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Red, Purple Line ‘L’ Plans Remain A Hot Topic

Red Line Train

A CTA Red Line train near Belmont. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Two months after the CTA proposed closing five stops or even digging a new subway for the Red and Purple line ‘L’ system, improvements to the busy transit lines remains a hot topic.

In January, the Chicago Transit Authority held hearings in Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park and Evanston, on plans six plans to redevelop the aging ‘L’ system between the Belmont stop in Lakeview and the Linden stop in Wilmette.

The CTA has developed six plans for the system. Two call for downgrading Purple Line express and Red Line local service by maintaining three or four tracks. These plans also call for eliminating the Lawrence, Thorndale and Jarvis stops on the Red Line, and the South Boulevard and Foster stops on the Purple Line.

In their place, new entrances would be added to other existing stations – including an Ainslie Street entrance at the Argyle stop, a Hollywood Avenue entrance at the Bryn Mawr stop, entrances to the Howard terminal at Rogers Avenue, and an entrance to the Noyes Street Purple Line stop at Evanston’s Gaffield Place.

The current concrete ground embankment structure would also be replaced with a new concrete elevated structure, as seen on the Orange Line.

An even more radical plan calls for getting rid of the ‘L’ structure altogether between the Belmont and Loyola stops, and replacing it with a subway. New subway stations would be located at Addison, Irving Park, Wilson, Foster, Bryn Mawr and Glenlake.

Under that plan, the Argyle, Lawrence, Berwyn, Thorndale and Granville stops would vanish, in some instances without a new entrance in close proximity to replace them. The subway plan also calls for the elimination of the Jarvis stop, as well as the South Boulevard and Foster Purple Line stops.

Another scenario would replace the existing four tracks with three tracks, which would eliminate reverse-direction Purple Line Express trains.

But three of the plans do not call for eliminating any stops at all. Two of them instead merely call for transfer stations between the Red and Purple lines at Loyola and Wilson.

Last summer, Straight Dope columnist Cecil Adams presented his own plan for upgrading the Red and Purple Line ‘L,’ focusing his attention south all the way to 130th Street.

The plan was revisited, and analyzed by transit experts, in a cover story in the Chicago Reader this week.

The Straight Dope plan last July does not call for closing any stops or any major reconfigurations of the lines, except that he suggests running Purple Line trains into the Clybourn/Division/State Street subway rather than follow the Brown Line to the Loop.

The Purple Line would terminate at the Roosevelt subway station under Adams’ plan, while the Red Line would continue down the Dan Ryan as is currently the case.

The Straight Dope plan also called for extending the CTA to 130th Street, a measure the CTA endorsed two years ago and which Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel also backs.

In addition, the Straight Dope calls for running Purple and Red line trains every five minutes so during rush periods so they would always leave the Howard terminal 2 1/2 minutes apart. The plan also proposed that Purple Line Express trains make intermediate stops at Morse, Loyola, Bryn Mawr and Wilson, which would have to be rebuilt with “island” platforms to accommodate the additional trains.

In the Reader cover story by the Straight Dope’s Ed Zotti, transit experts said the plan was “worthy of serious study,” although they took issue with some elements of the plan — particularly the delays that might result from running trains from Howard every 2 1/2 minutes.

As it stands now, the CTA says its plans for the Red and Purple lines are all ideas. The agency says it is not currently preparing to padlock stations, kill express service, or begin digging a new North Side subway.