Flyovers First! Disabled Riders Can Wait.

It’s great that the CTA finally is talking about making all its transit stations accessible for riders with disabilities. It’s not great that they’re giving themselves 20 years to do it.

First, they have more important things to do!

Their urgent priority is to spend $570Million+ and gut Central Lakeview to build a Brown Line Flyover, all to shave 20-30 seconds of 40% of Red Line commuters’ trips to work.

Seriously. That’s their first priority.

Yes, upgrade the Red Line stations and track infrastructure. But waste $570Million on this crazy Flyover while disabled riders continue to wait?

CTA Makes Rail Accessibility for Riders with Disabilities a Long-Term Goal
Tony Briscoe, Chicago Tribune, 1/7/2016

The CTA is about to start looking at how to make its rail system completely accessible to riders with disabilities within 20 years, agency officials said Wednesday.

The agency expects to publish a report late in 2016 or early 2017 on the initiative, which would outline new capital improvements and concepts necessary to make every CTA train station accessible to those who use wheelchairs or devices such as scooters.

Currently, 99 of the city’s 145 ‘L’ stations, or 68 percent, satisfy regulations put forth in the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, CTA spokesman Brian Steele said.
link to full Tribune article


Whose Name on this ‘Signature Project’?

The CTA got a FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact) ruling from the feds by using fun fantasy math – multiplying 20-30 second delays on 40% of trips to arrive at “448 train hours of delay in a single year”  and other misleading chatter. Fun reading: FONSI report

Next,  by tapping into all  sorts of federal pots, they’ll use federal funds to magically meet the state and local funding requirement to build the Flyover.

Still, for this “Signature Project” CTA Flyover, the big question remains:
Whose Signature?


Who will want their name on the Belmont Flyover in 10 years when Central Lakeview – a major restaurant, theater, entertainment district – has been gutted, turned into a permanent under-El wasteland to save some commuters 20-30 seconds on some of their trips downtown?

Who will want their name on it in 20 years when the CTA has failed to maintain it and riders are taking that shaky curve up over other elevated tracks, 45 ft.+ high in the air?

They insulted Jane Byrne by renaming the Circle Interchange in her “honor.”

So, which of the politicians happily boosting the Flyover now will want his name attached to this nightmare for years to come?




CTA Mistakes, Your $$Millions

Seems pretty basic: Build Loop Link lanes wide enough for the buses. But no. The buses won’t fit.

Next, the CTA wants to flatten Central Lakeview to build a sky-high cement roller coaster that they then won’t maintain. Good idea?

Loop Link mess

Tag, CTA’s ‘It’ on Busload of Worries
by John Hilkevitch, Chicago Tribune, 11/9/2015

How many taggers did it take to pull off one of the worst graffiti attacks on CTA trains in many years, and how were the aerosol vandals able to get away with it undetected at the busy south rail yard on the Red Line?

And how is it that the streetscape architects who designed the CTA’s Loop Link bus rapid transit grid on Madison and Washington streets downtown miscalculated the necessary width of some bus-only lanes? The goof-up has led to construction change orders to widen the already built lanes to eliminate the risk of accordion-style buses striking the new bus stations when pulling out from stops, officials said.

The CTA and the Chicago Department of Transportation do not have complete and reassuring answers to these questions, but one fact stands clear: Taxpayers are picking up the bill.
read more

Taking A Wrecking Ball To Chicago’s Charm

Check out this great article in Streetsblog Chicago which examines the destruction thoughtless “progress” has caused to Chicago in the past. Then, consider how much the CTA plans to spend today to ruin Lakeview with an unneeded Flyover. Can’t we ever learn?

Jane Byrne Interchange in the West Loop

Jane Byrne Interchange showing land parcel map superimposed as tweeted by artist and planning consultant Neil Freeman.

