Central Electric 
Railfans' Association

  • Monday, August 29, 2016 10:18 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Metra recently received the final two cars of its 160-car order for the Metra Electric Line, completing a 2010 purchase to outfit the line with a completely new and modern fleet.

    The new cars use the latest technology and have a variety of new features, including larger windows, better seats with reversible seatbacks, brighter lighting, non-skid floors and an improved public address system. They also have power outlets for customer use. Most notably, half of the new Highliner cars have bathrooms, meaning that every train on the Metra Electric line will have at least one bathroom – a first for the line.

    “Modernizing the Electric District’s fleet has been a priority for Metra for more than a decade,” said Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “With the delivery of the final cars, we are celebrating the completion of a major investment that has enabled us to provide our customers with more comfortable and reliable service.”

    Since 1984, Metra has invested $1.6 billion in the Metra Electric – the most of any of Metra’s lines in the agency’s six-county service area.

    The push to replace the original 40-plus-year-old Highliners with a more modern fleet began with an order for 26 stainless steel Highliner cars in 2004. The cars, delivered to Metra in 2006, were purchased with $76 million in funding provided through the state’s Illinois FIRST bond program. Another state bond program allowed Metra to move forward with the purchase of 160 more Highliners in 2010 when the Metra Board approved $585 million contract with Sumitomo Corp. of America/Nippon Sharyo.

    The order from Metra spurred Nippon Sharyo to invest $35 million to build a new railcar factory in Rochelle, Ill., that employs hundreds of people while Illinois added a $12 million business investment package to support the new facility.

    Highliners are electric, self-propelled cars unique to the Metra Electric Line. The new cars are propelled by alternating current (AC), which supplies more power and requires less maintenance that the direct current (DC) propulsion used by the original Highliners.

    Although the Metra Electric Line cars cannot be used on the diesel lines, Metra has designed these cars so that, where possible, they share parts with those used on diesel bi-level cars.

    The old Highliner fleet dated from the 1970s – before Metra was created – and the last six cars carried their final passengers from Chicago to University Park on Feb. 12, 2016. Twenty-four of the original Highliner cars have been sent to museums, including Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Ill.; Union Depot Railroad Museum in Mendota, Ill.; Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad/James H. Andrew Museum in Boone, Iowa; and the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Indiana.


  • Monday, August 22, 2016 5:53 PM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    The city of MILWAUKEE has hired Kiewit Infrastructure of Omaha, Neb., as

    lead contractor for its downtown modern streetcar line and construction

    could could begin this fall, Milwaukee Business Journal reports:

    < https://twitter.com/milwstreetcar>

    < *http://tinyurl.com/heghdvv >*

    Milwaukee hires lead streetcar contractor, allowing work to begin as early

    as fall

    Aug 19, 2016, 2:24pm CDT

    *Sean Ryan*

    Reporter*Milwaukee Business Journal*

    Kiewit Infrastructure Co. of Omaha, Neb., was selected for the estimated

    $60 million contract to lead the first phases of Milwaukee’s streetcar


    The international contractor has extensive experience in transportation

    projects, which weighed heavily in its selection for the Milwaukee

    streetcar, said

    Milwaukee Department of Public Works

    commissioner Ghassan Korban

    That experience shows Kiewit Infrastructure’s ability to minimize impacts

    on businesses along the route, he said.

    "The streetcar vehicles are being manufactured by Brookville

    Equipment Corp. in Pennsylvania, and the first one will arrive in Milwaukee

    in December 2017."

    “They understand what it takes to build an urban rail system in the middle

    of a downtown,” Korban said.

    Kiewit Infrastructure was among seven companies that competed for the

    Milwaukee streetcar contract. Its projects include subway work in Toronto,

    a $350 million light rail project in Denver and Aurora, Colo., and rail

    projects for the Chicago Transit Authority.

    Kiewit Infrastructure will be construction manager for the initial downtown

    loop of the streetcar, and the spur leading to the downtown lakefront. It

    also will oversee construction of an operations and maintenance facility

    for the streetcar vehicles on Fourth Street, underneath the interstate

    bridges. The initial streetcar phase will open for service in 2018, and the

    lakefront spur will start service in 2019.

    Kiewit’s selection means construction work could begin in late fall on the

    streetcar system, Korban said.

    “The kind of work we would choose to move forward with would have to not be

    impacted by inclement weather,” Korban said.

    The company will coordinate project scheduling with the city in the coming

    months, he said, including timing for ordering major materials such as

    streetcar rails.

    “They bring their insight, bring their experience to allow some tweaking to

    help expedite or bring greater efficiency to the project,” Korban said.

    In addition to experience, Kiewit Infrastructure committed to completing

    the project within the city’s allotted budget, Korban said. It has shown a

    “tremendous understanding of the local market,” to meet the city’s 21

    percent goal for participation of disadvantaged business enterprises, he

    said. The contractor also showed good understanding of the training

    programs to help meet the city’s resident hiring programs on the

    construction work.

