted to take the L, at that time, it seemed.

I once (for variety and timliness) took the expensive Coach USA shuttle from Midway to South Bend. Hardly anyone (all complaining about cost and discomfort) even knew South Shore existed as an option, especially to Michigan City.

Sounds like Metra has a marketing issue on the south side.
I wasn't talking about U of C people*, but actual South Siders living down near Chicago State (not quite Pill Hill but adjacent, iirc). The other thing with the south side is that a lot of the professional or higher blue collar work for the City or industrial facilities, so the CTA and Metra do nothing for them (i.e. teachers for example).

*And then there are the U of C student who insist on taking the red or green lines even though the 6 is quicker and closer and are then shocked when they get mugged or worse. I think for a lot of them the 55 to Midway would be culture shock - I've seen jewelry sales tolerated, but as soon as an aldermanic canvasser got on the driver booted them right off.
 

AmtrakMaineiac

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Chicago is sort of legendary for perceived (or real) classicism, as represented by what you ride. Have money? You get to ride commuter rail. Poor? Take the bus!
I think that is true in some other cities also - Philadelphia comes to mind, where the subway/el and buses are for the poor and the Regional Rail for the better off. Some exceptions as I used to see some reverse commutes by city dwellers to suburban jobs but even that was limited as so few suburban workplaces are accessible by rail.
 

NorthShore

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I wasn't talking about U of C people*, but actual South Siders living down near Chicago State (not quite Pill Hill but adjacent, iirc). The other thing with the south side is that a lot of the professional or higher blue collar work for the City or industrial facilities, so the CTA and Metra do nothing for them (i.e. teachers for example).

*And then there are the U of C student who insist on taking the red or green lines even though the 6 is quicker and closer and are then shocked when they get mugged or worse. I think for a lot of them the 55 to Midway would be culture shock - I've seen jewelry sales tolerated, but as soon as an aldermanic canvasser got on the driver booted them right off.
I consider such, partly, historic economic in that area. Assuming the jobs they are going to from that area are/were even downtown (which, in effect it has to be to make Metra worthwhile.)

What's the comparison like from Hyde Park residents these (well, at least pre-covid) days?

As for students, I suspect they're just following whatever app is on their phone.
 
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A lot of people work all over - teaching jobs, for example, are wherever the school they get assigned to is, so that could be somewhere it would just take too long to get to by bus. And for people who work in industrial jobs across the southland, same situation. The south side is mainly low density anyways - for non-Chicagoans, it's essentially suburban, single-family houses interspersed with small apartment buildings, tending to denser along old streetcar lines, near industry like South Chicago for example or rail. Some areas, like Roseland, developed as exodus from Pullman before 1900, yet the area immediately north of it (North Roseland Heights) was built up in the 50's/60's. There was even a working farm on the SW side until about 1990.

A lot of Hyde Parkers are permanently WFH or at the University. A surprisingly large number of riders from HP stations drive and park near the stations. There are more professionals moving to East Hyde Park for the commute (and a smattering, which is growing, in South Shore, in addition to the Highlands, which has always been the secret bargain for professional classes - Jesse J Sr lives there). North and west of Hyde Park are heavily gentrifying - to the point that on one recent drive through Oakland, the only people we saw out were white pre-teen kids! And some of that area is not well served by rail - will improve when MED moves the 27th Street station to 31st, but there is a still a long area with no station and is not convenient to the L either.
 

neroden

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Add to this an absolute inability of Metra/Pace/CTA to work together
This is in many ways the biggest issue; a bunch of the "underserved by the CTA" areas have Metra lines running *right through them* but the Metra lines have overly expensive tickets and overly infrequent schedules. People have been campaigning to fix this particular inequity my *entire life*. And that *is* an inequity; Metra is notorious for favoring the outer suburbs at the expense of in-city riders. This seems to *finally* be changing *somewhat* but it's like pulling teeth to get Chicago and Cook County to cooperate on it, which is nuts.
 

joelkfla

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Metra is notorious for favoring the outer suburbs at the expense of in-city riders.
Isn't that what commuter rail is supposed to do?

