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Tuesday, April 23

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Steve / January 31, 2005 11:12 AM

Okay, either your question is framed incorrectly or I have an incomplete grasp of the situation. Select Brown Line stations will be closed on a rotating basis throughout the duration of this multi-year project. That's way different from an all-out closing of the line.

That said, I'm disappointed but not truly pissed. I live less than a block from the Irving Park station, which is definitely sweet. When it comes time for Irving to be closed, I'll use the Addison stop, a full half-mile away (assuming my understanding that no two consecutive stops on the line will be closed at the same time is correct). This means I'll need to get up earlier for work and it'll suck in bad weather, but I'll deal.

In a perfect world, the CTA would've stuck by its original intent to avoid shutting down the stations completely during reconstruction. They've since learned (after bidding the project out) that doing so is cost-prohibitive, unless they sacrifice some of the amenities.

As a "greater good"-oriented person, I'm okay with being inconvenienced for six months or so and getting a nicer station out of the deal than I would without the inconvenience.

The real shame is, the gal and I will have been priced out of the city by the time construction is complete in 2009 and we've bought our house in the 'burbs....

Brenda / January 31, 2005 11:21 AM

I'm a combination of mad and scared. I moved to my apartment *specifically* because it was a block away from the el, which is important because I am not 100% mobile in the mornings. A "temporary" (read: minimum 1 year) closing that forces me to walk "just an extra 4 blocks" (read: extra mile a day) may very well keep me from going to work some days. My creaky joints can usually get me around the corner in the morning, albeit limping, but a half mile each way...? I'm just glad my current job has such a generous sick day policy.

I'm also a little nervous about walking home an extra half-mile in the dark, after 10, etc. And -- CTA lawyers be on notice here -- if anything happens to me as a result of having to walk that extra mile, I will personally hold the CTA responsible.

The little matter of not being able to get my coffee from Beans and Bagels every morning is just icing on this big ol' brown poop cake.

I'm really glad my alderman is one of the most vocally pissed about the closings, and rightfully so. All the work he's done to build up Montrose Ave business-wise is going to go down the tubes. Go get 'em, Gene.

Andrew / January 31, 2005 11:26 AM

(Fixed the question wording, Steve.)

I'm annoyed, and it doesn't even affect me all that much since I'm not on the Brown Line. There are much better ways to go about this, but I think the CTA is making it as painful as possible to help their case on budget problems -- if people realize how much they take the CTA for granted, they might be more supportive of budget increases. And maybe they'll even tell the politicians about it.

Michael / January 31, 2005 11:40 AM

My opinion may not count as much, because I'm conveniently situated half-way between Paulina and Addison, so I will not be as inconvenienced as many others. That being said, I think it's unfortunate, but necessary. I'm just happy that despite the budgetary problems, these ugly, grimy and outdated stations will be gettng a much-needed makeover.

e_five / January 31, 2005 11:46 AM

First, the Wellington station should be closed permanently anyway. It's two blocks from Belmont, two blocks from Diversey. With the exception of the Loop, there are no two stations that close together on the rest of the entire system.

Second, I wish the whole system would shut down for a month, for the very reason mentioned by Andrew. Maybe the city would decide to raise their contribution to the CTA-- FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 22 YEARS. The city contribution doesn't even cover one full day of operation. Three million bucks went a lot further in 1983-- New York contributes over a billion to their system.

Maybe the federal or state government would step in to keep the third largest city in the country from GRINDING TO A TOTAL HALT.

Brenda / January 31, 2005 11:50 AM

Basically, because of the CTA's bass-ackwards budgeting, in a year we'll have shiny new stations and shiny new railcars, but we'll also have reduced service (40% service cuts ring a bell? no Brown line after midnight?), increased fares and a hell of a lot more cars parked on the streets and polluting our air, courtesy of the masses of disenfranchised public transportation riders.

Yeah, that'll make it all worthwhile.

Mike / January 31, 2005 12:05 PM

I don't really feel anything about the closures because I don't take (or know anyone on) the Brown line. But, I'm interested in the way people are reacting.

Imagine the MTA NYC shut down subway stations for a year on and off. People would freak. But in Chicago, we're operating on such a corruption/budget-retardation/"What can I do?" mindset that we'll just sit back and take it.
Not that I have any suggestions, because like I said, I wouldn't notice if they shut down the Brown line for the rest of the century.

