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 Gray Line Coalition. (A modified proposal for the South Chicago branch is now called Gold Line (was Gray Line Lite, evolved from SECRET) was once pushed for and as a benefit from the Olympics, then in 2040 PLAN and South Lakefront Corridor Transit Study (receiving endorsement for at least parts in the latter two) . Michael Payne was the originator.

(The Metra page in this Transit Web has an initial sketch of a "Gray Line Lite" (South East Chicago Rail Enhancement Team) proposal the HPKCC Transit Task Force and other transit and Southeast corridor community organizations are also considering.)

HPKCC is mainly supporting a modified version called Gold Line for the South Chicago Branch, that is really gaining traction in communities and government. Some updates are in the transit home page. Contact Gary Ossewaarde at SOUL, legislators and aldermen along the line who have joined forces to seek a full costing out study. Main components are frequent service (will cost more rail cars), intertransfer, and a new station in Bronzeville at 35th, but Mr. Payne continues to press for complete lease out of the city services by CTA to run like an L while Metra continues to run the suburban service. .

Progress reports on partial inclusion in recommendations of South Lakefront Corridor Transit Study 2011- mtg. 1 in pdf, mtg. 2 in CTA page.

, 773 874-3541
Reg Transp Plan rec. of Gray Line:
See also http://tinyurl.cpm/cwx8v and and Walkable Convention

Metra Board meets 2nd or 3rd Fridays 9 am at 547 W. Jackson, 15th floor.

Report on Mike Payne's Gray Line Proposal: A way to get more service and ridership on Metra Electric via a CTA contract. View descriptive flyer

Mike Payne writes: Here is a list of remaining RTA/MBC Budget Hearings and Community Meetings coming in December (Click on "December" in):

If you can, attend a meeting in your area and express your opinion on
Public Transit in NE Illinois.


Chicago City Council Transportation Committee will discuss the RTA, CTA, Metra, Pace, and the new RTA
"Moving Beyond Congestion" Program; the meeting will begin at 9:30 am in
Council Chambers on the 2nd flr. of City Hall. Postponed to January, date to be set.

The public is invited to comment, but you must register early with the
City Council Sergeant-at-Arms in order to testify.

Please attend if you can; there will be testimony and information
literature distributed there about the CTA Gray Line Project:

And at the Monday, Dec. 11th Meeting in the Michael Bilandic Building in
Downtown Chicago:

Please attend one or both if you can.

Mike Payne writes: Welcome to the Gray Line Coalition.

We are a recently formed alliance of citizens, students, and community activists; who are seeking to promote, and secure funding for, the "CTA Gray Line 'L' Route" Proposal.

We also have a Yahoo Group Forum to enable Coalition members, and interested others, to express and discuss their ideas (anyone can post) on how we can get CTA Rail Rapid Transit for Chicago's SE Lakefront Corridor.

For information about the Gray Line Coalition, and controls to access
and subscribe to our Yahoo Group, use the link here:

Please visit and join our Yahoo Group, and attend our weekly Saturday meetings in Hyde Park; your insight and ideas are quite valuable to us.

Mike Payne

Gray Line Coalition

. For more information, visit the Coalition website:


Coverage on the Gray Line Coalition

Commuter prods CTA, Metra for new Gray Line

Hyde Park Herald, June 9, 2004. By Mike Stevens

Bronzeville-native Mike Payne has been prodding city and regional transit authorities for more than a decade to make a hypothetical "Gray Line" a reality for South Siders.

The plan calls for the Chicago Transit Authority to use Metra's southeast side electric line that Payne said would dramatically improve public transit in the area. But Metra officials say the plan is too vague.

In his 90-minute commute from Chatham to his job in the West Loop, Payne has had plenty of time to think about improvements. He think the southeast side needs a CTA line but knows the cost is almost impossible.

He began investigating Metra's southeast side electric line after noticing that on weekends and off hours loop-bound CTA buses were packed while Metra trains rolled past empty. "They can't be making money when no one is riding and they're paying people to operate them and power to push them along," Payne said.

