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    Chicago, IL USA

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  1. The Village of Wilmette improved safety at their grade crossings by insisting the CTA install automatic gates (see photo) when the line serving that suburb was converted to third rail in the 70s.
  2. When the grade-level construction took place over 100 years ago, it was done in areas that either had very low population or were outside the city limits at the time. Today, it would be highly unlikely that the city, or most surrounding suburbs, would approve of the use of third rail at grade-level. So, in that sense, yes, the crossing you see in the photo exists because it was built in 1907 instead of 2009.
  3. There's the case of Lee v. CTA, where a drunk was killed when he came in contact with the third rail near a grade crossing when attempting to urinate. The CTA had to cough up $1.5 million in the wrongful death suit, as it was argued that the authority did not adequately warn of the third rail. While signs warning "Danger," "Keep Out," and "Electric Current" were present, the drunk was apparently unable to read english.
  4. I guess they want their customers to break out into seizures as they board? Meanwhile, Chicago is building its own BRT network, ironically enough using federal money that New York forfeited.
  5. The current transit funding crisis first began in 2004. The CTA and its sister agencies have managed to keep afloat thanks to fare increases and temporary bailouts from the State. The new transit funding bill, which injects additional revenue into the transit systems by way of a small sales tax increase and the initiation of a real estate transfer tax in Chicago, will be the first permanent fix in recent history. However, as a result of the State-mandated 50% farebox recovery ratio, there will likely need to be minor fare increases from time to time.
  6. Massive service cuts, fare increases, and layoffs planned for Chicago-area transit agencies may soon be called off. After months of argument and debate, the Illinois General Assembly has narrowly passed the first comprehensive transit funding overhaul in 25 years. It's a long-term fix that will keep the Chicago Transit Authority (bus and rail service in Chicago and surrounding suburbs), Pace (suburban bus) and Metra (commuter rail) running for many years to come. The bill could have been law today, but the Governor stalled passage and surprised everyone with his own idea: He wants every transit agency in the State to provide free rides for all senior citizens, age 65 or older. The funding bill must now go back to the General Assembly for another vote to approve the change. Hopefully this will happen before the current "doomsday" of January 20th. On this day, the Chicago Transit Authority alone is planning to raise fares, eliminate more than half of its 154 bus routes, and lay-off 2,400 employees in order close its budget deficit. While the operational needs of Chicago-area transit may soon be meet, there are still massive capital needs totaling $10 billion. Thus far, the State government has been unable to pass any capital legislation.
  7. A major funding crisis is looming in the Chicagoland area due to decades of insufficient state funding. Public transit in Chicagoland is provided by three agencies, the Chicago Transit Authority (bus and rail service in Chicago and 40 surrounding suburbs), Metra (commuter rail), and Pace (suburban bus service). These agencies are overseen by the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA). Due to an outdated funding formula, the RTA needs an additional $300 million a year in operating funds to keep the CTA, Metra, and Pace running at current service levels with no fare increases. Additionally, $10 billion is needed over the next five years to cover capital expenses. The agency most affected by the lack of funding is the CTA, which this year faces a $97 million budget deficit. Today the CTA announced their contingency plan, which would go into effect starting mid-September if the state government does not provide additional funding. The proposed changes are dramatic: Fares would increase to as high as $3.25 for a single ride. During rush periods, fares would be $2.75 for bus and $3.25 for rail. During non-rush periods, fares would be $2.25 for bus and $2.50 for rail. Additionally, the cost of transfers would double to $0.50. (Currently fares range from $1.75 to $2.00 depending on the payment method and mode of transit.) 63 bus routes would be eliminated. Only routes that currently run on Sundays would be retained. Yellow Line and Purple Line Express rail service would be discontinued. $56.9 million in capital funds would be diverted for operations. This would prevent needed renovations of buses and railcars. Layoffs of 840 employees. According to CTA President Ron Huberman, the CTA would "be out of business in October, unable to make payroll" if no changes are made. One can only hope that the state government comes through with additional funding. I know that many other cities, both in the US and Canada, also continually face funding shortages. It's a shame that public transit in North America is so neglected.
  8. Don't bother with the Pentium D. That chip was a joke. I'd recommend either a Core 2 Duo or an AMD dual-core chip.
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