Brian / January 31, 2005 12:13 PM

Brenda, you're a bit off about the budgeting bit.

Even if the CTA wanted to (and I'm quite sure they do), they can't use the money budgeted for the station upgrades and rail cars to prevent the cuts in service. CTA has two budgets - one for improvements and one for operations. The operations budget (which requires 55% of the monies to come from fares, not federal or state subsidies) is the one that's broke. The money for the railcars and station improvements legally can't be use to postpone service improvements.

Everyone loves to blame the CTA. A station closing is an annoyance, but not the end of the world. I suppose the alternative would be to shut the line down and run a bus service like they did on the Green Line a few years ago. Would that be better? I doubt it.

brian / January 31, 2005 12:14 PM

can't be use to postpone service improvements

should be: can't be used to eliminate service cuts.

Brenda / January 31, 2005 1:21 PM

One doesn't need to understand budgets to be affected by the management--or mismanagement, as the case may be--of such budgets.

If you're asking if running a shuttle bus between Brown line stations during the closings would be better than not offering it all... yes, yes it would be. For able-bodied people, 4 blocks is no big deal--it's an extra 20 minutes of exercise during the day. For people who are chronically or intermittently disabled, 4 blocks may as well be 4 miles. A shuttle bus would help, yes.

Brenda / January 31, 2005 1:25 PM

And to clarify, before someone does it for me... 4 blocks = 1/2 mile = 10 minutes walking. Since I assume most people commute to AND from work, the change would require an extra 8 blocks/1 mile/20 minutes of walking per day.

Done now.

Pat / January 31, 2005 1:30 PM

I recently moved over to the red-line, so teh change doesn't directly affect me all that much. Though I'm watching the situation with a lot of interest.

I think my beef here is the CTA's lack of community involvement in these decisions. It seems like a lot of businesses along the brown line, that depend on it's riders are going to be hurting. The big comment that I've heard is that the CTA is closing the stations so they can afford to manage all the work and provide full amenities to the stations after they open...

So why not put that on the table, and see if there can be community groups that can adopt a station to provide those amenities? Really, that makes for the best of a bad situation, rather than this "go it alone - oh woe is the CTA" story we keep hearing.

anne / January 31, 2005 1:31 PM

Imagine the MTA NYC shut down subway stations for a year on and off. People would freak.

New York actually has it a tad worse than us right now, after a recent fire two of the main lines the A and the C trains, will be crippled for years. I'd like to think that the CTA will be able to plan repairs out better with this much lead time, but they seem to be dissappointing me big time.

am / January 31, 2005 1:49 PM

Actually Anne, the MTA A and C lines are supposedly back up in a few months. To do a complete overhaul of the lines is what was said to take years, or so the MTA claims. But the beauty of repairs in NYC is that shuttles and buses are usually provided so no one's stranded. But not us brown-liners. sigh.

Kirsten / January 31, 2005 2:19 PM

While I think these station closings are going to be very inconvenient for many people, including small businesses, I think it is a necessary plan to help improve the line for everyone. Brenda, you talk about how walking the extra blocks will affect you, and I realize that is a problem. But I think people forget how many people can't actually use these stations at all due to lack of elevators. Or how crowded the cars are due to the short stations.
The El system needs to come into the 21st Century, and yes, for a while, it will suck, but it will be so much better in the long run. And I think this is a much better plan than shutting it down completely all at once. What I don't understand though, is why they can't adopt something similar to the highway construction, where they only do the work at night. It is more expensive, but much less inconvenient.

Paula / January 31, 2005 2:35 PM

The shutdowns won't cause me any harm directly as I live about the same distance to either Rockwell or Western, but I can understand how some of the stations need to be completely closed. Rockwell is so tiny that I don't see how they can improve platform length, enlarge the ingress and egress areas, and make it handicap-accessable without shutting it down to make the necessary improvements. There simply isn't enough room to have the crews, equipment and materials necessary AND leave anough space for commuters to safely go through turnstyles and get on the trains. This is a huge opportunity to greatly improve the quality and modernity of the stations and if it means some inconvenience then it is 'for the greater good'.

