WBEZ | CTA http://www.wbez.org/tags/cta Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Fare Game: When do CTA Buses Break Even? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fare-game-when-do-cta-buses-break-even-113884 <p><p>The midnight ride started it. Actually, it was about half past midnight. That&rsquo;s when Fred Pineda, who moved to the city seven years ago to attend the University of Chicago, would climb aboard the #6 bus to take him back to Hyde Park once he was done partying downtown. Fred says he made the trip often and &ldquo;usually there would only be about four or five of us on that bus, especially during weekdays. I was thinking, &lsquo;There&rsquo;s no way the CTA is making money off this route.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Fred has since moved to the North Side, and hasn&rsquo;t taken that trip in a while. But a question from those days has stuck with him, the same question he&rsquo;s posed to Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>How many fares does it take for a bus to get to the break even point?</em></p><p>The &ldquo;break even point&rdquo; is that sweet spot where the amount of cash coming into the farebox on a given bus line matches what is going out to cover the bus&rsquo;s operating costs.</p><p>This is a big question for the second-largest public transit system in the country. Just in the first half of this year, about 869,000 weekday trips were taken on CTA buses. The agency spends $764 million to maintain that service, with a good chunk of that amount coming from public funds.</p><p>Technically, the CTA <em>could</em> break even &mdash; &nbsp;at least on paper. To get at exactly how, we ran a two-part thought experiment. The first looks at what the break even point actually is, while the second investigates what the CTA would have to change in service, pricing, and access in order for bus operations to pay for themselves.</p><p>In laying out the serious financial gymnastics required to create a wholly self-sufficient CTA bus service, we realize this story is more complex than finding a magic price point: There&rsquo;s often an impulse to make people who use a service pay its full cost, but when it comes to public transit, even some fiscal watchdogs agree that the goal of &ldquo;breaking even&rdquo; is not all it&rsquo;s cracked up to be.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Breaking even</span></p><p>To answer Fred&rsquo;s question, we have to determine what CTA buses earn, and compare that to what it costs to run the system. Most of the CTA&rsquo;s expenses fall into one of two categories: 1) overall costs (fuel, driver salaries, maintenance, and administration); and 2) capital costs (the price tags for new buses). According to transportation figures which the agency reports to the federal <a href="http://www.ntdprogram.gov/ntdprogram/">National Transit Database</a>, the CTA lines up fare collection data against its overall operating costs and excludes capital costs, since operating costs are where the bulk of the annual budget is directed.</p><p>The CTA&rsquo;s overall bus costs added up to $764,280,757 in 2013 &mdash; the latest year for which data are available.</p><p>In that same year, CTA buses earned $298,824,494 just in fares, or 39 percent of what it spent on its overall costs. The remaining 61 percent was mainly paid for with state and city subsidies deriving from sales taxes and Chicago&rsquo;s real estate transfer tax.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/fareboxrecoverycomparison.PNG" style="height: 388px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>Although the CTA prefers not to look at its bus service through the &ldquo;break even&rdquo; lens, some of its buses do cross that threshold in certain circumstances, according to Yonah Freemark, a city planner who specializes in transportation and development policy for the <a href="http://www.metroplanning.org/people/staff-member/?id=67">Metropolitan Planning Council</a>.</p><p>Freemark bases his calculations on RTA data, as well as figures from the National Transit Database. He says it costs about $132 per hour for the CTA to operate a bus. Therefore, Freemark figures, in order to cover the full cost of its operations over a single hour, one bus would have to earn $132 per hour at the farebox. That covers costs for the driver, gas, administration, and maintenance. (Again, it leaves out capital costs, such as the bus itself.)</p><p>With a <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">full fare set at $2 per person</a> &nbsp;(<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">o</a>r<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/"> </a>$<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">2</a>.<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">2</a>5<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/"> </a>i<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">f</a> <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">y</a>o<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">u</a> <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">p</a>a<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">y</a> <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">c</a>a<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/">s</a>h)<a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/fares/"> </a>a CTA bus would seemingly need just 66 passengers to come aboard during that hour in order for that bus to break even. But in 2013, the <em>average</em> rider only paid about a dollar per trip. This is because, in compliance with state and federal regulations, the <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/travel_information/fares/reduced.aspx">CTA offers a large number of riders free or reduced fares</a>, including students, seniors, people in the military, and disabled passengers. There are also unlimited ride passes, and multiple rides taken via transfers.</p><p>&ldquo;Given the fact that the average passenger on a bus is only paying about $1 per trip,&rdquo; says Freemark, a bus needs about 132 riders over the course of an hour in order to cover its costs.</p><p>With 128 bus routes operating throughout Chicago and 35 suburbs, it seems that if you add up all of the service hours throughout the entire CTA bus system (math that the CTA has been reluctant to do or share, citing considerations of staff time), you are likely to find that (a) most buses most of the time do not break even, and (b) breaking even is most prone to occur during peak hours, and not on every line.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The cost of breaking even</span></p><p>The CTA has not announced plans to raise fares any time soon, and actually, a thought experiment may help understand why: What if the CTA wanted to break even? That is, what if the agency paid for all of its bus operating costs solely with what it earns from bus passengers?