    Milwaukee residents in the Residents Preference Program are to work 40

    percent of the hours on the construction project.

    “They’ve shown full understanding and commitment to adhere to those

    requirements,” Korban said.


    Edward B. Havens

    Tucson, Ariz,.

  • Friday, July 01, 2016 12:44 PM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Bradley Criss, aged 53, passed away quietly on the morning of June 29, 2016, after an extended illness. Bradley was an active member of CERA for many years and was a former member of the board of directors.

    He is best known to CERA members for his layout and design work on Bulletin 146, Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: The PCC Car Era, 1936-1958. Bradley was also a talented audio/visual editor whose works included the DVD Chicago Streetcar Memories and the DVD Tribute to the North Shore Line (both with Jeff Wien). The latter was shown at CERA’s January 2013 meeting to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the railway’s abandonment. Most evident in the DVD was his talent for wedding sound bites to film clips and digitizing old film into a clean, professionally-edited digitized presentation.

    Bradley’s North Shore Line program will be reprised for the January 2017 CERA meeting. Those who have previously seen (or heard about) this well-made production will agree that this program was not only a fitting tribute to the North Shore Line but is also a tribute to Bradley’s memory as well that can be shared by all of us.

  • Monday, June 20, 2016 9:32 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Oh, Canada! Toronto Beats Chicago
    on Transit with More Riders, Funding

    Toronto transit

    A streetcar makes its way through traffic along King street at Bay. 

    (Richard Lautens / Toronto Star)

    Mary Wisniewski Mary Wisniewski Contact ReporterChicago Tribune

    Toronto is a Great Lakes city like Chicago in many ways: It has about the same population, hot summers, freezing winters and a colorful patchwork of ethnic neighborhoods.

    But there are differences north of the border. The money is prettier. Crime is less violent. Milk comes in plastic bags.

    One major contrast is in the sister cities' transit systems. Despite having fewer rail lines and stations, Toronto's public transit ridership has seen years of steady passenger growth — up 15 percent from 2008 to 2015, while the CTA's is down 1.6 percent over the same period. With 2.7 million daily boardings compared with the CTA's 1.6 million, the Toronto Transit Commission, or TTC, has become the busiest system in North America, after New York City and Mexico City.

    TTC also is getting billions in capital dollars from the province of Ontario for service expansion, while Springfield lacks a current capital program. The entire Toronto region is undergoing a transit revolution and offers an example of what can be done for transit, if the political will and money are available.

    Yonah Freemark, project manager of Chicago's Metropolitan Planning Council, said that continued investments in improving service, coupled with a growing population and development planning that links residents to transit lines, all are boosting use of Toronto's system.

    "We really need to campaign for the state to provide more funding for transit services — buses and rail," Freemark said. The council has been pushing for $43 billion in new capital funding for transportation infrastructure over the next decade.

    The capital connection

    Unlike Illinois, which has no current capital plan because of the state budget impasse, Ontario has committed $8.4 billion in support of new transit in Toronto. The province is putting $31.5 billion in capital investments over 10 years to build an integrated provincial transportation network. The total package includes improvements to roads and bridges and to the frequency of GO trains — Toronto's equivalent to Metra.

    Canada is poised to become North America's new cannabis capital

    Canada is poised to become North America's new cannabis capital

    The money specifically for the TTC includes $5.3 billion for the Eglinton Crosstown, an 11.8-mile light rail line that will be the largest transit expansion in the city's history, to be completed in 2021.

    An additional $2.1 billion is going to two other light rail lines. The TTC and the city are in the early stages of planning a new "relief" subway line to manage subway congestion downtown, and an extension to the Scarborough area, which will cost $3.56 billion in city, provincial and federal funds.

    Due to open late next year is a 5.3-mile extension on the city's main Yonge-University line, built with provincial, federal and local funds.

    New project funding is separate from the TTC's $9 billion 10-year capital program for maintaining the system, building elevators and buying streetcars, TTC spokesman Brad Ross said. The TTC is $2.7 billion shy for this program but proceeding as it can.

    In contrast, the CTA needs $13 billion over the next 10 years to keep its much older system in a state of good repair. Its last all-new line, the Orange Line, opened in 1993.

    Hate center-facing? Take a seat on 130 years of 'L' trains

    Hate center-facing? Take a seat on 130 years of 'L' trains

    The CTA committed $5 billion in the last five years to rehabbing stations and other improvements. It wants to invest more to improve service — a big initiative is the $2.13 billion Red and Purple Line modernization project to rebuild tracks that are more than a century old.

    But the agency lacks a reliable source of capital funding. It has a pledge of $1 billion in federal money, but that isn't guaranteed without a local match.

    CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said the stop-and-start nature of capital funding makes it difficult to plan effectively.

    "You have to constantly hope and work for funding, and you don't have the stable funding stream," Chase said.