The problem, Payne says, is that the CTA and Metra do not share fare systems. Few riders are wiling to fork over an extra $5.80 every day, even if it would mean saving 30 minutes, like Payne would. In addition, Metra trains come much less frequently during off-peak hours ; every 2 hours at times on weekends.

Payne starting looking for a better way to use it.

Like the CTA's trains, Metra's electric line has floor level platforms, closely spaced stations, and the quick starting and stopping power of electricity making it ideal for high traffic, Payne said.

Payne proposes Metra lease its service to the CTA, adding 22 miles and 37 stations, including four in Hyde Park, of new CTA service to the southeast side. A CTA fare system could be set up in the stations. He estimates the total cost at $100 million. The CTA estimates a proposed 6-mile extension of the Red Line will cost $600 million.

"[Payne's proposal] rises to the top on an awful lot of [areas]." Janice Metzger said. Metzger co-directs the Chicagoland Transportation and Air Quality Commission- a transit watchdog group affiliated with the Center for Neighborhood Technology. In a 2003 study, the group ranked the Gray Line first amongst a field of projects from local, state and federal transit agencies.

"It's in an area that has existing population that serves a high number of people. It doesn't cost that much because it reuses existing infrastructure. There is a great deal of logic [to it]," Metzger said.

But Metra spokesman Dan Schnolis says too many unknowns remain to determine if the proposal would even work. For starters, Metra doesn't have a fleet of trains sitting unused waiting to provide CTA-like service--trains spaced 5 to 20 minutes apart--throughout the day.

"None of this has been defined. It's a concept of an idea," Schnolis said. Until there are further studies and the proposal gets "legs of its own," it is too early to consider the proposal, Schnolis said.

Metzger sees the problem in various agencies wanting only to find funding for their own projects rather than sharing resources. "We don't have a process that looks at how do we benefit the region as a whole," Metzger said of [CATS-NIPC?] the Metropolitan Planning Commission [sic "Organization"--MPC is a different entity] which is charged with planning the long-term transit solutions for the Chicago Area [Note, however that CATS has indeed put Gray Line in the hopper among options to be studied both for Metra Electric and Southeast Corridor service.]

For a decade now, Payne has promoted his plan by speaking to planning groups an handing outlines to residents, transit officials and legislators such as Hyde Park's Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie.

Congressman Bill Lipinski (D-3) has reviewed Payne's proposal and is deciding whether to forward it to House Committee on Infrastructure and Transportation, on which he sits, spokesman Jason Tai said.

After seeing the success of groups like Blue Line Task Force, Payne organized the Gray Line Coalition hoping to generate attention and funds for his idea. The group meets weekly but is still looking for a permanent location. For more information on meeting locations and the Gray Line proposal, go online to []


Rebuttal to Metra, by Mike Payne: Gray Line idea eligible for funds

Hyde Park Herald, June 30, 2004

In the June 9, 204 Hyde Park Herald article "Garry Line idea could add CTA trains to S. Side", Metra spokesman Dan Schnolis stated that "too many unknowns remain to determine if the proposal would even work".

"For starters" the article says, "Metra does not have a fleet of trains sitting unused waiting to provide CTA-like service. 'None of his has been defined. It's a concept of an idea, Schnolis said. "Until there are further studies and the proposal gets 'legs of its own,' it is to early to consider the proposal, Schnolis said."

Maybe Metra and Mr. Schnolis should do a bit more research.

The Gray Line is a highly recommended Major Capital Project (CATS Regional Transportation Plan Project ID #01-9003: "CTA Gray Line "L" Route) in the official planning for the future of the northeast Illinois region.

The Gray Line is in fact ranked and recommended by many northeast Illinois Region agencies far above Metra's own highly self-tooted STAR Line.

Metra has 165 Highliners, more than enough to provide Gray Line, and Metra Electric University Park services (even during rush hours).

For an in depth analysis, detailed information on the Gray Line proposal's rankings and recommendations can be downloaded and printed--for your review--from HPKCC's Transit web at [sic-it's this page, not transitregional.htm] and from the Chicagoland Transportation and Air Quality Commission, which ranked the Gray Line the most eligible project for funding in the entire northeast Illinois region:

Maybe after some induced and interested study, Metra and Mr. Schnolis might see things in a more inclusive light--I would like to hear his and their thoughts; we'll see (I hope it's not "No Comment.