JT / January 31, 2005 2:57 PM

I'm another Montrose gal. While I now commute by car to Northbrook, my husband, nanny and kids all take the train almost every day. Not only will this be a real inconvenience and safety problem, but I've been pretty upset about what the train station "improvements" are doing to local businesses, just like Beans & Bagels. I'm sure the improvements will be great when they're done, but like someone else said, how does that help the many people who will be out of the city or blown off via service cuts? They just can't seem to handle, or at least spin, anything right lately.

Louis / January 31, 2005 3:16 PM

I will miss seeing all the lincoln park/ old town trixies/ hotties at the Sedgwick station in the morning and in the evening. There is something so comforting about a fake blond in a nicely tailored suit.

Leah / January 31, 2005 3:28 PM

I live and work by the Brown Line Damen stop.

We serve coffee in the morning and we are very concerned. I was quoted in the Sun Times, but my meaning didn't come across.

For a week long closure, people will walk an extra block or two to get their morning cup of coffee. For a year? No. People will go elsewhere.

The effect on small, independent business will be huge. Expect to see many of your favorite brown line business in economic peril during the year their stop is closed.

Damen stop is first on the list, so it will be Montrose or Western for me and my customers.

andrew / January 31, 2005 3:30 PM

I live on the brown line and I'm getting annoyed by all the people that are complaining about the station closures. Of course the CTA went back on their word- we all know that CTA management is untrustworthy. But stop and think about people living on the south and west sides for one second! Their BEST CASE scenario is train stations more than two miles apart (where there are train stations at all)!

It sucks to walk twice as far to the train, but keep in mind how good you have it before you start bitchin'!

Mike-TS / January 31, 2005 3:45 PM

Does anyone know of other cities that handled a major commuter rail renovation better? Yes, there has to be a better way, but until someone says "well, London did this for the Underground renovations" or "Paris made the best of its Metro rebuild by doing x,y, and z", then I guess the current plan is the only option.

I've seen enough road rebuilds that made a big kill on revenue for independent businesses, especially restaurants, even with construction entrances and the like. Yet they seem to have found no way to improve a repaving job. And you'd think business, with all its money and influence, especially in the burbs where driving there is the only way to get to a business, would've "inspired" better results.

Don't mistake this post for a lack of empathy, or a blow-off of the huge problem this is. I'm sure it would be great if they could throw up a safe temporary station nearby that gets torn out when the real one is finished, but that'll cost a fortune. Intense round the clock construction, with benchmarks and deadline bonuses, depends on their budget.

Brenda / January 31, 2005 3:54 PM

The issue isn't whether it's possible to do construction while the stations are open, the issue is that it's not possible given the budget that was signed. From what I've read, the CTA underestimated construction costs, and are cutting this line item because they couldn't get a contractor low enough on the job as a whole.

Most stations are being built on the opposite site of the street they are on now, and the current stations will ultimately remain open as minimalist alternative entrances. Logistically, I'm sure it wouldn't be impossible to keep the current stations open during construction. It's just an extra cost the CTA saw as expendable.

roderick / January 31, 2005 4:14 PM

Right now I drive three miles to the Midway Orange line to get to my workplace in the loop. The girlfriend and I just signed a lease for a place half a mile from the Damen brown line stop. We're a little miffed, but realize that the extra 10 minute walk to another station is far less inconvienient than what we're doing now. I do feel that the CTA has an obligation to provide alternate means of some sort of concessions to people who this greatly affects.

If you're from the southwest side and take the Orange line you have to pay for parking and fare, few of the stops are accessible, and some stops are more than a mile apart. The alternative is to drive in on I-55, pay >$10 for parking, and put mileage on the car.

This turned into a rant. Whoops.

matt / January 31, 2005 4:52 PM

Well, coming from a person who moved esp. to get away from the Brown Line-I am not surprised. I think out of all of the major lines that the CTA runs, the most ridiculous is the brown. First, it is consistantly running late, somehow the train "conviently" breaks down when it seems there is nothing wrong, and it is one of the earliest to close. True, the Red and Blue Lines smell bad, they have homeless people languidly, lying about but they don't shut down, you can usually count on them to be on time, and they get to more people in one day than the brown line see in a week. Still, there is no reason that we have to shut down the stops on the Brown line to do construction. Look at the other two lines, they are always getting worked on and they never shut down the stations for them.
All I have to say about this is, People, there is a reason they called it the Brown Line people-think about it.

matt / January 31, 2005 4:57 PM

it's called the Brown line cause it is Soooooooo Sh#$ty!!!

