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Old October 28th, 2004, 01:28 AM   #1
The Urban Politician
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Daley taking notes--ideas for Chicago

Daley wants fast O'Hare train

October 27, 2004

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter Advertisement







Mayor Daley said Tuesday he returned from a weeklong trade mission to China and Japan determined to provide high-speed train service to O'Hare and Midway airports and brimming with ideas about doing the little things that make life easier on mass transit riders.

In Chicago's sister city of Osaka, Japan, Daley and his entourage were in an underground train station when a message board flashed news that their train would be one minute late. When the mayor's party boarded the train, a voice apologized for the inconvenience.

It's that kind of bend-over-backwards customer service that Daley wants to bring home to Chicago.

That won't be easy at a time when the CTA is threatening to cut service. But, "We have to be able to move people from downtown all the way out to the airport in a half-hour or less,'' Daley said. "It can't be 45 minutes or sometimes longer. We have to be able to bypass certain stations," Daley said, suggesting the possibility of laying "another rail."

New type of gas station?



Every time Daley takes a trip, he comes back with a pad full of notes and a head full of ideas. Last week's trip was no different.

He's talking about planting trees to beautify parking lots, about a "new type of gas station" that averts oil leaks. He's thinking about covering construction sites with tarps -- similar to those used on baseball infields -- to prevent construction debris from polluting the air. And he's wondering why Osaka can build an entire airport in less time than it takes to build one runway in the United States
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Old October 28th, 2004, 03:34 AM   #2
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I started reading Global Chicago (good book!) and one of the characteristics of a global city was express rapid transit from downtown to the airport(s).

Obviously this is a part of the thinking in the Block 37 project, with express connections to O'Hare and Midway.

What I still don't understand is: how in the hell is this accomplished? Neither the blue or orange line tracks have two sets of tracks running in the same direction. How do trains run as expresses to airports when they are stuck behind local trains?
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Old October 28th, 2004, 03:35 AM   #3
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I've lived in Chicago all my life and I'm a fan of Dailey. These are ideas are really interesting and of course I have no problem with beautifying the city. There is the small problem of the city having been broke for the past couple years, so I hope you also came back with some good money raising ideas. With that said, I think we should send Dailey out on more trips!
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Old October 28th, 2004, 03:37 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edsg25
I started reading Global Chicago (good book!) and one of the characteristics of a global city was express rapid transit from downtown to the airport(s).

Obviously this is a part of the thinking in the Block 37 project, with express connections to O'Hare and Midway.

What I still don't understand is: how in the hell is this accomplished? Neither the blue or orange line tracks have two sets of tracks running in the same direction. How do trains run as expresses to airports when they are stuck behind local trains?

Well its simple. Magic, its how the world works... no, actually i have no idea as well.
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Old October 28th, 2004, 03:40 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edsg25
I started reading Global Chicago (good book!) and one of the characteristics of a global city was express rapid transit from downtown to the airport(s).

Obviously this is a part of the thinking in the Block 37 project, with express connections to O'Hare and Midway.

What I still don't understand is: how in the hell is this accomplished? Neither the blue or orange line tracks have two sets of tracks running in the same direction. How do trains run as expresses to airports when they are stuck behind local trains?
^new tracks (just like they mentioned in the article)
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Old October 28th, 2004, 07:08 AM   #6
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45 minutes!? LOL! Has Dick ever actually taken the blue line to O'Hare? it's more like 1:15 from the Loop. At any rate... I think express trains to the airport should be, in all honesty, a lower priority than they're making them. What about filling in underserved areas with transit before we start doubling up areas that are already easily accessible?
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Old October 28th, 2004, 08:03 AM   #7
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^I disagree. Have you ever taken trains in Japan? They make EUROPE look like SHIT!!!
JR and private railway lines, which are all privately run by big conglomerates, are the pride of Japan's infrastructure system. They go EVERYWHERE and are heavily used at ALL times (except when they're closed from midnight to 5AM). A typical JR railway line has three different levels of service: Local, Rapid, and Express Rapid. That's right, TWO levels of express trains. Plus special express service to major destinations such as major airports!

