Comment of the day: Would CTA’s Dan Ryan Red Line closure “go down” in the north side?


The 63rd Street Red Line station will become accessible in the CTA’s “Red South Track Renewal Project” closure in summer 2013. 

A commenter on the Riders for Better Transit Facebook page, responding to their question about what Chicago Transit Authority passengers think of the transit agency’s plan to shut down the Dan Ryan portion of the Red Line for 5 months of track replacement, stated “I think this NEVER would go down for the Northbound Red Line”. Here’s the project summary:

Starting in Spring 2013, the CTA will rebuild the tracks along the south Red Line, from Cermak-Chinatown to 95th/Dan Ryan—a project that will provide faster, more comfortable and more reliable service for Red Line riders.

Here’s one reason why: The number of passengers who use the “North Side Main Line”, as the north side section of the Red Line is sometimes referred to, is greater than the State Street subway section (as a whole), or the Dan Ryan section (as a whole and as an average per station).

The number of boardings in April 2012 (.pdf), the last month for which the CTA has published ridership statistics, for the north segment of the Red Line (from Howard to Grand) is 128,683 (a 5.7% increase over April 2011).

For the same month in the State Street subway section (from Lake to Roosevelt), the number of boardings was 57,232 (a 5.2% increase). And for the Dan Ryan segment (from Cermak-Chinatown to 95th), the number of boardings was 50,044 (an increase of 1.3%).

On a per station average, the north segment, with 19 stations, had 6,772.8 boardings. For the State Street subway, with 5 stations, there was an average of 11,446.4 boardings. And the Dan Ryan segment, with 9 stations, had 5,560.4 boardings per station.

However, there’s another difference between the north and south segments of the Red Line: construction staging for the north segment is much easier than the south segment. The Dan Ryan portion is in the middle of a highway with little or no room for equipment storage and maneuvering while surface streets provide plenty of space for the North Side Main Line. Closing the Dan Ryan part of the Red Line completely makes for a shorter, and likely easier, construction time. Single tracking would lead to a longer period of delays and unreliable trip times.

Since I’m on the topic, a reader asked a few months ago that we look into why the Dan Ryan Red Line is being rebuilt when it was worked on in 2005. The CTA answered this question on its website (scroll down to “Project scope”):

The CTA already had a Dan Ryan Reconstruction Project. How is this different from that?

The work in 2005 focused primarily on electrical power infrastructure — substations, crossovers, third rail, and other power-related elements — and station renovations, including adding elevators at 47th and 69th stations and refurbishment of platform canopies at eight stations from Sox-35th to 87th, inclusive. This work will focus on the track bed.

The CTA will hold public meetings this summer about the project.

Follow the discussion on EveryBlock. Read about this project on The Transport Politic.

10 thoughts on “Comment of the day: Would CTA’s Dan Ryan Red Line closure “go down” in the north side?”

  1. I can tell you from experience that this section of the red line ABSOLUTELY needs to be rebuilt.  They’ve been doing patchwork repairs on the tracks for years.  They help for a little while, then the track gets rough again.  When I get on the red line to travel between 95th St. and the Loop, I never know how long the trip will take.  

    In rush hour, they usually manage to keep it around 35 minutes.  At other times, it often takes 45-50 minutes or more because work is being done somewhere.  The number of 15 mph and 25 mph slow zones varies, but there are always too many.

    I look forward to having decent track conditions again.  Getting more accessible stations will be a very good thing. But enduring this project is going to be tough.  I wish they could find some intermediate option.  With the unpredictability of travel times on the Ryan, I have no confidence that the shuttle bus plan will work reliably and smoothly.

    If we had Western BRT or even extended service on the 49 bus to 95th, taking that bus to the orange line at 49th/Western could be an option.  With current service, it takes 2 buses to get there (349 and 49) with a transfer at 79th – not acceptable – or a bike ride through dicey areas – not an option at night.

    I suspect there will be a lot of times next year when I’ll need to be super vigilant about staying on schedule to catch Metra trains, or find places to stay with friends on the north side when I want to go there to do stuff at night.  It’s bad enough now when I take the red line at night and wait 20-30 minutes for a bus at 95th – total travel time is often around 90 minutes from many north side destinations.

    The idea of transferring to the green line, then to a shuttle at Garfield, then to the 95th St. bus at less frequent service hours (nights and weekends) is a non-starter.  With all the lost time for connections, I could easily see that being a 2 hour trip.  No thanks.

  2. This is definitely a tricky issue, but I would think that rebuilding this faster and more cheaply would be important to the community.  Also, I’m not sure comparing the Dan Ryan Branch to the Northside Main Line is a very good comparison.  The Red Line ridership on the north side is about twice as high as the south side, it has four tracks that allow more operational flexibility during construction, and it doesn’t have another line that runs mostly parallel to it like the Green Line.  The unique passenger demands and transit geometry of the CTA system on each side of town creates different opportunities and strategies for reconstruction.

    1. Point taken.  It would hurt either way (slower or faster), just a different kind of hurt.

      I’ll be very happy to see Garfield as a fully accessible station – a location where I sometimes take my bike on or off the train.

  3. I think it’s the perfect chance to close a nearby parallel to automobile traffic, allowing only bus, local deliveries, and bicycle. A quick psuedo-BRT could really ease the pain, but I’m sure there are logistical and bureaucratic obstructions sufficient to kill it before it could start.

  4. Shutdown the red line and fix the line , and stations; on complete the job
    “time and on budget”

    1. The plan the CTA is proposing is more likely to be completed on time and on budget than one that would take place on weekends over 4 years. Not only would the materials and labor costs perhaps change (if the CTA didn’t purchase all of the materials at the beginning), but there are many other unknowns.

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