The Elizabeth Line through central London, formerly known as Crossrail, opened today:
First approved in 2008, the heavy rail line will dramatically improve public transport coverage of the city, says Transport for London (TfL), slashing journey times, providing substantial extra capacity and making the city more altogether more accessible. By extending the transport system to areas that were previously much slower to access and creating new central hubs for transfers to the Tube, the line could also reshape the way people navigate the city.
Travel times from Southeast London’s Abbey Wood to the major western rail terminus of Paddington, for example, will be cut by almost half to 29 minutes. Journeys from southeastern Woolwich—currently one of London’s worst-served areas for train connections—to London’s main eastern rail terminus at Liverpool Street will be halved to 15 minutes, while connections between Farringdon, in London’s financial district, and the newer dockland business hub of Canary Wharf will be slashed from 24 minutes to just ten. While all Londoners stand to benefit from these connections, business travelers will be particularly well-served, with connections from Heathrow Airport to Canary Wharf soon to be possible in 44 minutes.
An additional 1.5 million people will be within a 45-minute commuting distance from the capital’s major commercial and business centers of the West End, the City and Canary Wharf, up from 5 million currently according to Crossrail.
The Elizabeth Line will also redraw the map of London’s central transport hubs.
To take an example: Farringdon Station—the central London terminus of the world’s first underground railway, which opened in January 1863—was, before the Elizabeth Line’s opening a busy but not necessarily pivotal station in London’s transport network. Thanks to the Elizabeth Line, it will now be a key interchange station, connecting the line not just to the Tube but with high frequency trains to London’s northern and southern suburban hinterland that are routed through the station. Farringdon will also now have direct links to St. Pancras International for Eurostar connections and to three major airports: Gatwick, Heathrow and Luton. Combined with the station’s existing Tube links, Farringdon will eventually be served by over 140 trains per hour at the busiest times.
I will deliver a full report in July.
Meanwhile, 89% of UK railway workers have voted for a national railway strike, so who knows how long the Elizabeth Line will run?
This week's temperatures tell a story of incoherence and frustration: Monday, 26°C; Tuesday, 16°C; yesterday, 14°C; today (so far), 27°C. And this is after a record high of 33°C just a week ago—and a low just above 10°C Tuesday morning.
So while I'm wearing out the tracks on my window sashes, I'll have these items to read while my house either cools down or warms up:
And finally, Ian Bogost feels elated that cryptocurrencies have crashed, particularly because he doesn't own any.
The London Underground gets a new line on May 24th. Eventually, you can take the Elizabeth Line from Heathrow to Essex in one go; for now, you have to change twice. But it still adds about 10% more capacity to the Tube:
The Elizabeth line will initially operate as three separate railways, with services from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield connecting with the central tunnels from autumn this year. When the final stage is complete, customers will be able to travel seamlessly from Abbey Wood to Heathrow and Reading, and from Shenfield to Heathrow.
- Shenfield and the central section of the route will need to change trains at Liverpool Street, walking to/from the new Elizabeth line Liverpool Street station
- Reading or Heathrow and the central section will need to change trains at Paddington, walking to/from the new Paddington Elizabeth line station
- Paddington and Abbey Wood only - no changes needed
The line has all-new trains, all-new signals, and all-new controls, making it "one of the most complex digital railways in the world," according to TfL.
The Heathrow to Paddington route looks like it could give the Heathrow Express some competition, as £6 is less than £25, even if the route takes twice as long.
Two stories this morning seemed oddly juxtaposed. In good news, the City of Chicago announced plans to spend $15 million on 77 km of new bike and pedestrian trails over the next couple of years:
Several of the projects, including plans to convert an old railroad into a trail in Englewood, are still in the planning and design phases. Others, like Sterling Bay’s planned extension of the 606 Bloomingdale Trail into Lincoln Yards, are set to come to fruition through private partnerships.
The news release lists 12 projects, including several that had been previously announced, that are set to be funded with a $15 million “commitment to jumpstart” the “key projects citywide.” The $15 million comes from a combination of “federal, state and local sources, including general obligation bonds, Tax Increment Financing, and Open Space Impact Fees,” according to a spokesperson for the city’s planning department.