And not only are the train stations there futuristic and high tech with LED and LCD screens all over the place pointing out times, but the service is second to none! The Japanese are almost obscenely polite in almost any kind of service they do, and it's a matter of culture: Something the US can't fully emulate. There are no slow zones on tracks in Japan. Express Rapid trains (not bullet trains) typically reach cruising speeds of 75 mph. You can get from Kansai Airport to Umeda Station near central Osaka in about 45 minutes covering over twice the distance that the blue line covers from O'hare to Downtown. And trains are almost always, ALWAYS on time. Reliability is a non-issue when taking transit in Japan. You just do it, and don't even worry about a train being 10 minutes late or breaking down in the middle of a run.

Do I want Chicago to strive toward this level of service with CTA? You BET! I applaud Mayor Daley for realizing this while he was in Chicago's sister city in Japan. When I was there in June, I probably thought about the exact same things to urban planning he thought of, and the rail system is perhaps the biggest difference. CTA is one of the better systems in the US, but it will never catch up to what the Japanese take for granted everyday. That doesn't mean Chicago shouldn't strive for that level of service.

One thing I do hate to say, is that even approaching the level of service Japan has standard on its networks would require a large chunk of privatization of the rail lines and expanding the coverage of the system to go everywhere, with express lines on just about all the lines as well as commuter rail service (METRA) operating to a large extent for purposes outside commuting from the suburbs to downtown. Not even New York does this well. And truthfully, the only way privatizing the rail systems in larger cities in the US would work is if they could provide a completely viable alternative to driving. It means corporations that have major assets in other areas would have to contribute to funding and maintaining the system. The way CTA and Metra would run in Chicago would have to be that all the major corporations centered in the Loop would have to contribute and help run the operations of such services. That's how it's done in Japan. It's a completely different system as well as a completely different mentality. I'll be tickled pink if they can actually pull off block 37 and express trains to the airport.
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Old October 28th, 2004, 08:58 AM   #8
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^Rail, so the trains in Japan are privately owned? How do they pull that off? I'm trying to imagine how that would work in this country, but I can't quite get my head around what their business model is.

Whatever it is they're doing in Japan, it is impressive as hell. If we could get even a touch of that here, it would be flat out massive.
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Old October 28th, 2004, 09:22 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HowardL
^Rail, so the trains in Japan are privately owned? How do they pull that off? I'm trying to imagine how that would work in this country, but I can't quite get my head around what their business model is.

Whatever it is they're doing in Japan, it is impressive as hell. If we could get even a touch of that here, it would be flat out massive.
Japan's rail lines are owned and operated by private entities, although I think JR (the largest) does receive a small subsidy. I'll have to look into that specifically.

The government's role is basically one of supervision to make sure they build and operate up to safety codes and other things. Just about everything else is privatized with JR being the biggest of them all. You have to remember that Japan is very densely populated. We're talking about a country with 4 times the population of California in a country with about 1/2 of California's arable land, and a country where urban expansion is limited due to the power of farmers and rural areas.

It's more convenient for just about everyone there to take trains to get around major urban areas and around the entire country because well... they go EVERYWHERE, literally. Tokyo alone has at least 50 commuter rail routes split among different agencies. JR operates about 40% of the routes, including most of the busiest, and private railway companies like Tokyu handle the rest. The expanse of Osaka/Kansai's network alone easily compares to that of greater New York. Tokyo's network is like puting London and New York's networks together, and sprinkling it with service levels that put London's to shame. 36 million people used Tokyo's entire rail transit network daily in the mid 90's. There's a study on that I found on the net not to long ago concerning ridership numbers. I'll see if I can dig it out.

All of Japan's major urban commercial centers and even Japan's major cities themselves are built and centered around these networks, not along major roads or highways. The entire mentality of not only the populace, but the system itself is completely the opposite of what we have here in the US. The best example of how that works is how directions are typically given in Japan. They are almost ALWAYS given from the nearest train station. Japan's roads for the most part are nameless. You don't identify where you live or how to get to some place by saying what street its on, you do so by telling what station on which line you're near: like "Take the Yamanote Loop to Shibuya, exit the station on the northside, walk 3 blocks north of Shibuya Crossing and you'll see store X, take the alley just past it to the left and the place is 4 doors down."

What does all this mean? It means rail transit in Japan can operate on a profit basis. I wouldn't be surprised if these companies make 400% profit margins easily on their fares alone. Not to mention typical transit hubs in major Japanese cities aren't just places where people go to catch trains. They're also meeting places. A typical Japanese rail station that's a hub or major stop has not only train platforms, but is a major complex with tons of establishments from fastfood restaurants to netcafes. They're like retail, transit, and office complexes all rolled into one.