</p><p>According to Freemark, the fare price would have to skyrocket. &ldquo;You would need to increase the fare to $5.12 per trip,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s an increase of 156 percent.&rdquo;</p><p>That new $5.12 figure would be the equivalent of today&rsquo;s &ldquo;full fare&rdquo; price of $2.00. Under this scenario, reduced fares for veterans, seniors, and children would also rise proportionately, and Freemark&rsquo;s math accounts for the effects of free transfers and monthly passes. The bottom line, though, is that higher sticker price would fetch enough bus fares to cover the bus system&rsquo;s operating costs.</p><p>Freemark&rsquo;s take on this: &ldquo;Doing that would immediately result in a significant decline in the number of people taking the buses.&rdquo;</p><p>Freemark points to the <a href="https://hbr.org/2015/08/a-refresher-on-price-elasticity">concept of price elasticity</a>. As the price of something goes up &mdash; a candy bar, or a gallon of gas &mdash; the number of people willing to pay goes down. Transit elasticity, Freemark says, has a formula that&rsquo;s about -0.4, meaning every time fares increase by 10 percent, the number of riders drops by 4 percent. A full fare of $5.12 would equate to a price hike of 156 percent; Freemark expects CTA bus ridership would fall by 62.4 percent.</p><p>To test this thought experiment, we run our hypothetical price hike by Chicagoan Quinn Naughton, a regular bus rider who says &mdash; thought experiment or not &mdash; the CTA should never consider such a dramatic increase in fares.</p><p>&ldquo;People should protest, people should actually revolt,&rdquo; he says, adding that under our scenario, he would have to move &mdash; probably out of Chicago.</p><p>If the CTA wants to break even, Freemark says, the agency has a couple of other options, like increasing ridership. But, he warns &ldquo;if we more than doubled the number of people riding the bus everyday, you&rsquo;d need many, many more buses, so you&rsquo;d dramatically increase the cost of operations of the bus system.&rdquo;</p><p>Translation: You&rsquo;ll just end up spending more than you recover in fares. Freemark says faster buses with dedicated lanes and traffic signal priority would certainly boost ridership, and may bring the buses closer to breaking even. But that scenario would require political changes as well as new capital funds to adapt infrastructure.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Fending for itself</span></p><p>So far, our experiment&rsquo;s gone into the mechanics of what policy-makers and transit planners call the &ldquo;<a href="http://publictransport.about.com/od/Transit_Funding/a/The-Basics-Of-Transit-Funding.htm">farebox recovery ratio</a>,&rdquo; which compares the money collected from transit riders and operating costs. Again, CTA&rsquo;s recovery rate for its bus system was close to 39 percent in 2013. Why doesn&rsquo;t the agency try to break even?</p><p>Some of the answer has to do with the consequences Freemark laid out: If CTA hiked bus fares, it might actually lose riders. But another part of the answer is that the agency&rsquo;s not required to break even. The state of Illinois requires agencies under the Regional Transportation Authority &mdash; including CTA (bus and rail combined), Metra, and Pace &mdash; to collectively meet a 50 percent farebox recovery ratio, meaning that those agencies earn at least about half of their operating costs just through fares.</p><p>The farebox recovery ratio was originally established to prevent transit agencies from building more train and bus lines than the public would use.</p><p>Laurence Msall, President of the <a href="https://www.civicfed.org/">Chicago Civic Federation</a>, a nonpartisan research group that studies fiscal sustainability, says the recovery ratio mandate also ensured that the CTA, along with the other agencies, &ldquo;wasn&rsquo;t running significant deficits, that it was collecting as much as it could in terms of the farebox, and that we weren&rsquo;t giving away the system.&rdquo;</p><p>In recent years, the region has consistently met or surpassed the state-mandated minimum, but on occasion there are calls for CTA to adopt plans to boost recovery rates. (Just one example: During the transit funding crisis of 2007, representative <a href="http://ilga.gov/house/transcripts/htrans95/09517001.pdf">Dave Winters of Rockford argued for fare increases and higher recovery rates</a> in Chicago-area transit agencies: &ldquo;The users of those services need to carry their own weight.&rdquo;)</p><p>As for the CTA&rsquo;s own take on the &ldquo;break even&rdquo; idea, agency spokeswoman Tammy Chase says &ldquo;that&rsquo;s not a calculation that we ever make or would. It&rsquo;s moot for us.&rdquo; She says the agency regards public transportation as a public service, &ldquo;not just providing customers service from Point A to Point B. It&rsquo;s broader than that; there&rsquo;s a broader economic good, for all of the public. It&rsquo;s more than a ride to us.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, the agency does pay attention to basic laws of economics. For example, Chase says CTA determines bus routes based on the projected needs of riders: &ldquo;We pay attention to ridership demand, where the most riders are.&rdquo;</p><p>That translates into a metric the agency calls &ldquo;productivity,&rdquo; or the average number of passengers on a bus during one hour. &ldquo;You want to be ideally between 35 and 55 customers on a bus,&rdquo; Chase says. The CTA&rsquo;s most common buses seat around 35 passengers. &ldquo;If you&rsquo;re getting to above 50 riders, some are standing. It&rsquo;s still a comfortable experience. If you&rsquo;re getting to around 70 people, that&rsquo;s a crowded bus.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/cta/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CTA%20productivity%20screen%20grab%20embed2.png" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="" /></a></div><p>Chase says CTA adjusts schedules, the number of buses and even the size of buses to hit a standard for normal service hours. The overarching goal, she says, is to have no passenger in the city wait more than 30 minutes before the next scheduled bus arrives. (Disruptions in these routes can often lead to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-buses-arrive-bunches-110941" target="_blank">&quot;bus bunching,&quot; which is tough to tackle.</a>)</p><p>Adjustments only go so far, though, and the agency does keep run some low-productivity lines. Chase says those examples exemplify how the CTA emphasizes public service over bottom line considerations like breaking even. Several buses provide essential transportation, if only to relatively few people: say, to those who might have no alternative for getting to school, to work, a pharmacy or grocery store.