I mean, commuter rail is designed to carry commuters into the city in the morning and back to the suburbs in the evening. Metros are designed to carry passengers from place to place within the city, or to close-in suburbs.

I know there's a movement to change the paradigm and have more frequent service on commuter systems at other times of day, but they're main purpose is still to carry passengers between the city and the suburbs. Slowing them down by adding stops within the city IMO would reduce their attractiveness and possibly reduce ridership.
 
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Some of the Metra lines are already so overcrowded* by the time they reach the City limits that they couldn't take on anymore passengers as it is. And they are adding "in-city" stations, however, I think those are going benefit people who reverse commute or work west of the river (looking at the Edgewater station that's under construction right now as an example - although that may pick up some who live close to the station or get their early enough to snag a parking space along with some arriving by bus) more than traditional commuters.

Although, of course, at the moment, with current crime and safety situation, as well as erratic bus service, on the CTA, they may pick up a lot of people fleeing the L.

*or were in the before times....
 

jis

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Isn't that what commuter rail is supposed to do?

I mean, commuter rail is designed to carry commuters into the city in the morning and back to the suburbs in the evening. Metros are designed to carry passengers from place to place within the city, or to close-in suburbs.

I know there's a movement to change the paradigm and have more frequent service on commuter systems at other times of day, but they're main purpose is still to carry passengers between the city and the suburbs. Slowing them down by adding stops within the city IMO would reduce their attractiveness and possibly reduce ridership.
In cities with more developed suburban rail service there is an ambient regular service throughout the day typically two to four trains per hour on most routes. The Rush Hour service inbound and outbound are overlaid on that. MNRR, LIRR and NJT, as well as many SEPTA lines operate that way. METRA, except a few lines, does not operate that way.

The inner zone fares tend to be steep in the US systems, unlike systems elsewhere. At least there is one level of service with fares comparable to the local Bus/Underground system in an integrated fare structure.

In typical American cities with underdeveloped service often the ambient all day bidirectional service is missing.

Those are the important factors once we get past arguing about the semantics of "Commuter" ;)
 
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In cities with more developed suburban rail service there is an ambient regular service throughout the day typically two to four trains per hour on most routes. The Rush Hour service inbound and outbound are overlaid on that. MNRR, LIRR and NJT, as well as many SEPTA lines operate that way. METRA, except a few lines, does not operate that way.

The inner zone fares tend to be steep in the US systems, unlike systems elsewhere. At least there is one level of service with fares comparable to the local Bus/Underground system in an integrated fare structure.

In typical American cities with underdeveloped service often the ambient all day bidirectional service is missing.

Those are the important factors once we get past arguing about the semantics of "Commuter" ;)
If money were no object, Chicago would be an ideal candidate for this. It's been proposed many times, if not in a solid package. But it would take a massive rebuilding of CUS with a full set of run through tracks and platforms (probably connecting to or eliminating Oglivy or at least with it's tracks) to do a regional network with RER/S-Bahn service outside of rush hour. The problem is the orphan lines that terminate at LaSalle St or MED which is better connected to the loop and CTA than CUS is. It would also really require electrification and lots of other upgrades, but certainly could be done.
 

neroden

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Isn't that what commuter rail is supposed to do?

I mean, commuter rail is designed to carry commuters into the city in the morning and back to the suburbs in the evening. Metros are designed to carry passengers from place to place within the city, or to close-in suburbs.

I know there's a movement to change the paradigm and have more frequent service on commuter systems at other times of day, but they're main purpose is still to carry passengers between the city and the suburbs. Slowing them down by adding stops within the city IMO would reduce their attractiveness and possibly reduce ridership.
This is putting ideology before reality.

The Metra Electric and Rock Island lines existed, first and foremost, to serve the many customers on the many in-city stations. Deciding to call them "commuter rail" and abuse the in-city customers to favor customers on the extreme branches was a *choice*, and an inequitable choice.

Similar lines in other parts of Chicago which existed before the collapse of private railroads got absorbed into the CTA. It was happenstance that these lines ended up in Metra. That happenstance should not screw over the customer base.

