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Red Line reopening: The good, the bad and the weird

  • Commuters pour into the 95th Street station Monday as the CTA Red Line South reopens for the first rush hour since the monthslong reconstruction project. (Michael Tercha/ Tribune)
Commuters pour into the 95th Street station Monday as the CTA Red Line South…
October 21, 2013|By Tracy Swartz, @tracyswartz | RedEye

During a test run on the new South Side Red Line tracks Friday afternoon, Going Public asked CTA chief infrastructure officer Chris Bushell how long it would be before this portion of Red Line—where 45 percent of the tracks required a train speed reduction in May—would see a slow zone.

Ten years, he said.

Try one day.

Hours before trains were set to get back to work ferrying CTA riders between 95th Street and Roosevelt Road in the first full Red Line Monday morning commute in five months, a truck cab crashed into a barrier along the Red Line Sunday and damaged rail.

Call it Chi-rony. After spending the summer replacing track to rid the southern Red Line track of slow zones, the CTA slowed trains to 35 miles per hour along the affected rail until 11 a.m. Monday, as crews worked to fix it.

Bad luck aside, some riders hailed the faster Red Line service as they returned to the nine South Side stations that had been closed since May 19 for the CTA's $425 million Red Line South reconstruction project that is being heralded as a success.

"It's more convenient," Thomas Mathew said Monday about the reopened Red Line. Mathew, 21, took the No. 6 Jackson Park Express this summer from his Hyde Park home to downtown. "It's a lot easier to go various places."

Besides the truck crash, there were a few minor speedbumps Monday for the Red Line debut. Some old signs remained through rush hour Monday morning at the Garfield Green Line station, which had been used as a shuttle bus hub during the Red Line project.

One sign denoted that Red Line trains still stopped at the station but they do not. Another sign near the turnstiles said the Washington Park stop is a free entry point, which it no longer is.

Robin Washington, of Washington Park, said she didn't mind having to pay for her CTA ride now, and she didn't mind the crowd of riders who used her stop during the construction. (The Garfield Green Line station went from logging 1,300 average weekday riders before the project to 14,000 average weekday riders during construction.)

She was concerned about the reduced frequency of trains now that Red Line trains had stopped running on Green Line tracks. Service to downtown was operating every 11 minutes at about 9 a.m., when Washington boarded a train.

"I'm probably going to have to wait 15 minutes instead of three to six," said Washington, 31. "I have to see how it affects my timing."

Stationary

A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note

This week: Western Brown Line

Soon departing: The farmers markets outside the Western stop in Lincoln Square. Since early June, the city has been hosting Tuesday morning markets while the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce has held its market Thursday nights in the parking lot adjacent to the stop. Both markets are scheduled to end their seasons next week.

Next up: Indiana Green Line

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