TRIBUNE TRANSPORTATION WRITER
Date of Publication: January 10, 1995
Source: Chicago Tribune
A tradition more than four decades old is scheduled to come to an end by spring as the Chicago Transit Authority phases out what remains of its system of A and B rail stops, officials said Monday.
Declining ridership over the years, which has led to less frequent service overall, contributed to the decision to adopt an all-stop system, officials said.
Skip-stop rail service was introduced in 1948 on the Lake Street line, a route then served by slow, heavy wooden rail cars, as a way to speed service, said Harry Hirsch, the CTA's head of service planning. It became popular with riders and was expanded to most of the rest of the rail system.
A trains were alternated with B's departing terminals, each serving their own stations. Stops with heavy ridership, including those downtown, were made A-B stops served by all trains.
As ridership declined over the years, in part because of city population shifts to the suburbs, CTA service was trimmed and the gap between trains was lengthened. That produced longer waits for riders at stations designated A or B.
The CTA's rail system served 135 million passengers in 1993, the most recent year for which statistics are available. That compared with 180 million in 1967.
Until now, A-B service has been discontinued on a line whenever the scheduled gap between trains departing the terminal exceeded six minutes, a policy designed to prevent any rider who just missed one train at a skip-stop station from waiting more than 12 minutes for the next one to arrive.
Officials in recent years also removed from the A-B system portions of modern lines, like the Dan Ryan segment of the Red Line, where stations are widely spaced.
The Orange Line-which has long distances between stations and a schedule with gaps between trains of more than six minutes for most hours of the day-opened in 1993 with all-stop service.
Currently A-B service is in effect only on the Howard portion of the Red Line, the O'Hare segment of the Blue Line and the Ravenswood Brown Line.
Elimination of skip-stop service in the past has been met with positive results, according to the CTA.
After the Dan Ryan segment of the Red Line became all-stop in 1993, some stations that had been designated A's or B's saw ridership gains of 34 to 50 percent, in part because they suddenly were served by twice the number of trains than before, officials said. Phaseout of the system also will end the inconvenience for people who board at A stations and must transfer trains to reach a B stop, they said.
But running times will be lengthened slightly, Hirsch said. On the Howard leg of the Red Line, for example, it will take trains up to two minutes and 30 seconds longer to complete the trip between downtown and the Howard Street terminal.
The elimination of skip-stop service will have no impact on operating costs or staffing requirements, officials said.