There's no question the CTA should protect, improve its Red Line infrastructure

WBEZ on Monday published a graphically compelling report about increased ridership on the Red Line - but not at all stations.

The accompanying graphics are informative and visually appealing. But the overall report, not so much. At least, not so much fair.

It's a bit wishy-washy, but the author seems to be questioning why the CTA would invest scarce capital dollars to improve the northern-most and southern-most stations.

On the South Side, the CTA will spend $425 million next year on the Red Line South Track Renewal Project when it closes nine stations for five months to rebuild the tracks from Cermak-Chinatown to 95th/Dan Ryan.  However, WBEZ points out that ridership has dropped in five stations in the last 10 years on the South Side.

At the far north end of the Red Line, the CTA this year is investing $86 million for seven stations to be rehabbed under the Red North Interim Station Improvement Project. And yet, as WBEZ notes "they are among the least-used on the Red Line."

Well, one commenter on the WBEZ website, Eli Naeher, really said it best, so I'm quoting him here:

Comparing only Red Line stations gives a misleading impression.

Let's compare Thorndale -- my stop, one which is one of the "least-used" in your analysis, and one which last year the CTA was making noises about closing permanently -- to the Brown Line stations throughout Lakeview and Lincoln Square, which the CTA rebuilt at great expense only a couple years ago.

Here are the facts: according to the July June 2012 ridership report, of the Brown Line stations north of Belmont, only Kimball and Western have more boardings in the year to date than the Thorndale Red Line station -- 654,541 and 641,001, respectively --  compared to 526,859 at Thorndale. Every [other Brown Line station] --  Southport, Paulina, Addison, Irving Park, Montrose, Damen, Rockwell, Francisco, and Kedzie -- has fewer boardings than Thorndale. (I made this comparison a few days ago in a comment at CTA Station Watch, so I'm recycling some numbers.)

No one ever talks about closing these Brown Line stations and no one ever talks about how they are underused, probably because, unlike Thorndale, they are primarily used by affluent yuppie types. And I don't recall any critical articles like this about the vastly greater expense of the Brown Line capacity expansion project of a few years back ($530 million according to the CTA's numbers at vs the $86 million figure given above for this Red Line project). But when the CTA for once spends a little money in working-class neighborhoods like Rogers Park, Edgewater, and Uptown, all of a sudden there is all this handwringing about the cost.

Right on Eli.

Personally, I think the CTA is doing the right thing in protecting and improving its longtime investments in infrastructure - on both the North and South sides.

It's also right to carefully examine possible at station consolidations when planning a major rebuild, as it is doing with the Red & Purple Modernization Project. And it is.


Leave a comment
  • Albany Park is yuppie?

  • In reply to whateva:

    Most of it isn't, but some of it along the river is.
    But Ravenswood & Ravenswood Gardens definitely are yuppie.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Around Thorndale might not be yuppie, but someone is living in the high rises, unless Dr. Hartley either retired to Florida or Oak Park, or those people are taking the 147 bus.

    On the other hand, Ravenswood and Ravenswood Manor are not yuppie; they are the home of the current political "elite."

    The bottom line still is that the Red Line has the most ridership, given such things as the 12,000 weekday average at 95th, and 51,000 total boardings on the Dan Ryan segment. Then there is today's Tribune story that rush hour train service there is being increased after the 2010 cuts. The real question WBEZ should have probed is how past management let it get into such bad shape, including a fraudulent $250 million project supposedly to correct slow zones. I guess educational radio isn't very educational, but deluded.

  • Kevin, thank you for your thoughtful last three sentences in response to Eli, the fear of consolidations has been obscuring what Jack^ points out. That we're finally getting around to making the necessary improvements to our infrastructure so that we can use it for another century or more.

  • fb_avatar

    Hey, thanks for quoting my comment and for your thoughtful response--I just wanted to make one minor correction that someone brought to my attention: all of my numbers are from the June 2012 ridership reports, not July, as I wrongly stated.

  • A quick rule of thumb -- when an argument has to be supported with "working class vs. yuppies" class warfare garbage, it wasn't very strong to begin with. (Also, since when is Edgewater working class? Next he's going to argue that Andersonville is blue collar. And Uptown isn't working class, it's poor.)

Leave a comment