CHICAGO
02/22/2013 03:43 pm ET

CTA Red Line Construction Looms As Agency Aims To Ease Commuter Pain With Free Rides, More

As the Chicago Transit Authority prepares to pull the plug on the south branch of the Red Line until October, the agency is rolling out plans that will hopefully ease the overhaul's inconvenience to riders.

The Tribune reminds us that as of Friday, there are just 86 days until the CTA shuts down Red Line service between the southernmost stop at 95th/Dan Ryan and the Cermak-Chinatown stop.

On May 19, service at the nine impacted stations of the Red Line will be swapped for bus shuttles, many of them free.

CTA President Forrest Claypool said Thursday riders entering the 'L' system from the Garfield Green Line station can ride free during the construction project, which is scheduled to continue until Oct. 19, according to CBS Chicago.

Claypool expects free express shuttle buses linking Garfield with the Red Line stations at 95th, 87th, 79th and 69th streets to stem ridership loss, while a free local Red Line bus shuttle will operate between 95th and the Garfield Green Line station.

Officials said the move is expected to boost ridership at the Garfield Green Line tenfold, ballooning from 1,300 to 13,000 passengers a day, reports the Sun-Times.

To keep the Garfield hub from morphing in to a madhouse, the Sun-Times reports the station will get 17 extra turnstiles (where passengers won’t be charged) in addition to two new staircases. There is also a transfer deal in the works for Metra riders making CTA connections.

Red Line riders also have a new Twitter handle to follow to keep abreast of the project's progress: The agency recently debuted the official handle of the project, @RedLineSouth.

(Read more details about the project at CTA's Red Line South Reconstruction page.)

The reconstruction is expected to shave 20 minutes off the ride between Roosevelt to 95th, while Claypool told the Tribune the re-hauled Red Line “will be a smoother, more comfortable ride without the bumps and shakes that they’re accustomed to today."

The agency deemed the five-month long service cut the better choice compared to a four year-long, weekend shutdown-only option for the $425 million reconstruction project — the largest overhaul project in CTA history.

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