Payne on CTA lobbying for funds and better options to allocate and coordinate scarce funds. July 3, 2004

While the City and CTA very correctly state that without an increase in operating funding, CTA fares will have to be raised and some services cut; this is well known here and in Springfield.

It is also known that some of the extremely scarce operating funds that the CTA is seeking, will be used to operate in direct competition with parallel Metra services; rather than attempting to coordinate the
services to utilize what funds may be available the most profitably.

Particularly on the Southeast Side of Chicago, where the CTA Red and Green 'L' Lines, and many CTA bus routes (especially the South Lake Shore Drive express routes 2, 6, 10,14, 26, and X28), operate in direct
competition for passengers and operating funds with Metra Electric's parallel and adjacent South Chicago and Kensington in-city suburban train routes; sort of like pumping air into a tire with a slow leak.

There is a highly recommended Major Capital Project included in the Chicago Area Transportation Studies Shared Path 2030 Program for the future of the NE Illinois Region (CATS RTP Proposal ID # 01-02-9003 - "CTA Gray Line 'L' Route).

In 2003 it was ranked the Most Eligible Project for Funding of all those submitted to CATS Shared Path 2030 by CTAQC (the Chicagoland Transportation and Air Quality Commission - a program of the Center for Neighborhood Technology).
The proposal would integrate and coordinate the parallel SE Side CTA and Metra services at a very low capital implementation cost of $100 million.

It would greatly reduce CTA's SE Side operating budget, reduce air pollution and traffic congestion, and greatly increase ridership; mainly by allowing buses to be used as feeders to the electric rail line,
rather than wasting fuel and manpower, and creating pollution running many buses to operate competing long-haul services.

Metra would make money selling the service to CTA, just as they purchase operation of their commuter train services from the BNSF and UP Railroads; a win-win-win situation for all.

It would also provide a new 37 station 22-mile Regional CTA 'L' Route serving all the SE Lakefront Corridor with it's many attractions, detailed information about the proposal is available at: .

There are many other proposals submitted by citizens, groups, and community organizations to CATS 2030 RTP that should be looked at (rather than just those provided by the transit operators themselves),
as a way of reducing capital and operating costs, and making the best use what funds are available.

Maybe the people in Springfield feel that CTA, RTA, and Metra aren't exploring all the options (for using the very scarce funds that they are seeking - the most efficiently) so why listen to them ask for more.


Introduction- What is the Gray Line and where has it been going?

The Task Force has worked with Mike Payne on his proposal and put him in touch with expert advisers. He has worked on his proposal for many years and this summer succeeded in having it placed on CAT's 2030 Shared Path list (with about 300 others that can be looked at) of projects to be reviewed for the next Regional Transportation Plan. John Hilkevitch in his November 11 Tribune column said:"The beauty of the concept lies in its simplicity, harnessing infrastructure that is already in place." It would nearly entirely use existing tracks and equipment that lies idle during the day [although Metra says it needs the time for maintenance]. Also, it offers enhanced, dependable mid day service frequent enough to entice riders who would have fare linkup with CTA [and gets ready for USX redevelopment while freeing up the outer tacks for service to Peotone]. And (Hilkevitch says) it offers the chance to rationalize bus cross routes as feeders and take advantage of CTA's interest and legally-created bias (its part of the transit pie) to serve the city. [Metra is basically mandated to serve the suburbs.]

The Electric District is a hybrid left over from the old Illinois Central urban railroad/suburban commuter railroad. and has very different equipment than the other, diesel commuter rail lines. Metra's other lines have very few city stops and inefficient interconnects with other lines, whether Metra or CTA. Payne's proposal deals only with the city sections of Metra Electric--to South Shore, Blue Island, and 115 Kensington using the inner tracks. The more of these used, the more the infrastructure changes and costs involved. Task Force members think the best case can be made for the South Chicago branch, although including the others might enhance support needed to get the city and CTA to push this plan. We also emphasize that this would be some form of lease arrangement, not a buyout. CTA leases lines all the time.]