Illinois Central had better in-city service on the Electric line than Metra ever has had, and that's messed up. It's due to bigotry and bias in Metra management (whereas Illinois Central didn't care where their ticket revenue came from, and optimized for profit).

Also, final point which you might not know if you don't know Chicago: the Electric line is *quad tracked*. Good frequent low-priced service on the in-city stations wouldn't impact the outer-station expresses *at all*.

The Rock Island line is triple tracked near downtown and four-tracked through the major in-city South Side stations ("Beverly Branch" having the local stations, main line expressing), so again good service on the in-city stations wouldn't impact the outer-station expresses much.

*DESPITE THIS*, the in-city stations were given third-class or fourth-class treatment until very recently. The in-city stations were decrepit nightmares which Africa and Eastern Europe would have been embarassed by, while the outer suburban stations were Taj Mahals. There is still no frequent "turn up and go" service on the inner stations, *which there was when Illinois Central ran it*. The prices are still way too high compared to the CTA.

I realize the Chicago situation is a bit idiosyncratic and specific to Chicago. But it is really true that the treatment of South Siders on Metra until recently stunk of bias and classism.

You don't see anything similar in Philadelphia.
 
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jis

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If money were no object, Chicago would be an ideal candidate for this. It's been proposed many times, if not in a solid package. But it would take a massive rebuilding of CUS with a full set of run through tracks and platforms (probably connecting to or eliminating Oglivy or at least with it's tracks) to do a regional network with RER/S-Bahn service outside of rush hour. The problem is the orphan lines that terminate at LaSalle St or MED which is better connected to the loop and CTA than CUS is. It would also really require electrification and lots of other upgrades, but certainly could be done.
Although truth be told, you don't have to have run through the city to provide ambient service through out the day. The prime example is New York. Admittedly New York is a more curious case since Penn Station is not a terminal station, but for suburban services it behaves like one due to historical reasons. And well Grand Central is a terminal.

Among enormous suburban systems, Kolkata also comes to mind. Frequent service all over the place but little opportunity for through city center through service. The system is basically anchored in two giant terminal stations.

London other than Crossrail and City Thameslink also is mostly giant terminal oriented frequent ambient suburban service. They are trying hard to morph more into through service oriented system.
 
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Although truth be told, you don't have to have run through the city to provide ambient service through out the day. The prime example is New York. Admittedly New York is a more curious case since Penn Station is not a terminal station, but for suburban services it behaves like one due to historical reasons. And well Grand Central is a terminal.

Among enormous suburban systems, Kolkata also comes to mind. Frequent service all over the place but little opportunity for through city center through service. The system is basically anchored in two giant terminal stations.

London other than Crossrail and City Thameslink also is mostly giant terminal oriented frequent ambient suburban service. They are trying hard to morph more into through service oriented system.
True, you don't, but it helps (strangely I was picturing a city on the other end of the country which a peninsular geography rather than Kolkota). Through service means that trains don't have to reverse to go back out either back on another run or to the yard, particularly at rush hour. Metra's been griping about how slow PTC is to reboot when changing ends.
 

jis

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True, you don't, but it helps (strangely I was picturing a city on the other end of the country which a peninsular geography rather than Kolkota). Through service means that trains don't have to reverse to go back out either back on another run or to the yard, particularly at rush hour. Metra's been griping about how slow PTC is to reboot when changing ends.
Yes. Mumbai has Churchgate and CSMT (erstwhile Victoria Terminus. Both Termini. All trains simply reverse to become a reverse service, very few become deadheads. They at least run a service upto the last station before entry to the carshed.

Delhi has developed some through service, But the built from the ground up Metro system in Delhi plays more of the role of a subway and RER than the Indian Railways suburban service. And the two are not fare-integrated either.

In the Kolkata terminals when push comes to shove, they are able to turn an EMU to go back out within 5 minutes or so, and that is while replacing one standing room only service by another. If anything the passengers probably need more time to exchange places safely tha the train crew does, to turn the train. Normally though it is more like 10 minutes.
 
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