CTA Outlines Plans for Three-Track Operation This Spring

January 10, 2007

Customers Warned of Delays
Advised to Leave Early, Leave Late or Alternate

Today CTA officials reported that the proposed shift to three-track operation this spring in the rail corridor between Armitage and Addison (Red Line) will result in more crowded trains and longer commutes for customers on the Brown Line, Purple Line Express and north branch of the Red Line. With approximately 1,000 trains and 185,000 customers traveling through it each day, the corridor is the most heavily trafficked area on the CTA rail system.

While construction is underway, trains serving the Belmont and Fullerton stations will have to share three tracks instead of four. Although trains will continue to stop at the stations, one of the four tracks along the platforms at each station must be taken out of service while the platform is rebuilt and tracks are reconfigured to allow room for elevators to be installed. The specific track to be taken out of service will vary during the course of the project.

The construction is part of the Brown Line capacity expansion project which, when completed, will allow the CTA to accommodate more customers in this busy and growing corridor and will make all Brown Line stations accessible to people with disabilities.

?Just as motorists are advised to contend with lane closures and congestion for construction on the Dan Ryan Expressway last year, we want to make sure that our customers have been notified in advance so they can plan their commutes during three-track operation," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown. ?We will provide as much service as we can operate safely, but our capacity will be greatly reduced. Customers should expect very crowded conditions and longer commutes, especially during rush hours. Although this is not welcome news, the work is necessary to improve capacity to meet growing demand. We feel it is important to maintain service for our customers during construction even though the level of service will be compromised."

'since the inception of the Brown Line capacity expansion project in 1998, three-track operation has been a part of the construction plan which is why we have done the preparatory work over the last 18 months to add crossover tracks and update signals throughout this corridor and construct new tracks at Belmont and Fullerton. This work has laid the groundwork to safely operate rail service on one less track than normal. By having more locations where we can move trains from one track to another, we will be able to keep trains running and keep both the Belmont and Fullerton stations open to customers while construction is underway," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?But losing one track will result in more crowded trains and increased commute times regardless of the operational adjustments that will be made and it is important for our customers to know that in advance and be prepared. During the evening rush, capacity will be reduced by 25 percent, which is the equivalent of more than 17,400 customers, so we recommend that customers plan ahead."

Kruesi advised that customers, especially those who currently travel during rush hours, plan to leave earlier or later, or that they consider alternate services such as CTA buses, other CTA rail routes such as the Blue Line or Metra trains.

Providing rail service with 25 percent less track capacity will present significant challenges. Due to the reduced capacity, CTA will operate fewer trains. During the first phase of work, the greatest impact will be evident during evening rush hour because three northbound lines will share one track at Fullerton and Belmont. As a result, during evening rush hours (3 ? 6:30 p.m.), the CTA will have approximately 25 percent less capacity ? the equivalent of more than 17,400 customers if trains were fully loaded. Thirty one fewer northbound Purple Express, Red and Brown Line trains will operate during this time.

Morning rush will also be congested because the number of southbound Purple Express, Red and Brown Line trains will be reduced by 16 trains. In terms of customer capacity it translates to approximately 13 percent less capacity, or space for 8,600 fewer rail customers.

To help alleviate crowding on platforms and to provide choices for customers, Purple Line Express trains will join Brown Line trains on the outer track in the Loop. This will enable customers to board either route. To the extent possible, the CTA also recommends that customers plan to leave earlier or later, and allow extra travel time. The CTA also recommends that customers consider alternate service such as nearby bus routes, other CTA rail lines such as the Blue Line or Metra trains. CTA plans to increase the frequency of service on several existing bus routes serving the corridor to help accommodate rail customers who may choose to switch to nearby bus service.

The newly installed Clark Junction signal system is being configured to manage the increased volume of train traffic on fewer tracks through the corridor and operational staff is being trained to coordinate traffic through the reconfigured junction. Three-track operation is tentatively scheduled to begin on Monday, April 2, 2007 and continue until the Brown Line capacity expansion project is completed in 2009, however, Kruesi said the start date will not be finalized until all signals and crossover work is completed and passes tests for reliability.

On an average weekday just over 108,000 rides are provided on the north branch of the Red Line, 66,000 on the Brown Line when traffic at the Belmont and Fullerton stations are added in, and 10,000 rides provided by the Purple Line Express service, not including Evanston.

Three-track presentation (PDF format)

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