</p><p>Interestingly, even the Civic Federation&rsquo;s Laurence Msall says the break even idea is &ldquo;not a reasonable expectation,&rdquo; and the government needs to subsidize public transit in some form.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a very strong argument to be made that if Chicago, if the State of Illinois was in better financial shape, that it should be investing more in the public transportation system,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We basically should be reducing even more the cost of riding the CTA to attract more riders or to expand the system.&rdquo;</p><p>Msall says the CTA has struggled with inefficiencies in the past, but right now, he thinks, the system can&rsquo;t get cheaper. It just costs too much to operate. It&rsquo;s worth the price, because CTA buses earn their keep everyday by cutting rush hour traffic and improving air quality.</p><p>Chicagoan Sarah Erwin, who relies almost solely on the CTA system to get around, agrees.</p><p>&ldquo;If you could have really great public transportation, you wouldn&rsquo;t have to have as many cars,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t own a car. We specifically chose Lakeview where we can walk or get public transit or a Zipcar to where we need to go. So, it&rsquo;s vital to us.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">More about our questioner</span></p><p>Fred Pineda got his doctorate at the University of Chicago in medical physics. Now he works at the university developing MRI technology. It makes sense that a science guy would ask such a numbers-heavy question. But Pineda, a native of Mexico City, also regularly rides the CTA, where he spends about two hours on his daily commute. &nbsp;</p><p><em>Christopher Johnson is an independent producer and reporter based in Chicago.</em></p></p> Fri, 20 Nov 2015 17:20:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/fare-game-when-do-cta-buses-break-even-113884 Emanuel: Springfield lawmakers “have to” break stalemate, help Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-springfield-lawmakers-%E2%80%9Chave-to%E2%80%9D-break-stalemate-help-chicago-113486 <p><div>Another agency in Chicago is looking to deadlocked Springfield for help balancing its books, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that&rsquo;s OK, because state lawmakers will eventually come through on their obligations.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Chicago Transit Authority officials say their 2016 budget will be balanced, but only if they get the normal level of funding from the state.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think I&rsquo;m usually seen as an optimist or keep hope alive is my operating theory,&rdquo; Emanuel told reporters at the Addison CTA Blue Line stop. &ldquo;Look, they have to and will in the end of the day resolve their problem. And their breakdown. They&rsquo;ll have to pass their budget and they&rsquo;ll have to meet their responsibilities.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Emanuel joined CTA president Dorval Carter Jr. Thursday to announce the details of the agency&rsquo;s budget proposal. Carter said the CTA would not increases fares or cut services to balance their $1.475 billion budget, but it will need state funding to fill about 20 percent of the spending plan as it has in years past.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_1583.JPG" style="height: 300px; width: 400px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;" title="Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. announce details of the agency’s 2016 budget. (WBEZ/Lauren Chooljian)" /></p><div>Carter said he&rsquo;s been in &ldquo;productive conversations&rdquo; with lawmakers in Springfield. But as Illinoisans know well, the state is in its fourth month without a budget.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t speak for the governor or for anyone else in terms of where they&rsquo;re going to go or what they&rsquo;re going to do,&rdquo; Carter said. &ldquo;What I can say is I&rsquo;m managing my budget efficiently.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The budget calls for eliminating 100 positions in what officials call &ldquo;non-customer facing areas.&rdquo; It also projects continued growth in ridership. &nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The CTA isn&rsquo;t the only Chicago agency counting on the state. The Chicago Board of Education<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-board-education-passes-budget-banks-imaginary-money-112740" target="_blank"> unanimously approved a multibillion dollar budget </a>that relies on almost $500 million from Springfield, even though the Illinois General Assembly hasn&rsquo;t agreed to send the Chicago Public School district any additional money.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Meanwhile at City Hall, aldermen are hemming and hawing over whether to support a $543 million property tax increase that relies on Governor Bruce Rauner signing a bill that would lessen state-mandated police and fire pension payments. And an Emanuel supported bill that would double the current homeowners&rsquo; exemption and lessen the blow on homeowners who he said can least afford the additional property tax pain has only passed through one committee.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Aldermen have said that their &ldquo;trust issues&rdquo; with Springfield could affect whether or not they support the mayor&rsquo;s budget.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Lauren Chooljian covers Chicago politics for WBEZ. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" target="_blank"> @laurenchooljian</a>.</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Fri, 23 Oct 2015 13:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-springfield-lawmakers-%E2%80%9Chave-to%E2%80%9D-break-stalemate-help-chicago-113486 Why isn't the U.S. adopting this subway car design? http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-10-15/why-isnt-us-adopting-subway-car-design-113357 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1014_open-gangways-624x428.jpg" title="Toronto has been using “open gangway” trains since 2011. (Sean_Marshall/Flickr)" /></div><p>Around the world, many major cities trying to improve public transit have adopted city rail lines that use open gangways.</p><p>Instead of multiple cars strung together, an open gangway is one long car, allowing passengers to walk the full length of the train without getting out.&nbsp;The design is believed to increase rider capacity of trains and even make late-night riding safer.</p><p>But while open gangways are common in Europe and Asia, the United States has long avoided adoption.