Red Line Riders’ Bill of Rights Helps Unite South Siders on Transit Issues

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Volunteers do outreach during the South Red Line Riders' Bill of Rights Day of Action. Photo courtesy of the Active Transportation Alliance.

Earlier this week, even the most skeptical local reporters were in agreement that the CTA has done a solid job of getting the word out about the south Red Line reconstruction project and arranging alternative service. Since the five-month shutdown began last Sunday, South Siders quoted in the press have generally said they’re satisfied with the current arrangement, which includes free shuttles between the closed Red stations and the Green Garfield stop, as well as free ‘L’ rides from Garfield. Red Line Ambassadors at the stations have proved helpful for shepherding riders to where they need to go.

The Active Transportation Alliances’ Riders for Better Transit campaign and its South Side community partners want to make sure the CTA continues to provide efficient service to customers affected by the rehab and responds to their concerns. Earlier this month they released the Red Line South Riders’ Bill of Rights, a document calling for accountability from the transit agency during the shutdown. The statement asked for fast, reliable service during the rehab; stations and shuttles that can handle the extra ridership; transparency about alternative service performance, hiring, and construction status; and good communication between the agency and customers.

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The volunteer's t-shirt says "Defending your Red Line rights." Photo courtesy of the Active Transportation Alliance.

“CTA wants our fare, so we want to be treated fairly,” said Shiesha Smith, a resident of partner organization Mercy Housing Tenant Leadership’s Englewood Apartments, in a statement prior to the shutdown. “We are encouraged that the Red Line will soon serve us even better, but we have been frustrated and inconvenienced by infrequent, irregular shuttles and confusing timelines on past construction projects. We hope for dependable, fast and responsive service from CTA throughout the Red Line reconstruction. We want to know they’re listening.” Other partner organizations include the Bridgeport Alliance, the Developing Communities Project, Sustainable Englewood Initiatives, and Teamwork Englewood.

“This bill of rights is a way for us to connect with community groups working on transit issues on the South Side,” said Brenna Conway, manager of the Riders for Better Transit campaign. “This way, as we work on the major issue of the Red Line reconstruction, we can also help address other issues in their neighborhoods.”

On Monday, Riders for Better Transit and its partners did outreach at the Green Garfield station, asking customers to sign the bill of rights, handing out t-shirts and flyers with tips about getting around during the shutdown, and talking to riders about their experiences with the alternative service. “Many people seemed pleasantly surprised by the efficiency of the shuttle buses,” said Conway. “We think it’s clear the CTA has tried hard to make the transition as smooth as possible. But we want to make sure the agency remains accountable, because the Red Line is a lifeline for many South Siders.”

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Demond Drummer at the Green Line's Halsted station. Photo by John Greenfield.

“Active Trans has done an amazing job of engaging local organizations and interests with the Riders’ Bill of Rights,” said Demond Drummer, technology organizer with Teamwork Englewood, a community development organization. “That’s a wise strategy, because community groups have strong connections to their neighborhoods. We want to ride on this momentum, not just to get the Red Line tracks replaced but to improve transit in other areas as well.”

Teamwork Englewood, along with the Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation, the Residents Association of Greater Englewood and Neighborhood Housing Services, will be doing another outreach event with Active Trans on Saturday June 1. Volunteers at the Green Line’s Ashland/63rd and Halsted stations and the Red 63rd stop will collect signatures for the bill of rights, as well as a petition to improve access at the latter station in the future by installing crosswalks and bus shelters, and relocating a bus stop.

“After June 1, we’ll have a better sense of how the Red Line closure is working out,” said Drummer. “People aren’t usually thinking about transit this actively, so this opens up a wonderful opportunity to have a broader conversation about transportation in our neighborhood.”

Note: Streetsblog will not be publishing this Monday. Have a great Memorial Day!