    The Toronto way

    Toronto's system is slightly more expensive to ride than Chicago's. The adult cash price is $3.25 in Canadian dollars or about $2.52 in U.S. dollars, compared with $2.25 for the Chicago "L." Most Toronto riders use a monthly Metropass for $141.50, or about $110 in U.S. currency. The CTA 30-day pass costs $100.

    TTC transfers are free, as are rides for children younger than 12, and there's a discount for college students. Fares cover about two-thirds of operations, while the city covers the other third, plus most good repair projects.

    TTC's rail system is smaller — with four lines and 69 stations compared with the CTA's eight lines and 145 stations. TTC rail does not extend into the suburbs as the CTA does, and shuts down at night for maintenance, unlike CTA Blue and Red line trains, which run 24 hours.

    The TTC can seem oddly inadequate — rail stations don't open until 8 a.m. on Sundays.

    But Toronto does have a larger network of bus and streetcar service with about 170 routes, said Ross, compared with the CTA's 130 bus routes. Night service is offered through a network of buses and streetcars.

    Ross noted that TTC service was cut under the former mayor, the controversial Rob Ford, who died earlier this year. The current mayor, John Tory, reinstated service that was cut. He also wants a separate initiative called SmartTrack, which would adapt a commuter rail corridor for urban use, with electrification and more stops.

    TTC growth

    One reason TTC's ridership is growing is because the city is. Toronto has 2.86 million people, according to the World Population Review, up from 2.5 million in 2006. Chicago's population has slipped to 2.72 million, according to U.S. Census data.

    Toronto also has less highway capacity than Chicago, and rush hour traffic is horrendous.

    "Because Toronto has fewer highways, it's encouraging people to take transit," Freemark said. About 68 percent of Toronto morning commuters use transit, said chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat. That's compared with 28 percent of Chicago commuters, according to 2014 Census figures. Of Toronto public transit commuters, 85 percent use the TTC, Ross said.

    Another factor is Toronto's strategy of linking new development with transit corridors, Keesmaat said. Transit-oriented development — putting dense retail and residential development near train stations to encourage people to ditch their cars — is starting to happen in Chicago, with high-rises springing up near "L" stations.

    But in Toronto, high-density development near transit corridors is part of a 10-year-old plan, Keesmaat said. The city has reduced requirements for parking spaces, and 80 percent of growth is on main transit corridors.

    "As we grow, we want to not add cars but provide the option for people to primarily get around on transit," Keesmaat said. "We've linked our transit capital building projects to the vision of the city we're trying to create."

    Freemark said improved bus service also is a factor in TTC's progress. CTA bus ridership has dropped while its rail ridership has gone up.

    The TTC can be too popular, and rush hour trains and streetcars get "squishy," which shows the need for more capacity, Keesmaat said.

    Besides the line expansions, the TTC is growing space for riders through investing in new train control technology that will allow more trains to run per hour, and adding new streetcars and trains with more room onboard, Ross said.

    For example, newer trains on the system lack doors between cars, which allows riders to look down the entire train from end to end. This allows for about 10 percent more capacity, Ross said.

    There are some hard choices ahead. Metrolinx, Ontario's regional transit agency, has been developing a plan to merge the fare systems of the Toronto region's transit operators.

    A possible scenario would be to change the TTC's flat fare model, similar to the CTA's, to a distance-based model. But the TTC says this would require major renovations, and community activists fear it would result in big fare hikes.

    A recent softening of TTC ridership may be caused by the economy slowing, or some people peeling off to take Uber or biking, Ross said. TTC riders gripe about their system just like CTA riders do. They complain about overcrowding, system breakdowns, riders who evade fares, and those who talk too loud or eat smelly food on the trains.

    But TTC riders do have something to look forward to — big expansions to a system that most residents depend on every day.

    "There's a big modernization effort going on," Ross said. "It does take time, though. It's a big ship to turn around."

    Kyle Whitehead, campaign director for the Active Transportation Alliance, said the Chicago region needs to imitate Toronto in thinking bigger about transit improvement and expansion.

    "There's been such stagnation in recent decades, I think a lot of people in Chicago think that's the way it is and that's the way it's always going to be," Whitehead said.

    "If we can move forward with projects like Ashland Avenue bus rapid transit service, and other expansion projects, people will see the improvements and see more areas clamoring for improvements," Whitehead said. "I think that's what's happening in Toronto."


  • Friday, June 17, 2016 8:46 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Milwaukee News

    Proposed Fares, Operating Schedule
    Announced for Milwaukee Streetcar

    Rides for the Milwaukee streetcar will cost $1, and the car will operate from 5 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to midnight on Saturday and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday.

    Rides for the Milwaukee streetcar will cost $1, and the car will operate from 5 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to midnight on Saturday and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday. Credit: Brookville Equipment Corp.

    5:21 p.m.



