Reports of HPKCC Transit Task Force meetings with CTA staff

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A photo opportunity and chance to tour a prototype of the new articulated buses for the lakefront routes was held February 16, 2003 at Museum of Science and Industry north entrance.) Member Ann Fennessy rode the first bus on its maiden trip in July, 2003.

Latest first. Our most recent meeting was held August 7, 2003. Conversation thereafter was through different channels.

CTA – Hyde Park Transit Task Force Meeting August 7, 2003

Present were three leaders o the Task Force and a team of planning, managing, and public relations officers from CTA.

Gary Ossewaarde set forth the agenda, led introductions and gave a brief background of Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference’s transit advocacy and of the Transit Task Force. He noted the importance of continuing, positive relationships and sharing of information between service agencies and community groups. Ossewaarde then turned the meeting over to James Withrow for discussion of Task Force questions and ideas.

Owl Service

Withrow said it was a goal of the Task Force to see sufficient late-night service. We have it on part of the Cottage Grove line (recently extended to the Green Line terminus at 63rd). Members said the new #6, 4 am to 1 am, is a good candidate for future owl service.

Schedule for phasing in the new articulated buses

Kerry Morgan, Manager, 103rd Garage, said bus 5724 has already entered service. He was glad Ann Fennessy was able to join its maiden journey. Fennessy praised the bus. Morgan said the new buses will probably come in large batches. Engineers go over the bus and drivers at the two South Side garages that will initially use these buses (103rd and 77th) are being trained now. (The new bus has differences in handling.) He said he expected substantial deliveries within six months. These buses replace old buses and will used mainly on the #14 and (less) #28 express routes. (Mid-day they may serve on other routes also.) The remaining Seattle and other old articulated buses will be taken out of service on the #6 and #14. #6 will have newer-style regular-length buses. 103rd garage will have 69 articulated buses.

Quality of bus stop signage, responsibility for stops and shelters

Morgan said the new shelters are city contracted and maintained, except for the CTA map and information panel. CTA is also responsible for all other parts of each stop. On signs, CTA tries to provide enough information but not clutter, Morgan said. Key information is highlighted. CTA is trying to use common definitions, such as “early,” “mid,” and “late” evening (8 pm, 10 pm divide these).

Bunching issues

Withrow said it would help to see samples of data collected re; keeping to schedule. Morgan said he would look into it. Withrow said his experience was that the actual wait for buses (c. 5 minutes) is less long than the perceived wait, so CTA may have a “good” story to tell. Fennessy said she believed the waits are now shorter and that many buses do pass up the lead bus and otherwise work together. Morgan said the drivers are supposed to work together to achieve “service restoration” and said that three buses together is bad.
Morgan described the process and reporting standards for drivers from initial check in to bus departure. Standards at the garage are tough, he said.

Morgan said that each bus has several means for communication with the control center, but its usefulness in service restoration, by the driver or by supervisors, is limited.

Morgan said, when something goes wrong on the route or with passengers, the driver is to inform the control center. The center will send police/help; the driver is not to eject passengers. Task Force members said they would feel more comfortable if some drivers were more proactive in setting a tone and calling for help. Morgan said he is confident drivers are given enough authority to manage the bus and the route.

GPS and other technology- prognosis, uses, including for route management

Daniel Shurz, of CTA Special Projects, said that all except retiring buses have the voice enunciator system. The satellite positioning tells the bus and the control center where the bus is. This will be up and running on 1,500 buses by early next year. This equipment cannot be used for real-time route management. That would require an additional substantial investment. CTA has not made the determination that such equipment would be reliable/mature enough, make enough difference, and take precedence over other CTA needs (For example, vehicle diagnostics for timely maintenance is also important, Shurz and Morgan said.)
How they will use the current collectable data (available the next day) is in adjusting schedules to fit needs and realities, including evening out bus loads and improving on-time performance. CTA will concentrate next on improving weekend run times. Withrow said he believes strong supervision is at least as important as juggling schedules. Morgan replied that there have been instances in which schedules required drivers to do what cannot be done under street conditions.

