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Will Red Line shutdown rattle Sox fans?

March 31, 2013|By Tracy Swartz, @tracyswartz | RedEye

Starting next month, White Sox fans can look forward to a new lineup: Green Line, Metra, buses or driving. The southern section of the Red Line no longer will be part of a Sox fan's rotation.

The CTA is scheduled to shut down the Red Line from Cermak-Chinatown to 95th Street, including the Sox-35th stop on May 19, affecting 62 of the Sox's 81 home games.

The day after the start of the shutdown, May 20, the Sox host Boston. A week later, on May 27 and 28, the Sox will host the Cubs in a crosstown clash that used to be the battle of the Red Line. Now it could be a battle for fans to get to U.S. Cellular Field via public transportation.

As the Sox gear up for Monday's season opener at the Cell, the organization and the CTA say they're prepared for reducing the challenges fans may face in getting to the ballpark. The Red Line construction is expected to end Oct. 19, the CTA said.

Nearly 20 percent of Sox fans took the CTA to games last year, team spokesman Marty Maloney said.

"We do not expect Red Line renovations to impact our attendance," Maloney said. Sox attendance was 1.9 million in 2012 and just more than 2 million in 2011, according to baseball-reference.com, a statistics site.

Alternatives to the Red Line are available—namely the Green Line and Metra—but the shutdown will affect South Side fans more than North Side fans, a RedEye analysis found.

A South Side fan who usually takes the Red Line from south of Garfield Boulevard to the game can take a CTA shuttle bus to the Garfield Green Line, where fare entry is free. But the trip is longer, RedEye determined.

RedEye clocked the time it takes to get from the Garfield Green Line stop, the major hub for riders during the shutdown, to the 35th-Bronzeville-IIT Green Line station near U.S. Cellular Field at 11 minutes, 26 seconds.

That's about five minutes more than it takes to go from the Garfield stop to the Sox-35th stop along the Red Line. There are three more stops in between Garfield and 35th Street on the Green Line than on the Red Line.

North Side Sox fans will have a much easier time. Train travel is about 3 minutes faster to go from State and Lake streets via the Green Line than by the Red Line, according to RedEye calculations, because there's one fewer stop on the Green Line.

But while train travel time varies between the Red Line and Green Line, walking definitely will take more time. It's about double the walking time from the 35th Green Line stop to U.S. Cellular Field (8 minutes, 36 seconds) than from the 35th Street Red Line stop (4 minutes, 39 seconds), this reporter calculated.

Expect the Green Line and its stations to be more crowded as well. Fans may have to wait to get onto trains.

CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said on Sox home game days, the CTA sees an additional 3,000-3,500 riders at the 35th Street Red Line stop.

"Assuming a lot of that Red Line traffic migrates to the Green Line, that could mean more than doubling [35th Street Green Line] traffic on weekdays and could mean as much as tripling on Sundays," she said.

Between May and September 2012, entries at the 35th Green Line stop averaged 2,308 riders on weekdays, 1,393 on Saturdays and 1,018 on Sundays, Chase said.

Another alternative is Metra. On 35th Street between the Green and Red Line stations is the 35th Street/"Lou" Jones/Bronzeville station on Metra's Rock Island line, which travels between Joliet and the LaSalle Street station in the Loop.

It takes about seven minutes for Metra trains to go from downtown to 35th Street and 15 minutes to go from 95th Street to 35th Street.

But the Metra trains don't run as often as Green Line trains, and fares are more expensive. A one-way ticket from downtown to 35th Street is $2.75 while a ticket from 35th Street to the 95th Street station in Beverly is $4.25—nearly double the cost of a one-way CTA rail ticket—but who's keeping score?

tswartz@tribune.com 


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