Stop and go on the Skokie Swift?


By Robert C. Herguth

Date of Publication: November 17, 2003
Source: Chicago Sun-Times


For nearly 40 years, the Skokie Swift has operated L trains non-stop between Dempster and Howard streets.

If two north suburbs have their way, two or more stations could open along the CTA route -- with or without an already-proposed extension to the Old Orchard shopping center.

A recently completed study commissioned by the Village of Skokie recommends establishing a stop at Oakton Street near Skokie Boulevard. City of Evanston leaders, meanwhile, want a stop created at Dodge Avenue, and a study about to get under way will determine whether there's demand there and elsewhere.

"We want to explore the market potential in further detail, not just at that market location, but on the line as a whole," said Bill Lenski, a RTA official whose agency is funding both studies on behalf of the communities.

Because the CTA operates the Swift -- also known as the Yellow Line -- ultimately it would have the final say about whether new stops are created.

CTA President Frank Kruesi, who is helping ensure that the Swift's north extension to Skokie's Old Orchard is placed on an eligibility list for federal funding, had not seen the just-released study.

"I look forward to reading it," he said. "What's great news in my view is there's so much interest in the suburban communities we serve."

Evanston has opened a senior citizens center at Dodge and Mulford Street, near Mount Trashmore, and a stop there would be well-used, said David Jennings, Evanston's public works director.

"We've been thinking about it for a while, and the RTA grant program was a good opportunity to have it investigated," Jennings said.

Lenski said, "Skokie is interested in bolstering its downtown area around Oakton Street and looking at a possible station there to help foster that development."

Located about four miles from Howard in Rogers Park and one mile from Dempster in Skokie, an Oakton stop could cost $18 million, the study found.

The stop would "add approximately one minute to the one-way travel time for a total of nine minutes," the study found, and Oakton could see 900 to 1,200 boardings each weekday.

The line, which cuts through Evanston for about 1-1/2 miles, serves more than 5,000 daily riders and is the only CTA route powered by overhead electric lines. Soon, however, it will be converted to third-rail power, like the other L lines.

The modern-day Swift opened in 1964, but the passenger line dates back to the mid-1920s and once served several "intermediate" stations, including ones at Oakton and Dodge that are long gone.

Planning for an Old Orchard extension has picked up in recent years, and the Skokie study recommended three possible L alignments for further review and found their price tags would range from $154 million to $301 million.

"The extension aspect is longer term," said RTA spokesman Dave Loveday. "But intermediate stations might be able to get done earlier on the existing line, and that's what the marketing plan will help us determine."

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