It's been a long road for the 65,000 CTA riders who commute on Western and Ashland avenues every day.
First, there were express buses that traveled along those two streets, picking up passengers every half-mile or so, which complemented the non-express buses that stopped at every street.
Next, there was the idea of the Circle Line, a plan that would connect existing CTA and Metra stations outside the Loop. There were community meetings in 2009, but the idea has stalled ever since.
Then, as part of budget cuts, the CTA cut express bus service along Ashland and Western in 2010. Seven other express routes also saw the axe.
After the cuts, express riders joined non-express riders and both have seen an increase in commute times and bus bunching on the non-express routes as the buses have struggled to keep up with demand.
The crowding is so bad, the CTA is adding more buses along Western and Ashland when it makes service changes in December.
Now, the CTA has announced a plan for express bus service along Western and Ashland that would include lanes designated for buses only. The buses would stop every half mile or so and resemble the Red Line in its commute times, the CTA said.
Express bus service is very much needed along Ashland and Western, and the CTA cutting the express routes along those two streets two years ago was a mistake.
The No. 9-Ashland and the No. 49-Western are No. 1 and 3, respectively, in terms of bus ridership, with the No. 79-79th Street route in between.
When Going Public rode those two routes from start to finish as part of the project to ride every CTA bus route, it took an hour and 33 minutes to travel along Western Avenue between Berwyn Avenue and 79th Street and an hour and 44 minutes on Ashland Avenue between 95th Street and Belle Plaine.
To compare, it takes about an hour and five minutes to travel along the length of the Red Line.
The CTA said it would like to implement Ashland and Western express bus service in the next couple of years. It will present more information about the project to the public within the next year.
Ashland and Western riders can only hope this project moves quickly so they can do the same.
Brush with fame
The CTA is hosting a community meeting Tuesday about its project to install artwork in seven North Side Red Line stations that currently are undergoing rehabilitation. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at CTA Headquarters, 567 W. Lake St. Installation of artwork is expected to begin a year from now.
A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note
This week: 47th Street Red Line
When it comes to South Side Red Line stations, most of the time there's bad and there's worse. But then there's better: The 47th Street Red Line station. The Grand Boulevard station has a slew of amenities including a train tracker on the platform, a bus tracker outside the station, an escalator and an elevator. The station is one of nine southern Red Line stations that will close next year for improvements so other stations can look like the 47th Street station. Still, this station is not without its problems. A reader wrote to GP to express her dislike for the dim lighting at the station and the frequency of escalator outages (it worked Monday morning when GP visited the station).
Next up: UIC-Halsted Blue Line
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