Ghosts Parcels Show How Urban Highways Squandered Valuable Land
by John Greenfield, Streetsblog Chicago, 10/6/2015

Dan Ryan and Stevenson expressway interchange in Bridgeport-Chinatown

Dan Ryan and Stevenson Interchange, again with superimposed parcel map

from the article:
Think about how much money in property and sales taxes were generated by the homes and businesses that formerly stood on these parcels before they fell victim to the wrecking ball so that high-speed roadways could be shoved through the urban fabric. Equally important, think of all the lives that were uprooted in the name of “progress.”
read more

Oh, and here’s the CTA’s vision for Lakeview post Flyover:

Dead End for Illiana Expressway

There’s hope for the Midewin National Tallgrass Praire! The buffalo get a break!

Now, how about not destroying Lakeview for a CTA Flyover we don’t need? Can’t a terrific Chicago neighborhood be saved from needless ruin, too?tall grass prairieIlliana Suffers Another Big Blow in U.S. Court
by Greg Hinz, Crain’s Chicago Business, 9/23/15

From the article:
The Federal HIghway Administration moved late today to drop its appeal of a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Jorge Alonso’s June ruling tossing out the controversial road’s environmental impact statement and record of decision and ordering road advocates to start over.

“The Illinois and Indiana Departments of Transportation should stop wasting taxpayers’ money on the llliana tollroad to nowhere that is contrary to sound regional planning and would damage the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie,” said Howard Learner, head of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, who served as lead counsel for several green groups who filed suit against the road.

Learner conceded that Illinois or Indiana transportation officials still could appeal on their own on behalf of the road, which has been on political life support for awhile. But they would “look rather silly” advocating a position that their federal partner now has abandoned.
read more

$31B+ Infrastructure Hole. Time for a Frivolous Flyover?

crumbling infrastructureAccording to a report by the University of Illinois Institute for Government and Public Affairs, Illinois today faces an infrastructure funding deficit of as much as $31 billion. Add on infrastructure funding deficits facing autonomous agencies including the Illinois Tollway, RTA, and CTA, and Illinois’ infrastructure funding deficit is billions more. And the entire state general revenue budget last year was around $33 billion.

Time to waste $570 million on a “signature project” flyover to shave 20-30 seconds off the very best CTA commute time in Chicago?

Martin J. Luby, the report’s author,  advises:
“Given the scarcity of funding for infrastructure, the state must identify and fund projects that will have the greatest benefit to the state as a whole. This means rejecting projects whose benefits are small and primarily localized even if supported by a strong political constituency. “

Read Luby’s opinion piece in Crain’s:

Don’t look now, but Illinois has another deficit
By Martin J. Luby, Crain’s Chicago Business, 9/8/2015

We all have read a lot in the past few years about Illinois’ two major financial deficits. There is a large mismatch between sustainable operating revenues and costs for existing programs—this is our structural deficit, which is on the order of $6 billion per year. And Illinois has an immense pension deficit, estimated to be greater than $100 billion.

But there is a third fiscal deficit facing Illinois that largely has been ignored: the lack of funding for the state’s physical infrastructure. In a report by the University of Illinois Institute for Government and Public Affairs, I estimate that this infrastructure funding deficit may be as large as $31 billion. That is, to maintain our state’s roads, bridges, water and wastewater systems, school buildings and so forth, Illinois would have to devote $31 billion more to the effort than they previously have been doing.

To put that figure in perspective, the entire state general revenue budget last year was around $33 billion.

This estimate only includes infrastructure managed by the state itself, not its autonomous agencies such as the Illinois Tollway, the Regional Transportation Authority, the Chicago Transit Authority or any Illinois local governments. Including these entities increases the infrastructure funding deficit by billions.

Why is this deficit important? Economists agree on the importance of a vital and well-maintained infrastructure to overall economic health. Illinois’ excellent and long-standing system of highways, railroads and airports have helped drive the state’s economic success for over 150 years and given it an advantage over other states.

By failing to maintain, replace and improve its infrastructure, Illinois limits the productivity and income-earning ability of its businesses and workers. This ultimately will lead to a lower standard of living for future generations.


First, the state must come to grips with the size and scope of this problem. Our report is a step in this direction.