&nbsp;Here &amp; Now&rsquo;s Jeremy Hobson speaks with <a href="http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2015/04/06/when-american-transit-agencies-ignore-the-worlds-move-to-open-gangways/" target="_blank">Chicago city planner&nbsp;Yonah Freemark</a>&nbsp;for his take on why.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/10/14/open-gangways-subway-design" target="_blank"><em> via Here &amp; Now</em></a></p></p> Wed, 14 Oct 2015 13:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/here-and-now/2015-10-15/why-isnt-us-adopting-subway-car-design-113357 SlutWalk 2015 descends on Chicago http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-08-24/slutwalk-2015-descends-chicago-112712 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/slut walk David Shankbone.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Rape can&rsquo;t be explained away or excused based on what the victim was wearing. That&rsquo;s the key message of, and reason for, the annual event known as SlutWalk. Participants shine a light on everything from rape culture to sexual harassment to body shaming and more, and work to create a community to fight it. Saturday marked the 5th &ldquo;Slutwalk&rdquo; here in Chicago. HIT 8-24 Slutwalk Chant INTRO One of this year&rsquo;s featured speakers was Kara Crutcher. Crucher is the woman behind Courage Campaign, fighting sexual harassment on the CTA. She&rsquo;s here now to talk about what went down and what she&rsquo;s doing.&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 24 Aug 2015 10:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-08-24/slutwalk-2015-descends-chicago-112712 Chicago pumping $30 million into improving Purple Line express http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-pumping-30-million-improving-purple-line-express-112356 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 5.05.13 PM.png" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">The Chicago Transit Authority is promising a faster, more reliable purple line express by November of this year.</p><p dir="ltr">CTA officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel dropped by the Howard station Thursday to announce a $30 million renovation of the Purple Line tracks between the Lawrence and Jarvis stops in Chicago. This is on top of work that was already done in 2013 to renovate tracks and eliminate slow zones on the same line.</p><p dir="ltr">Dorval Carter Jr., recently named president of the CTA, said this would be the biggest investment in the train line that runs from downtown Chicago to the near northern suburbs in the last 40 years.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;By replacing track ties, running rail and other improvements on this century old structure, riders will get a commute that has far fewer slow zones and that is smoother and more comfortable,&rdquo; Carter said.</p><p dir="ltr">CTA officials say around 13,000 passengers ride the Purple Line express each week, which totals up to about 3.5 million riders each year. Carter said normal Purple Line express traffic shouldn&rsquo;t be affected by the construction, as work will take place solely on weeknights and weekends. The work is also supposed to be out of the way of normal Red Line service, though there may be occasional reroutes.</p><p dir="ltr">Construction is set to begin on July 20.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is WBEZ&rsquo;s city politics reporter. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 09 Jul 2015 16:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-pumping-30-million-improving-purple-line-express-112356 Beyond the rattle and clatter: When the CTA 'L' is your neighbor http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/beyond-rattle-and-clatter-when-cta-l-your-neighbor-112173 <p><p>Our questioner Eleni Chappen is a web developer living in Chicago&rsquo;s Ravenswood neighborhood. She got interested in the quirks of living next to the CTA elevated train tracks while riding the Brown Line, where she spotted what she thought might be her dream home: a yellow house with a pool in the backyard located right on a curve along the route.</p><p>&ldquo;I always wondered what goes on in there,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;I imagined them never being able to open their windows, because it would be so loud. Or them have to wear earplugs all the time. Or they&rsquo;d be having dinner and the spoons and forks are all shaking.&rdquo;</p><p>So she submitted this question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What&#39;s it like to live in a home that&#39;s directly adjacent to CTA tracks?</em></p><p>We found many people who reported what you&rsquo;d expect: Residents spoke of not being able to open windows and having things rattle throughout the house when a train rumbles by at a clip. But we also learned more surprising details about life near the tracks. One family off the Brown Line says the noise from the CTA has gotten worse, even, since renovations that allow the train to go faster. At the same time, one renter off the Red Line says life has grown quieter with the addition of newer train cars.</p><p>Maybe most surprising of all, everyone we spoke to says they&rsquo;ve adapted to the noise and the shaking the train brings. And there&rsquo;s a kicker. One expert tells us residents (neighbors to the tracks or not) should expect the CTA train lines to eventually get quieter, as the agency updates to newer train models and lines are revamped with noise mitigation in mind.</p><p>Until then, though, we found some folks to talk about what it&rsquo;s like to live with the &quot;L&quot; as your neighbor.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Mary and Floyd</span></p><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Homeowners, Brown Line</span></p><p>When Mary and Floyd bought their yellow house right off a curve on the Brown Line 25 years ago, the fact that it was so close to the &quot;L&quot; didn&rsquo;t faze them. They had always loved the look of the house and figured the rumbling of the &quot;L&quot; would soon become white noise. And it did, for many years. But since the renovations of the Brown Line were completed in 2009, Mary and Floyd say the noise has gotten much, much worse. In fact, they think it&rsquo;s affected their hearing. &ldquo;The train is just so loud,&rdquo; Floyd says. &ldquo;One morning I expect to wake up and it&rsquo;s in our bedroom. That sort of scares me.&rdquo;</p><p>Lately, the frustrations over the noise have been compounded by the fact that their property taxes keep going up, despite the impact of the noise. But this, Mary says, has a very real impact on their property value. Years back she says they put the house on the market for a while. &ldquo;Over 50 percent of the people that saw that it was by the train they wouldn&rsquo;t even come into the see it,&rdquo; Mary says.