Following a special Chicago Transit Board meeting to review final preparations for three-track operation at the Belmont and Fullerton stations, board members agreed with CTA officials recommendation to proceed as planned with three-track operations. Beginning on Monday, April 2, Red, Brown and Purple Express trains will operate on three tracks instead of four at the Belmont and Fullerton stations on the City's North Side. 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 a phase of the Brown Line capacity expansion project which, when completed at end of 2009, 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.
?This past week we completed the final preparations for three-track operation," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. ?It has been the culmination of more than a year of work and even more in planning, to put the infrastructure in place to make this effort succeed. Over the last few months, we have been testing the reliability of the signals and switches throughout Clark Junction and operating on three tracks during off-peak hours. We are satisfied that all the pieces are in place for this next phase of the Brown Line project."
Other preparations included training staff on the new routings, developing and testing contingency plans in case of emergencies, improving processes to monitor rail service and respond to problems, coordinating with other agencies, such as Metra and the RTA, as well as city agencies, including the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, Police and Fire.
In addition to briefing elected officials and various groups, the CTA recently conducted four community meetings to provide details of three-track operation to customers answer their questions and listen to their suggestions.
Since 1999, the CTA has participated in 519 meetings with elected officials and community groups regarding the Brown Line project.
Measures that were recommended by customers and already included in the three-track service plan are increasing customer service levels, providing express bus service from North Side via Lake Shore Drive to downtown, adding Blue Line trains, extending rush hour service levels, providing additional service announcements, coordinating service with Metra, coordinating with emergency responders to improve response times and working with the RTA on additional options for the trip planner tool.
In addition to service enhancements already planned for bus routes, staff recommended incorporating community suggestions to have some buses on the #134 Stockton/LaSalle Express and the #143 Stockton/Michigan Express begin their routes at the Belmont Red Line station in addition to the current starting point a few blocks east at Halsted. As with all the other service changes in support of three track operations, CTA will closely monitor ridership patterns and adjust service as needed.
To help customers with the transition, CTA will staff Brown, Red, Purple and Loop rail stations with Information Specialists who are available to provide maps, brochures and information on alternate service throughout the initial launch of three-track operation. In addition, each station as well as trains and buses serving the North Side, have alternate service signs to help customers plan their routes. Increased numbers of Customer Assistants, switchmen, supervisors, repairers and managers have been scheduled to monitor and adjust service during three-track operation, as well as to respond to service disruptions. CTA's Customer Service department has extended its hours and representatives will be available between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. to assist customers at 1-888-YOUR-CTA (968-7282).
To help support the additional demand that is expected to be placed on the bus system, CTA will boost bus service at those points where rail customers are expected to migrate. To accommodate the increase in bus service in the area, the agency has hired additional part-time bus operators.
In addition to suggesting that customers use alternate services such as express bus routes or the Blue Line to improve travel times, the CTA reminds customers that common commuter courtesies will help contribute to a faster, more efficient ride for everyone. These include:
- Have your fare ready.
- Board quickly. On rail cars, move to the center. On buses, move to the rear.
- Customers waiting to board should allow passengers to exit first.
- On buses, exit through the rear doors.
- Avoid blocking doors as they close.
Station specific information related to three-track operation and details on the Brown Line capacity expansion project is also available on CTA's web site, www.transitchicago.com, and the Brown Line web site, www.ctabrownline.com.# # #