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Editorial: Right call for the CTA’s Red Line

Members Ethics Reform Task Force Mayor Rahm Emanuel made an announcement about increasing transparency accountability City government. L-r are: Dawn

Members of the Ethics Reform Task Force and Mayor Rahm Emanuel made an announcement about increasing transparency and accountability in City government. L-r are: Dawn Clark Netsch, Sergio Acosta, Rahm Emanuel and Cynthia Canary. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: June 16, 2013 6:19AM

Back in the 1990s, all 20 miles of the Green Line were shut down for a year and four months of rehabilitation.

That puts the upcoming five-month partial shutdown of the Red Line’s Dan Ryan branch into perspective. The work is scheduled to be finished Oct. 19, so no one who is accustomed to riding rapid transit will be waiting for a bus on harsh January mornings.

There’s no doubt the South Side Red Line, which is more than 40 years old, needs to be fixed. Trains are slow, and rides are bumpy. But planners faced a tough choice: Do you shut everything down and fix it in five months, or close only on weekends for about five years and add $75 million to the cost?

We think the CTA made the right decision.

Starting Sunday, it will be a long summer for Red Line riders, but the CTA will run free shuttle buses from the four southernmost South Side stations to the Green Line’s Garfield Station. Metra Electric and the Rock Island will offer 10-ride tickets combined with a discounted five-day CTA pass. Metra Electric also will change some “flag stops” — where trains stop if passengers are visible — to regular stops. All L rides out of the Garfield station will be free during reconstruction.

It also may be a long — and lean — summer for businesses near the nine stations that will be closed for reconstruction. But unlike the Brown Line, where some businesses never reopened after stations were closed for months in 2005, the Red Line is in the middle of an expressway, and riders often switch right to buses instead of walking past neighborhood businesses. Also, the stations all are near expressway exits, so the businesses still will get auto traffic.

In all, nine stations will be closed from Cermak to 95th. Eight of them will be spruced up, and three will get elevators. Ties, tracks, the third rail, ballast and drainage will be replaced. When the work is finished, rides from 95th to downtown will be 10 minutes faster.

As Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman, “There’s a backlash to keeping a system bad, and there’s a backlash to making the changes.”

But in this case, there shouldn’t a backlash. It’s an upgrade that needs to be done.

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