Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: JamesT4, metraRI

  by Jenner
 
I've created the following document for an alternative alignment of a potential CTA Circle Line.
http://media.tripod.lycos.com/3250169/1745345.pdf

I would like to have it reviewed by rail experts (yourselves), who could possibly provide some issues or other commentary. Of major concern is the CREATE changes along the Western Corridor, which is the corridor chosen for transit. With some of the engineering changes along the Western corridor, I'm not sure how much ROW is available for use for the CTA, or if they would be able to reuse existing available bridges.

The proposal doesn't gauge ridership statistics, as that is something that transit planners will have to do.

Once finished, I can give it to CTA Tattler, or others for possibly passing it on to the CTA.
  by doepack
 
A few thoughts:

1. I think the Bloomingdale and freight corridor segments just west of Western Ave. have the most ridership potential. I'm not so sure about the 40th St. corridor between the existing Orange and Red lines.

2. While your plan seems sound in concept, there are several complex engineering challenges, to wit: At the point where the Bloomingdale portion turns south onto the existing Metra ROW to Western Ave. is a busy interlocking (A-5). This segment would certainly need to be elevated, and preferably curve onto the west side of the ROW to head south, where there appears to be a little more room to support such a structure; according to Google Earth, anyway. It would be great if this route could get closer to the Western Ave. Metra station so it could be better served, but the elevated curve south to the Western Ave. corridor (where it would follow UP's Rockwell sub initially) has to be built at least a block or two west of the station, if it's going to be long and smooth enough to maintain speeds of 45-55 mph. The Green line transfer station could work here, but your map includes a pedestrian walkway to the Metra station. That's simply too far.

3. Speaking of which, excessive distances between routes and/or modes for transferring purposes would also apply to the proposed station at Pink/BNSF. A better solution would include the Metra station on BNSF at Western Ave. being reconfigured so that it could border the "Navy" line to the west and its namesake street to the east. The Western Ave. Pink line station could also be adjusted in the same manner, and could be easier to do logistically since you wouldn't have to get the blessing of a class one railroad to do so. No doubt, it will still add to the price tag, though.

4. Today, there are five routes (Brown, Pink, Purple, Orange, Green) using the Loop elevated and it is quite busy, especially during rush. And the Red line is CTA's busiest route, with trains operating on 3-4 min. headways during peak periods. So, with both existing downtown routing options pretty much maxed out in terms of capacity, I just don't think there's any way this line could be routed efficiently into the Loop. The only alternative is to build a new dedicated subway that runs under the Red or Brown lines just north of the Loop and links up with the Blue line subway somehow to share the existing downtown stops, not sure offhand how that would work. While the Blue line subway can support additional trains, it could complicate the routing, and add even more to the price tag. Modifying this route is a better idea, and with that in mind...

5. It may be best to modify this line into a "semi-circle" route (actually looks more like the number 7 in reverse when viewed on a map) with a West-South orientation (or North-East if you prefer), with service between the Clybourn Metra station and the existing Orange line station at 35th/Archer, while truncating the other part. Both proposed terminals would provide transfers to existing services, and the new route would be kept out of downtown. If something like this ever got built, it could be a great compliment to Chicago's transit network, but it absolutely must be done right in order to realize the full potential...
  by E Runs
 
The Bloomingdale corridor also has an advocacy group fighting to turn the ROW into linear parkland.
  by Jenner
 
The Bloomingdale corridor also has an advocacy group fighting to turn the ROW into linear parkland.
Has anyone presented an option in which the corridor could be converted into an L line?

@doepack
Thanks for your comments.

2. Maybe 2 stations can be built, but at 1000ft apart. The first would be above the rail yards to connect Western for the MD lines, and potential UP line.
That could move the Green line transfer point just a bit more south, in order to provide more distance, as well as a transition from being elevated to at grade.
However, since the Metra transfer issue hasn't been resolved, Metra interconnections can happen at a later stage.

4, 5. I don't mind it being a semi-circle line only. However, by not connecting into the Green line south, you lose the ability to connect into the south Metra lines, the south Red and Green L lines, and the potential of going to the IC.
  by doepack
 
Jenner wrote:4, 5. I don't mind it being a semi-circle line only. However, by not connecting into the Green line south, you lose the ability to connect into the south Metra lines, the south Red and Green L lines, and the potential of going to the IC.
True, but I think the northern connections have much more potential than the south, and are more plentiful. On the south end, IIT and the ballpark for six months of the year are the only real places that would stimulate ridership, though I readily admit to not knowing what the real numbers are. If, for the sake of argument, the 40th St. corridor is built, the connection to MED via the old Kenwood 'L' can be done as well, but I still wouldn't run anything north of 35th St. It simply cannot go to the Loop...
  by Chicagopcclcars
 
I see nothing wrong with the proposal adopted to use the Paulina corridor. Only about two blocks of residential purchase would be needed. The remainder is mostly industrial. ROWs are not automatically the best routing for new transit anyway.

David Harrison
  by Jenner
 
Based on DoePack's comments, and some further thinking, I have completely redone the proposal. This did take quite a bit of time trying to come up with a better solution, with better analysis on routes and alternatives.

