For those of us without automobiles, we spend more time paying attention to transit updates than traffic reports. Unfortunately for people living in Chicago, those updates tend to occur only once you have crossed the turnstile and paid your fare.
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is not known for its advanced planning or customer relations, a fact of life that came into sharp focus last weekend when southbound service on the red line was suspended from Jarvis to Loyola and streets near these stops abruptly closed to traffic. Compounding the inconvenience to residents living near these three stops was the previously announced closure on June 1st of the Granville station for a six week rehab project.
Yet this inconvenience pales in comparison to what will take place in the spring of next year when the CTA will close the ENTIRE red line from the Cermak-Chinatown stop to 95th-Dan Ryan. Free and reduced fare bus service will be made available throughout this portion of the red line as well as expanded train service on the green line. However, these closures will add a significant amount of time to passenger's commutes and will more than likely reduce future ridership on this CTA line. The closure of the green line in the mid-1990s led to greatly decreased ridership in the years following the project's completion.
Those with cars will more than likely be added to the city's already congested streets during this construction period, but those who are truly transit dependent will simply have to plan ahead and lose more of their day to the ever increasingly transit times.
If you live near the red line, there is no dispute that the train line is in desperate need of repair. A few months ago another chunk of the concrete viaduct supporting the train fell down into my alley. I got to observe this as I was throwing out my trash. Thank God it hit the ground instead of me.
But something rankles at the thought of a full closure of 24/7 rail service in some of the city's poorest neighborhoods while rolling closures are put in place where commuters have more choices for getting around.
If you want a lesson in racial segregation in Chicago, look no further than the renovation of the red line. The south side gets shafted again.