All systems go for Red Line shuttle

  • Commuters board a CTA Brown Line shuttle bus Saturday.
Commuters board a CTA Brown Line shuttle bus Saturday. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago…)
May 06, 2013|By Tracy Swartz, @tracyswartz | RedEye

A reader emailed Going Public last week with a unique complaint: There was too much CTA service.

The reader said his 30-minute Wacker bus commute more than doubled as the CTA ran shuttle buses to replace Brown Line service to and from the Loop, which was suspended until Monday morning while the Chicago Department of Transportation overhauled the Wells Street Bridge.

There were too many shuttle buses, which clogged traffic and delayed other bus service, the reader complained. Many of the shuttle buses he spotted carried only a few riders, he said.

CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said the agency noticed it had more capacity than demand during the first week of the Wells project in March, so the CTA switched from 60-foot articulated buses to 40-foot buses last week for the second leg of the shutdown.

"You study these things, you do your dry runs. ... Sometimes you have to tweak things a little bit," Chase said.

How the CTA handles the frequency and timing of shuttle buses will be crucial in two weeks when the agency shutters the Red Line between Cermak-Chinatown and 95th Street for five months to replace track.

In lieu of Red Line service, riders will be express shuttled from the 69th, 79th, 87th and 95th Red Line stops to the Garfield Green Line station, where entry is free. Local shuttles also will run between the closed Red Line stations from 63rd to 95th. Another shuttle service will operate between the Cermak-Chinatown stop and the Roosevelt station in the South Loop.

Chase said the CTA has performed "several" test runs of the Red Line shuttle buses, which will be the 60-foot articulated buses. Express buses between 95th Street and Garfield will run every three to five minutes during morning rush hour and every five to six minutes in evening rush, Chase said.

Shuttles from 95th, 87th and 79th Streets will use the Dan Ryan Expressway. If there's bad congestion on the expressway, the CTA will use local streets as it will do with the other shuttles.

"We'll be adjusting things and monitoring things well into [the shutdown]," Chase said.

Dancing with the stares

Looking for a way to pass the time during your commute? Look up. Wake Up! Waltz dancers will perform on rooftops visible to CTA riders, starting 9 a.m. Monday and running through June 7.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, riders at the Wilson and Lawrence Red Line stops will be able to catch the show. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, No. 74-Fullerton bus riders will have a front-row seat. Go to wakeupwaltz.com for more information.

Stationary

A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note

This week: Damen Blue Line

If the CTA were a high school senior, this Wicker Park stop would be named "best personality" but unfortunately, it's not "most fabulous." The Damen stop is in an ideal location near the busy, bus-heavy intersection of Milwaukee, North and Damen avenues, and there's ample bike parking. Established in 1895, Damen is one of the most historic stations, which is reflected in its stationhouse front. Artwork throughout the space gives it extra flair—but the wood platforms are too narrow and look worn. Also, the station is not accessible for riders with disabilities. It's difficult enough getting around on the Blue Line, which has trains with tight accordion doors, but it doesn't help when the stations like Damen require stair climbing. The Damen stop last year saw some of the CTA's highest ridership gains—10.9 percent—compared with 2011, which puts the station in the running for "most popular," but this growth needs to come with maturity.

Next up: Ashland Orange Line

tswartz@tribune.com

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