Again, I certainly appreciate your comments and review.

http://jenner1a.tripod.com/webonmediaco ... tive_1.pdf
  by doepack
 
Just a couple of things...
Sharing the existing L tracks could mean scheduling issues for the Brown and Purple lines, as the
Clybourn and Sedgwick segments would service the Circle, Brown, and Purple lines. Signaling
priority should be given to the Brown and Purple lines in order to not interrupt their service to and
from the Loop.
With the busier Brown line frequencies, that's still going to be a bottleneck, which could really get messy during rush. One solution could involve moving the inbound Armitage station a little further south so that it could meet the Circle line trains on track 1 only. (or track 4). Don't get me wrong, a connection should still be built here, but only as a link to the rest of the system; it wouldn't be actively used for switching back and forth between the two routes. Also, you mentioned a yard in the vicinity of the Kennedy Expy. Would this be the only one? Have you thought about any other locations for storage along the south corridor?

The Paulina connector is 1 mile from Western Ave, and makes this Circle line route doubleback
when using the Bloomingdale corridor. Connecting south into the Paulina connector
could be done via either:
a. A cross-connect that is at-grade with the Green Line. This is similar to what is done in
the loop when the Brown and Green lines enter the loop. This option does not have the
ability to transfer to the Green line at the junction.
For practical, and engineering purposes, this may be the best option. You'd lose the direct Circle-to-Green transfer, so passengers from the north will have to double back via Pink. But before activating this segment, I'd like to see a station at Madison for the United Center built first. For the billions this project would cost, you may as well realize the full potential.

Overall, I think the revision has better transfer possibilities than the original; either reducing the distance between the two, or abolishing them altogether seemed to be a consistent theme in the proposal. While it's unfortunate that convenient transfers to all existing lines isn't possible, it's important that the rest are done right. I think this revised proposal addresses that pretty well...
  by Jenner
 
I hadn't thought about the Armitage station. However, I'm not sure if enough room exists to allow track 1 (or track 6 at that point, or both) to use a station platform for Armitage. I suppose you could double deck the station, but if you're going to do that, you could do that going east as well, which would remove the bottleneck as mentioned in the document. However, I'm not sure that the Chicago neighborhoods and the zoning board would like to have an L at 35 ft in the air.

A southern yard would also be needed, I just didn't identify a place for it. I believe the document mentioned several industrial zones could be used. I had my eye on the intermodal at 47th, Morgan, and Halsted streets, as that seems to have enough land to provide a yard. However, that intermodal facitily could cite that it is a chief economic facility, due to its proximity to the NS yard. I would basically defer to the CTA or Chicago in terms of determining the best location for such a rail yard for the southern part. The Kennedy was really the only unused area in the north that could host a rail yard without purchasing numerous private properties.

Regarding the Madison station, I thought the original CTA proposal had a Madison station in mind. There isn't anything preventing the CTA from building a station at Madison for the pink line.

This proposal should have better ridership, since the southern end went further south towards residential areas. This proposal should have better transfers to the Metra, and resolves the integration issue with the Orange line.

Thanks for your comments.
  by Jenner
 
I guess another alternative when connecting into the Green line (Lake branch) would be to have a turn going west where the Pink/Green lines meet. This may mean that the building on the west side would have to be demolished, unless the CTA can make a tight curve. Then a new station can be placed at Damen/Lake, allowing a Circle/Green transfer. The Circle line can then go north over Leavitt St, and then resume a course parallel to the UP/MD ROW. The existing private properties needed for L curves appear to be a parking lot and a storage lot for forklifts. These properties don't present overhead obstacles for building the Circle line.
  by Jenner
 
Uploaded some changes to the document, regarding new station at Damen based on post #9. Brown line transfer to happen at Sedgwick instead of Armitage, as Sedgwick appears to have room to accommodate tracks 1 and 4. Document is at the same location.
  by MACTRAXX
 
Everyone: What color does the CTA plan to name this new route if it is built?
Can "Silver Outer Belt Line" be utilized ?

Noting the lack of useable practical colors I feel that the CTA should have stuck with line names and not went with colors...
I realize that I am bringing up an old debate but the CTA now needs identifiable route names as well to go along with colors...

The trouble with colors is that there are only a few practical ones and the CTA uses them all...
With identifiable names there is no worry about this problem...

Happy Holidays All !!!

MACTRAXX
  by doepack
 
MACTRAXX wrote:Everyone: What color does the CTA plan to name this new route if it is built?
Can "Silver Outer Belt Line" be utilized ?
The "Silver line" is an option being kicked around, from what I've heard. Another possibility is the "Gray line", although that currently refers to an unrelated project spearheaded by an activist who wants to convert the Blue Island and S. Chicago branches of MED into a CTA rapid transit operation.
Jenner wrote:Uploaded some changes to the document, regarding new station at Damen based on post #9. Brown line transfer to happen at Sedgwick instead of Armitage, as Sedgwick appears to have room to accommodate tracks 1 and 4. Document is at the same location.
I think that's a much better location for a potential transfer. Armitage would be much more difficult logistically...
  by Passenger
 
One important question about any such scheme is whether it's partially usable before it's finished.
  by Chicagopcclcars
 
Passenger wrote:One important question about any such scheme is whether it's partially usable before it's finished.
The original Circle Line proposal was usuable in phases. First phase rerouted Purple line into State ST subway to a new Chinatown station on the Orange line. Second phase extended Circle Line onto the Paulina alignment, eventually reaching Ashland/Lake on the Green line. Third phase extending from Ashland/Lake to "superstation" at North/Clybourn completing the circle.

Now a decade later, its usually assumed that the plan is "dead in the water" since most proponents are gone, retired, or relocated, including CTA and the "Fifth Floor." All that's left is a railfan or two who still carry on the torch with "what ifs."

David Harrison