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MARY%20outside%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 427px; width: 320px; float: right;" title="Mary and Floyd have owned a yellow house off the curve of a Brown Line train for the last 25 years. Mary says she has a love-hate relationship with the train. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe) " /></div><p>We called Landon Harper, a broker with @Properties who has been selling real estate next to the &quot;L&quot; for more than a decade, and asked him if it&rsquo;s harder to sell when the noise of the &quot;L&quot; is factor. He says there is a definite discount for homes that abut the train versus those a few blocks away. But the market is strong, he says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s all about finding the right buyer.&rdquo;</p><p>While Mary is trying to dispute her taxes, neither she nor Floyd has ever logged an official complaint with the Chicago Transit Authority. And, in fact, few people do. CTA says the agency only received seven complaints in 2014. And that is half the number from the previous year.</p><p>Mary and Floyd, semi-retired and in their mid-60s, admit there are strange quirks about living so close to the tracks. Like when the vibrations of the train cause her china to move around inside her cabinet. Or when blobs of tar and large bolts and pins come flying off the tracks. There have been two fires on the tracks from sparks, Mary says. And in the parking lot under the tracks people come and park their cars to do, well, you know what. &ldquo;The workers &hellip; they called this Lovers Lane,&rdquo; Mary quips.</p><p>Despite all her gripes, there are also charming and funny things about living next to the &quot;L,&quot;&nbsp;says Mary, who asked we just use her first name. Mary has a pool out back where she swims all summer long. Frequently her friends and neighbors &mdash; or the men who moved her couch &mdash; tell her they see her out swimming. &ldquo;I guess everyone on the train sees me swimming,&rdquo; she chuckles.</p><p>Mary says she has a love-hate relationship with the train. And she wrestles with it every day. Is it worth it? When she looks at her surging tax bill and the train comes screeching around the corner, it&rsquo;s hard to see the upside. But when she hears the jingle of the <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/holidaytrain/#media" target="_blank">Christmas train</a> as it barrels down the track, or sits with a glass of wine at dusk and watches the glowing train go by, she feels connected to her city.</p><p>&ldquo;You see these people and you think, there is a whole world out there,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;There is a whole world of the city: museums, bars, restaurants, and these people are going and coming and there you are, watching it all.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Daphne Karagianis, 29</span></p><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Renter, Green Line</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Curious%20City%20Daphne%20selects-1%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 401px; width: 600px;" title="Daphne Karagianis lived in an apartment next to the Green Line for two years. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee) " /></p><p>The first night Daphne Karagianis, 29, spent in her apartment, an arm&rsquo;s reach from the Green Line off Kedzie and Lake, she almost cried. &ldquo;It felt like the train was inside the apartment. It felt like the place was falling down,&rdquo; she says. Daphne&rsquo;s apartment was so close to the train stop that she could hear the announcements from inside. (The most disconcerting, she says, was when the stress calls came through for someone needing assistance on the platform.) &nbsp;Regardless of all that, however, it took only about a month for her to get used to the sound.</p><p>What she never got used to, however, was the feeling of living in a fish bowl. If she wanted to open the curtains, it meant CTA riders were staring into her living room. &ldquo;When I went on the train line I could see inside our house, the couch and the cat,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Despite the fact that the train was so close, &ldquo;it felt like you could reach out and touch it.&rdquo; Daphne says she never made a connection to a stranger, though she did ask her friends to wave as they pulled into the station on their way hang out at her place.</p><p>Daphne lived in the apartment for two years until this spring, when she moved to Logan Square. She said her move had nothing to do with the train, and she&rsquo;d even consider renting near one again &mdash; though she would never <em>buy </em>a place so close to the tracks.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Collin Ashmead-Bobbitt, 34</span></p><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Red Line, Brown Line, Purple Line</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Bobbit1 (3) WEB.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 600px;" title="Collin Ashmead-Bobbitt pays $500 a month in rent, but his apartment backs up to the Red, Brown and Purple CTA lines. (WBEZ/Jesse Dukes)" /></p><p>Recently, WBEZ engineer Collin Ashmead-Bobbitt, 34, got a text message from his buddy. &ldquo;You doing laundry?&rdquo; it said. Collin was confused. &ldquo;How do you know? Are you here?&rdquo; he responded. &ldquo;Nope. Headed downtown on the Red Line and saw you go outside with your laundry basket.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s just one of the many quirks about living in an apartment next to the train tracks. Others include stacking his books vertically to prevent them from getting jostled and falling off the shelf, to hanging pictures with four to five nails per frame. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve gone through a lot of wine glasses,&rdquo; he adds. Collin, an audio engineer and video editor, has lived in his Lincoln Park West apartment, a converted cottage house, for more than four years. At $500 a month the place is a steal. But it also backs up to three train lines: the Red Line, Brown Line and Purple Line.</p><p>&ldquo;When there is two southbound trains and an immediate follower and two northbound trains and an immediate follower, the apartment kind of rumbles,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Despite the constant noise and vibrations, Collin says he&rsquo;s confident it&rsquo;s not a health risk for his hearing.</p><p>&ldquo;My ears and eyes are my life and I would not live in a situation where I thought it would be damaging to both those senses,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;As an audio engineer and a film editor I rely heavily on them.