Mayor Daley of Chicago has a great idea: despite already having rail transit service between O'Hare Airport and Downtown, he wants to build a new non-stop express rail line to save travelers about 9 minutes. After all, if Moscow just did this, it must be a good idea.
OK, this is dumb enough. But what is really amazing is that Chicago embarked on building a $320 million downtown station for the project without even a plan for the rest of the line -- no design, no route, no land acquisition, no appropriation, no cost estimate, nothing. There are currently tracks running near the station to the airport, but there are no passing sidings on these tracks, making it impossible for express and local trains to share the same track. The express service idea would either require an extensive rebuilding of the entire current line using signaling and switching technologies that may not (according to Daley himself) even exist, or it requires an entirely new line cut through some of the densest urban environments in the country. Even this critical decision on basic approach was not made before they started construction on the station, and in fact still has not been made.
Though the article does not mention it, this strikes me as a typical commuter rail strategy -- make some kind of toe-in-the-water investment on a less-than-critical-mass part of the system, and then use that as leverage with voters to approve funding so that the original investment will not be orphaned. Its a kind of blackmail that both makes me sick, and is necessary for these systems as voters would never ever approve the kind of money that would be required to build the whole project (If this express line requires $320 million just for one station on one end of the line, can you imagine the total cost? $10 billion? for 9 minutes time savings).