Business Owners Worry About Lost Customer Base During Red Line Rehab

For many, revenue depends on foot traffic from Red Line commuters

The five-month shut down on the southern portion of the Chicago Transit Authority's Red Line may do more than just mess with commuter schedules. Business owners along the route who rely heavily on the foot traffic the rail line provides worry the massive project will also affect their bottom lines.

"I'm very worried because if they don't come that means I may have to close my business," said Billy Nathan, who just opened his barber shop and restaurant about a year ago. "It's how my bills get paid."

Beginning May 19, the Chicago Transit Authority's crumbling Red Line tracks south of Roosevelt Road will shut down for the largest construction project in the transit authority's history.

For business owner Fred Dell, the remaining few days afford him a time to strategize and think of new ways to attract customers to his ABC Wireless store near the Red Line's 79th Street station. He said about 80 percent of his business comes from Red Line customers.

"We're actually going to have to have our workers actually engaging the customers out there to come in," he said.

CTA spokesperson Steve Mayberry said communicating with business owners has been a big part of the transit agency's outreach plan. He said shuttle buses that will run from the Green Line to 95th Street will not eliminate foot traffic for the majority of businesses and said that any impact will be minimal.

"The same foot traffic that would typically be available to them won't quite be there. There will definitely be some reductions, but they still be patronized," he said.

But at Market Fish, Seafood and Poultry near 71st Street, where new pay-to-park spaces have already pushed many to rely on public transportation, there are concerns about the impact the shutdown will have not only on customers but on employees

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