CHICAGO (CBS) — Free rides drew big crowds Friday on the first day of service since a May embankment collapse on the CTA’s Yellow Line.
Standing-room-only crowds were not unusual Friday. The CTA brought out its two newest ‘L’ cars, delivered while the CTA’s heavy repair facility in Skokie was cut off from the rest of the system by the embankment collapse.
The agency also brought out four cars from its “historic” rail fleet for the first few hours, as part of an aggressive marketing campaign designed to quickly rebuild the line’s ridership, which was approximately 2,900 a day before the collapse.
It was a happy day for CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. and Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen, who sees the line as a vital cog in the suburb’s downtown revitalization efforts. Skokie’s technology park, the former Searle complex, is immediately adjacent to the Oakton-Skokie station.
When one passing train sounded its shrill whistle as Van Dusen was at the microphone during opening ceremonies, he quipped, “Isn’t that a wonderful sound?”
Even Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) Executive Director David St. Pierre, whose contractor caused the collapse and is awaiting a bill of more than $3.5 million for the repairs, managed to inject levity, saying: “I’ve never looked forward to a train ride more in my life.” The remark drew laughs from the crowd of dignitaries.