Community input and consultation

Withrow noted that the Task Force is pro public transit and participates in meetings and rallies in favor of keeping or increasing facilities and service. He said the task force could help CTA, for example in getting out the word for and co-sponsoring open houses. (Notice of this set was poor, he said.) He also said that it is important that CTA seek broad community and stakeholder input from the time CTA sees that it and riders have a mutual problem that needs a solution. CTA reps. said they have used a variety of input, including a large survey last summer, in developing, for example, the new routes and that feedback will become more intensive as that experiment goes into its trial period. This will culminate in formal hearings. They offered to consult with the Task Force during the mid-trial period.

New routes

Participants discussed general and specific ideas, and potential drawbacks, of the new routes and the importance of feedback and careful measurement of results. Among specifics was that the Task Force believes the ramped up #2 has great potential but will be tricky for riders to learn (including how to tell which bus to take from downtown.) Placement of sufficient stops on the southern leg around 60th (or should it use the Midway?) will be difficult. Ossewaarde said CTA should consider an hourly mid-day fixed-schedule departure of #2s from 6oth and Cottage (say, at 11, 12, 1, and 2).

The meeting was concluded. Kimberly Beattie will be liaison and will facilitate setting up the next meeting.

Respectfully submitted,

Gary M. Ossewaarde

Letter from the Task Force to the Herald, November, 2002

To the Editor:

The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Transit Task Force meets quarterly with officers of CTA. We have together identified several Jeffery Express and other bus improvements that can be introduced (some already have been) without waiting for next year’s new buses, stop enunciators, Smart Cards, and shelters. CTA has been generally responsive to our requests.

The changes address flexible and proactive response to bottlenecks, effective supervision, route short-runs and turnarounds or limited-stop runs. Some connecting routes have been extended or have longer hours (or the changes will go into effect in December).

Mid-afternoon through evening trips present Jeffery riders the greatest challenge in recent months, our logs revealed. We would like to hear Herald readers’ experience and what needs attention. We specifically need riders who will keep logs of how long they wait, patterns of bus arrivals, and bus crowding and conditions. Call us at 773 288-8343 or e-mail

The Task Force, like other Hyde Parkers, is also looking at wider issues of transit and mobility. What would most help riders and give our communities the greatest boost? In the news recently was one of several ideas brought to regional planners, ideas for better southeast corridor rapid service and a more seamless transit system.

The Gray Line proposal by Mike Payne would have CTA lease at least part of the Metra Electric’s in-city service. Transit planning and oversight persons and state legislators said the plan addresses a major deficiency, farebox and route coordination.

We are researching several approaches and seek to meet with CTA’s planning department. We note that CTA’s preferred approach, the Outer Loop Rail plan, would be of limited help to the southeast side because it lacks a close linkup to either the Jeffery or Metra Electric. If any coordination or new or encompassing service for our corridor is to happen, Hyde Park and the rest of the southeast side must convince CTA and the city to ask for it, starting with their conducting a study which might certify that the need and market exist.

Please contact us if you would like to join the Conference Transit Task Force.

Homer U. Ashby
Ann Fennessy
Gary M. Ossewaarde
James Withrow

HPKCC Transit Task Force October Quarterly Meeting with CTA Managers

In October, the HPKCC Transit Task Force leadership held its quarterly meeting in Hyde Park with five CTA operations and planning officers. A representative of Alderman Hairston (5th) was also present.

The Task Force presented documentation for observed service improvement during the morning northbound runs but continued problems with the afternoon and evening southbound service. Problems included timeliness of arrivals, lack of consistency, and crowded buses.

CTA representatives, especially for the 103rd St. garage, agreed to work with the Chicago Avenue garage to improve coordination, head times, and handling and notifying of construction delays. They also said that arrival next year of new buses with audible stop
announcements and the new smart cards will speed up and smooth boarding and departure. They also agreed to look into better signs on buses, giving a name to call about problems.

The Task Force asked CTA to consider having a proportion of rush hour buses stop only at main and connecting streets, as the new 55X does. CTA said they will add that to the mix Planning is considering for reconfiguration, including short-tripping (underway
already experimentally).

