By Tracy Swartz, @tracyswartz
1:23 PM CST, December 3, 2012
Bears fans, prepare to be stunned. Again. You're about to lose a perk that made it cheap to travel to Soldier Field.
As part of the fare hikes the CTA proposed last month to close its budget shortfall, the agency wants to increase the round-trip fare of the No. 128 Soldier Field Express from $2 to $5. Under the current system, Bears fans can pay $1 to take a bus from the Ogilvie Transportation Center and Union Station to Soldier Field.
The $5 roundtrip to Soldier Field is more than the cost of a regular bus round-trip ride, which is $4 if the rider uses a transit card and $4.50 if the rider uses cash. This is the only bus route that will see an increase in its base fare as the CTA attempts to "right the financial ship."
Bears fans can't catch a break on the transit front. The Soldier Field tailgating fee increased from $46 to $49 this season. Meanwhile, a Green Line station at Cermak Road, not 18th Street, which was considered and is closer to Soldier Field, is slated to open in 2014. And now the CTA wants to charge more for slow service.
The idea behind buses to Soldier Field is admirable, but the problem is that these buses have to deal with Soldier Field vehicular traffic. There's no bus lane to bypass this traffic, and it seems that walking may be faster than this bus.
When Going Public took the No. 128 bus to a Bears game last year, it took 37 minutes to travel from Union Station to Soldier Field.
The No. 128 only runs on Bears game days. The bus saw 6,500 riders this year through October, CTA data shows.
The other public transportation options for Bears games are also lackluster. Riders can get off at the Roosevelt stop in the South Loop and walk more than 10 minutes, sometimes in cold weather, to the game. The No. 146 Inner Drive/Michigan Express also is an option, but these buses can be packed.
It's too bad CTA service to Bears games isn't as good as it is to Cubs games. It's easy to take the Red Line to the Addison stop for a Cubs game. It used to be easy to take the Red Line to the Sox station for a White Sox game, but the CTA is shutting down that stop from May to September so the agency can overhaul Red Line track.
There's no CTA station outside the United Center. Mayor Emanuel has mentioned building a stop there, but the CTA has previously told Going Public that "building a new station, even along existing track infrastructure, costs millions of dollars and CTA does not have capital funding available for a stop there."
The No. 19 United Center Express, which saw more than 26,000 riders this year through October, travels between the Magnificent Mile and the United Center, home to the Bulls and the Blackhawks. The No. 19, which costs the regular bus fare, is not slated to see an increase next year under the CTA's proposed fare hikes, which are up for a board vote later this month.
If these hikes are approved, some Bears fans will have to dig deeper into their wallets, and that's never a fun game.
A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note
This week: Ashland/63rd Green Line
The Ashland/63rd stop in Englewood is the end of the Green Line but the start of new beginnings. The station is undergoing an overhaul thanks to next year's Red Line project on the South Side. Because the CTA expects the Ashland station to see increased capacity during the Red Line shutdown, the agency is painting the station and upgrading its roof. The project is slated to be completed by spring, the CTA said.
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