Tracy Swartz, @TracySwartz
1:46 PM CDT, July 14, 2014
There are certain CTA stations that seem almost impossible to navigate, even if you are in good shape.
Take the Sheridan Red Line stop, for example. The stairwell is narrow and is known to get slick with puddles after rain. Or the Central Purple Line stop in Evanston. Riders can see medical offices from the platform, but if they have an ailment that affects their ability to get around, there are only stairs at that stop.
Accessibility in Chicago will be the topic of an expo Thursday at Navy Pier. The CTA, Metra and the suburban Pace bus system will participate in the event, where more than 100 exhibitors will showcase products and services for Chicagoans with disabilities, the city said.
"The CTA is committed to making sure transit is accessible to everyone, including customers with a wide range of physical and other disabilities," CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said.
All CTA buses and trains are wheelchair accessible while 99 out of 145 rail stations have an elevator and/or ramp to help riders reach the platform, Chase said.
The CTA added elevators to three South Side Red Line stations last year. The agency also plans to add elevators to the Wilson Red Line stop, the Quincy stop in the Loop, and the Illinois Medical District, UIC-Halsted and Addison Blue Line stops.
Elevators also are set for a Loop superstation at Washington Street and Wabash Avenue and a new Green Line stop at Cermak Road. The CTA said its goal is to make all stations accessible.
But some stations present more challenges than others. In the fall, the CTA is expected to temporarily close the Damen and California Blue Line stops for renovations in a $33 million project.
The CTA is slated to improve stationhouse lighting, flooring, signage, and platform guardrails and decking at both stops, but will not add elevators to either station.
"Neither Damen or California has adequate existing space or the ability to expand outward" to accommodate an elevator, said CTA spokesman Brian Steele, who didn't rule out adding an elevator to those stations in the future. Such a plan probably would require the CTA to acquire nearby property.
The Damen and California renovations are part of a four-year, $492 million Blue Line overhaul. In that project, only the Addison stop in Irving Park will become accessible. From the Grand stop north, seven of 16 Blue Line stations are accessible.
"The Blue Line is a huge, important corridor," said Gary Arnold, public relations coordinator for Access Living, which advocates for more services for Chicagoans with disabilities. "Something we want to see is more access definitely there in that Blue Line project."
On the Red Line, the CTA also has proposed making the Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr stations accessible, but there is no funding for that $1.1 billion project. There are no current plans for the Sheridan stop or the northern Purple Line branch, where six of nine stations are not accessible for riders with disabilities.
Other improvements the CTA has on tap include adding door chimes to alert riders when trains arrive at the stations. Currently, door chimes only play when train doors are closing.
The change came after advocates said some riders with vision problems didn't realize trains had arrived until they heard the chimes that the doors were closing.
"I do think customers are going to notice [the chimes] right away," Steele said.
A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note
This week: Loyola Red Line
It's been nearly a year since the CTA completed renovations to this Rogers Park station, which remained open as crews put in new lights, windows and floors in the stationhouse, among other improvements. Riders seemed to respond well to the $17 million changes, which also included additional bike racks.
Since September, the stop has logged double-digit weekday ridership growth. Ridership was down 13 percent in 2013 from January through August while the station was under construction. The station did see a rider bump in 2012 as the CTA temporarily closed other North Side Red Line stations for six-week improvements.
Next up: 69th Red Line station
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