CTA Brown Line

The CTA is focusing on slow zones between Armitage and Merchandise Mart and Kimball and Western. (August 11, 2014)

The CTA is taking more steps to speed travel on the Brown Line, where one-fifth of the route was considered a slow zone last month.

The agency expects to award a $42 million contract Wednesday for track work to rid the Brown Line of slow zones between the Armitage and Merchandise Mart stops.

In slow zones, trains travel 35 miles per hour or slower because of track conditions or construction. Trains can reach 55 miles per hour systemwide.

Also this week, free shuttle buses will replace trains for two days on the northern section of the Brown Line between the Western and Kimball stations so the CTA can repair track and eliminate slow zones.

For the Armitage-Merchandise Mart work, known as the Ravenswood Connector project, the CTA did not say who would likely win the contract for the track upgrades. The CTA board is slated to vote on the contract Wednesday at its monthly meeting.

After the contract is awarded, CTA officials should know more details about Brown Line work including the length of the Ravenswood Connector project—which not only includes repairs to the track into the Loop but other structural repairs—and how it will affect riders. The price tag of the entire project for the track, which also serves the Purple Line Express, is pegged at $71 million.

The structural work on the project began last year. Since then, the CTA has run trains on a single-track on some weekends in that area.

"We're at a point where we're ready to move on to the heavy track work," CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said.

Between June and July, the CTA repaired 3,735 feet of track, much of it in slow zones between the Addison and Paulina stops and southbound from the Sedgwick stop.

That represents about 4 percent of Brown Line track. About 20,000 feet of Brown Line track is considered a slow zone, as of July 9, the most recent CTA data posted to transitchicago.com. In nearly 80 percent of Brown Line slow zones, trains are traveling 15 miles per hour.

Some riders of the Brown Line—which include Mayor Emanuel and CTA president Forrest Claypool—have noticed reduced train speeds.

Shanna Quinn, of Lincoln Square, said it used to take her 40 minutes to commute on the Brown Line from the Rockwell stop in Ravenswood to the Quincy stop in the Loop. About five months ago, she started to notice her commute sometimes took longer than an hour.

The Brown Line "never feels predictable," said Quinn, 32. "I just keep on feeling frustrated, not knowing what you're going to get everyday."

Separate from the Ravenswood Connector project, the CTA is suspending Brown Line service between the Western stop in Lincoln Square and the Kimball stop in Albany Park from 2:40 a.m. Saturday to 4 a.m. Monday.

Trains will run only between the Western stop and the Loop during that time. Free shuttle buses will make stops at the Western and Kimball stops and along Lawrence Avenue at Rockwell Street and Sacramento and Kedzie avenues near the other Brown Line stations.

As part of this weekend work, the CTA will replace deteriorated wooden rail ties, tie plates and other track materials on the span of elevated track over the Chicago River.

Riders should allow extra time. This is the only weekend of work planned for this section of the Brown Line, Chase said.

Take it to the Streeterville
The Chicago Department of Transportation is holding an open house Wednesday to seek public input on how to improve transit between the West Loop and River North and Streeterville. The meeting will be held 4 to 7 p.m., at Loyola University Water Tower Campus, 111 E. Pearson St. Go to rnstransit.com for more information about the study, which is slated to be completed early next year.

Stationary

A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note

This week: Morgan stop on the Green and Pink lines

The Morgan stop, which opened in May 2012 on the Near West Side, continues to be the fastest growing CTA stop. The station saw 601,176 rides last year, up 108 percent from 2012, according to CTA data. Rides were up 23 percent this year through April, compared with the same time last year, CTA data show.

The $38 million station was paid for with federal and TIF funds, money intended to spur development in some communities.

Unlike most CTA stations, there are no bus routes that stop at Morgan. Instead, there is a greater focus on biking. There are several bike racks outside the station for those who bring their own bikes and Divvy racks for those who don't.

These racks are near the two west entrances. Annoyingly, the east entrances are exit only, which means a longer walk for those coming from Halsted Street or from the east.

Next up: Oakton Skokie Yellow Line