By Tracy Swartz, @tracyswartz
2:19 PM CDT, April 10, 2013
Perhaps it's time to take the "express" out of "Purple Line Express."
The Purple Line, which runs express between the Howard and Belmont stops during rush hour, has nearly double the amount of slow zones compared to the same time last year, according to a slow zone snapshot taken Tuesday.
About 35,000 feet, or 36 percent, of the Purple Line is under slow zone, during which trains travel 35 miles per hour or slower. Nearly 19 percent of the Purple Line, about 19,000 feet, was under slow zone in April 2012.
Systemwide, about 15 percent of CTA tracks are under slow zone this month.
The CTA said they are working on a Purple Line slow zone plan for this year but declined to give details.
"There will definitely be slow zone work performed on the Purple Line this year, though we’re still finalizing our plans," CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said.
Slow zones are not new to the Purple Line. Five years ago, trains moved slowly on nearly 30 percent of the line.
Rush hour Purple Line riders will see some relief when work begins this year on a project to repair track between the Merchandise Mart and Armitage Brown Line stations that double as Purple Line stations during rush hour.
As slow zones continue to grow on the Purple Line, ridership has stayed flat or declined. Purple Line ridership this year through February is down 5.6 percent compared to the same period last year. Systemwide, rail ridership is down 0.6 percent.
In 2008, the Purple Line saw 3.21 million rail entries. In 2012, the line saw 3.26 million entries.
Meanwhile, Metra's Union Pacific North Line, which runs parallel to the Purple Line and has stops in Evanston, has seen declining ridership since 2008, according to January ridership data posted on the website for the Regional Transportation Authority, the funding arm for CTA, Metra and Pace.
Metra doesn't post figures for individual stations.
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