99 Problems and the El Most Certainly is One

March 30, 2007

I wasn’t going to comment on this (as the current situation is so universally known), but it isn’t every day when ‘designed’lateral, left for dead in the depths of a Burmese opium den, reaches out to his fellow Saladeers and suggests a topic for discussion. Hopefully someday he’ll reach out for help as well. Anyway, back to the question at hand–(or really not. One of my worst lectures in college was devoted to what Freud meant by the word ‘question.’ Did he want an answer, or was it more along the lines of a rhetorical question. Such are the problems of making entire sessions about single sentences. Take this as a synecdoche for Deconstruction)–: the sorry state of the CTA Elevated. It’s even attracted the attention of the New York Times, which, as in the case of most of its national coverage, means it’s been in the news for some time, and thus, no longer new in any real sense of the term.

While the CTA’s North (and Northwest. See ibiteyoureyes for more information about ordinal directions) Side infrastructure has been crumbling for some time now (see reason one in this post) things are about to get a lot worse in Chicago.

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This is a picture of the Belmont stop of the El. It’s one of the busiest stops in the system, serving as the major connection point for the Brown line (the one with all the hipsters:

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), the Red Line (the system’s busiest), and the Purple Line (which offers much needed express service from Evanston to Lakeview-Downtown). Belmont has four tracks, all of which are regularly used by CTA trains. But as part of the Brown Line Capacity project, one of the tracks is about to be taken out (for two years!), reducing the total number of trains that can travel this busiest of intersections. The CTA likens this to road work, and has told people to avoid travelling during rush hours (of course! why didn’t I think of that! ibiteyourcommonsense!). Unfortunately, this will do absolutely nothing to mitigate the problem for commuters.

So what can be done? First, be smarter commuters. Check the CTA Status Page compiled by Tony Coppoletta, railfan extraordinaire; read CTA Tattler and the CTA transit group on Yahoo!; and try the “bus only” option at the RTA trip planner when deciding on your method of transport.

But, on a macro level, is there anything to be done?

1) Support the Chicago Olympics. Probably the only way for the CTA to get the money it needs to really fix the system.

2) Demand the resignation of the CTA Chairman. Better management always helps.

3) New taxes for transit. An unfortunate truth: trains need money to compete with highways, the most heavily subsidized mode of transport.

4) Prayer. Like snap, crackle, and pop, it makes the world go round.

And, more immediate solutions…

1) New express buses that run parallel to the Brown, Purple, and Red Line trains. A large expense, but the only way to make up for reduced capacity.

2) More detailed information about train status at CTA stations. Announcements of upcoming trains should be more frequent, along with comments about how full they are. This should eventually be replaced by electronic signs showing train arrivals, like in Paris.

3) De-link the Dan Ryan line from the North Side main line. The South Siders have already suffered enough lo these last few years, what with constant construction on the Dan Ryan branch. At least let half the red line run smoothly.

4) Work with Metra to increase routings on in-city runs. Will never happen.

5) Heliports! Sure they wont make up for Mayor Daley bulldozing Meigs Field in the middle of the night, but it’s a start.

And lastly…

6) Free Corn Salad for commuters!

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5 Responses to “99 Problems and the El Most Certainly is One”


  1. […] the same thing as the stop-light being out on main street. We’ve even talked about it here. Amazingly, the El runs just as slowly as it did all summer long, and not any slower. The real test […]

  2. Isaac Says:

    hmmm… I wish I knew a better way of dropping you a “tip”, but this particular story will have to do.

    From the Economist, April 7-13 edition:

    France broke the world railspeed record when a high-speed train travelling on the new line from Paris to Strasbourg touched a top speed of nearly 575kph (357mph).

  3. Isaac Says:

    That particular comment taught me something new also – The word “travelling” is actually spelled “traveling” in your glorious country – my firefox spellcheck went crazy at the double El (oh the puns that could be made).

  4. dailysalad Says:

    Sir- Thank you for sending along the news from France. I saw a blurb about this recently. I am under the impression that France’s record is only for conventional rail technology, as Maglev’s are potentially faster. That said, Maglev is a newer technology, and is not yet mature.

    You are indeed correct. We do, however, use many Britishisms at this site, as the Hammerskjold’s spent many years in the Isle of Man before emigrating to this…place.


  5. […] into the ether, Elm Rock City resigning her commission, journeys that previously took forty minutes suddenly taking over an hour, or Tony Soprano vanishing, everything’s topsy turvy at […]


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