The City also plans to give away 5,000 bicycles to encourage people to get out of their cars. But at the same time, the City announced it would give away 50,000 gas cards to encourage people not to get out of their cars:
The plan, which comes weeks after possible 2023 mayoral candidate Willie Wilson spearheaded several rounds of free gas giveaways, includes gas cards worth $150 each for as many as 50,000 drivers, and transit cards worth $50 each for as many as 100,000 riders. Wilson on Thursday blasted the mayor’s plan and called it a “political stunt.”
Three-quarters of the transit cards would be prioritized for residents in low-income neighborhoods who use the CTA often. The remainder would be distributed throughout the city.
“It will benefit CTA riders across the city, but especially on the South and West sides,” CTA President Dorval Carter said. “Areas that saw the lowest ridership declines during the pandemic, areas where public transit is the best and sometimes the only option.”
Let's pause for just a moment to give political-stunt-incarnate Willie Wilson a golf clap for calling anything a "political stunt."
I get fretting about gasoline prices if you do what you can to save gas and need your car to survive. But on my trip last week, I got passed by idiots in two-ton SUVs who no doubt complain it costs them $100 to fill their tank.
My little Prius got to and from Kentucky on less than $80 of gas, and even with that trip I've still gotten an average of 2.2 liters per 100 km (156 MPG) so far this year. In fact, the second-worst economy I've ever gotten for a tank of gas in this car was on the return trip from Berea, when I got 5.5 L/100 km (43 MPG) over 610 km (400 miles). Of course, since I got back I've averaged 2 L/100 km (140 MPG).
So maybe if people didn't burn as much gasoline, the city wouldn't feel like giving away gasoline was an option? Just a thought.
My friend in Kyiv posted on Facebook an hour ago about how many parking spaces are available in her neighborhood. She also couldn't figure out for a few seconds why there was a pillow in her bathtub this morning. So things could be better over there.
How much better could it be?
Maybe in my lifetime we'll have peace in Eastern Europe and a transit system in Chicago as good as any in Europe 20 years ago. I'm not sure which is more likely.
I've had a lot to do at work the last couple of days, leading to an absolute pile-up of unread press:
- Casey Michael outlines how Russian President Vladimir Putin's aims in Ukraine have little to do with NATO and a lot to do with him wanting to restore the Russian Empire.
- Tom Nichols calls Putin's actions the beginning of "a forever war," and Julia Ioffe calls Putin "a furious and clearly deranged old man, threatening to drag us all into World War III."
- Col. Jerad Harper USA, a professor at the US Army War College, warns that an insurgency in Ukraine could easily bring Russian to blows with NATO directly.
- Max Boot points out just how foolish the XPOTUS's apologists look after his unhinged praise of Putin yesterday.
- John Judis criticizes both the US and Russia for getting us to this point.
- Inae Oh sees Rick Scott's "unhinged, right-wing fever dream" as pretty normal for the GOP.
- Two Manhattan Assistant District Attorneys have resigned amid reports that new DA Alvin Bragg has pulled back from the office's criminal investigation of the XPOTUS.
- John Lee Anderson explains how the Taliban have caught the car they were chasing and don't know how to govern it.
- Illinois State Senator Thomas Cullerton (D-Villa Park) resigned from office as part of a plea deal on charges he drew $275,000 in salary from the Teamsters union despite doing nothing at all for them.
- Paul Krugman wonders whether the Democrats have "a technocrat problem."
- Fourteen restaurants, bars, and chefs in Chicago are James Beard Awards semi-finalists.
- The Chicago Transit Authority plans to have an all-electric bus fleet by 2040. When I'm 70. Yay.
- Professional musicians, particularly the self-taught, find that their playing styles wreak havoc on their bodies, cutting careers short.
- Children brought up in the last few years think the web browser is the computer, and get completely stymied using actual programs.
