By Jennifer Vigil
TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
Date of Publication: November 12, 1998
Source: Chicago Tribune
After more than a year of severe cuts that affected thousands of riders, the Chicago Transit Authority responded with upbeat news for commuters Thursday--announcing Brown Line trains soon will run until midnight and service will be improved on about a dozen bus routes.
"This is not about restoration of services, but rebuilding services for customers. . . . to better match service to our needs and riding patterns," said CTA president Frank Kruesi.
New services include an express bus along Western Avenue, extra buses along overburdened South Side routes and extended evening and weekend hours for a number of other lines. The bus changes take place Dec. 14 and the new Brown Line schedule will begin Dec. 21.
The new Western bus route is a pilot project dubbed the X49 Express. The line runs from Berwyn Avenue on the north to 95th Street at Evergreen Plaza on the south, with connections to the Blue, Brown and Orange Lines.
The X49, to be serviced by 13 buses at a cost of $124,000 a month, will come up for review in six months, when officials will evaluate whether to keep it, drop it, or alter it, said CTA spokeswoman Maria Toscano.
The additions, however, do not restore any of the service lost during three rounds of cuts that ended last spring, and some riders are still displeased.
"We applaud their efforts to enhance services, but we also feel they should restore some of the services they took," said Rev. Ronald Schupp of Citizens Taking Action, a consumer-advocacy group. "We feel the CTA is on the right track, but they also need to restore some of what they took away."
Beginning in October 1997 and continuing through April, the CTA dropped 10 bus routes, eliminated stops on more than 80 others and sharply curtailed night-owl service on buses and trains. Officials estimate the cuts will save the CTA $25 million a year.
The service additions are expected to cost about $1 million, and Kruesi said many of the expanded services will benefit communities hard hit by the previous cuts. With $5 million in the agency's 1999 budget earmarked for more service, further additions are likely.
Kruesi has said the cuts last year were on routes with low ridership. The additions, he said, are being made in places with high ridership, such as the Brown Line.
On Dec. 21, weekday service on the Brown Line will continue until midnight, two hours later than the current schedule, allowing better connections to the Green, Orange and Blue Lines.
The changes that take effect Dec. 14 are:
The CTA board gave final approval to the agency's $1.02 billion budget and saw the first hints of Kruesi's plan to renumber the city's buses according to the Chicago grid.
Officials also released details of their proposed renumbering plan for bus routes. Further meetings will be held on the proposal next month.
Under the plan, Madison Street buses will be designated No. 1, and State Street buses would be labeled No. 100. Street numbers would correlate to their place on the grid.
Routes that can't be easily matched to the grid would receive their own numbers. Express buses would be the 800 series, and diagonal streets and odd routes would be called the 900 series.