Red Line delayed most often, Yellow least 


By Robert C. Herguth

Date of Publication: January 15, 2001
Source: Chicago Sun-Times


The CTA's busiest rail route, the Red Line, also is its most delay-prone, while the Skokie Swift adheres best to posted schedules, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis has found.

Last year, 97 percent of all L trains arrived within three minutes of schedule, CTA figures show. That's slightly better than the previous year's 96.7 percent, but slightly worse than other recent years, including 1998 when the CTA began displaying timetables for passengers to see.


Staying on track

L lines

Percentage trains were on time in 2000*

Red Line


Blue Line


Green Line


Purple Line


Brown Line


Orange Line


Yellow Line



Percentage L trains were on-time entire year







*Figures are from January through November. December's numbers, which are expected to show declines in on-time performance because of weather-related problems, were not yet available, officials said.

Note: ``On time'' means a train arrived within three minutes of its posted schedule. That means up to three minutes late, or up to three minutes early. Source: Chicago Transit Authority

Meanwhile, CTA officials believe the automated announcements that alert L riders to upcoming stops have helped shave travel times, an unexpected benefit to the technology. The 60 to 65 minutes it typically took to get between Howard and 95th streets on the Red Line has been trimmed by an average of four minutes since the pre-recorded messages were introduced last year, said CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney.

The messages, for one thing, apparently are helping people "de-board" trains more quickly, said CTA President Frank Kruesi. The agency, he said, will readjust its schedules to reflect the change and test other lines for time savings.

However, the snow, ice and frigid temperatures of December 2000 caused scattered problems, especially on the Blue Line, where the breakdown of soon-to-be-rehabbed 2600 Series cars helped drag down the annual on-time average.

The route's on-time rate was just 93.2 percent last month, by far the worst record of all seven CTA train lines, and its year-end rate of 95.9 percent was better only than the Red Line's 95.7 percent.

The Skokie Swift, the Yellow Line, was the most dependable, arriving on schedule 99.7 percent of the time in 2000.

Adherence is measured by devices placed at certain points throughout the system.

CTA officials portrayed the overall figures as positive, saying the delays involved a small number of the 1,900 train trips on an average weekday, and noting most delays were less than 10 minutes.

"They show a remarkable degree of stability day in and day out," Kruesi said about the figures.

The longest delay last year was 97 minutes, said Kruesi's chief-of-staff, Susan Plassmeyer. It occurred North of the Red Line's Granville station Aug. 26, when another train derailed in the Howard yard.

Sam Kaestner, a 22-year-old Rogers Park resident who was waiting on the Howard platform Sunday afternoon, doesn't use the posted timetables when he's planning a trip because trains usually arrive regularly enough for his liking.

But all too often, something happens while he's onboard a train that lengthens the ride. "More frequently on the line we've been stopped on the track for 20 minutes for reasons we're never made aware of," Kaestner said.

Evanston resident Jason Jackson, 17, said the Red Line, which carries 40 percent of CTA's L ridership, runs fine but the Purple Line "is late all the time."

CTA officials said the Red and Blue Lines had the most delays because they operate 24 hours a day, are the busiest routes and have been undergoing track and signal upgrades. Delays can be caused by everything from sick passengers to mechanical problems, they said.

Metra trains are typically on schedule more than 97 percent of the time. The agency considers a train "on time" when it arrives at its final station within five minutes of the schedule.

Metra, unlike the CTA, releases monthly on-time data to the public.

Kruesi said his agency will begin posting its data on the CTA's Web page.