    By Hannah Schwarz of the Journal Sentinel

    Officials with the city and business community announced Thursday the proposed fares and operating hours of the city's planned streetcar — and said part of the lakefront route may go off-wire.

    Officials also defended themselves against criticism that the project is unnecessary and too expensive.

    The streetcar is to be completed by late 2019.

    Rides will cost $1 per ride, and the streetcar will operate from 5 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to midnight on Saturday and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday, officials said at a Milwaukee Press Club luncheon. The wait time between cars will be around 10 to 15 minutes, officials said. There will be 21 stops along the line.

    "This is one important critical aspect of building a competitive city," said Beth Weirick, the CEO of downtown's Business Improvement District No. 21 and a member of Thursday's panel.

    "There's a war for talent going on in this country," and to attract growing businesses, the city needs to pick up on what other metropolitan areas are doing, she said.

    "We are such a car-centric city," but people in cities across the U.S. are increasingly shifting away from vehicles, Weirick said, adding that 30% of the 22,000 residents who live in downtown Milwaukee don't own cars.

    Groundbreaking for the streetcar will be this fall, and the first vehicle will be delivered in December 2017. The first route will be completed by the end of 2018, and the second route will be completed by the end of 2019, officials said.

    Each car will hold up to 150 passengers, and will include 32 seats, said Ashley Booth, planning and technical services director at HNTB, the firm consulting with the city on the streetcar project. Each car will be wheelchair accessible.

    Part of the lakefront route will likely be off-wire, but only if the streets can accommodate an exclusive lane for the streetcar, said City Engineer Jeffrey Polenske. When off-wire, the streetcar would run on battery power.

    Most of the first three years of operation will be funded by a grant from the federal government, but how the city will pay for operating costs — aside from fares — hasn't yet been determined, Polenske said.

    The city is looking into developing sponsorship and advertising programs, he added. Once the streetcar is in operation for a couple of years, the city will be eligible for more federal funding.

    Milwaukee doesn't have a dedicated revenue source for transportation, making it unusual among metropolitan areas, Booth said.

    Booth addressed concerns about low ridership by pointing to Kansas City, Mo., where ridership at 6,000 per day is more than three times what city officials projected.

    The streetcar's 2.5-mile route will encompass the downtown area and a loop around the lakefront.

  • Thursday, June 09, 2016 8:30 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    CTA to renovate historic Quincy station in Loop

    Quincy 'L' station renovations

    The Quincy "L" station, seen in this artist's rendering, will undergo renovations, including the addition of elevators for the disabled, CTA President Dorval Carter said June 8, 2016. (CTA / Handout)

    Mary Wisniewski
    Mary Wisniewski
    Contact Reporter
    Chicago Tribune

    In 1897, William McKinley was in the White House, aviator Amelia Earhart was a baby and the Quincy "L" station was built in Chicago's downtown.

    Some 119 years later, the stop at Quincy and Wells streets in Chicago's Loop is still one of the busiest stations on the CTA system, located near the financial district and Willis Tower, with 2.2 million rides annually on the Brown, Orange, Pink and Purple lines. It's also one of the most attractive, with pressed metal wreaths and polished wood in the stationhouse, a ticket agent booth replicated in the 1980s based on original 1897 plans and old-time posters on the platform.

    But even the best-preserved among us need the occasional makeover. So on Wednesday, the CTA board approved a contract for station renovations, which will include adding two elevators to make the station accessible to customers with disabilities.

    The $18.2 million renovation also will include stair replacement, painting and lighting improvements, but it will preserve the appearance of the station, according to the CTA. The board awarded an $11.7 million contract to Park Ridge-based Ragnar Benson Construction LLC, which has done previous work for the CTA. That includes the Loop track renewal project in 2012, which replaced more than 2 miles of elevated rail and track components downtown, said CTA spokesman Jeffrey Tolman.

    Quincy 'L" station renovations

    The Quincy CTA station at Quincy and Wells streets in Chicago's Loop, seen here in December 2014, will undergo renovations as the agency continues to preserve and restore several historic CTA locations. (Phil Velasquez / Chicago Tribune)

    The rest of the Quincy project will be handled in-house, Tolman said. The station, which is expected to remain open during construction, was last renovated in 1988.

    "It's a very busy station for us, and I think it will be a tremendous improvement to our customers and particularly to our disabled customers," CTA President Dorval Carter told reporters after the meeting. Work on the station is expected to begin later this year, though no date was immediately available.

    The CTA is also looking to better preserve its historic cars and equipment through a Heritage Fleet program announced last week. The fleet consists of a selection of retired railcars and buses, including two 1923 orange-and-brown 4000-series railcars, along with buses from the 1960s with their original markings.

    CTA adds Bus Tracker displays at 51 rail stops

    CTA adds Bus Tracker displays at 51 rail stops

    The program will set guidelines for future preservation, maintenance and repair of the vehicles, with funding from revenue generated by the CTA's online gift store and private charters of the vehicles. The agency also plans to show off the historic vehicles at city events and activities.