The only places stateside where transit to even half this scale is feasible are the Northeast, Chicago, and to a lesser extent, California and Florida... though the latter two have major planning and population distribution issues to work out. And there are only TWO transit hubs in the entire country that are planning 20 years down the road to levels that emulate a typical Japanese rail hub like Shinjuku or Umeda in Osaka: Penn Station in NYC and the West Loop Transportation Center in Chicago (which will combine Union Station and the Ogilvie Transit Center). Japan's been doing this for at LEAST 20 years. We are SOOO far behind... it makes me wanna cry.

Last edited by Rail Claimore; October 28th, 2004 at 09:29 AM.
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Old October 29th, 2004, 09:09 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rail Claimore
Japan's rail lines are owned and operated by private entities, although I think JR (the largest) does receive a small subsidy. I'll have to look into that specifically.
Rail here in Chicago as well as NYC and most all other cities was once privately owned. It wasn't govt that built the "L". (This is why there are some funky turns and twists in the lines, ala the "Halsted" Curves on the Brown Line, the track was routed around farmers patches in which the farmers wanted too much money for use of their land.)
The trains and buses went public in the 40's (or there about's) when the private companies could no longer make any money off of them due to major declines in ridership resulting from automobile usage.
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Old October 30th, 2004, 01:22 AM   #11
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^It's sad and unfortunate. Federal spending on highways through urban areas as well as subsidies to the big three in Detroit are what got us in this situation today.
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Old November 1st, 2004, 08:59 PM   #12
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@ rail claymore:

Tokyo: a metropolis of 30 million that's essentially car free! I've walked extensively around it, and the traffic is just not there even on the wider arterial roads! A car on a smaller street is often a surprise.

The arrangement of rail lines around Tokyo began before the war--Hachiko the dog at Shibuya was melted down for bullets during the war--and these have been huge stations for a long time. Recall that the Ginza line from Shibua to Ginza dates to the 1920s, I believe. The biggest transfer station used to be Asakusa, with the pre-war equivalent of Shinjuku's Kabukicho, but it was left out of the Yamanote line and declined.

In Osaka / Kobe the railroads started by transporting people to department stores that they owned, e.g. Hanshin or Hankyu. The retail side made the money and subsidized the transport. A similar model exists now in HK (and I think in Singapore as well), where the MTR is one of the biggest developers, making money from the residential projects around the stations.

@ geoff diamond:

As a matter of fact, the blue line from O'Hare to downtown takes 40 minutes. As of yesterday, for me, in both directions, and per schedule.