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s been more than four years since he moved into the place. Even he admits the first few weeks were an adjustment period. &ldquo;I considered buying earmuffs,&rdquo; he says. But soon, the sounds of the train became such white noise that life seemed off kilter when they weren&rsquo;t around. When he went to visit his mom in a suburban neighborhood in upstate New York, &ldquo;all I heard was crickets,&rdquo; Collins says. &ldquo;It really freaked me out that there was no trains and no sirens. The soundscapes of the city were so far away.&rdquo;</p><p>Even Collin&rsquo;s cat, Mr. Venkman, likes watching the train from the window. &ldquo;He gets excited when it comes,&rdquo; Collin says.</p><p>And when it doesn&rsquo;t come? Well, that&rsquo;s even worse in a certain way.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s the lifeline of the city,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;And when you don&rsquo;t hear it you definitely know something&rsquo;s up and you should turn on the radio.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ELENI%20WEB.jpg" style="float: left; height: 240px; width: 320px;" title="Question-asker Eleni Chappen, left, says the yellow house owned by Mary, right, has been her dream home since she first saw it riding the CTA's Brown Line. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /><span style="font-size:24px;">Our Questioner, Eleni Chappen</span></p><p>When we called Eleni Chappen, 27, to ask her more about why she posed this question to Curious City, we did not expect that she was actually now sort of living it.</p><p>Ironically, since asking this question she&rsquo;s moved jobs and works in Ravenswood in an office sandwiched between the Metra and the Brown Line. And she&rsquo;s realized something: &ldquo;After a while, you do kind of ignore it.&rdquo;</p><p>But that still didn&rsquo;t really answer the heart of her question: If one could adapt, was living next to the &quot;L&quot;&nbsp;a smart investment? Could it be a best-kept secret of Chicago real estate?</p><p>&ldquo;Maybe I am scheming secretly to buy a house next to the tracks,&rdquo; she says. &quot;Is it less than a normal house?&rdquo;</p><p><em>Meribah Knight is a freelance journalist in Chicago and reports for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow her at&nbsp;<a href="http://www.meribahknight.com/" target="_blank">meribahknight.com</a>&nbsp;and on Twitter at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/meribah" target="_blank">@meribah</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 10 Jun 2015 13:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/beyond-rattle-and-clatter-when-cta-l-your-neighbor-112173 Morning Shift: Jackie Robinson West Little League team stripped of national title http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-02-11/morning-shift-jackie-robinson-west-little-league-team-stripped <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/patquinnforillinois.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Flickr/patquinnforillinois" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/190622135&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></div><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">&nbsp;</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit;">Jackie Robinson West Little League team stripped of national title&nbsp;</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Chicago&#39;s Jackie Robinson West Little League baseball team has been stripped of its 2014 U.S. Championship title by Little League International after it was reported that the team violated little league rules by falsifying its boundary map to allow elite players from outside its districts to join the team. WBEZ&#39;s Cheryl Raye Stout has more.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><a href="https://twitter.com/crayestout">Cheryl Raye Stout</a>&nbsp;<em>&nbsp;is a WBEZ reporter.&nbsp;</em></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/190622133&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit;">Young people get their chance to ask mayoral candidates questions</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Chicago&#39;s youth will have a turn to express their vision for the city to mayoral candidates Wednesday at the Chicago History Museum. &quot;Youth Speaks,&quot; comprises the only young person led mayoral Q and A and aims to unite Chicago people both young and old in addressing the city&#39;s hard hitting issues of social, economic and racial justice. Carlil Pittman an organizer for Southwest Organizing Project and young voter joins us along with Candace Moore of the Chicago Lawyers&#39; Committee for Civil Rights Under Law with more. A livestream of the forum can be found <a href="http://tiny.cc/youthspeaks">here.</a></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guests:&nbsp;</strong>Carlil Pittman is an organizer for the <a href="http://www.swopchicago.org/home.aspx">Southwest Organizing Project</a></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://www.clccrul.org/interns-and-fellows">Candace Moore</a> is a fellow with the Chicago Lawyers&#39; Committee for Civil Rights Under Law</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/190622130&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit;">Transportation group releases guide for voters</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">CTA Green line riders have another option when traveling into the loop. The Cermak-McCormick Place station opened Monday allowing riders to public transportation access to McCormick Place and what will soon be the DePaul arena. The rebuild was a project that began during Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s tenure, and according to a survey from the Active Transportation Alliance the Mayor would continue to push for better access on public transit. The group organized<a href="http://activetrans.org/blog/kwhitehead/where-do-chicago-candidates-stand-active-transportation-check-out-our-2015-voter-gui"> responses</a> from the leading candidates in the mayoral races, and from aldermanic candidates to learn how they value travel by foot, bus and train. We talk with John Greenfield from Streetsblog and evaluate their responses.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><a href="https://twitter.com/greenfieldjohn">John Greenfield</a> is the Chicago Editor for <a href="http://chi.streetsblog.org/">Streetsblog</a></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/190622129&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit;">Food Wednesday: Seeking pleasure in our diet</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">What&rsquo;s your guilty pleasure? If you have one, it&rsquo;s likely to do with food. But why do you feel guilty? From health or ethical issues? On the brink of this season of pleasure, with Valentines Day, Fat Thursday, and Mardi Gras, we&rsquo;re joined by Louisa Chu, co-host of Chewing the Fat, our WBEZ podcast on food, that explores pleasure this week.