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Where have all the Red Line riders gone?

  • Riders climb the stairs at the Morse Red Line station in April 2012.
Riders climb the stairs at the Morse Red Line station in April 2012. (Alex Garcia/Tribune file )
March 18, 2013|By Tracy Swartz, @tracyswartz | RedEye

Even after the CTA completed an $86 million renovation to seven North Side Red Line stops, ridership has gone south.

The stations—Argyle, Berwyn, Granville, Jarvis, Lawrence, Morse and Thorndale—were on track to have banner ridership years in 2012 before the CTA began shutting down stations in June for six-week repairs.

All seven of the stops saw ridership increases from January through May compared with the same period in 2011. The Jarvis stop in Rogers Park had the biggest jump (10.8 percent), while the Lawrence station in Uptown had the smallest jump (0.3 percent).

The CTA closed stops on a rolling basis from January through November. As some stations closed, others nearby saw ridership gains during this period.

In December, the only station closed for renovations was Jarvis. Five of the other renovated stations saw ridership decreases on December weekdays compared with the previous year—from Berwyn (21.7 percent) to Argyle (3.7 percent). Morse recorded a 1.7 percent ridership gain.

The CTA saw a 0.1 percent ridership gain on the rail system in December.

In January, after every station had reopened, six of the seven stops posted ridership decreases. Morse posted a 0.2 percent gain. Berwyn was down 15.3 percent in January compared with January 2012, while Jarvis was down 12.7 percent.

Rail ridership systemwide was down 1.5 percent in January.

The CTA blamed the decreases on large ridership gains in January 2012, which set a high bar; overall Red Line ridership decline; and Christmas and New Year's falling on weekdays instead of weekends, which affected weekday ridership.

The CTA said a reroute of the No. 92 Foster bus, which serves the Berwyn stop, contributed to the decline at that station.

The agency also said two months' worth of data is insufficient to discern any trends.

But how quickly riders return to stations after lengthy closures will be important to note this year as the CTA prepares to shutter the southern portion of the Red Line, from Cermak-Chinatown to 95th Street, for track overhaul from May 19-Oct. 19.

This section of the Red Line has been suffering from hefty slow zones for the past few years, and as a result, declining ridership.

The north side of the Red Line, too, has been suffering from slow zones. The work to alleviate these delays was tied to the station projects.

The station work has been completed—but some slow zones still remain.

Since June, the CTA removed more than 13,000 feet of slow zones along Red Line tracks between the Howard and Lawrence stops. An unresolved slow zone between Granville and Loyola will require more complex work, the agency said.

Since the beginning of the year, the CTA has identified nearly 3,000 feet of new slow zones.

The CTA said North Red Line ridership decreases are not tied to slow zones, even though the agency has tied ridership declines to slow zones on the southern portion of the Red Line.

And the agency believes that once the southern Red Line project is over—the riders will return quickly.

"In addition to the station improvements, the new tracks will provide a faster, smoother ride—a shorter and more comfortable commute," CTA spokesman Brian Steele said.

Stationary

A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note

This week: Western Blue Line stop on the Forest Park Branch

The Western stop is unique because it's one of only a few stations that shares its name with another station. The Western Blue Line stop on the Forest Park branch is on the Near West Side while the Western Blue Line stop on the O'Hare branch is in Logan Square. (The Harlem Blue Line stations lead to similar confusion.) In the battle of Western stop vs. Western stop, it's no contest. The O'Hare Western stop has a more spacious stationhouse, and the Forest Park Western stop is a generic station along the Eisenhower Expressway with a long platform and garbage along its tracks. The Renew Crew, the CTA's clean and repair crew, visited both stations within the past two years. More work could be done at the Forest Park Western stop. There are broken heat lamps on the O'Hare side and the paint under the canopy is chipping. When it comes to the Best Western, it's on the O'Hare branch.

Next up: 51st Green Line stop

tswartz@tribune.com

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