Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool came to Morse Avenue on Tuesday morning to celebrate a completely rebuilt Morse L station and a 16-month streak of ridership increases.
Combined bus and rail ridership was up four percent for the first half of 2012, following a similar jump in 2011, when CTA carried 532 million riders, its highest level in 20 years. The rail system has seen 51 consecutive months of growth, adding 6.2 percent in the last six months.
“People are voting with their feet,” said Mayor Emanuel, citing recent investments in security cameras, station renewal projects and new trains and buses.
Emanuel was joined by Claypool, Ald. Joe Moore (49th) and State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (14th) in an empty storefront across from the station, which re-opened late Friday after a six-week, $11 million gut rehab and platform replacement.
The Morse project includes rehabilitation of five storefronts that had been unrentable because of leakage from the tracks above. “We’ve had a number of people calling about those spaces,” said Emanuel. “So what was once an eyesore is now an investment in the community.” (See “How CTA facelift will transform Morse Avenue”)
Emanuel and Claypool also spoke about other current and planned improvements, including:
- Crime – It’s down overall, said Claypool, but there’s been a recent increase in theft of electronic devices. He said the CTA’s 3,000 new cameras have led to several arrests. “So many crimes are committed by recidivists that when you take them off the street you make a huge dent in the problem.” Emanuel said cameras on new rail cars will “create an envelope of security” for riders.
- Slow zones – The $15 million recently added to the Red North project for track and viaduct repairs will eliminate 7,000 feet of slow zones, shaving two to three minutes from North Side commutes. That work begins this winter.
- Loyola and Wilson – Repairs of the Loyola viaduct will begin very soon, followed by the five-month rebuild of the Dan Ryan branch starting in May 2012. Design work is underway for what Emanuel calls a “spectacular” new Wilson express-transfer station, which will be constructed next year along with a significant portion of new track and signaling on either side of the station.
- Sheridan and Bryn Mawr – These two stations will soon become the last ugly ducklings of the North Red Line, but they haven’t been forgotten. Carole Morey, CTA’s Vice President for Infrastructure, says they will be rebuilt after Wilson, starting in 2014.
Claypool and Ald. Joe Moore answered the question that many started asking as the Morse station was completely gutted and then rebuilt with glazed brick walls, terrazzo floor and plenty of stainless steel. Will the other five stations (Jarvis, Thorndale, Berwyn, Argyle and Lawrence) get the same treatment?
“President Claypool assured me that Jarvis will be just as nice,” said Moore.
Claypool added that “they are all a little different so the work will vary from station to station, but they are getting a roughly equal amount of focus, attention and capital.” The Thorndale station is next up, closing for six weeks starting this Friday, August 17. Argyle will close the following Friday, August 24.
This story initially appeared at CTA Station Watch, a crowd-sourced web site tracking the CTA’s Red North station work.