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><a href="https://twitter.com/louisachu">Louisa Chu</a> is co-host of WBEZ&#39;s <em>Chewing the Fat podcast.</em></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/190622127&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><span style="font-size: 24px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit;">Reclaimed Soul: soulful love songs</span></p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">This week, Ayana Contreras brings us deep soul music with a romantic theme. Love, Soul, and Heartbreak&hellip; with a beat.</p><p style="margin: 0px 0px 18px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><strong style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;">Guest:&nbsp;</strong><a href="https://twitter.com/ReclaimedSoul">Ayana Contreras</a> is the host of Vocalo&#39;s <em>Reclaimed Soul&nbsp;</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 08:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-02-11/morning-shift-jackie-robinson-west-little-league-team-stripped Authorities: 2 teens shot near Chicago bus http://www.wbez.org/news/authorities-2-teens-shot-near-chicago-bus-111209 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/bus.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago police say two teenagers have been injured in a morning shooting near a public bus on the city&#39;s West Side.</p><p>Police spokeswoman Janel Sedevic says preliminary information shows the shooting occurred on a sidewalk near a Chicago Transit Authority bus just before 10 a.m. Tuesday. She says two 15-year-olds, a male and female, were both injured and sent to an area hospital. The male was shot in the chest and reported in serious condition.</p><p>Police say the offender fled on foot. No one is in custody.</p><p>CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski says one bus line in the vicinity has been temporarily rerouted. She says Chicago police are handling the investigation.</p></p> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 13:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/authorities-2-teens-shot-near-chicago-bus-111209 Morning Shift: How Jane Byrne changed the face of Chicago politics http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2014-11-17/morning-shift-how-jane-byrne-changed-face-chicago-politics-111108 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/DennyCJohnson.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Ald. Ameya Pawar talks about his efforts to bring back the CTA No. 11 bus. Plus, we hear music from The Appleseed Collective. And, we remember the life and legacy of former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-how-jane-byrne-changed-chicago-forev/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-how-jane-byrne-changed-chicago-forev.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-how-jane-byrne-changed-chicago-forev" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: How Jane Byrne changed the face of Chicago politics " on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 17 Nov 2014 08:06:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2014-11-17/morning-shift-how-jane-byrne-changed-face-chicago-politics-111108 Why buses arrive in bunches http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-buses-arrive-bunches-110941 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/172338843&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>It&rsquo;s a situation that plays out every day in Chicago. Riders show up at a bus stop, and the bus doesn&#39;t show up on time. Then all at once, two appear together.</p><p>The phenomenon is called bus bunching. Corrin Pitluck noticed it often while riding and driving around Chicago, so she put this question to Curious City:</p><p><em>I&rsquo;m interested to know about the urban physics involved in bus bunching, how it happens. I&rsquo;d also like to get drivers&rsquo; perspectives on how they feel about it and how they deal with it and what tools they have to unbunch their buses.</em></p><p>Most CTA bus riders have been frustrated by bunching at least once, but it&rsquo;s not just a problem for them. Bunching is a symptom of a bus system that&rsquo;s not running efficiently, and that creates more street traffic for everyone: bus riders, car drivers and bikers, too.</p><p>And don&rsquo;t be fooled that bunching is simple to combat. Not only is the problem practically inevitable, short-term fixes can sometimes make bus riders feel worse.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A typical scenario</span></p><p>We watched bus bunching play out on a recent weekday morning at the 66 Chicago bus stop at Chicago and Milwaukee avenues.</p><p>Passengers getting off the Blue Line at Chicago waited for buses downtown, while bus riders worked to get off and board the &ldquo;L.&rdquo; Both groups converged at the bus stop, leaving bus drivers to wait while each got where they were headed.</p><p>Meanwhile, three 66 Chicago buses all rolled east down Chicago toward the stop together.</p><p>&ldquo;Oh, don&rsquo;t get me started,&rdquo; Matt Zachar said while waiting for a bus to arrive. &ldquo;It is inconceivable. I don&rsquo;t understand why one can&rsquo;t just wait and be on schedule like he&rsquo;s supposed to.&rdquo;</p><p>Many riders feel just like Zachar, unable to figure out how two, three or more buses can even be in the same place at once. Bus bunching is ninth on the Chicago Transit Authority complaint list, the subject of around 2 percent of all calls. It seems like there should be something the Chicago Transit Authority can do to keep the buses on schedule.</p><p>That&rsquo;s not always the case, though, according to University of Chicago Professor Donald Eisenstein.</p><p>Eisenstein studies self-organizing systems, like workers in a production line. As a system, buses by design are set up to bunch.</p><p>&ldquo;A bus system by nature has bad dynamics,&rdquo; Eisenstein said. &ldquo;Left on its own, buses will bunch.&rdquo;</p><p>Big gaps between buses, he said, will get bigger, while small gaps will shrink. This reality makes it almost impossible to eliminate bunching on a route unless there&rsquo;s a lot of time between buses.</p><p>&ldquo;Zero isn&rsquo;t a possibility,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;The natural dynamics fight against you. I don&rsquo;t think you&rsquo;ll ever get zero bus bunching, so your goal is to reduce it as much as possible.&rdquo;</p><p><a name="slideshow"></a><iframe frameborder="0" height="450" scrolling="no" src="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/bus-bunching" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/bus-bunching/">Click here for a full screen and shareable version</a>&nbsp;</em></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&#39;At the mercy of the street&#39;</span></p><p>Mike Connelly, the CTA&rsquo;s vice president of planning, said bus bunching isn&rsquo;t a major issue for the agency. According to CTA performance metrics, only around 3 percent of bus trips experience bunching, which the agency defines as a gap of less than 60 seconds between buses at a stop.