    After Wednesday's meeting, Carter also noted that the state of Illinois' continued budget impasse means that the agency still is not receiving its annual $28 million subsidy for reduced and free fares. Such fares are provided for students, senior citizens, members of the military and people with disabilities.

    "It's not having an immediate impact on service or anything like that," Carter said. He said the agency's budget is big enough to deal with the delay in funding.

    But he noted it is a growing cost for the CTA, and he is looking forward to the continuing commitment from the state.

    CTA to test prepaid boarding on Belmont buses

    CTA to test prepaid boarding on Belmont buses

    The CTA also announced that it had received its first perfect score in its triennial review from the Federal Transit Administration, the oversight agency for transit systems. The FTA reviewed 17 areas, including safety, finance, maintenance and public input.

    The FTA looked at nearly 600 transit agencies between 2013 and 2016 and found an average of eight deficiencies in each, CTA spokesman Brian Steele said. An FTA representative was not immediately available for comment.

    "It is very rare, especially for a transit agency of this size, to get a perfect score," Carter said in a statement. He said the score is a testament to the attention paid by CTA employees to federal regulations.
  • Thursday, June 02, 2016 8:53 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Why was the streetcar system scrapped in Chicago? Was there a streetcar tunnel under the Chicago River? And are there any remnants from the Brookfield Zoo streetcar? Geoffrey Baer tracks down answers for these three questions about Chicago's bygone streetcar heyday.

    I read that Chicago once had the largest street railway system in the world. Why was the system scrapped? Were the tracks pulled up or covered over?

    – Martin Rowe, Lincolnwood

    Chicago at one time did claim to have the largest streetcar system in the world, with a fleet of over 3,200 passenger cars and over 1,000 miles of track – a claim backed up in several sources we found.

    It all started in 1859 with a horse-drawn car running along a single rail track down State Street. By the 1880s, a handful of different streetcar companies were in operation across the city. Gradually, the horse-drawn lines were replaced with cable cars – so called because they hooked to a constantly moving cable underneath the street. Electric streetcars powered by an overhead trolley line gradually replaced the cable cars.

    In 1914, the streetcar companies unified under a new name: Chicago Surface Lines. A nickel would get you a ride to just about anywhere in the city.

    The advent of affordable automobiles in the 1920s caused streetcar ridership to decline – but streetcar operators weren’t going to just give up. In 1929 they formed the Presidents’ Conference Committee, or PCC, which determined that the way to stop the decline in ridership was to make streetcars as fast, smooth, convenient and comfortable as the family car.

    Chicago was chosen as the guinea pig city to test two experimental designs. The winning design became known as the PCC car and was used in cities all over the country. Chicago ordered 600 of them in 1945 and 1946. Here they were nicknamed Green Hornet streetcars because of their speed and the Chicago Surface Lines’ green paint job.

    At almost the same time the Chicago Surface Lines and the ‘L’ were consolidated as the CTA – and the CTA’s general manager Walter McCarter wasn’t a fan of streetcars and their unsightly web of overhead wires. He oversaw phasing out streetcars in favor of buses starting in 1947, just a year after the Green Hornets went into service. The last Chicago streetcar click-clacked down Vincennes Avenue on June 21, 1958. 

    There are still lasting vestiges of the streetcar system in Chicago. Many of today’s CTA bus routes and route numbers are the same as they were in the days of streetcars. And as for the tracks – a few of the streets had the tracks pulled up, but most were covered with asphalt and are still in the streets under pavement. 

    PCC streetcars are still in operation in a number of places including Kenosha, Wisconsin; San Francisco and at the Illinois Railway Museum.

    Our key source for this answer was “Chicago Streetcar Pictorial,” a book just released by the Central Electric Railfans’ Association. It details just about everything you could want to know about Chicago PCC streetcars.

    I am 84 years old. I grew up in Chicago and have a memory of riding on a street car as it went through a tunnel under the Chicago River. Is the memory of this old man accurate or a fantasy?   

    – Ron Graham, Bensenville

    We’ve actually done this question before, but we thought we’d bring it back for this segment. Our viewer’s memory is 100 percent accurate – there were in fact three tunnels under the river.

    The tunnels were proposed in the mid-1800s to solve a traffic problem. There were so many ships traveling up and down the river that the old swing bridges were constantly opening, causing huge traffic jams on land.

    The first tunnel opened in 1869 on Washington Street. The LaSalle Street tunnel opened in 1871, just before the Chicago Fire. It became a vital escape route for people fleeing the fire after the wooden bridges burned.

    The tunnels originally were for carriages and pedestrians. Later, the cable car companies ran tracks through the tunnels because they couldn’t run cables across movable bridges.  

    A third tunnel was built at Van Buren Street specifically for streetcars.

