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New Businesses Coming to Red Line, but Students Question Value of Renovations

Renovated Berwyn Red Line Station. Photo by Enas Aboelghar

As part of the “Red Ahead” project the CTA has approved the revamp of many stations along the north branch of the Red Line. The work started June 1 of last year with the closure of the Granville station. CTA estimates the project will be complete by the end of the year.

Many Loyola University Chicago students live around these stations and complained to this reporter about allocation of money toward renovation rather than service, customer service, station closures and the design of the new stations. They also complained about the lack of notice about the station closures, making their commutes more difficult during the summer. But new opportunities are being created from these renovations and new storefronts are available in the Granville, Berwyn and Argyle stations

Good for the community

Despite some criticisms about the project, many students say the station renovations help the communities around them.

“I think that they make the community feel more updated itself,” said Loyola senior Lucia DiSabato. “It feels new and fresh instead of old and worn down.”

According to the website of Alderman Harry Osterman, who represents areas affected by the renovations, the stations have a positive impact on the streets, improve commuters’ experiences and give opportunities for new and existing businesses to grow. All of the stations in his ward  have reopened, so opportunities for the neighborhood and businesses are being created.

Osterman co-hosted an informational meeting Jan. 15 with the CTA and their real estate broker Jones Lang Lasalle to share more information about applying for and leasing those spaces. On the alderman’s website he asks residents to refer business owners or give their opinion on what types of businesses they want to see in those spaces.

Dan Luna, the alderman’s chief of staff, said more than 20 people showed up at the meeting to get information about the storefronts. Each station has a printed handout that the alderman’s office is giving out to prospective businesses.

A variety of businesses were interested such as mini-marts, retail and office spaces. The community has generally followed the lead of the alderman’s office in what types of businesses would be going in these stations. An idea that has been floated from the community however is a new restaurant and/or bar.

Effects on students

The Red Line stations affected by the project are Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn, Thorndale, Granville, Morse and Jarvis. The stations are beginning to reopen and Loyola students say they like the changes made to the stations, but the CTA should focus more money and energy on updating train cars, adding trains to the line and improving customer service.

Station closures during the 2012 summer were a top complaint among students interviewed for this story. Loyola senior Kaitlyn Hodde lives off the Morse station and said the CTA gave no notice or no more than 24 hours when they shut down stations, which happened even after they were reopened.

“Granville would be running north and south when I got to work, but by the time I’d get home it wouldn’t be going north for 24 hours” Hodde said. “My commute was interrupted enough to get a bike and say forget it to the entire CTA.”

Luna said Osterman’s office worked with chambers of commerce and the CTA to give people at least a week or two of notice about station and street closures due to the project.

Another concern was with the stations themselves.

Chelsea Arbury, a recent Loyola graduate, said that most of the stations that have reopened have uneven stairs in them, which could be especially hazardous when they get wet.

Molly O’Brien, a junior at Loyola University Chicago, said that the station designs remain the same as before the renovations.

The CTA did not respond to a request for comment about the safety and design of the new stations.

It would be difficult for the CTA to accommodate all of students’ requests.

In 2012 the CTA faced a $277 million deficit despite fare hikes in 2009 and cuts in 2010. They voted on Dec. 12 to approve a $1.39 billion 2013 budget, which includes sweeping fare hikes on the agency’s multi-day passes.

These hikes will generate about $56 million in revenues. Single-ride fares at $2.25 stay the same, but the cost of the one-day pass will go from $5.75 to $10, almost a 75 percent increase. They went into effect Jan. 14, according to the CTA website.

The CTA also has a “de-crowding” plan. They plan to add 48 bus routes and add 17 rail trips to the Red, Blue, Brown, Purple, Orange and Green lines during weekday rush periods to ease crowding. There will also be increased weekend service. It will also cut 12 duplicative or low ridership routes, as well as service on four bus lines, but will not eliminate those entire routes.

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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.