Steve / January 31, 2005 6:50 PM

And here I always thought the Brown Line was just named in a kinda ironic way, for want of any peeps of color....

christian / January 31, 2005 8:51 PM

I've seen road improvements nearly kill independent businesses out in the burbs, just by paving a street.

I'm unclear on how these closures will work; will any of the stations be closed for an entire year? Or just on weekends and some days? If a station is closed for an extended period of time, like a month or god forbid a year, the businesses in the immediate vicinity will be drastically affected economically.

The afore mentioned Beans & Bagels has two stores, one at the Montrose stop and one at Rockwell, if both stations are closed at the same time, or for an extended period of time, it definitely will affect them.

RD / January 31, 2005 9:01 PM

I support the CTA in this all the way. While these closures are very tough, the CTA has done yeoman's work overall to get this project as far as it has.

Folks, this is a half a billion dollar project dedicated to rebuilding an entire rapid transit line. Is this happening anywhere else in the country? NO. The line that is about a century old. If you haven't noticed, the federal government is completely controlled by Republicans. Yet, the federal government is paying most of the cost and we live in a very Democratic city in a very Democratic state.

In a perfect world there would be enough money so we wouldn't have to even notice that an entire line is being totally rebuilt. We're starving and the CTA has brought us a huge dinner. Sorry, they couldn't get napkins too.

The media played these closures up to sell papers.

Tim / February 1, 2005 10:05 AM

Sure it is a shame for Brown line riders, but I must say that the Green line (particularly south of the IIT stop) is fantastic, the stations are excellent and the housing cost, proximity to the lake, beaches, U of C, Hyde Park, and everything else down here make it a terrific place to live, heck, we even have METRA stations...oh wait, forget it, it is horrible, dangerous, scary. Really, don't come down wouldn't like it...

John H / February 1, 2005 10:19 AM

I can't believe all this teeth gnashing. None of the stations are closing completely during the project. Get a grip. This is nothing but the sour grapes of spoiled left leaning suburban educated white kids. Where was all your outrage when the whole freaking Green line was shut down back in the mid 90s? The Green line project negatively impaced lots more people in a lot worse shape than anyone affording rent in Ravenswood. It's call walking- it's what your forefathers did for centuries- deal with it.

John H / February 1, 2005 10:49 AM

Reply to e_five on Wellington:

Ummm that's only a level 1 trauma center next to the Wellington stop (the only one left in Lakeview/Edgewater with the closure of Ravenswood). IMH is a central source of AIDS and Medicaid specialty treatment and it really only has 1 bus route that stops at it's door. NMH has a half dozen bus routes (not including boul Mich). Medical center has 2 el stops and 5 bus routes. Why are you picking on IMH?

e_five / February 1, 2005 10:54 AM

I hope no one plans to take the Brown line to the trauma center.

amyc / February 1, 2005 11:28 AM

IMH is a full-service hospital with dozens of physicians' offices -- not just a trauma center. My GYN, GP, and dermatologist are all in that complex, and I'm going to that hospital in a couple weeks for some medical tests. So, yeah, Wellington is really close to Belmont, but there really needs to be a stop there.

e_five / February 1, 2005 12:57 PM

If the El stop there is so important, why has Illinois Masonic built approximately 30 floors of ginormous parking garages that completely block off the El station from the hospital?

I'm not just picking on Wellington-- I would also shut down Jarvis, Thorndale, and Lawrence on the Red Line, and Paulina, Montrose, and one of the street level stations on the Brown Line.

Did you know that there used to be stations every two blocks back in the first half of the 20th century? In 1938, there were stops at Buena, Sheridan, Grace, Addison, Clark, Belmont, Wellington, Diversey, Wrightwood, Fullerton, Webster, Armitage, and Willow. The difference is they also had more express trains than they do now.

Andrew / February 1, 2005 2:11 PM

e_five, they also had A/B train service back then, which alternated stops (hence the A's and B's on some of the signage on Red Line stations).

John H: Where was all your outrage when the whole freaking Green line was shut down back in the mid 90s?