    When the river was reversed in 1900, the current in the river exposed the tunnels that had been 18 feet below the riverbed so new tunnels had to be built at a lower depth.

    The LaSalle Street tunnel was fabricated of steel above ground, then floated into place and then lowered into a trench in the river bottom. You can still see the entrance of that tunnel today north of the river, but it now leads to a parking area. That tunnel was closed to traffic in 1939.

    The Van Buren tunnel closed in 1924, and the last one at Washington Street closed in 1954 as the streetcar era came to a close.

    During WW II there was a streetcar route that went into the Brookfield Zoo from the east side. I believe that it originated from a terminal at Archer Avenue and 55th Street. Are there remnants of this line existing today?

    – Frank Coyle, Romeoville

    The line that ran beginning in the 1920s to Brookfield Zoo was not a Chicago Surface Lines streetcar, but was operated by the Chicago & West Towns Railway.

    It ran from Cermak and Kenton in Cicero and passed through what were then the somewhat rural suburbs of Berwyn and North Riverside, past Brookfield Zoo and ending in LaGrange. The streetcar one was replaced with a motor bus in 1947.

    According to the Central Electric Railfans Association, today’s PACE buses follow the same route to the zoo.

    As far as physical relics there are concrete bridge piers where the streetcar line once ran over Salt Creek.

    A restored blue and white 1924 streetcar, #141, is at theIllinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois. A different railway historical society had purchased the car in 1959 but it sat unrestored under a tarp in Lisle for more than 10 years until a rail enthusiast named Frank Sirinek stumbled on it.

    It took 30 years to restore the car, using parts like a controller found in Milan, Italy, and a fare register found in San Diego.  Other parts were re-manufactured based on original schematics. The restored car made its first run in 65 years at the Railway Museum on March 3, 2013 with Frank Sirinek as motorman.

    Frank SirinekPhotographed: Frank Sirinek

    For more information and to watch the entire Ask Geoffrey segment please click here

  • Wednesday, May 18, 2016 3:48 PM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    OT: Washington, D.C. - U.S. streetcars making comeback after nearly going extinct 

    Tue May 17, 2016 7:10 pm (PDT) . Posted by: "Edward Havens" watsonscruff2000

    A Capital News Service story published Tuesday on the "frederick news post dot com" site says U.S. streetcars are making a nationwide comeback after nearly going extinct:

    < http://www.hdrinc.com/portfolio/s-line-formerly-sugar-house-streetcar>
    [image: DDOT maintains that streetcars should be ready to go by the end of
    the year.]
    < *http://tinyurl.com/jetfubd <http://tinyurl.com/jetfubd>>*
    Streetcars, once nearly extinct, enjoying a comeback

    - Capital News Service
    - (Tuesday, May 17, 2016)

    WASHINGTON — With the February opening of streetcar service along the 2.4-mile H Street-Benning Road corridor, Washington joined a national trend of major cities rebooting what was once considered an antiquated mode of urban transportation.

    Far from being an exercise in nostalgia, the rekindled love affair with the streetcar is not only bringing public transportation to under-served areas, but is also aimed at stimulating economic growth in key commercial districts.

    Since 2000, seven major cities in the United States have installed streetcars. Besides Washington, the cities are Seattle; Portland, Oregon; Salt Lake City; Dallas; Tucson, Arizona; and Atlanta. Several others are in the planning or construction phases.

    All seven systems are modern, second-generation streetcars on new lines, not part of so-called “legacy” systems that in some cases, such as New Orleans and San Francisco, have been running for more than a century. Nor are the second-generation streetcars throwbacks to a bygone age, such as CityLYNX Gold Line, in Charlotte, North Carolina, which opened in 2015 using replica historic streetcar models known as heritage cars (they are slated to be replaced in about three years).

    Streetcars are a type of “light rail” service. Each system uses single cars that run along city streets on tracks, usually in mixed traffic, as opposed to exclusive rights of way.

    Each of the new DC Streetcar vehicles is 66 feet long and 8 feet wide, capable of holding approximately 157 passengers.

    The streetcar service runs Monday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to midnight and on Friday and Saturday until 2 a.m., with no current Sunday service. It will be free to all riders for the first few months of its introductory period.

    An average weekday in April saw 2,285 passengers on the DC Streetcar. Saturday ridership averaged 3,235.

    Washington had streetcars for 100 years, from 1862 until 1962. Initially drawn by horses, the cars switched to electric power in 1888.

    Only a few years after the last streetcar rumbled down Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington began construction on a new heavy rail/subway system known as Metrorail, administered by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which also runs the regional bus system.

    “From 1890 to 1930, the streetcar was prevalent throughout urban America before going through a decline the following 40 years with the advent of the automotive age,” said Art Guzzetti, vice president of policy at the American Public Transportation Association.

    Mass transit networks incorporating commuter railroads, subways and bus systems accompanied the expanded use of cars.

