While CTA ridership on the South Side has dropped by about 10 percent, most former Red Line south riders are taking advantage of free or discounted alternative service during the first part of the five-month track reconstruction project.
More than 42,000 customers are using the alternative service compared to the 46,000 "station entries" on the south Red Line in the month prior to the May 19 shutdown. This 10 percent decrease in ridership is "in line with CTA expectations for a project of this size and impact, and in line with temporary ridership declines from major CTA rail construction projects over the past decade," according to a CTA new release.
Meanwhile, the impact of the project on overall ridership has been minor - a 0.6 percent in overall CTA average weekday ridership. In 2012, CTA ridership increased 2.4 percent. So I'm sure the folks at 567 W. Lake St. have got to be happy about these very slight declines in ridership figures.
To handle the diversion of Red Line South customers, the CTA implemented an extensive alternative-service plan that includes free shuttle buses between the Garfield elevated and southernmost Red Line stations; a local shuttle bus serving all stations between 95th and 63rd Streets; an express shuttle between Roosevelt and Chinatown-Cermak; and expanded bus service on several regular bus routes.
The CTA also is operating Red Line trains on Green Line tracks between Roosevelt and Ashland/63rd. To ease the impact on riders, the CTA is offering free entry to Red and Green Line trains at the Garfield elevated station, as well as 50-cent discounts on bus routes south of 63rd Street.
The CTA fully expects ridership on the Red Line south to bounce back to its previous levels - and perhaps even beyond that - once the project is completed on Oct. 19. The CTA cites similar project to rehab the Brown, Blue and Pink lines to back up that prediction.
“The investment CTA is making in the South Side by building a brand new railroad will speed up round-trips by as much as 20 minutes between 95th Street and downtown," said CTA President Forrest Claypool. "It will provide customers with a smoother ride and fewer service interruptions through better reliability and on-time performance – attributes that we expect in the long run will actually grow ridership in the future.”
Here's hoping Oct. 19 comes quickly with all these promises fulfilled.