Major events are circled on the Getting Around transportation calendar as 2012 crosses over into 2013, and the first big one is scheduled to take effect by Friday, when drivers flock back to Lower Wacker Drive.
The reopening of the complete stretch of the lower-level roadway marks the return to the time-saving connection between the expressway system and the central business district and Lake Shore Drive, while skipping the congestion and traffic signals on the streets above.
Sections of Lower Wacker between Randolph Street and Congress Parkway were closed beginning in 2010 for the $300 million reconstruction project slated for completion by year's end, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation.
Also by Friday, the final intersection closed for the project, Wacker and Van Buren Street, is scheduled to reopen to traffic, CDOT said. In addition, traffic will be restored from the Congress Parkway interchange, the Eisenhower Expressway (Interstate 290) and Harrison Street to Lower and Upper Wacker, officials said.
CTA buses that traveled on Lower Wacker to downtown Metra stations will resume those routes, and a handful of other CTA bus routes that were detoured away from Wacker-Van Buren also will return to their old routes, CTA officials said.
Next week, Franklin Street, which during the Wacker reconstruction has been a two-way street between Wacker and Van Buren, will return to one way northbound, CDOT said. A bicycle lane will be added on Franklin.
Other important dates coming up:
•Dec. 5: Top officials of CTA, Metra and Pace will appear before the board of the Regional Transportation Authority to discuss their proposed 2013 budgets. CTA and Metra are proposing fare hikes.
CTA plans to boost the price of all passes by 16 percent to 74 percent, while Metra proposes an 11 percent increase for 10-ride tickets, officials have said. The meeting is set for 9 a.m. at RTA headquarters, 175 W. Jackson Blvd., Suite 1650.
•Dec. 10 and 17: The CTA will conduct public hearings on its 2013 budget. The public is invited to offer feedback at the hearings, at 6 p.m. Dec. 10 at CTA headquarters, 567 W. Lake St.; and at 6 p.m. Dec. 17 at Westinghouse College Prep, 3223 W. Franklin Blvd., Chicago.
The 2013 budget calls for fare hikes for daily, three-day, seven-day and 30-day passes, effective Jan. 14. The single-ride reduced fare for seniors and disabled people, as well as the 30-day reduced-fare, also would increase.
Passes are used on 55 percent of CTA rides, according to the transit agency.
The CTA's base full fare will not rise under the plan, officials said, except for single-rides from O'Hare International Airport, which will jump to $5 from $2.25 under the plan.
•Dec. 16: The CTA launches a "decrowding initiative" aimed at improving travel times and making the ride more comfortable on trains and buses. More service will be added to 48 bus routes and six of the eight rail lines, according to the transit agency.
But to offer $16 million in new service while holding the line on operating costs, the CTA will eliminate 12 bus routes and shorten two others. In addition, nine privately contracted CTA routes would be eliminated if subsidies aren't increased, officials said.
The goals of the combination of service cuts and enhancements are to reduce wait times for buses and trains and lessen crowding by 10 percent to 15 percent during rush periods, officials said.
On buses that typically carry 70 passengers, the new target will be 45 to 55 passengers per bus, CTA officials said. Rail cars packed with 90 or more riders at maximum capacity are expected to have 70 to 75 passengers, officials said.
CTA President Forrest Claypool has promised riders who will lose their bus service that he is open to revising the decrowding plan if it fails to meet the goals.
One place to watch for crowding is the Brown Line, which is already congested during peak travel times and will likely gain riders when the No. 11 Lincoln/Sedgwick bus route stops operating between Western and Fullerton.
•Dec. 18: The CTA board meets to vote on the 2013 budget. The meeting will be held at 2:30 p.m. at CTA headquarters, 567 W. Lake St.
•Jan. 14: Higher fares for CTA passes are scheduled to take effect. One way to delay the impact of the fare hike is to stock up on passes at current prices. The passes are good for one year from the date of purchase.
•Feb. 1: The price of Metra 10-ride tickets goes up, exactly one year after the largest fare increase in Metra's history. Unlike CTA, Metra is guarding against ticket stockpiling. Metra said 10-ride tickets purchased before Jan. 31 will be valid only through Feb. 28.
Contact Getting Around at email@example.com or c/o the Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611; on Twitter @jhilkevitch; and at facebook.com/jhilkevitch. Read recent columns at chicagotribune.com/gettingaround.