Finally, on this day in 1940, Woody Guthrie released "This Land is Your Land," a song even more misunderstood than Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA."
Before heading into three Zoom meetings that will round out my day, I have a minute to flip through these:
- US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) made a bold grab for the Dumbest Person in Congress award yesterday when she warned OAN viewers about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "gazpacho police." Let the memes begin.
- The Economist has an update to the Democratic Freedoms Map, and things do not look good—unless you live in Norway.
- Along similar lines, WBEZ reports on the Urban Institute's findings that Cook County, Illinois, which contains Chicago, has some extraordinary wealth gaps.
- 99% Invisible explains how the "future" office historically looks a lot like the past.
- Arthur C Brooks advises singles to look for complementary, rather than similar, characteristics in potential mates.
- The Pullman House Project here in Chicago will soon offer tours of the Thomas Dunbar House in the Pullman National Historic Site.
Finally, Tesla has some impressive software in its cars, but it still has a few (very frightening) bugs.
Eighty years ago today, the US imposed daylight saving time as a wartime energy-saving measure. It took until April 1966 for Congress to enact a permanent regime of changing the clock twice a year. But that's all ancient history.
More recent history:
Finally, Chicago brewery Hop Butcher to the World will delay opening up its new space in the old Half Acre property in North Center. The Brews & Choos Project will stop by as soon as it opens.
Former Illinois governor Bruce Rauner (R, of course) famously stopped almost all discretionary spending in the state during his term in office by continually vetoing state budgets passed by the Democratically-controlled legislature. His term overlapped with a project to rebuild 11 railroad bridges on the North Side of Chicago, and which included a companion project, partially necessitated by the track reconfigurations required to replace the bridges, to rebuild the Ravenswood Metra station serving Uptown and Lincoln Square.
That's my Metra station.
The project started in 2013 when the railroad opened two temporary platforms north of Lawrence Ave. and removed the inadequate but semi-permanent platforms south of the street. The old platforms had a couple of small shelters; the "temporary" platforms did not.
Nevertheless, the outbound (West-side) platform opened in late 2016, more or less on time. They couldn't open it until the west-side bridges were up, and the outbound track rebuilt, so we all completely understood the delay. The inbound (east-side) platform had the same issue, so when the bridge project finished in 2017, we could all imagine a day just a few months later when we'd have a shiny new platform with end-to-end shelters, a heated waiting area, and other amenities that most other Metra riders get for free.
But because Rauner stopped paying Illinois' portion of the station rebuild, work stopped on the inbound platform until 2020, and when it resumed, it didn't exactly go at full speed. We are now nine years into the project. This morning, I had to wait for fifteen minutes in blowing snow, all because Bruce Rauner (a billionaire) didn't want to release state funds for a project to which the Federal government contributed 75% of its costs:
Rauner now lives in Florida. I guess he got tired of his neighbors—yes, even his rich Winnetka neighbors—telling him to do his fucking job.
If I ever encounter a Djinn, I might wish for all the anti-tax billionaire politicians to spend a year with the consequences of their decisions. In Rauner's case, that would look like having to take underfunded public transit everywhere, with occasional videos of European transit systems to see what it could be.
The City of Chicago added bike lanes to a busy section of Clark Street in the Edgewater community area, but so far, it doesn't have a lot of fans:
The lane, on Clark Street between Hollywood Avenue and Devon Street, was created over the summer as a “paint-and-post installation” that uses plastic dividers or parked cars to separate bicyclists from drivers.
But the lane’s protective infrastructure was largely superficial, with riders still facing constant obstructions — like drivers parking in the lane — that force them out of the safe lane and into traffic, some bicyclists said.
By the end of December, more posts will be added, cutting a 40-foot gap between posts in half, Vasquez said. The intent is to make it harder for drivers to enter the bike lane.
Concrete curbs that separate bicyclists from drivers will also get installed in 2022, and “there is also talk of installing Bus Stop Bulbs at some intersections,” Vasquez said in a statement.
So they're implementing the lane in stages, I guess? We're still a long, long way from Europe.