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Wells Street bridge closure teaches CTA lessons for Red Line reconstruction

New sectiWells Street Bridge is floated place by barge top metal shoring towers Monday April 29 2013  | John

New section of the Wells Street Bridge is floated in place by barge on top of metal shoring towers, Monday, April 29, 2013 | John H. White~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 18, 2013 8:21AM

There were lessons learned from the CTA’s Wells Street bridge shuttle bus runs.

The transit agency internally called the shutdown — during two nine-day periods in early March and late April — “Mini Red Line South” because transit officials knew it would serve as a guide.

And beginning Sunday, CTA riders will see plenty more shuttles, helping to fill the gap left during five months of the Red Line South Side Reconstruction project.

Free shuttles are being offered to riders getting to the Green Line from four South Side stations: 69th, 79th, 87th and 95th. Another local shuttle will run station-to-station to the Garfield stop.

In March, the CTA ran 60-foot articulated shuttle buses but discovered ridership was too light. In April, the long buses were switched for regular 40-foot ones, according to spokeswoman Tammy Chase.

“We didn’t need that much capacity and that turned out to be fine,” Chase said. “They definitely were a bit fuller, but people still had room to move. Why put bigger buses out there to burn fuel when you don’t have to?”

During peak times, Red Line shuttle riders will get on and go, another lesson learned from the bridge shutdown: “During the morning and evening hours, they will definitely be load and go,” Chase said.

During non-peak times, Chase said, shuttle buses will range in frequency from eight minutes to between 10 and 12 minutes.

Shuttle buses used during Red Line construction will have signage to guide riders. In March, some southbound Brown Line riders ended up in the subway along with other Red Line trains, with no signs or warning. The CTA added stickers on day two.

This time around, Red Line shuttles will have Red Line South branding logos on buses that are running as shuttles, Chase said. The same will be done for Red Line trains traveling down Green Line routes during construction.

At 95th Street, signs will help riders find which shuttle to take, whether it’s heading to the Green Line or just traveling to the next shuttered Red Line station.

Shuttle bus drivers on Thursday morning ran dry runs along routes “just to see if there’s construction, traffic, scheduling conflicts,” Chase said.

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