By Lou Carlozo
TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
Date of Publication: December 24, 1993
Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Transit Authority officials conceded Thursday that the end of the line is at hand for certain stops along the Lake-Englewood-Jackson Park Green Line.
The line, which will close down Jan. 9 for a two-year refurbishing, is slated to reopen with fewer stations in an attempt to streamline service, said CTA President Robert Belcaster.
"There's too many stations," Belcaster said at a Thursday morning news conference. "Some of these stations are within two blocks of each other. That's not a rapid transit system, that's a cab."
Belcaster also admitted that the cash-strapped authority simply cannot afford to reopen all of the existing Green Line stops under its $300 million construction plan.
"The bottom line is we do not have enough money to open the same number of stations," Belcaster said. "Do you want a rapid transit system with fewer stops, or no line at all? It's that simple."
And with reports this week that the Clinton administration is planning to slash grants to mass transit agencies, the money woes could grow. Federal grants account for $41 million, or just over 5 percent, of the CTA's total budget, CTA officials said.
Without that funding, "There would either have to be a major fare increase or we'd have to do something in terms of service reductions," said Belcaster, who added that the proposed cuts would not affect Green Line construction.
Officials declined to reveal which stops the CTA may close, though Belcaster said a final list must be ready by Feb. 1 so that work can proceed on schedule.
"It is absolutely ridiculous," said state Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago)." I believe that their scheme-it's not a plan, it's a scheme-is to build some superstops. It's insanity. The people would rather have more stops than these superstops."
CTA officials took issue with that view, citing a survey of 9,000 Green Line riders released Thursday. According to that survey, 45 percent of the line's riders consider "fast travel times" and "a short walk to the station" as equally important.
Then again, it depends on which neighborhood you have to walk through, Hendon said.
"Some of our young people can't get around without the stops in their community," he said.
"They'll have to cross through gang territory. We're just not going to take it."
Complaints and controversy have surrounded the Green Line project since it was announced in August.
Originally, the CTA planned to shut down the line in mid-December, citing safety concerns. Business leaders countered that the move would cripple their holiday business.
The CTA bowed to pressure last month, delaying the line's construction until January. But even the Jan. 9 shutdown date failed to pass muster with CTA's own citizens advisory task force. Its leadership unanimously voted last week to recommend that the line's closing be pushed back at least until Jan. 27.
CTA officials countered that the delayed shutdown has already cost $1.2 million. Each additional day of delay past Jan. 9 would run the authority an additional $135,000, according to Belcaster.
During construction, the railway will be replaced with two new express bus routes. The No. 23 Washington Express bus will depart from Harlem Avenue at North Boulevard in Oak Park, following Lake Street to Austin Avenue before entering Chicago on Washington Boulevard en route downtown. Westbound trips will begin on Madison Street from Michigan Avenue.
The No. 38 Michigan Express bus will operate on 63rd Street, originating from both Stony Island and Ashland Avenues before heading north on Indiana and Michigan Avenues to Madison Street and then State Street. Southbound buses will run on Michigan from Washington Street.
Both lines will operate 24 hours a day, with free transfers between the lines. Brochures explaining the new routes will be available at Green Line stations after Christmas, or from the CTA at 312-836-7000.