</p><p>Of course that percentage is greater during morning and evening commutes, as well as along the busiest routes. Still, for Connelly, bus bunching is a smaller part of making sure the buses are on time and consistent.</p><p>&ldquo;Though everyone may be affected at some point, we feel that it&rsquo;s something we work at and that we have a very high standard for [being] unbunched,&rdquo; Connelly said.<a name="routes"></a></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="320" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/Z5XAO/2/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="620"></iframe></p><p>The main way the CTA tries to combat bunching is scheduling. Each bus is equipped with a GPS tracker, and four times a year the CTA analyses the data to see if there&rsquo;s a more efficient way to run the buses.</p><p>Next, buses are monitored and controlled at key spots on the route, called terminal points. A street supervisor can speed up or hold a bus back to make sure it leaves that point on time and with enough space between it and the bus in front.</p><p>From there, &ldquo;we&rsquo;re at the mercy of the street,&rdquo; Connelly said. There are a few go-to methods, but each comes with a cost: financial costs to the CTA or potential to frustrate bus riders.</p><blockquote><p><a href="#slideshow"><strong>Check out our visual explanation of bus bunching to learn more about how CTA tries to stop bunches</strong></a></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A driver&rsquo;s view</span></p><p>The CTA&rsquo;s job is complicated by us, the riders, who need to go to a specific point and in a predictable way, so buses can&rsquo;t always go the fastest or easiest way possible.</p><p>&ldquo;For us, the bottom line is that we carry people, so the people have to be our bottom-line,&rdquo; Connelly said. &ldquo;If we were UPS, where you load the boxes and we go, we could make a choice not to deliver down this street at 9 a.m., because there is something going on this street and we could come back at 2 in the afternoon. That&rsquo;s not our choice. Our choice is that there are people waiting at the stop and we&rsquo;re going to go pick them up.&rdquo;</p><p>While bunching can be an annoyance for riders, it&rsquo;s even more stressful for the drivers themselves.</p><p>Michael Toomey is an 11-year CTA veteran and current bus operator on the 77 Belmont route. He said the main thing he wished customers understood was how the smallest disturbances on the street can lead to big delays on his route.</p><p>&ldquo;[It&rsquo;s] minor factors most people wouldn&rsquo;t notice, like a double parked car that I get stuck behind and the bus behind me comes straight through,&rdquo; Toomey said. &ldquo;So if I become two minutes late on a route that runs every four minutes, that&rsquo;s the same as being 15 minutes late on a route that runs every 30 minutes. I get more stress knowing I&rsquo;m two minutes behind schedule and the next bus is scheduled four minutes back, which means I&rsquo;ve got twice as many people to pick up.&rdquo;</p><p>Drivers can do a few things on their own to stop bus bunching, such as leapfrogging the driver in front of them or skipping unneeded stops. On larger problems they coordinate moves with the control center and street supervisors.</p><p>&ldquo;If I see my coworker in front of me, he has a standing load, I pull up and say &lsquo;Come on, you guys. I&rsquo;ve got room&rsquo; and we work together,&rdquo; Toomey said.</p><p>Though Toomey can spot many bunches starting &mdash; he knows how much time an extra load from the Belmont &lsquo;L&rsquo; stop will add, for example &mdash; he sometimes gets as mystified as riders.</p><p>&ldquo;Some days it&rsquo;s wide open, the next it&rsquo;s bumper to bumper stopped,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s something we as operators ask, too. We&rsquo;re throwing our hands up, expecting something major, and there&rsquo;s not.&rdquo;</p><p>Toomey said he wished customers could see the bunching and delays from his eyes, as a problem they share.</p><p>&ldquo;I rode the bus for years, so I&rsquo;ve seen both sides,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I wish more people had the opportunities to experience it firsthand, because if people could actually see what was happening behind the scenes they&rsquo;d be more understanding.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Now we have an answer. Who asked the question?</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/corrinpitluck.jpg" style="height: 201px; width: 280px; float: left;" title="Corrin Pitluck asked Curious City about how bus bunching works. (Chris Hagan/WBEZ)" />Our question-asker, Corrin Pitluck, takes a lot of trips from her Logan Square home with her kids, heading to school or visiting friends. Both as a CTA bus rider and a car driver, she&rsquo;s been fascinated by bus bunching.</p><p>&ldquo;I might be waiting for a bus and it&rsquo;s clear two buses are coming up, or might be driving and making a right turn and trying to be a good citizen and not turn in front of a bus, but waiting back there a ways behind a queue of buses,&rdquo; Pitluck said.</p><p>Growing up in New Jersey and Southern California, she&rsquo;s seen lots of different types of public transportation, and she&rsquo;s seen how easy it is for a bunch to form.</p><p>&ldquo;I have wondered and shook my fist at this bunching problem for decades now.&rdquo;</p><p>We love that she took this empathic element so seriously. It prompted us to speak with driver Michael Toomey and convey the gist to her.</p><p>She was just as shocked as we were when Toomey told a story of a seven-bus bunch he was involved in early in his career at the intersection of Cicero and Chicago. Utility work and an accident shut down all but one lane, and it took him more than a half hour to go one block.</p><p>&ldquo;Oh my gosh, that&rsquo;s unbelievable!&rdquo; Pitluck said.</p><p>Pitluck said the experience helped her understand the position of drivers and the difficulties they face on the road.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot that&rsquo;s out of their hands,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;They have some tools but they&rsquo;re kind of limited in dealing with this ... that buses bunch.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Hagan is a web producer and data reporter at WBEZ. Find him on twitter </em><a href="https://twitter.com/chrishagan"><em>@chrishagan</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 15:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-buses-arrive-bunches-110941