CATS expects drafted and their board passed a Regional Transportation Plan in 2003. CATS and Regional Transportation Authority spokespersons commended Payne for his efforts to improve coordination, which the service boards, particularly Metra, have resisted. "Our key position is that we want to have better coordination." [This difference of opinion was brought out earlier in the year at hearings held by State rep. Julie Hamos.] A Metra spokeswoman called Payne's proposal a poor investment. But, Hilkevitch says, "Getting Around wants to know: Since when is Metra worried about prudent investment?" citing the recent double tracking of the North Central line. CTA cited only the institutional hurdles and that it has its own costly plan for a second loop and Blue Line O'Hare and Schaumburg express. Note that two of the city/CTA's most visible "wish list" projects, the Outer Loop Circle Line and the Mid-City Transitway (following the route once planned for the Crosstown Expressway-Cicero and c75th to the Red Line) don't link up without at least a short walk to CTA or Metra service in the southeast corridor.

Payne has since presented his proposal at numerous forums and hearings. The plan received a good rating and recommendation in the Regional Transportation Plan, and was shown to be the most cost-effective plan, with least negative environmental costs, by Center for Neighborhood Technology's Congestion and Air Quality Task Force. Yet, it seems to go nowhere while Metra offers upgrades mainly to suburban end of the Electric service, to rolling stock (new with toilets), and in the future to the stations in South Shore on the South Chicago Branch.

Visit Payne's site at []


Excerpts from John Hilkevitch's
November 11, 2002 column on the Gray Line

Mike Payne says he ...won't stop pursuing his dream of helping bring better transit services to underserved communities on the Southeast Side. Especially since the government agency responsible for long-term planning in the Chicago region has placed Payne's idea for a new Chicago Transit Authority rail line on its list of potential projects. ...

The beauty of the concept lies in its simplicity, harnessing infrastructure that is already in place. The Gay Line would use Metra tracks and Highliner trains that mostly sit idle during non-rush hour periods and offer CTA-style "L" service with trains operating 10 to 20 minutes apart. In addition, riders would be able to transfer between the Gray Line and CTA buses and trains without paying the separate fares that now work as barriers to a seamless transit network. The pan would also facilitate cost-effective use of existing CTA and Pace routes as feeders to the Gray Line...

Payne has studied population and employment data compiled by the Northeastern illinois Planning Commission and he estimates the 2-mile Gray Line could be supported by up t 70,000 riders each weekday, compared with the fewer than 5,000 daily commuters who ride the Metra Electric..."With the new industry shaping up on the former US. Steel site, the Gray Line would...give workers better access to the city."...

CATS held meetings over the summer seeking fresh ideas.... Payne's plan is one of more that 300 projects on the "Shared Path 2030" list that have been accepted for review. ..."In the next few months we will winnow the list...and come up with a draft recommended plan by March or April," said Eugene Ryan ....Payne's plan is hardly a shoo-in, and changes would be required to make it work. But officials of CATS and the Regional Transportation Authority applauded Payne for his attempt to improve coordination of CTA and Metra services--something the two transit agencies have largely resisted.... Michael Shiffer, vice president of planning and development of the CTA called the Gray Line proposal interesting and innovative, but said it faces "institutional challenges"...


Gray Line- A proposal for CTA lease and improvement of Metra Electric

More. The Gray Line is a project under consideration for the Regional Transportation Plan

The November 11, 2002 Tribune carried an article featuring the Gray Line idea for linking Metra Electric and CTA, presented by Mike Payne at CATS hearings in early November. Mike has a set of sites (beautifully done and with maps, photos and illustrations, including how the line would look on a future RTA travel map) bundled in Or View his flyer. E-mail Mike at HPKCC leaders helped Mike develop presentation material and start his website and accompanied him to transit hearings and conferences. The HPKCC Conference Reporter has featured discussion of the Gray Line proposal and other proposals for service and fare link ups for travel seamlessness and to enhance rapid transit for the Southeast Corridor. Payne's proposal was described in John Hilkevich's November 11 "Getting Around" article in the Metro section of the Chicago Tribune. For summary with comments, see below. Also, Visit "Gray Line" from left bar.

