Faster, smoother commutes are the aim of the new Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) "L" maintenance initiative that utilizes funds generated from a fee on ride-hailing services.
The CTA says the 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, crossties 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 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and approved by City Council in November, is the first of its kind in the country to directly support investment in public transportation.
“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,” said Carter.
The first phase of FastTracks includes track repairs in various spots on the Green Line just south of 35th Street. 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 rail; replacing deteriorated wood crossties and adjusting and maintaining ballast. The electrical power improvements along the Blue Line O’Hare branch will allow CTA to run additional trains during high-ridership times such as the morning rush period on weekdays, which will help address crowded trains and reduce the amount of time customers have to wait on platforms.