Our outrage was offline -- this site started in '03, so it's a bit silly to accuse its readers of not being upset about something that happened years prior.

brian / February 1, 2005 2:28 PM

e_five, the difference is that there were a hell of a lot more riders then too. For better or for worse, more people drive, and that means they aren't on the trains.

One reason those stops that you would shut-down are open and useful is connecting bus service.

Craig / February 1, 2005 3:15 PM

Where was all your outrage when the whole freaking Green line was shut down back in the mid 90s?

The Green Line doesn't go through the same population densities that the Brown Line does-- not to mention the frequency of use-- I watch the Green Line fly by my window 50 times a day, and it's usually empty.

softdog / February 1, 2005 5:43 PM

10 reasons to be pissed:

1. The CTA knew about this for a year and hid it until the last second.

2. The board had other options than closings.

3. The board claims it was in the dark as well. This is either a lie or criminal incompetence. If they can't keep track of a multi-million dollar project planned for YEARS, how can we trust that closings were the best option?

4. The board chairman blames everyone but herself. Frank Kerusi has remained strangely silent. This is one of the highest paid boards of it's kind - WTF do they do? Play pattycake?

5. If one reads the Sun-Times ( there's no way they can close stations for 8 months/1 year, remain on schedule and keep to this "extra 1/2 mile" concept. Do the math: a huge portion could close all at once for months.

6. Until last year, it seemed the board was more into fundraising for special projects than operations. They've spent money on marketing, endless studies, exploring expansion, buying new cars. Then they just happened to lack a proper oversight system for this? Are all grants really non-transferrable?

7. 1/2 mile is a long walk, especially in ass-freezing temps like now.

8. This assumes the CTA will remain on time and budget. If things go wrong, where will the extra money come from?

9. This blunder undermines last years fear and funding campaign. And won't closures hurt revenues and ridership?

10. The CTA continues to quietly scale back on train schedules and buses. The Ravenswood may close anyway. The city has made the same meager contribution for a decade plus. The board treated speakers with indifference and contempt at last year's meetings. At this point, it's time for rolling heads and refunded salaries.

Greenliner / February 1, 2005 8:44 PM

OK, my line was shut for 3 years, and we didnt' vanish off the face of the earth. But let's examine this idea that "businesses will go under" if the station closes. Let's assume Mr. Einstein runs a bagel store and rents the space from his friendly neighbor Mr. Rogers. Mr. Einstein will lose maybe 50-75% of his business on weekdays for eight months. He knows that won't be enough to pay his rent, so he closes the store. Mr. Rogers advertises to rent the space, but finds that he can only command 25-50% of the rent for his commercial space -- at least for the next few months -- because foot traffic to the L station will shrink.

If Mr. Einstein is as good a businessman as his neighbors like to think he is, he will go to Mr. Rogers and their local bank together and say "hey, no one else will rent this space for several months, and I've got a good thing going. If you want ANY RENT AT ALL for the next few months, cut me a deal, let's split the losses, and you'll have a great thriving business district AND a new station before the year is out.

And the bank that wants to keep both customers happy will be happy to provide a working capital loan to spread that burden out over a couple of years. This type of transaction happens ALL THE TIME.

Come on folks, did anyone really think that CTA could do half a billion worth of construction without impacting anyone's life at all?

amyc / February 2, 2005 6:36 AM

Are all grants really non-transferrable?

Technically, yes. I agree with your other points, but you can't solicit a grant for one purpose and use it for something else. If the CTA is short on operating funds, it has to get more grants for operating funds, not divert money from another part of the budget.

Joe / February 2, 2005 7:56 AM

>This is nothing but the sour grapes of spoiled
>left leaning suburban educated white kids.

That also explains why the posts here always seem to have excellent spelling and grammar, an oddity for the internet.

e_five / February 2, 2005 9:35 AM

Not under dispute:

1. People are dissatisfied with the CTA.
2. There is a funding problem.
3. Frank Kreusi is an ineffectual stooge of Daley, who appointed him.
4. The city should chip in more for the CTA.
5. The system used to be much better.

Kirsten / February 2, 2005 9:40 AM

"7. 1/2 mile is a long walk, especially in ass-freezing temps like now."

That is 4 city blocks.. no wonder everyone is overweight in this country if they can't walk 4 measly blocks.

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