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South Siders savor last Red Line ride before 5-month shutdown

Updated: June 21, 2013 6:28AM

As he rode the last Red Line train north from 95th to Cermak early Sunday, Cleveland Jones acknowledged that the tracks fading away behind him wouldn’t be used again during five months of upcoming repairs, but he rolled his eyes at the accompanying hullabaloo.

“What is this, the Last Supper?” asked Jones, 59, a Catholic school janitor from Gresham on his way to work. “It’s just like anything else in life. You’ve got to adjust.”

Jones might have had an argument on several fronts had he been confronted by a man who was slowly eating a Polish sausage on the platform at 95th Street before boarding the 1:40 a.m. train. The man, who offered only his first name, Delvith, said he was taking his time, skipping a train or two, so he could be on the last run.

“This is historic. What’s coming next is going to be a headache for a lot of people, but it’s historic,” said the man, who boarded the train and began grumbling about the confluence of bitter pills the CTA is asking its riders to swallow this year: the rollout of the Ventra card system, a fare hike and now the Red Line closure.

Down the aisle, past a woman using her boyfriend as a pillow, sat Khallee Standberrry-Lewis, 25, who said he was one commuter in a massive jumble of people who depend on the Red Line.

“This train is part of peoples’ lives ... it sustains peoples’ careers,” said Standberry-Lewis, a restaurant worker who lives in Chatham and was headed to meet friends in Pilsen. “I’m savoring this last ride ... and I’m wondering if the new way I’m going to get home will affect my safety.”

As the train rumbled for the last time over notoriously slow stretches of decrepit track, like a roller skater on shag carpet, several homeless men dozed off, and Kendell Lee, 22, listened to his iPod. After Sunday, its battery life will be tested during what he insists will be a six-hour patchwork daily commute between his Englewood home and O’Hare Airport, where he works as a baggage handler. “With the Red Line running normal, it’s four hours a day. But, what are you gonna do? Sometimes things are out of your control,” he said.

China Jones, 19, who was headed to her best friend’s birthday party, shrugged off any upcoming aggravation associated with the shutdown. She’s got a nice alternate mode of transportation.

“It’s more of an inconvenience to my mama because now she’s going to have to drive me everywhere,” said Jones, a senior at Excel Academy Chicago who lives in South Chicago.

Teresa Conley, 55, of Roseland said she’ll be driving, not biking, around town.

“I ain’t riding no damn bicycle. I’m too old for that, baby!”

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