But never mind Tokyo. Chicago can't hold a candle to Seoul or Shanghai. As far as public transport in the US, only NY is world class.
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Old November 5th, 2004, 07:20 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rail Claimore
Japan's rail lines are owned and operated by private entities, although I think JR (the largest) does receive a small subsidy. I'll have to look into that specifically..
I think you might be right about JR (which was privatized in the last 20 years I think, into regional lines) and the private lines which were built by real estate and department store conglomerates. Btw, when i moved to Japan, i finally understood the urban development game A-train. The pre-privatized JNR, however, was a big money loser with awful service. Private companies really improved the rolling stock and the service, but the national govt is still responsible for the old pensions, and of course, built the entire system, which helps explain why some of the new JR companies are profitable now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rail Claimore
The government's role is basically one of supervision to make sure they build and operate up to safety codes and other things. Just about everything else is privatized with JR being the biggest of them all. You have to remember that Japan is very densely populated. We're talking about a country with 4 times the population of California in a country with about 1/2 of California's arable land, and a country where urban expansion is limited due to the power of farmers and rural areas. .
But the train service is spread throughout the country. Most regional towns have good service to the larger cities, at least a few trains a day, while the megalopolis has outstanding service, to be sure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rail Claimore
It's more convenient for just about everyone there to take trains to get around major urban areas and around the entire country because well... they go EVERYWHERE, literally. Tokyo alone has at least 50 commuter rail routes split among different agencies. JR operates about 40% of the routes, including most of the busiest, and private railway companies like Tokyu handle the rest. The expanse of Osaka/Kansai's network alone easily compares to that of greater New York. Tokyo's network is like puting London and New York's networks together, and sprinkling it with service levels that put London's to shame. 36 million people used Tokyo's entire rail transit network daily in the mid 90's. There's a study on that I found on the net not to long ago concerning ridership numbers. I'll see if I can dig it out. .
Agreed on all counts, but I think most people in Japan take the trains for four reasons: all of the freeways have high tolls, parking in the city is next to impossible--both the availability and the expense, gas costs 3x what it does in the US, and finally, in a country that loves to drink, and drunk driving laws are ZERO tolerance, the trains are a safe way to get home.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rail Claimore
All of Japan's major urban commercial centers and even Japan's major cities themselves are built and centered around these networks, not along major roads or highways. The entire mentality of not only the populace, but the system itself is completely the opposite of what we have here in the US. The best example of how that works is how directions are typically given in Japan. They are almost ALWAYS given from the nearest train station. Japan's roads for the most part are nameless. You don't identify where you live or how to get to some place by saying what street its on, you do so by telling what station on which line you're near: like "Take the Yamanote Loop to Shibuya, exit the station on the northside, walk 3 blocks north of Shibuya Crossing and you'll see store X, take the alley just past it to the left and the place is 4 doors down." .
Again, this is true in the center of the largest cities, but not so in smaller, regional areas. The downtown/station areas of many smaller towns are dying, while, just like in the US, shopping areas have migrated to the bypasses and freeway interchanges.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rail Claimore
What does all this mean? It means rail transit in Japan can operate on a profit basis. I wouldn't be surprised if these companies make 400% profit margins easily on their fares alone. Not to mention typical transit hubs in major Japanese cities aren't just places where people go to catch trains. They're also meeting places. A typical Japanese rail station that's a hub or major stop has not only train platforms, but is a major complex with tons of establishments from fastfood restaurants to netcafes. They're like retail, transit, and office complexes all rolled into one..
The companies JR companies in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka seem to do really well. however, except for the Tokyo-Kobe leg of the Tokaido Shinkansen, all the high speed rail lines lose big money. The same is probably true of the smaller regional/rural lines; they are likely subsidized by urban commuters.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rail Claimore
The only places stateside where transit to even half this scale is feasible are the Northeast, Chicago, and to a lesser extent, California and Florida... though the latter two have major planning and population distribution issues to work out. And there are only TWO transit hubs in the entire country that are planning 20 years down the road to levels that emulate a typical Japanese rail hub like Shinjuku or Umeda in Osaka: Penn Station in NYC and the West Loop Transportation Center in Chicago (which will combine Union Station and the Ogilvie Transit Center). Japan's been doing this for at LEAST 20 years. We are SOOO far behind... it makes me wanna cry.
I really dont think it is economical for the US to build such a system. As you say, Japan's population is highly concentrated in a small area, and nearly all cities in Japan bump up against physical barriers which causes them to build up, increasing density and necessitating mass transit. if you look on older maps of japan, the rail system used to be even more extensive (albeit slower) much like the US Midwest--with small lines to small towns--but cars and buses put an end to that. While Im all for improving the US train systems--high speed rail in spreading from Chicago, for example, I wonder if such a system on its own could survive without regional feeders.
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Old November 5th, 2004, 07:47 AM   #14
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^Agreed on all points and there are things you brought up that I didn't think about that you'd be right on.

A system can only work in the US where the population spread and relative proximity of large cities close to each other exists. That and we also need to continue the change of urban develpoment patterns starting with our inner cities. A system can work in the Northeast most definitely with a branch connecting to Chicago and the Midwest. California from SF to LA would also be good.
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Old November 12th, 2004, 01:51 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by geoff_diamond
45 minutes!? LOL! Has Dick ever actually taken the blue line to O'Hare? it's more like 1:15 from the Loop. At any rate... I think express trains to the airport should be, in all honesty, a lower priority than they're making them. What about filling in underserved areas with transit before we start doubling up areas that are already easily accessible?
It's about an hour, at least the few times I've ridden all the way.

They need better airport service because 1) it serves a hell of a lot of people, and 2) it's a big factor in attracting business to the city. Like it or not, it's a much higher priority to be able to get business travelers between downtown and the airport fast than it is to move the average person around town. Not only are they usually on tighter schedules and therefore require faster travel, but it has a much greater economic benefit to the city, because it attracts business.

One of the things I hate about travelling to New York is that there's no subway from LaGuardia to Midtown. You have to get in a cab and get stuck in traffic. London, on the other hand, is a breeze from Heathrow to the City.
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Old November 12th, 2004, 06:43 AM   #16
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There's really no good transit options from any of NY's airports onto the island. It's actually quite perplexing.
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