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How's Your Brown Line Station Doing?

By Karl Klockars in News on Oct 20, 2008 7:00PM

AWESOME LINE courtesy of yenna, in presumably happier times.

When I look down at the grey, weather-beaten, splitting-wood platform beneath my feet on the Rockwell Stop, I wonder what relation to any one of the Powers That Be owns a lumber yard. Because it just seems silly that you'd rebuild numerous El platforms and stations, and then use untreated, unfinished wood planks that fall apart months after the grand reopening of the Brown Line station. And then I think about the months-long period of time where the automatic door openers at the stations were on the fritz, making the doors almost inoperable to open without mechanical assistance. And I wonder: What's the deal, CTA? Am I the only one thinking these thinks?

But then I read this story from the Chicago Tribune today, and I realize that I'm not the only person that's had the same concern. Jon Hilkevitch on the Getting Around beat finds rusting steel, corroding rivets, splintering boards, and other concerns on the brand new rail stations. These are the stations that are supposed to last us into the next four decades. Okay, so things are falling apart. The bigger question Hilkevitch asks is: did the city even need a revamping of the Brown Line?

Numbers and lamentation after the jump.

Hilkevitch writes:

The Brown Line provides only about 44,000 rides a day at stations north of the Merchandise Mart, according to the transit agency. Even counting the Loop elevated stations, Brown Line total daily ridership is about 68,000—a fraction of the almost 1.7 million rides* the CTA provides each weekday.

So it's not that the old Ravenswood Line needed more and larger trains all day - just during the rush hour period, which makes you think twice about spending a half billion dollars on the shiny new stations, which aren't as shiny or new as we'd like them to be. Nor did the CTA follow through on the promise that stations would remain open during refurbishing, as Paulina, Wellington and Irving Park riders certainly know currently.

While we will have full handicap accessibility on all platforms, which is worth noting, we still have no other upgrades like travel times for incoming trains, barely any communication on service updates, or other "perks" that might have brought the CTA into last century. Instead, we plod forward as though we're transportational Luddites, thrilled that they no longer use coal to power the carriages.

One small detail - the story reports that there's no heat lamps underneath the shelters at the Rockwell stop, which is true. Go outside during the upcoming winter months, and you will indeed freeze. But the heat lamps inside the station itself are more than warm, so don't worry too much about me and my fellow commuters at Rockwell and Leland. We'll be inside, wondering how much more snow and ice our platform can handle.

*In case you're curious, we did the quick math: 1.7 million riders X about $2 a ride X a full 365 days a year equals about 1 billion, 247 million dollars. Minus those freeloading seniors, of course.