Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) launches a $268 million rebuild project on the Blue Line’s Forest Park Branch. Also, Denver (Colo.) Regional Transportation District (RTD) adopts revisions to the Customer Code of Conduct; and Metrolinx unveils a mobile-optimized website for the UP Express air-rail link in Toronto.
CTA on July 23 will start phase one of the Forest Park Branch Rebuild project. The work will include replacing 15,000 feet or almost three miles of track between the LaSalle and Illinois Medical District (IMD) stations; demolishing and beginning a rebuild of the Racine station to meet modern accessibility guidelines; and upgrading the traction power system for improved service reliability, according to the transit authority. The work is slated to wrap up Oct. 7.
The Forest Park Branch Rebuild is a multi-year, multi-phased investment program to reconstruct the entire Forest Park Branch and make it 100% accessible to those who use mobility devices.
The Forest Park Branch opened in 1958. While it has received “some improvements,” CTA said, “after six decades of heavy use, the tracks along the entire branch are beyond their useful life. This has resulted in nearly 80% of the branch being under slow zones, which cause service delays. Further, only four of the 11 stations (or 30%) along the branch are accessible to people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices.”
According to CTA, during construction riders will be encouraged to use the nearby Green Line, which runs parallel to the Forest Park Branch and will have additional rapid transit cars to accommodate extra riders. CTA will also encourage riders to take the nearby Pink Line and CTA bus service in the corridor. To incentivize use of these alternative options, CTA said it will provide free rides on bus routes operating between the Pink and Green lines, as well as reduced fares at respective Pink and Green line rail stations. It will also operate a local bus shuttle 24/7 for the duration of project.
“The Forest Park Branch of the Blue Line is a critical transit asset for Chicago’s West Side communities, directly serving the Illinois Medical District, several schools and colleges, as well as numerous other growing employment centers,” CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr. said. “The start of this project work is long overdue, and the CTA is committed to securing the additional funding to advance future phases of work to provide all Blue Line riders a better transit experience.”
On June 27, the Board of Directors at Denver RTD approved revisions to the Customer Code of Conduct—now branded as “Respect the Ride”—according to the transit agency. The revisions took effect immediately. Respect the Ride provides guidelines for creating a “safe, convenient and enjoyable experience for all customers,” Denver RTD said. It focuses on “common courtesy” and emphasizes “respect” for RTD employees, facilities, vehicles and other customers. Also outlined are prohibited activities that are enforceable.
Additionally, the Board adopted revisions to the Service Suspension Policy. “The updated policy sets forth enforcement procedures and guidelines beyond education to maintain a welcoming transit environment,” Denver RTD reported. “The policy also outlines the length of suspensions to align with the type of offense, and it permits enforcement personnel to consider the totality of circumstances and violations.” The transit agency said that it undertook a two-month engagement process beginning in April to collect feedback from customers, employees and community members through outreach events and an online survey. Of the 1,683 completed surveys, 77.6% of respondents “somewhat agree” or “strongly agree” that the proposed revisions to the Code of Conduct “support a safer environment for customers.”
“RTD is committed to making lives better through connections,” Denver RTD General Manager and CEO Debra A. Johnson said. “RTD is simply asking its customers to follow a set of behavioral guidelines that emphasize respect and support a welcoming transit environment for all.”
RTD reported that it will create a campaign to promote Respect the Ride and to educate customers and community members about the rules and guidelines. Promotional efforts will include updating RTD’s website along with on-vehicle and station signage.
In a related development, NJ Transit on June 27 unveiled an informational campaign called “RIDE KIND” designed to “remind and encourage customers to treat all their fellow customers and NJ Transit employee with kindness and respect.”
Metrolinx on June 28 reported debuting a mobile-optimized website for UP (Union Pearson) Express service between Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and downtown Union Station. It includes personalized trip planning and real-time information to deliver “a seamless and simple online experience,” said the agency, which used customer feedback, accessibility enhancements and new technology to shape these improvements.
The new customer profile feature provides more opportunities for users to customize experiences. According to Metrolinx, once a profile is created the user will see a homepage featuring trips, topics and notices based on personalized preferences, which can be used across upexpress.com, gotransit.com and metrolinx.com, “On the GO” alerts, and Metrolinx.com. Among the accessibility upgrades are updated color combinations with improved contrast and keyboard-only navigation capabilities.
The UP Express mobile app has been decommissioned, according to Metrolinx, which said the new website has all the functionality of the app and more. Airport employees and others who previously purchased tickets through the app can now log into their accounts through the website, the agency noted.