Second, elected officials must improve the state’s capital budgeting process to help address the infrastructure funding deficit. They must identify long-term, sustainable streams of revenue and reform the capital budgeting process to be less episodic and, thus, less at the mercy of changing political winds.

Third, given the scarcity of funding for infrastructure, the state must identify and fund projects that will have the greatest benefit to the state as a whole. This means rejecting projects whose benefits are small and primarily localized even if supported by a strong political constituency.

Fourth, the state must address its other two deficits. Since infrastructure funding is often financed with long-term debt, the state’s poor financial reputation in the bond market makes borrowing for infrastructure much more expensive than it should be.

Ultimately, all Illinois stakeholders must incorporate the state’s infrastructure funding deficit into their assessment of the fiscal condition of the state. Given the fiscal and budgetary urgency of dealing with the state’s overwhelming obligations, it may seem convenient to overlook the state’s infrastructure funding deficit. But this is extremely perilous for the state’s long-term economic health.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has placed Illinois’ economic turnaround at the top of his agenda. Fixing our infrastructure funding deficit must be integral to that effort.

Martin J. Luby is a visiting scholar at the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs and an associate professor in the School of Public Service at DePaul University. 

Loop Link: All Glitches, No Glamour

The Loop Link plan was announced with much fanfare. As it arrives, the excitement dims…

Want to see how the much-lauded “Signature Project” CTA Belmont Flyover will really look, what it will really do to Lakeview, and at what real cost?

Traffic-clogging construction has been underway for almost six months on Loop Link, the Emanuel administration’s experiment intended to speed CTA buses through downtown, yet the bus rapid transit service will be launched late this year with fewer features than originally promised, officials told the Tribune.

Even before the changes that threaten to reduce the benefits of the whole endeavor to ease congestion in the central Loop, the $32 million project was labeled “BRT Lite” by some transportation experts because its design lacked several elements that are key to helping buses replicate the service reliability of rail rapid transit. Those experts said making a strong first impression was vital to winning public backing for introducing bus rapid transit citywide.
read more

Losing Lakeview’s Charm, Gaining a Cement Skyway


Here we are on Belmont Ave. standing at the Red Line El station in the heart of Central Lakeview – one of Chicago’s top theater, restaurant, entertainment districts. Right around the corner is Clark St., famous for its charming old buildings, clever little shops and restaurants.

But this neighborhood will be changed forever by the CTA’s proposed Belmont Flyover.


Here’s how Clark St. will look after the CTA gets done with it.
Think anyone will want to live here, visit here, after they destroy Clark Street?

Here’s a letter from Adam Rosa, urban planner & president of Hawthorne Neighbors, detailing how the proposed Flyover will affect Central Lakeview: HNCTALetter

Rushing to Work, Ruining Lakeview

The CTA is planning to build a $570 million Skyway-style cement Flyover that barrels through the heart of Lakeview, ruining 2 blocks of Clark Street and creating blocks of under-El wasteland.

Why? To get Red Line trains downtown 20-30 seconds faster.

highwayflyovercroppedThink no one would be crazy enough to destroy a city just to get to it?
Look at Louisville, KY, and think again.
Aren’t we smarter than this?

Louisville interchangeGrassroots Efforts “Crushed” by Louisville’s 42.6 Billion Bridge Boondoggle
Posted by Streetsblog USA, 5/2/2015

Belmont -Western Flyover Nightmare Continues

Update: The tear down of the highway viaduct at Belmont & Western now won’t happen till NEXT year. So, one more year before the ugliness and emptiness stops and life can return to that neighborhood for the first time in 50+ years.

Meanwhile, we wait for the CTA Flyover to be built in Central Lakeview, and for the ugliness and emptiness to start on Clark Street.


Western & Belmont Viaduct to Vanish, 1.3 Miles of Wider Sidewalks Planned
Streetsblog Chicago, 6/10/14

The Chicago Department of Transportation plans to tear down the structurally deficient 52-year-old viaduct that lifts traffic on Western Avenue over the intersection of Belmont and Clybourn. Instead of a gloomy concrete interchange walling off the edge of Roscoe Village, a more conventional surface-level intersection could be built as soon as 2016.