CTA issues traveler tips after first week Red Line South reconstruction experience

May 27, 2013

Week One Summary

On Sunday, May 19, the Chicago Transit Authority began the Red Line South Reconstruction Project, one of the largest projects in CTA history. The 10.2-mile south branch of the Red Line along the Dan Ryan Expressway will be completely rebuilt into a brand new railroad that will speed up round-trips between 95th Street and downtown and provide South Side customers with a smoother ride and fewer service interruptions through better reliability and on-time performance.

The first week of the project has been successful by several measures, with alternative service being provided to customers as promised with no major disruptions or delays and construction on time.

The CTA provided ample alternative service for customers affected by the Red Line South shutdown, including free shuttles between Red Line stations south of 63rd Street and the Garfield Elevated rail station; free entry at Garfield Green Line station; Red Line train service running on Green Line tracks from Roosevelt to Ashland/63rd; expanded bus service on numerous nearby bus routes and 50-cent discounts on bus rides south of 63rd Street.

Operations were normal with no major service disruptions or delays.

The CTA heard from several customers that it was actually faster to take a shuttle from 95th Street to Garfield Green (approximately 12-14 minutes) than to take the old Red Line between 95th and Garfield Red (approximately 16-18 minutes) – underscoring the need for Red Line South reconstruction.


  • Customers are urged to use the free, roundtrip shuttle buses from 69th, 79th, 87th and 95th stations to travel to the Garfield elevated station connecting to Red and Green line trains, where all customers ride free. CTA has created fliers (attached) that are being handed out at 95th to encourage free shuttle rides

    As noted in several media reports, many customers are finding that travel on the shuttles from those stations is a fast and easy alternative to other popular and familiar routes, even during rush periods.
  • Customers currently using the #29 State, #3 King Drive, #4 Cottage Grove and #J14 Jeffery Jump routes are especially encouraged to utilize free shuttle bus alternatives.
    • Many CTA customers are unnecessarily paying full fares and travelling longer than necessary in both directions of travel when they could, alternatively, use our free shuttle bus and free entry at the Garfield elevated station for faster, cheaper round-trips travel to downtown and beyond.
    • Example: Customers can save time and money by choosing the free, nonstop #R95 shuttle bus from the 95th/Dan Ryan Terminal to Garfield station—and continue their trip downtown via a Red or Green line train for free—over the comparatively slower #29 State bus. 
    • Between 95th Street and Madison Street, a #R95 shuttle bus rider rides for free to Garfield northbound, and then makes either nine train stops along the Red Line or eight train stops along the Green Line. By comparison, the #29 charges a fare ($1.75 cash, $1.50 Transit Card/Chicago Card), makes up to 89 stops and the trip can take as much as 20 minutes longer.
  • For some customers, the local and free #R63 making stops at closed Red Line stations at 63rd, 69th, 79th, 87th and 95th is a great option for free station-to-station travel and to transfer to desired east-west bus routes
  • Red and Green Line trains make nearly all of the same stops -- the CTA noticed many customers at Garfield waiting for Green Line trains. The CTA wants to remind them that if downtown is their destination, Red Line trains are an option that is more frequent than Green Line trains. As a reminder, all entries at the Garfield station are free.

    Between Roosevelt and Garfield, Red and Green Line trains make the same stops on the Green Line South, including 51st, 47th, 43rd, Indiana and 35th/Bronzeville/IIT. The CTA this spring invested $20 million in Green Line improvements that increase the speed and reliability of that line

Improvements to service made during the first week include:

  • Added capacity on the #3 King Drive, #4 Cottage Grove, #J14 Jeffery Jump and #29 State Street to meet rider demand.
  • More signage at 95th to direct customers to shuttle bus staging locations [see photo below]
  • Added more signs to identify shuttle shops and that explain routes
  • Doubling the number of locator maps showing specific bus locations to help customers more easily navigate
  • Continue to heavily staff shuttle stops and the Garfield station with customer assistants and managers at closed Red Line stations to help passengers with their commuting questions

Preliminary ridership observations

Our preliminary estimates show that ridership patterns of customers affected by Red Line South are still being set.

Many Red Line customers have moved to regular bus routes, including several north-south routes -- #3 King Drive, #4 Cottage Grove, #J14 Jeffery Jump and #29 State, which all had additional capacity added during the first week of the reconstruction because ridership was higher than expected. We also saw an uptick in ridership on additional routes including #8A South Halsted, #9 Ashland (which connect to the Green Line) and #24 Wentworth.

The CTA has begun a rider information campaign including handing out fliers explaining that a combination trip of free shuttles and train service from Garfield is a faster, cheaper alternative for many affected customers.

Keep in mind that many customers are still experimenting with their routes, so new travel patterns are still developing. CTA’s information is very preliminary and the agency continues to collect data and monitor ridership very closely on a daily basis.

Construction update

  • CTA closed nine Red Line South stations between Cermak/Chinatown and 95th Streets
  • Heavy construction equipment for project was mobilized on site
  • Contractor began removal of track, traction power, signal and communications systems

New signage at 95th Street rail and bus terminal.
New signage at 95th Street rail and bus terminal.

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