Garfield: Some South Siders Struggling with Rerouting Commute

Garfield Green Line CTA
Commuters now have two entry choices -- Red Line and Green Line -- at
the Garfield Green Line stop. (Photo/Clayton Guse)

Garfield Stop IconBy Clayton Guse
The Red Line Project

Posted: Monday, May 20, 2013

At the Garfield Green Line station, scores of commuters poured out of an fleet of shuttle buses and are directed by CTA personnel to a freshly built entrance boasting a banner that reads, “Free entry – walk through.” 

Some riders exiting the station were puzzled as to why their southbound Red Line train was rerouted to the Green Line track. The CTA, expecting such confusion, had extra staff on hand passing out pamphlets and directing people to the free shuttle buses.

This is life without the Red Line, a reality that tens of thousands of South Siders must deal with in the next five months after the $425 million reconstruction project of the South Branch tracks began Sunday morning.

But even with extensive efforts by the CTA to curb delays caused by the closure, nearly every Red Line regular on the South Side will have a longer trip.

“The construction added 45 minutes to my morning commute,” said Antowyne Miller, who travels from 79th Street to work at Bed, Bath and Beyond off of the North/Clybourn Red Line station every morning. “I left a half an hour early today, and I was still late for work.”

Miller is required to be at work at 5 a.m., but the first express shuttle bus from 79th, the R79, does not arrive until 4:15 a.m. Instead, he will have to ride the R55, the overnight shuttle bus that stops locally, to the Garfield Green Line station.

Kelvin Hill Photo
CTA rider Kelvin Hill on one of the shuttles. (Photo/Clayton Guse)

While the reconstruction has caused delays for some who depend on the Red Line, it has shortened the commute for some others. Charon Sleck, who works at a computer refurbishing company on 63rd Street, found his trek from 95th Street on the local R63 shuttle bus to be faster than the Red Line.

“The Red Line has a lot of issues,” he said. “Some people are complaining too much.”

According to the CTA, more than 40 percent of the track requires 15 mph “slow zones” and the reconstruction project will provide, “Faster, smoother, better rides.”

Some South Siders, like Cornelius Lewis, are benefiting financially from the shutdown.

“Nothing like a free ride,” he said. “Now I’ll save around $30 a week.”

The free rides will only have a significant impact on riders like Lewis who are traveling locally. Those who transfer to other buses will save only 25 cents for a transfer. The wallets of commuters who purchase unlimited passes will be unaffected.

But free shuttle bus rides and Green Line access are not enough for many commuters who will experience delays as a result of the closure.

“[The free rides] are no consolation for the inconvenience of time,” said R79 bus rider Gregory Edwards, who commutes from 79th Street to the Gold Coast for work.

Kelvin Hill, another R79 commuter, agreed, saying that the delays caused by the reroute put him at risk of losing his job, which is much more valuable than a free fare.

“I’m saving money but losing time, which is more valuable to me," he said. “It might be worth it to some people, but not for me.”

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