Chicago's Nonstop Airport Trains on Pause

The Chicago Transit Authority board nixed a contract Tuesday that would have allowed the agency to move forward with plans to offer nonstop train service to O'Hare and Midway airports from the Loop, but officials said the plan isn't dead.

The $1 million contract with PB Consult Inc. would have authorized the consulting firm to begin seeking private investors interested in managing the proposed service from the CTA's new Block 37 subway station.


According to a business plan released by PB Consult in October, the CTA would have partnered with a private firm that would have operated the nonstop trains to both airports, complete with wider seats and other creature comforts, at a fare of $10.

But without major system enhancements that would allow airport-only trains to bypass regular Blue and Orange Line trains, the nonstop service wouldn't reduce travel times. Those enhancements could have cost $771 million to $1.5 billion, PB Consult said.

CTA Chairwoman Carole Brown had expressed strong reservations about approving an airport service that wouldn't save riders time and could potentially cost the CTA millions if investors weren't willing to foot the entire bill.

Brown cited those concerns again Tuesday after a 5-1 vote killed the proposed contract.

"There needs to be an evaluation of the assumptions and conclusions drawn in that study and an appropriate plan on how to proceed. That has yet to be done," Brown said. She also said that the public should be given a chance to comment on the proposed service before the agency makes any decisions.

CTA President Frank Kruesi said he agreed with the board's action and supports developing a more concrete business plan. But Kruesi also said that direct service to the city's airports is still in the CTA's plans. "The airport direct service will be running within 30 days of the opening of retail at Block 37," Kruesi said.


In other action Tuesday, the board voted to extend the trial period for the Pink Line for an additional six months before making a final decision on whether the line should be made permanent, changed or scrapped. The extension also applies to bus route changes on the West Side and in western suburbs.

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