Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sloopin's Grand Plan: CTA and the Chicago 2016 Olympic Bid Solution

So for a week or two Sloopin has been talking about the CTA and potential new stops in the South Loop. As we’ve mentioned in other posts, the biggest wild card is the bid for the 2016 Olympics. As stated when the IOC reviewed the initial bid:

“The role of public transport in a Chicago games is not clear,” the IOC evaluation team wrote. While the use of the lakefront for numerous sports venues is appealing, it added, those venues are “not in close proximity” to train lines that can efficiently move tens of thousands of athletes, officials and spectators.

So with that said, below are some ideas that Sloopin has in regards to solving that problem. Our options focus on the Central and South Cluster as those are probably the two most critical to Chicago’s bid. The West and North Clusters have less of a role in the bid. The West Cluster is already set up well with public transportation (pink line) and the North Cluster is another story, but we’re not going to focus on that now.

The image below is a divided into three different illustrations:

  1. Far Left Map - is the current CTA and Metra maps with the proposed Olympic venues marked with the “X”. The Red “X’’s are venues and the Black “X” is the Olympic Village.
  2. Center Map – is the same map, with the addition of the black line. This black line marks railroad tracks that currently run the Metra, South Shore and commercial train. Our idea revolves around using these tracks for a new CTA line (so we must assume this is a possibility). Since it’s expensive and often legally tough to get new real estate for trains, it seems that these are already there and could be used to address some of the concerns of the IOC. We will get into the specifics later.
  3. Far Right Map – are the different options our ideas. We’ve numbered the options to reflect our opinion in terms of ease, cost and planning (so option 1 is the most likely and option 3 would be the least likely). These options take into account current planning by the RTA (see earlier post). The connector idea will ultimately connect the black line to the green line and create a “South” Loop.

So now that you’ve seen the bigger picture, let’s dive deeper into each option:

Option 1 – The 16th and 18th street station

As you can see by the illustration below, the black line already stops at 27th (where the Olympic village would be), McCormick Place (where many of the sports and the press center will be) and 18th street (which has a bridge that goes over LSD to Soldier field and Northerly Island).

The way to connect this to the EL is by utilizing the commercial train tracks that turn west at 16th street (which you can see in the red box). I doubt the CTA could use the same tracks, but maybe they could build something that runs above these train tracks.

The black line would connect to the existing EL lines at 16th between Wabash and State Street. Our idea calls for a new station for the 3 existing lines and the new black line (red, green and orange line already use the tracks). The station is marked by the blue oval.

The pros for Option 1 are as follows:

  • Utilizes existing train track real estate. This would enable the city to build over or use existing tracks, which probably would save a lot of money.
  • City would not need to take over real estate or drastically change existing lines
  • It connects to all key South and Central Cluster venues to the greater EL system
  • It connects McCormick Place and the Olympic village to the Main Stadium in Jackson Park.
  • Creates a new developmental corridor on 16th – 18th street

The cons/questions for Option 1 are:

  • Could the EL use the commercial tracks on 16th street?
  • How expensive would this be?

Option 2 – Cermak Station

This option is very similar to Option 1, however it won’t access the 18th street Metra stop. The black line would now serve the 27th street stop (where the Olympic village would be) and McCormick place.

Option 2 calls for the black line to run either under or over ground along Cermak and connect with the Green line at Cermak between Wabash and State streets (which is the portion within the red box in the picture below). This option calls for a stop at Cermak for both the green and black lines (which is noted by the blue oval).

The pros for Option 2 are as follows:

  • See Option 1 pros
  • Creates a new developmental corridor leading to McCormick place (good for tourists and conventions)
  • It has adequate space between the Roosevelt stop (which is on the 1200 block. Option 1 - the 16th station obviously will only be 4 blocks away from Roosevelt)

The cons/questions for Option 2 are:

  • The city would have to build on Cermak Street, which could be costly.
  • People have raised concerns about the neighborhood in this area (however, by 2016 we think the neighborhood will look very different especially if this type of development happens).

Option 3 – Randolph Stop

Option 3 could be the best, however our guess is that it would cost the most and have the biggest disruption to the current system and city. Again, the bulk of the idea is to use the existing Metra and South Shore train tracks that go along the south portion of LSD, through Grant Park and finally ending at Randolph street (under Millennium Park).

The biggest question is how and where would this line connect to the existing EL system. In the illustration below, you can see the black line eventually linking to the Red Line at State and Lake. The line would then loop South and head toward Jackson Park on the existing green line tracks. This option has a lot of variables, opportunities, questions and concerns. However, if the funds exist, it would probably be the best solution because:

  • It provides closer public transit access to the lake front (IOC concern)
  • It does a better job of linking to all existing El lines and the Loop
  • Has potential to link to the Block 37 Super Station (if that ever happens) and both airports
  • It still connects to McCormick Place, the Olympic Village and the Main Stadium

However, the biggest concern in our mind would be how much would this cost? To connect this in the loop seems like it would be very expensive.

Olympic Line Connector

This is used in all three of our ideas and would link the existing green line tracks to the existing Metra and South Shore tracks. This would create a “South” Loop and give everyone access to all relevant Olympic Venues (McCormick Place, Olympic Village, Main Stadium and other Olympic Venues). Assuming the CTA can use existing tracks, the only new construction piece would be linking the 63rd street Metra station to the 63rd street Cottage Grove CTA station (which is within the red box on the illustration).

As you can see, the idea calls for this new Black Line (or Olympic Line which I’m sure the IOC would like) to run counter clockwise.


Overall, all of the ideas try to address the IOC’s concerns:

  • Closer public transit train access to venues and the lakefront
  • Ability to move thousands of athletes, spectators and officials to all of the venues

We also tried to avoid ridiculous, costly projects and ideas since the bid team is trying to not make this too costly (Option 3 probably would cost some coin).

So this is Sloopin's Grand Plan. Please let us know if you agree, how you would change things or just plainly what you think?

We have some other thoughts on the Olympics and development, but we will tackle those later.

1 comment:

David said...

We should build a monorail so we can be better than Shelbyville.