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 HammerJack
Has any thought been given to providing a faster means of travel from Chicago's airports (specifically O'Hare) to downtown? Given the size of Chicago and the amount of traffic that O'Hare receives, I find it a bit disappointing that there is not faster travel to downtown. I know, the Blue Line does serve O'Hare, but it isn't exactly the quickest... Personally, I feel that some other service that was specifically dedicated to airport users would be beneficial. I know that Metra can technically say that they serve O'Hare, but let's be honest... The NCS doesn't exactly have the most frequent service. Trains running every two hours is definitely not sufficient for an airport like O'Hare. However, I think using the Metra tracks would work. Trains could depart CUS north side (ignore capacity for now...) and make their way up to A-5, turn west, then proceed to B-12 and head up the NCS. Upon approaching O'Hare, the trains could either terminate at the existing O'Hare station, or a tunnel could be drilled to allow direct access to the airport. I know capacity issues could be an issue with CUS and the MD-W during rush periods, but I'm sure it could be worked out. Regarding Midway, I feel that the Orange Line is sufficient given the airport's proximity to downtown, but track does exist for an airport train to CUS. So, has any thought been given to a dedicated O'Hare (and maybe Midway) train? And what are your thoughts on its worthiness and logistics?
  by sipes23
Expanding Metra to O'Hare presents problems, as pointed out. The automated train to the remote parking lots doesn't go to the Metra station. Extend the ATS there, and you've still got low frequencies on the NCS and a two-seat ride. You really would need to get a one-seat ride to O'Hare, which would mean electrification. Who wants diesel engines idling underground? That could get massively expensive in a big hurry. Of course, on the other end of the ride, Union Station--capacity issues aside--isn't exactly convenient to downtown hotels, which I would assume is the destination. The Block 37 station would be better, but it's not connected to anything.

There's no good (read inexpensive) solution to the faster trains to O'Hare problem. That said, the O'Hare public transportation situation is better than exists at many airports in the United States. LaGuardia, I'm looking at you especially.
  by Tadman
Well said.

Lately, I've been to:
1. Pitt - no trains to airport
2. Houston - no trains to airport
3. Indy - no trains to airport
4. MKE - no frequent downtown service, but at least has train service
5. South Bend - no trains to downtown from airport
6. Cleveland - trains to airport
7. San Juan - no trains to airport
8. Chicago - CTA to both airports, Amtrak to MKE, South Shore to GYY and SBN
9. Denver - building rapid/heavy rail to airport

So of 9 cities, two had LD service to an airport, one had rapid transit, one is under construction, and one had comprehensive service to airports near and far. Having a train to/from the airport is the most convenient "we've embraced the new millenium" effort a city can engage in.
  by EricL
Lest we forget the relatively recent, and quite controversial, late-Daley-era proposal for express "L" service to the airports? One of the hallmarks of the idea was a dedicated point-to-point baggage check, not unlike airport curbside checkin, where downtown visitors would have been able to check in, dump their bags, get on the train, and be worry-free until they arrived whichever points to which their planes were flying. Unfortunately, it was pretty poorly thought out: the current Logan Square/Jeff Park/O'Hare blue line does not have the real estate needed for extra ROW upon which to build express tracks, and the alternative proposal of passing sidings would have worked dysfunctionally at best. And, according to news media, no real thought was given, either, as to where to stow those checked bags - other than stuffing them in separate L cars with no passengers aboard. The "Block 37" station was supposed to have been the crown jewel of this airport express service: but the operational and financial questions remained unanswered, and meanwhile the block itself was finally built upon. All we've been left with is the elimination of the Washington/State red line station, which was cut up with the idea of constructing a crossover between the Red and Blue lines, to facilitate the funneling of passengers into this whole scheme. Midway express facilities, originally floated as an equal to the aforementioned O'Hare service, never even got close to being constructed.

You have to remember that all of this tomfoolery was going on roughly around the same time as when Chicago was vying for the Olympics. Those involved weren't necessarily looking to improve the transit situation for the sake of the city dwellers, or even for the sake of tourists. Rather, they were doing it as an attempt to gain some bragging rights on the world stage.

So far as expanded suburban service to O'Hare via CN-WC & Metra, well... I'll let you convince the host roads to go along with it. Equipment, crews, and time slots are already pretty lean as it is now.
  by Passenger
About whatever it was they were planning with a terminal under Block 37:
I never quite got how that would work without seriously interfering with existing service.
  by sipes23
Passenger wrote:About whatever it was they were planning with a terminal under Block 37:
I never quite got how that would work without seriously interfering with existing service.
I could swear that I heard that the structural part was built but not any of the tunnels leading into it. Like it's ready to go for future use, but I cannot find a source for that.

Ooooo, I found it. http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/ ... perstation

Fair use quote
That's because the original idea behind the superstation was that it would be the base for express train service to Chicago's airports, O'Hare and Midway. In addition, the station would provide a track link between the Blue and Red lines — the CTA's busiest — which otherwise do not converge.
  by ExCon90
Further to Passenger's point, I never could understand how they could through-route service via that diagonal alignment and fit it in with their existing service. For every such move they would lose a slot on the Blue Line south of it and on the Red Line north of it, which would mean spending all that money to achieve a net reduction in capacity.