In April, 2003, Chicagoland Transportation and Air Quality Commission evaluated the many CATS Regional Transportation Plan preliminary-cut set of recommendations and rated the Gray Line proposal highest in mitigation of congestion and air quality problems, 78 percent.

The June, 2003 CATS publication on the 2030 regional plan draft notes public call for "improving Metra Electric ("Gray Line"). The official draft puts Metra Service upgrade in the privileged second (quick turnaround) category.

A local letter hails Gray Line. November 4, 2003, Hyde Park Herald. by Kevin Shalla

Contact local officials for Gray Line proposal

I recently found out about the proposed gray line conversion of Metra to CTA. This looks like a particularly valuable change for Hyde Parkers. This involves running CTA train service on the Metra tracks. This could vastly improve transportation for all in Hyde Park. Typically frequent service on the CTDA would replace scheduled but infrequent service on the Metra, load on the Jackson Park Express would diminish, and the ability to use one farecard with transfers would make service economical.

I urge interested readers to go to and also contact their alderman to express their interest.


Mike Payne on Gray Line in context of combining all the agencies; transit fair at Cultural Center April 28-29 2004.

While just about every politician in the State of Illinois is fighting out who ( City / Suburbs / Republicans / Democrats ) will gain the most clout and power over state transportation projects and money, they all seem to be completely ignoring the voice of the people (their constituents).

Many of the projects and proposals highly recommended by CATS and NIPC in their present incarnations (as well as many community organizations speaking for the people), are completely ignored by the RTA, CTA, Metra, Pace, and IDOT; so how could anyone possibly expect some new "merged" agency to do any better job in meeting the actual wants of the populace, rather than delivering the pork for the politicians. One great example is the Center for Neighborhood Technology's proposal to add new stations to the Green Line (CATS 2030 RTP Proposal ID # 01-02-9014 - which was created in response to a year-long series of "Connecting Communities" meetings in 2002 to hear and define the wants
and needs of Chicago area residents); however this proposal is placed way below the central area "Circle Line" on CTA's priority list, yet NO members of the public asked for a "Circle Line" before it was announced.

The City of Chicago also managed to find $200 million itself to build ONE apparently very posh CTA "L" station under Block 37.

Metra is pushing it's $1.2 Billion 55 mile STAR Line to stimulate great economic development in many of the suburban areas it serves (some of which have some of the highest per-capita incomes in the region), however it all but ignores it's in-city Chicago South Side services.

And like CNT's Additional Green Line Station proposal (specifically asked for by the public), the CTA Gray Line proposal (CATS 2030 RTP Proposal ID # 01-02-9003 - to create a new regional 22 mile 37 station CTA "L" Line utilizing the in-city Metra Electric District's suburban train routes) - is being completely ignored in the bloody power-and-funding-seeking feeding-frenzy (although it was the project MOST asked for by the public).

The $100 Million cost of implementing the Gray Line, is but a fraction of $1.2 billion cost of Metra's STAR Line (which would cost $1.3 billion instead of $1.2 billion with the Gray Line added on - not that big a change); and yet no one seems to be interested in seeking funding for it (and the tremendous economic development it would bring to the many diverse parts of Chicago's SE side - wealthy, middle class, and disadvantaged).

On Wednesday April 28th and Thursday April 29th, from 11am to 2pm, Versionfest>04 is hosting their Nfo Xpo Festival at Chicago's Cultural Center on Randolph & Michigan (info: ). It will include presenters on many diverse topics in a science-fair type format.

The Gray Line proposal has been invited to present a display, and to distribute promotional literature.

With the location and time of day, I am sure the Festival will attract many visitors (especially at lunch time), and many will get to learn about the Gray Line proposal. I hope to gain a lot of public support (I am attempting to start a CTA
Gray Line Coalition) and media publicity for the project.

Please come and visit the Festival if you have the opportunity, I would enjoy meeting you.

Thanks for your time,

Mike Payne



Time to consider the Gray Line infrastructure enhancement

To Hyde Park Herald, April 5, 2006

As a lifelong resident of Chicago's South Side, to me not much seems to have really been done to prepare this part of the city for the upcoming onslaught of commuters displaced by the Dan Ryan Expressway reconstruction. There have been some articles in the local papers, and involved local government agencies and transit operators have created a website with access to information about what road and public transit alternatives they can recommend at

But there has been nothing constructed, or changed in any major way (other than prohibiting parking and re-timing some traffic lights) to accommodated those who will choose to continue to drive. Nor any major changes in public transit services to attract those who might be lured out of their cars (they say they will "monitor" the situation); trucks are advised to continue to use the reduced capacity Dan Ryan.

