CTA promises frequent alternate trains, shuttles during Red Line shutdown
By LAUREN FITZPATRICK and TINA SFONDELES Staff writers June 11, 2012 1:34AM
Lauren Fitzpatrick comes up the escalator from the Red Line at State & Lake from 95th, beating Tina Sfondeles to the stop. The Sun-Times writers were testing out how much longer Red Line riders can expect their commute to be next year when the south end o
Updated: July 12, 2012 6:05AM
Come next May when the Red Line’s southern tracks close for renovations, its cars will run on the Green Line to bulk up service for South Side riders, according to the CTA.
You heard that right: Red Line cars will ride on South Side Green Line tracks, then divert a little bit south of Roosevelt back onto Red Line tracks bound for the Howard stop. So Red Line riders destined for, say, DePaul University or Wrigley Field, won’t have to change cars, CTA spokesman Brian Steele said.
In days after the transit agency announced it will close the south end of the Red Line for five months beginning in May, reporters from the Sun-Times tested its alternate plans against a normal inbound Red Line morning commute.
The control ride from 95th Street to State and Lake took about 37 minutes, but the alternate plan — a shuttle ride to Green Line Garfield stop via the Dan Ryan Expy. and Garfield Boulevard — took about 14 minutes more.
That included a seven-minute wait for a Green Line train, a delay the CTA insists won’t exist next year.
“If you’re waiting at the Garfield platform, you’re getting today’s Green Line service intervals,” Steele said. “What you’re doing today is not going to be what people are going to see next year, especially as it relates to rail service.”
Train capacity will be boosted, and trains will run more frequently on Green Line tracks, he said.
On an average weekday, more than 80,000 passengers ride the Red Line’s southern leg, the backbone of the South Side that was constructed in 1969. Its trains run every six minutes during rush hour, compared to 10 minutes right now for Green Line trains.
Though South Side aldermen were consulted, Red Line riders say the decision came as a surprise to them, and the new plan sounds like headaches.
City officials argue that the straight-shot approach is best. Weekend-only construction, they say, would span four years. Weekend work would cost more, too — about $75 million more than the current $425 million estimate. The CTA plans to use that money to install new elevators at the Garfield Boulevard, 63rd Street and 87th Street stations, making all Red Line stations wheelchair-accessible.
And South Side stations will get repairs such as new lighting and fresh paint, which the agency says are much needed.
So riders must make do with existing buses through September 2013 and the shuttle-to-train option.
The shuttles will cost riders nothing and will run up and down the Dan Ryan Expy. directly to the Green Line from each of four stations — 95th, 87th, 79th and 69th. A local shuttle will connect those four stations to each other for people who want to travel from, say, 95th to 79th.
“Shuttle buses are going to have extremely frequent departures, especially from 95th Street,” Steele said.
Everyone boarding between Garfield and the Loop will rely on regular buses east to Green via Garfield Boulevard, 47th and 35th streets, or the State Street bus north.