Other Issues:

Memo from Judy Chernick re: a #6X or skip-stop service for some rush hour runs. Submitted to CTA at the October meeting.

Transit Task Force sees and seeks progress at July meeting with CTA

Chicago Transit Authority leading managers came to Hyde Park July 24, 2002 to discuss with HPKCC Transit Task Force leaders progress and prospects for Jeffery and other service. Conference spokespersons were president Homer Ashby, Ann Fennessy, secretary Gary Ossewaarde, and James Withrow. Representing CTA were new bus vice president and long-time rail director Bill Mooney, Mersja Besic, quality-issues officer in the vice president's office, Barbara Keaton, director of government and community affairs, John Menegheni, 103rd garage, Kerry Morgan, head of the 103rd garage and one of the CTA rail-feeder bus coordination planners and a human relations expert, and Mitchell Ware, manager of the four University of Chicago CTA bus routes.
Mr. Mooney said that problems are being addressed through manager and driver training, expanded manager coverage (24-7), especially at the garages, bus deployment and in-route supervision, route assessment, and new equipment.

He said that, next to taking seriously the responsibility to provide quality public service, having reliable equipment and having it kept in service is the key to improvement. CTA's initiative for routes #6 Jeffery Express and #14 Lake Shore Express include:

  1. A new fleet of buses. Arriving this August or September are prototypes of the large, low-ride, air-conditioned articulated buses. System wide, 226 new, versus at present 62 poor quality, articulated buses will be deployed between February and fall, 2003. These will have an enunciator system, shown to reduce accidents and speed up and smooth out boarding and departing.
  2. New maintenance procedures to keep the highest possible proportion of the fleet on duty.
  3. More "spotted trippers" to arrive and load as schools or other high-loading facilities let out. CTA agreed to evaluate such service for Kenwood Academy.
  4. Changes in bus deployment scheduling strategy and in driver route-specific selection and training, which should be in place by late fall this year.

The Task Force reported on its systematic street corner counts (in Hyde Park and downtown) of bus arrivals and lengths of wait. Mostly, these were acceptable and improved but with glaring exceptions-most often early in the morning or evening but occasionally in early afternoon. Customers are not so much upset with seeing several buses together (provided the less crowded bus stops to make sure all can get on a bus!) but are upset when buses often do not come frequently (6 to 10 minutes apart) and consistently, CTA was told.

The Task Force agreed to conduct an analysis of real-time intervals between #6 buses in August. The Task Force also said it would be glad to forward to CTA more reports from HPKCC members of good, as well as poor, driver service. The Task force generally praised the University CTA routes, but reported inconsistency and long waits for the #173 Lakeview and that the local routes are not of use to people who need to get to the University or Hospital before 7:30 a.m.

Asked about reintroducing #6 "gap" buses (inserted at spots mid-route), as opposed to "spot trippers" from schools, CTA said they would look at that once the new buses are in service and other means to manage the route for consistent service are put in place. They are considering more short-turning of buses and are deploying #10 Museum buses just ahead of #6's. Both groups said that the only consistent negative effect of Lake Shore Drive construction was a several-minute increase in running time, due largely to a few bottlenecks.

They said that ridership on the Jeffery is still growing at a good pace, especially on weekends, and that on the #14 is stable. CTA has directed its cost-saving measures to avoid any cutbacks in service, including in reduced-fare service.

They said they would have to be convinced that a market exists before considering additional service such as "owl" service on the Jeffery, or restoring service cut in 1996. The Task Force said that owl service on long connecting routes such as the Jeffery is a matter of making it possible for people to get to work or enjoy the city. Also, part even of well covered Hyde Park and Kenwood are bereft of service after 7 p.m. The Task Force did not receive encouraging news regarding new and better "street furniture" (modern benches and shelters).

Finally, upon discussion of options by James Withrow, the Task Force requested a service and market study of rapid transit options for our area, including some ideas to provide CTA fare or physical link-ups with and/or more frequent (10 minute) service on the Metra Electric.
In summary, improvements should begin to appear by late fall and new and enough buses will gradually enter the #6 and #14 routes over the next year.

Another meeting with CTA was scheduled for early fall and an expanded task force meeting will be announced.