CTA Kicks Off New FastTracks Program to Speed ‘L’ Commutes, Improve Rail Service Reliability

February 5, 2018

Mayor’s innovative funding program supports track improvements systemwide; work will cut up to 6 minutes off of commutes, help reduce wait times at stations

The Chicago Transit Authority has launched a comprehensive program of track repairs and maintenance designed to provide faster commutes and smoother rides for ‘L’ customers—improvements made possible by Mayor Emanuel’s innovative fee on ride-hailing services.

The CTA’s FastTracks program will reduce by up to six minutes off a typical round-trip commute on the Red, Blue, Brown and Green Lines, the four busiest rail lines, by repairing and upgrading rail, rail ties and electrical power in multiple locations throughout the system. The $179 million investment is being funded through a small increase in fees charged to app-based ride-hailing companies operating in Chicago. The fee, proposed by the Mayor and approved by City Council in November, is the first of its kind in the country to directly support investment in public transportation.

“By modernizing and expanding our bus and rail services, CTA costumers will spend less time traveling and have more reliable public transportation options,” Mayor Emanuel said. “As the nation’s first city to develop and dedicate it solely to transit, we are rebuilding our CTA system and ensuring future generations can depend on it.”

The $179 million FastTracks program marks the latest step in the Mayor’s unprecedented investment toward modernizing and improving CTA rail and bus service. Since 2011, the CTA has completed, begun or announced more than $8 billion in modernization projects, ranging from new and completely rebuilt rail stations to new buses and railcars.

“Thanks to this important new source of funding, the CTA can continue to make investments that directly benefit our customers by improving their daily commutes,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. The ride-hailing fee is especially important, Carter noted, because the State of Illinois has not passed a capital bill to support transportation and transit projects since 2009. “CTA still has a significant need for capital investment. FastTracks is a great start, but state support will be critical to continuing investment that’s critical to both maintaining and modernizing our system.”

The first phase of FastTracks includes track repairs in various spots on the Green Line just south of 35th Street. Crews will replace worn rail ties, which is important to maintain the gauge of the track and support the trains’ weight, which will make rides smoother, more comfortable and more reliable for customers. The improvements will address numerous “slow zones” where trains travel lower than optimal speed—fixing current slow zones and helping prevent others from occurring.

Other projects in 2018 through 2021 include improvements along:

  • Green Line South (between 18th and 35th Streets; between 35th and 59th Street; and along the Cottage Grove and Ashland branches)
  • Green and Pink Lines (between Clinton and Ashland)
  • Blue Line O’Hare branch (electrical power improvements)
  • Red and Blue Line subways (State Street and Dearborn)
  • Blue Line Congress branch (Clinton to Forest Park)
  • Brown Line (between Western and Kimball)


The track work across these rail lines will remove slow zones and increase service reliability. The improvements entail a combination of repairing and replacing sections of iron rail; replacing deteriorated wooden rail ties; and adjusting and maintaining track ballast. The electrical power improvements along the Blue Line O’Hare branch will allow CTA to run additional trains during high-ridership times like the morning rush period on weekdays, which will help address crowded trains and reduce the amount of time customers have to wait on platforms.

Work will be completed outside of weekday peak-ridership hours to minimize the impact to customers.

For more information about the FastTracks project, visit transitchicago.com/fasttracks.  

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