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Some Red Line riders sad to see shuttles end with reopening

Updated: November 21, 2013 6:51AM

Amid the CTA’s Red Line reopening Sunday on the South Side, some commuters are saddened to see the end of free bus shuttles to and from four shuttered stations — part of the most complex alternative service plans in the transit system’s history.

“It’s free, and it’s waiting for you and it’s fast,” Ashley Gilbert, 19, of Chatham said Friday afternoon at the Green Line Garfield station where bus drivers in eight shuttles awaited passengers.

Since May 19, five express bus shuttles have been running from 4 a.m. until 1 a.m. Four of them provided non-stop service from closed Red Line stations ­— 95th, 87th, 79th and 63rd — to Garfield, while one ran non-stop between the Roosevelt station and the Cermak-Chinatown station. Customers also could ride a shuttle to hop stations between 63rd and 95th, for free.

Gilbert has been taking the shuttle from the Red Line 79th Street station nearly every day since construction began in May. She could have chosen another route to get from her home to downtown, but there was one thing that made up her mind: “I can go other ways, but I preferred this [shuttle] because it’s free.”

Brandon Salgado, 21, rode the shuttle from the 95th Street station to the Garfield stop on Thursday. He’s an all-day commuter, taking the shuttle to the Green Line to head downtown to Harold Washington College — then later, to Wright College in Uptown where he’s also taking classes. He said he’ll miss buses and trains awaiting his arrival, as part of the alternative service plan.

“I know the trains are faster but every time I went upstairs to the [Green Line] station, there was a train waiting for me,” said Salgado, of Gage Park. “And the shuttles too. They were always there waiting for me.”

Many riders at the Garfield Green Line station on Friday agreed.

“We got spoiled,” one man said as he raced up the stairs at the station with the words “Free Entry — walk through” written above the turnstiles.

When the massive $425 million Red Line reconstruction was announced last year, many riders worried their commute would grow longer as the CTA worked out its alternative service plan kinks. But it seemed to have worked, with many riders now forced to get accustomed to the new norm — a faster, less bumpy South Side Red Line, which opens 2 a.m. Sunday. The only thing missing will be the word “free.”


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