Eyes on the Street: The Red Line Without Tracks

Red Line South Reconstruction
Looking north from 26th Street, with the tracks completely removed. ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/ctaweb/sets/72157633546763196/##View more photos##. Photo: CTA.

Friday will mark two months since the Chicago Transit Authority began overhauling and upgrading the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line. The reconstruction is quite visible: A little more than one month into the project, all of the tracks had been removed, and work on the stations was plain to see.

The CTA reported last week that ridership on the shuttles and extended service of local routes indicates that about 90 percent of Red Line riders continue to take CTA, while 9.8 percent are using other means of travel or not making trips. The CTA estimates that almost half of the Red Line passengers switched to the Green Line, 5 percent switched to the Orange Line, and the rest use local routes and shuttles.

Mayor Emanuel and the CTA say the project is on schedule to wrap up by late October. When it’s finished, the CTA expects ridership to bounce back and exceed previous levels, with reconstruction shaving up to 20 minutes off the roundtrip from 95th to Roosevelt.

The Garfield Green Line station is much busier now
The Garfield Green Line station is much busier now, with almost half of Red Line riders using the trains here and many more using the shuttles.

After the jump, more photos of the reconstruction in progress.

Red Line South Reconstruction Work
Making room for an elevator pit at Garfield. Photo: CTA
Mayor, President, Chairman visit Red Line South Project Site @ 6 weeks
CTA president Forrest Claypool, Mayor Emanuel, and board chairman Terry Peterson on the track bed at 47th. Photo: CTA.
  • Cameron Puetz

    Are people who switched to other transit providers like Metra or Chicago Water Taxi counted in the 90% still taking transit or the 9.8% using other means?

  • Anne A

    It’s a strange site seeing the red line track bed without tracks. I’ve seen many sections of the project from various angles in the 2 months since it started.

    I’m glad the project is on schedule, but that doesn’t make my life any easier on summer weekends like the one just past, when the lack of red line service, combined with other transit snafus, kept me from reaching my desired destination. On festival days, not having the red line means not having a good way to transport my bike to the Loop and points north without riding a considerable distance. On many weekends this summer, the absence of those red line tracks means a day of doing without a trip that I otherwise would have taken. When I’m not trying to transport my bike, the red line detour works okay. With the bike, it doesn’t work for me.

    I’m ready to start counting the days until the planned return of red line service. It can’t come soon enough.

  • Elliott Mason

    I think they’re just taking the new ridership totals for all the CTA-owned stuff and adding them together, then subtracting out the numbers that used to ride them before the shutdown (the difference, they figure, being the displaced Red Line riders).

  • Elliott is right. 90% of Red Line riders are still taking CTA. I made that correction.

  • A transit system must be very robust. From your neighborhood to the “middle” of Chicago (and points north), bringing a bike on Metra this weekend wasn’t possible because of Taste of Chicago. South Shore doesn’t allow bikes. And you’d have to change buses at least once. Actually, probably twice.

  • Joseph Musco

    I was highly skeptical of CTA closing Red Line South for an extended period. I thought it was going to cause real hardship for people and erode the base level of ridership — the bread and butter of any transit agency. So far it looks like CTA had a great alternative service plan for riders. And the construction plan — do the work in one shot and close the stations — appears to be a smart way of completing large scale projects. If they can save this much money and still keep customer satisfaction high — they should use this model for all large scale construction. Close the station, offer clear alternatives for service, and complete the work quickly and with fewer headaches.

  • You may remember, the Green Line was completely closed as was the Blue Line-Douglas branch. I believe there was a threat that the Green Line might not actually re-open. The CTA has been rebuilding credibility for a decade now. When Red South is pulled off, they’ll have gained more of it in a single project than ever before.

  • Elliott Mason

    Worse, they took OUT stations on the Green Line, lots of them, and some were really popular. I was riding the Halsted bus under it during the entire closure, and the Halsted station was removed, completely reconstructed in an awesome fashion … and then Kruesi came in and the station was REMOVED. Shocking as hell. Especially because pre-closure, about 2/3 of the bus turned over at the Halsted Green Line stop, from people getting on and off there … I was told at the time by a CTA employee that the Oak-Park-to-Loop times were ‘unacceptably’ high, so they took out stations to speed the trip.

  • Ah yes, I remember the ol’ “build it, then remove it” trick. Like Jackson Park on the Cottage Grove branch.

  • Anne A

    I admit that my expectations were very low at the start of construction. I’ve used the red line detour several times so far and have been reasonably impressed at how efficiently it’s been run. The exception is when I need to transport a bike or other large items – too many transfers, and tight space at 95th St. where the R95 bus drops off.

    I haven’t tried taking my bike on the detour. On some trips, I’ve ridden to 49th/Western and taken the orange line downtown. Since Metra Electric doesn’t accommodate many bikes and Metra Rock Island has been very stingy with the number of open ADA cars on weekend service, I have not taken my bike north via transit on very many trips since mid May.

    I’ve either taken longer trips entirely by bike (Hyde Park or beyond) or not gone with a bike. Sometimes Divvy has been a workable substitute, and sometimes I just haven’t taken the trip at all. The Rock Island is often miserable beyond belief on any inbound weekend trips except the earliest, so I’ve generally opted out.

  • Anne A

    Yesterday I was a passenger in a car on the Dan Ryan. I noticed that they’re starting to lay tracks. Good to see that progress.


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