Improvements to South Side Bus and Rail Service Kick Off This Weekend

South Side Improvement poster
Map of the new transit service. Click to Enlarge. Image: CTA

The announcement that, starting Labor Day weekend, six bus lines on the South Sides will offer more frequent and/or extended service, appears to be good news for transit riders in underserved neighborhoods. The service improvements will be paid for out of the CTAs operating budget.

Mayor Rahm Emauel and CTA president Dorval Carter, Jr. heralded the new bus service at the CTA’s 95th Street Red Line Station. While these improvements are much needed in South Side communities with limited transit service, the initiative is also part of Emanuel’s campaign to improve his standing with African-American voters in the wake of the LaQuan McDonald police shooting scandal.

Streetsblog’s Steven Vance also floated the idea that, since some of these service improvements will occur in parts of town that would be served by the Red Line extension, the initiative may also be a strategy to reduce demand for that project, which would cost more than $2 billion.

“This increase in bus service will mean greater access to jobs, education and opportunities for residents of the South Side,” said Emanuel in a statement. “By providing improved and more frequent service, we help customers get to their destinations more conveniently and create a positive impact on the surrounding regional economy.”

According to the CTA, the first recent improvements to bus service on the South Side began on June 20, when service on the #26 South Shore Express was extended into the weekday morning and evening hours.

The following improvements will go into effect this Sunday, September 4.

  • A new #95 95th bus line will combine the former #95E 93rd/95th and #95W West 95th routes to create a continuous route between 92nd/Buffalo on the east to 87th/Damen on the west. This will make the 95th Street bus the furthest-south east-west route to cover the entire city – currently it’s the #87 8th bus. More frequent service will be provided west of 95th/State on weekdays and weekends.
  • #4 Cottage Grove: Some trips will be extended south of 95th to 115th Street/Cottage Grove to provide connections to 95th Street retail for residents along Cottage Grove.
  • #71 71st/South Shore: The route will offer more frequent bus service south of 73rd/South Shore to 112th/Torrence on weekdays and weekends

95th event
Carter and Emanuel at this morning’s event. Presumably this rider was asking about plans for enhanced service on the Purple Line. Photo: CTA

The following improvements will go into effect next Tuesday, September 6:

  • #34 South Michigan: More frequent weekday midday and evening service
  • #119 Michigan/119th: More frequent weekday midday and evening service
  • #26 South Shore Express: Route will be extended to 103rd/Stony Island

In addition, starting Monday, October 3, the CTA will run more trains on the Green Line’s Ashland/63rd and Cottage Grove branches during weekday morning and evening rush periods.

According to the CTA, the agency runs 44 bus routes that provide more than 183,000 average weekday rides south of 63rd street.

South Side readers, feel free to let us know what you think of the new transit service in the comments section.

Streetsblog Chicago will resume publication on Tuesday. Have a great Labor Day weekend!

  • david vartanoff

    @Steven. The Red extension to paralleling the South Shore Line is a patronage wet dream. The $2 billion price tag (care to bet on cost overruns?) would be far better spent restoring the 4 local stations along the South Shore that were abolished in the 60s and implementing the Gray Line proposal including service to Hegewisch. Once MED trains start running at rapid transit frequencies and fares are integrated (CTA pricing) far South Side riders will have more options at no increasein outof pocket cost. As this is merely an upgrade to existing service the EIR process should be much faster/simpler, and the cost of putting ventra card readers on the platforms should be moderately cheap.

  • I agree.

    I think extending the Red Line to 130th is an inefficient use of money in order to build more transit on the Far South Side given all of the existing rail transit infrastructure.

  • Anne A

    Looking forward to having a continuous 95th St. bus all the way to the lake.

  • FG

    Considering how far the proposed routes are from the existing MED ROW I don’t see how it’s a duplication of service.

    Converting MED to ‘rapid transit’ will not be as simple as putting card readers on platforms despite what its proponents think and say. The suburban and ‘rapid’ traffic flows would have to be separated since I suspect a CTA integration would actually mean fare gates, there would be a huge staffing increase for staffed stations, cleaning stations and trains, etc, etc that aren’t accounted for in the various proposals.

    With the Ventra app being a huge success I suspect the most we’ll see, and truly most cost effective, is simply finding money for additional off peak trains, however, since the House Majority Leader is a rider and not pushing anything as far as I can tell, nothing will happen one way or another.

  • Fare integration is a non-infrastructural kind of integration, and we don’t even have that!

    Fare integration – which Ventra certainly could be adapted to support better than the previous fare collection system – could mean that a single fare pays for rides on any mode, or that in-city rides on Metra cost as much as a CTA ‘L’ ride, or that there’s a discount on Metra rides if you transfer from the CTA.

    Increasing headways is only a minor infrastructural change: Metra would likely need to buy more cars, and ensure a place to store them. The largest cost is just running more trains.

    And yes, now that Metra has canceled its latest train order (for the diesel lines, not the MED), they’re in no position to do, really, anything.

    But the extension to 130th Street is going to cost $2 billion (likely more). Is the extension the best use of $2 billion to give more mobility and access to people in this part of the city, or can some other thing (like more MED trains) do better for the same amount, or do the same for a lesser amount?

  • Did you somehow manage to miss this article FG?:

    And yes, CTA and Metra are working on this idea, and allowing me to help them.


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