Here comes the pain—but not the train. It's finally arrived, CTA riders.
The CTA on Sunday will shut down the Red Line between Cermak-Chinatown and 95th Street for five months to overhaul the track. The agency is offering various alternatives from free shuttle buses to rerouted Red Line trains on Green Line tracks.
Avoid the Red-ache. Going Public has your last-minute checklist for surviving the Dread Line.
>> Take a test run. Now is the time to practice your commute if you can. Don't get caught Monday without an idea of how to get where you need to go.
The CTA has posted a trip planner at transitchicago.com/redsouth. Take a look at the alternatives and experiment with different options to see what works.
Although the CTA won't have the station-to-station shuttles in place until Sunday, ride the sections of the commute that are available now or try them Sunday to get an idea of how long your ride will last.
>> Re-evaluate your fare card. Although a $100 unlimited pass for 30 days is the best option now, it may not be economical over the next five months.
The CTA is running free shuttles from the 69th, 79th, 87th and 95th Red Line stations to the Garfield Green Line station, where entry is free.
If you can walk to or park near these stations, you can ride the CTA for free.
If you need to take a bus to these stations, there's still a discount. The agency is knocking 50 cents off the price of many South Side bus rides.
If you live or work near a Metra station, the Metra and CTA are offering a combination Metra 10-ride ticket and CTA five-day unlimited pass. The price for the combined product varies depending on the Metra zone.
The CTA currently does not offer a five-day unlimited pass, only seven- and three-day unlimited passes, so this may benefit riders who just use public transportation during the week for work.
The CTA also soon plans to introduce Ventra, the controversial fare system, so now is a good time anyway to start re-examining how you pay for the CTA.
>> Re-assess your weekend plans. If this summer you are considering exploring Chinatown or catching a Sox game at U.S. Cellular Field, be prepared. Budget extra time to learn where the shuttle buses pick up and drop off or to find a comparable Green Line stop.
>> Stay flexible. This project will affect tens of thousands of riders, and there likely will be areas where there are long waits for Green Line trains or heavy traffic from shuttle buses. Always have a Plan B in case the CTA's Plan A doesn't work.
A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note
This week: Ashland Orange Line
Although this McKinley Park station is in the middle of the Orange Line, it will be the end of the line for the upcoming project to create express bus service on Ashland Avenue. The CTA in 2015 hopes to begin construction on Ashland bus rapid transit, where buses would get dedicated lanes and traffic signal priority over cars. The first phase of the project would run between the Ashland Orange Line station and the Metra Clybourn stop near Armitage Avenue.
But the problem with the Ashland Orange Line stop is that it's not a very good transfer station. It's in a difficult location off Archer Avenue and near the Stevenson Expressway. The No. 9 Ashland bus is the only bus to stop at the station.
Perhaps the CTA can consider a parking lot near the station so riders could drop off their cars and use the bus to quickly get to the United Center or to transfer to the Green, Pink or Blue Lines. Other Orange Line stations south of the Ashland stop have park-and-ride lots. Whether it's bus or parking options, there needs to be incentives for riders to use the upcoming express bus service at this station.
Next up: Austin Green Line