    But streetcars like Washington’s are filling in transit gaps. The H Street segment is envisioned as the first part of a larger streetcar system that the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) plans to construct in coming years.

    In an era with diverse mass transit options in cities throughout the country, the need for streetcars might not be as apparent to the casual commuter. But Guzzetti said that streetcars offer added value to urban transit.

    “The premise is to provide the ridership capacity of a larger train for a manageable route of a bus service,” Guzzetti said.

    Unlike the farther reaches of light rail and heavy rail networks that connect suburbs to central cities, streetcars “will circulate around downtown or commercial districts,” Guzzetti said.

    Experts argue that there is also a psychological boost, as well as potential increases in real estate values, in communities that become part of a streetcar system.

    “A streetcar, or trolley, communicates a message of permanence,” said Ken Rucker, president of the National Capital Trolley Museum. “The tangibility of tracks expresses commitment to an individual transit corridor.”

    Portland began operating replica vintage streetcars in 1991. But when it came time to replace them, the city decided to buy modern cars that were equivalent in expense but higher-tech.

    The Pacific Northwest city opened its new line in 2001, becoming the first North American city to have a second-generation streetcar system.

    “The city of Portland, as well as several prominent business owners and developers, saw a need to also provide circulation within the core of Portland, as there was not the high-capacity, permanent transit available once you were downtown,” said Julie Gustafson, a spokeswoman for Portland Streetcar.

    Using the same Czech-inspired United Streetcar (now built by Oregon Iron Works) vehicle brand as Washington would later implement, Portland chose cars that are approximately 20 meters (more than 60 feet) long and 8 feet wide, with low floors that make it easy to board and exit and are accessible to disabled passengers.

    “City leaders saw what streetcar systems had done in the past as well as what they continue to do in Europe and believed that this vision fit well with the desire to increase density in the central city of Portland,” Gustafson said.

    Fifteen years in, Portland Streetcar has an average ridership of 15,000 a week. As of December 2014, $4.5 billion worth of new development had sprung up along the line.

    Washington’s plan was similar. In 2003, the city began plotting the streetcar system routes to serve several economically depressed neighborhoods.

    The DC Streetcar website states that “fixed rail lines have demonstrated they can be catalysts to attract investments in housing, retail and commercial properties.”

    According to the District of Columbia Transit Alternatives Analysis published in 2005, traffic was another factor. The bus services, in particular, were not ideal for transporting heavy amounts of people through active thoroughfares, thus contributing to further congestion.

    Although Washington has had Metrorail and bus service, both were reaching their maximum capacities.

    The current line runs through slowly gentrifying areas east of Washington’s Union Station.

    Because of delays over funding, planning and several changes in city administrations, the DDOT spent more than $200 million on the project.

    Washington could possibly look to Atlanta for insight concerning the assets and liabilities of a modern streetcar system. The Georgia capital opened its streetcars in December 2014, 65 years after closing its original streetcar network.

    “The Atlanta Streetcar project has received the majority of its subsidization from city and federal governments, while the downtown business community has also pitched in with a total commitment of $20 million over 20 years, including $6 million towards construction costs,” said A.J. Robinson, president of the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District.

    So far, the Atlanta Streetcar makes a 2.7-mile loop through downtown. The addition to the city’s transit network has boosted real estate values, increased tax revenue and helped create jobs, Robinson said.

    “We’re tracking more than $2 billion of new and planned real estate investment within a five-minute walk of the track alignment,” he said.

    “Many businesses have invested in new renovations to area real estate right around the time it was announced that the city would be moving forward with the streetcar,” Robinson added.

    Atlanta has dealt with safety issues, instances of the homeless taking shelter in the cars, and recent ridership drops as the streetcars started collecting fares at the beginning of this year.

    “We don’t have space in the urban core to support more or altered bus routes,” Robinson said.

    “Atlanta is historically a car-dominated community,” he added. “To see this kind of innovation in transit is something new.”

    New York City has recently proposed joining this trend, with Mayor Bill de Blasio formally unveiling a plan in February to build a new streetcar line dubbed the BQX: the Brooklyn-Queens Connector that is supposed to connect the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.

    The line would run on a 16-mile circuit along the East River waterfront, which lacks sufficient access to public transportation. The streetcar would cost about $2.5 billion, far cheaper than digging a new subway line through the densely populated boroughs.

    “The BQX will be a state-of-the-art streetcar that ... has the potential to generate over $25 billion of economic activity for our city over 30 years,” de Blasio said.

    Unlike some other Northeastern cities, New York had shut down its last streetcars by the 1950s for mass transit options that addressed its high-density sprawl. Competition from the car and bus, as well as other factors, helped kill the city’s once-ubiquitous streetcars.

    But cities such as Boston and Philadelphia were able to preserve their streetcars, integrating them with their heavy rail and subway systems.

    Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), which includes legacy and heritage vehicles, boasts the nation’s largest streetcar system by route mileage. Its eight legacy streetcar routes (two of which venture out into the suburbs) are unique in that “they operate as a hybrid of trolley and high-capacity commuter rail,” according to SEPTA’s director of innovation, Erik Johanson.

    “Although they have their [rights of way] the majority of their trips, once they arrive in Center City they function as traditional trolley services like a bus on rails before funneling into subway tunnels,” Johanson explained.

    Philadephia’s Girard Avenue Line is the city’s only heritage line, using rebuilt 1947 PCC II-type streetcars. “We are actually looking to modernize many of our trolleys to meet current [disability] standards,” Johanson said. “One of our major goals is full accessibility throughout the system.”
    [end text]
    Edward B. Havens
    Tucson, Ariz.

  • Tuesday, May 10, 2016 8:51 AM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Milwaukee News

    Milwaukee Seeks $20 Million Grant for Streetcar Extension

    This is a rendering of a Brookville streetcar in Milwaukee's Third Ward. The city is applying for a $20 million federal grant to extend the Milwaukee Streetcar north along 4th St.

    This is a rendering of a Brookville streetcar in Milwaukee's Third Ward. The city is applying for a $20 million federal grant to extend the Milwaukee Streetcar north along 4th St. Credit: Brookville Equipment Corp.

    April 29, 2016



    By Mary Spicuzza of the Journal Sentinel

    The city is applying for a $20million federal grant to extend the Milwaukee streetcar north to the new Bucks arena.

    The route extension would run on N. 4th St. from W. St. Paul Ave. to W. Highland Ave.
    "We're taking one extension at a time," said Ghassan Korban, Milwaukee's Department of Public Works commissioner.

    He said the proposed extension would also move the streetcar route closer to Bronzeville.

    The earliest the extension would open would be 2020, Korban said. The downtown streetcar route is expected to be open for passenger service in 2018, with the lakefront loop opening in 2019.

    Korban said that the federal grant announcements are typically made in late September, and he expects the same this year.

    The northern end of the planned extension would reach the "doorstep" of the new Milwaukee Bucks arena, which is expected to break ground this summer.

    Korban said the city is excited about the extension because it would be shovel-ready, and will connect key attractions such as existing hotels as well as planned attractions.

    "The idea all along has been that the original route needs extensions to make the streetcar route more successful and efficient," Korban said. "And this is the first next step in terms of having a meaningful extension to add to the success of the streetcar increasing connectivity downtown."

    He said that if the city receives the $20 million grant, it would cover about 50% of the estimated costs for that extension. The city could cover the rest using a tax incremental financing district, like how it financed the first phase and lakefront loop.

    "We're very excited about this opportunity, and trying to keep the momentum going," Korban said.

    The federal grant money would come from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant program.

    The city in November picked Brookville Equipment Corp. to build its first four streetcars.
    Earlier this month, the city opened bidding for companies hoping to oversee the streetcar project. Contractors have until June 1 to submit proposals to lead the project, which would involve serving as construction manager and general contractor for the 2.5-mile downtown streetcar route and lakefront loop.

  • Tuesday, April 19, 2016 12:05 PM | Jeff Wien (Administrator)

    Milwaukee News

    City Opens Bidding to Lead Milwaukee Streetcar Construction Project

    Service for the initial downtown Milwaukee street car route is expected to begin in the fall of 2018.

    Service for the initial downtown Milwaukee street car route is expected to begin in the fall of 2018.

    1:13 p.m.              

    By Mary Spicuzza of the Journal Sentinel

    The city has opened bidding for companies hoping to oversee the Milwaukee streetcar project.

    Contractors have until June 1 to submit proposals to lead the project, which would involve serving as construction manager and general contractor for the 2.5-mile downtown streetcar route and lakefront loop.

    The winning company will oversee all the construction activities for the first phase of the streetcar project. That will include installing the track, building the overhead contact system, and handling all necessary civil and road work for streetcar stops and the operations and maintenance facility.

    City officials say construction for this phase of the streetcar and the maintenance facility will begin in late summer or early fall, and will continue until 2018.
    The first streetcar, which is being built by Brookville Equipment Corp., is scheduled to arrive in Milwaukee in December 2017. The $18.6 million contract calls for Brookville to initially build four cars, but the company may be tapped to make a fifth vehicle for the lakefront line in the near future. City officials say the company could eventually manufacture as many as 24 vehicles for Milwaukee.

    Service for the initial downtown route is expected to begin in fall 2018, and the lakefront line is expected to start operating in 2019.

    The streetcar plan, which aims to connect the Milwaukee Intermodal Station with the city's lower east side, was approved by the Common Council last year. The project's capital budget is about $128 million for a 2.5-mile route, with an estimated $3.2 million operating and maintenance budget.

    The City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works said the contractor would be chosen based on price, qualifications and approach to the project.

    This request for proposals can be found online, and companies interested should call (414) 286-3314.

    Proposals are due by 4 p.m. June 1.

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