CTA President Forrest Claypool sat down with a few transit-oriented bloggers today for a wide-ranging conversation about ridership trends, slow zones and what Bus Rapid Transit will look like in Chicago. Since the various Red Line projects are in the news these days, we’ll start with that. Stand by for other topics in future posts.
Shutting down the Dan Ryan leg of the Red Line for five months sounds like a drastic step, Claypool acknowledges, “but once we are able to explain it, and really go into the detail on it, we have gotten overwhelming support.”
“Our decision is to do a very short five-month project – rip the Band-Aid off, so to speak – and deliver a modern railroad with trains going 55 miles per hour. Not just trains, but brand-new trains and facelifts for all those South Side stations, which were last rehabbed in the 1990s.”
Those less-crowded new trains will start running three years earlier than under the alternative approach, which is to shut down sections of the route every weekend for four years.
“We’re going to provide a modern experience, and a comfortable experience for riders, in five months.” The alternative, he added, “would still be four years of station closings on weekends, and that line has the highest level of ridership on the weekends, two-thirds of the weekday ridership levels.” That ridership averaged 39,000 people on Saturdays and 30,000 on Sundays, according to the 2011 annual ridership report, compared to about 51,000 on weekdays.
By the time the project begins next year, Claypool adds, there will be customized alternative travel plans for each neighborhood along the line. “If (riders) just bear with us, they will be very happy with the product and the results.”
South of 95th Street, the CTA is still pursuing the South Red Line Extension, Claypool says, with continued strong support from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin. But in addition to getting through the “plodding” federal review process, the extension will depend on passage of a “robust” federal transportation bill. “And I would be shocked if there were any action on that before the (November) elections.”
As for the nearly three miles of slow zones that remain on the North Red Line, those will be pursued. “We will attact them all in priority order, you’ll see over the next few years the slow zones on Brown, Green, Blue and Red eradicated,” he says. Funding isn’t yet in place, he acknowledged. “But this is part of our capital acquisition goals and I’m very comfortable that we’ll get there.”
Next: Chicago-style Bus Rapid Transit.