The great increase in the number of cars on South Side surface streets will cause much pavement wear and damage, and extremely unsafe neighborhood conditions when drivers begin to speed down residential side streets to escape traffic on crowded main thoroughfares. Since this will be a two-year project, something should be done to give commuters more and/or better alternatives (especially non-polluting public transit).

There is a project included in the Chicago Area Transportation Study's Shared Path 2030 Regional Transportation Plan called t he Gray Line Rapid Transit Element: and its $100 million implementation cost is included in the 2030 RTP budget.

It would create a new 22 mile 37 station regional CTA "L" line by utilizing a purchase-of-service agreement and modification of the in-city Metra Electric District suburban rail routes:

The Gray Line would provide a brand new fast, frequent SE CTA rail service that could be marketed to Dan Ryan (and Skyway) commuters as a great reason to leave their cars at home.

Since the Metra Electric trains are already operating today, the upgrading to Gray Line service could be easily accomplished in time for the start of 2007 construction season; and leave a permanent dynamo to drive the economic development of the entire South Side.

While the Chicago Area Transportation Study has recommended the Gray Line for immediate funding and implementation, it is up to the agencies (Metra and CTA) who would actually operate the service to decide if they want to go along with what CATS says they should do.

Hey, Metra and CTA people, we need this out her like "right now"--are you listening; could you maybe at least start an analysis study?


Gray line version presented at July 2008 5th Ward Olympics meeting; Ald. offers facil. presentation to the other alderment on South Chicago Branch, request (if others concur) for formal assessment of need-cost-feasibility.

Metra Electric conversion (based on Mike Payne's Grayline idea) gains traction at 5th Ward July 2008 Olympic meetings.

At the July 2008 5th Ward Olympics meeting James Withrow of HPKCC Hyde Park Transit Task Force and Linda Thisted of Coalition for Equitable Community Development and Interfaith Open Communities Hyde Park presented a version of Mike Payne's "Gray Line" concept to integrate via leasing Metra Electric (here South Chicago Branch) by the CTA system, with frequent L type service and a common fare card. After familiarizing other aldermen along the route, a request could be made for a cost and feasibility assessment--Ald. Hairston says that as a single infrastructure upgrade for the Olympics and in general, it makes a lot of sense and bang for minimum dollar. Parts of the rationale include the relative and growing density along this route from Kenwood through South Shore, that the mid south except for Hyde Park has some of the longest commutes to jobs in the metro region, and the solid and growing centers of attraction and new developments along the line. Top

Here is from the report by Thisted and Withrow:

Public Transportation Proposal - Integrate the Metra South Chicago Branch into the CTA system, running trains at 10 minute intervals throughout the day and night.

  • Benefits for the Olympics:
    • With stops at McCormick Place, Michael Reese [Village], 55th, 59th, and 63rd Streets, it would provide frequent, quick access for tourists staying dwontown to major Olympic venues (Soldier Filed, Northerly Island, McCormick Place, Olympic Vilage, Washington Park, Jackson Park)
    • For people from around the city, especially for thsoe living on the southside, who want to work at Olympic venues, it would provide frequent, quick access through an integrated CTA system.
  • For Hyde Park
    • It would provide quick, frequent train access for people throughout the city to the planned Harper Court [and other] downtown Hyde Park shopping and enteratinment complex
    • For students, it would give them frequent, fast access to downtown and northside venues dayand night, weekday and weekend
  • For people living near the Metra/South Chicago Branch
    • Itd would give them quick acess to jobs located throughout the city, not just 9 to 5 jobs located downtown
    • It would serve one of the most densely populated areas of the southside


A service of Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Transit Task Force/ Transportation and Parking Committee and the HPKCC website, (email) Help support our work: Join the Conference! Join and work with the Task Force- contact chairman James Withrow.