Many commuters were pleasantly surprised by the CTA's contingency plan during the first weekday of the Red Line construction shutdown. Others complained that State Street buses were too packed and urged the CTA to add more frequent service until riders get used to shuttle buses. Emily Florez reports.
The Chicago Transit Authority's crumbling Red Line tracks south of Roosevelt Road shut down Sunday for the largest construction project in the transit authority's history, and riders have mixed reviews on navigating the closures.
Commuters must find an alternate way to get where they are going for the next five months via new routes on different buses and trains. For most riders, that means walking to a new train station on the Green Line, which essentially will replace the Red Line from Roosevelt to Garfield.
South of Garfield, the CTA will run six free shuttles from the Green Line station to 95th Street. An average of 50,000 riders use the south branch of the Red Line each day, according to the CTA.
CTA President Forrest Claypool called the rehab a historic and once-in-a-generation project that will provide much-needed benefits to commuters. He acknowledged the inconvenience to riders and said the CTA is watching the contingency plan carefully and will make changes where needed.
"Our No. 1 goal is minimize any inconvenience," Claypool said Monday. "To do that, we are constantly monitoring our service, making sure that our months of planning are being carried out correctly. We're ready to make any changes, even small ones, based on the experience of the first few days and weeks of the project."
How did commuters fare during the plan's first rush-hour test? "So far so good," one rider told NBCChicago.
Red Line commuter Richard Pinkerton said the alternates provided a quicker commute than normal. "The service is faster," he said. "The train gets downtown quicker than it did. Actually I like it better."
That wasn't the case for Lanard Hogan. "It's not reliable," he said, "and now I get here and the shuttle bus isn't here. ... I called a ride so I can get home."
The CTA, Metra and the Chicago Police are reaching out to riders in hopes of making the five-month, 10-mile track rehab project more manageable, but some riders say they still haven’t figured out how they will work around it.
"I didn't think it would be so effective, so that was good," commuter Shavasse Turman said. "I got to work on time."
To help out, the CTA hung red banners at each of the nine affected stations to remind riders of the coming shutdown.
Ambassadors in red T-shirts answered questions during evening rush hours.
The CTA also introduced the website redlinesouth.com, with a trip planner to help commuters find their way around as routes change depending on the day and time.
The site includes information about construction progress, general service alternatives and a reminder of the perks to come, including a 20-minute faster commute between 95th/Dan Ryan and Roosevelt, reduced potential for service issues, improved station environments and new elevators at Garfield, 63rd and 87th stations.
CTA officials are urging riders to give themselves extra time during the commutes and to plan ahead.
Annette Brown said she planned her route ahead and the inconvenience was mild. She said if everyone did what she did traveling around the closures would be “no problem.”