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Red, Purple Line Upgrades May Mean Cutting Stops

Updated 01/25/11 - 5:01 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Five CTA 'L' stops between the Uptown neighborhood and Evanston may be eliminated under a new plan to modernize the Red and Purple lines, and replaced with additional entrances at existing stations.

The CTA is exploring several plans to update the lines between Lakeview and Wilmette, and three of the six plans under discussion involve "consolidating" stops and building new entrances.

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Two of the plans call for downgrading Purple Line express and Red Line local service by maintaining three or four tracks. These plans also call for eliminating the Lawrence, Thorndale and Jarvis stops on the Red Line, and the South Boulevard and Foster stops on the Purple Line.

In their place, new entrances would be added to other existing stations – including an Ainslie Street entrance at the Argyle stop, a Hollywood Avenue entrance at the Bryn Mawr stop, an entrance to the Howard terminal at Rogers Avenue, and an entrance to the Noyes Street Purple Line stop at Evanston's Gaffield Place.

The current concrete ground embankment structure would also be replaced with a new concrete elevated structure, as seen on the Orange Line.

An even more radical plan calls for getting rid of the 'L' structure altogether between the Belmont and Loyola stops, and replacing it with a subway. New subway stations would be located at Addison, Irving Park, Wilson, Foster, Bryn Mawr and Glenlake.

Under that plan, the Argyle, Lawrence, Berwyn, Thorndale and Granville stops would vanish, in some instances without a new entrance in close proximity to replace them. For example, a commuter living on Ainslie Street in the Uptown neighborhood may now walk one block north to the Argyle stop or south to the Lawrence stop. Under the subway plan, the commuter would have to walk two and a half blocks north to Winona Street or three blocks south to Wilson Avenue to catch the Red Line.

The subway plan also calls for the elimination of the Jarvis stop, as well as the South Boulevard and Foster Purple Line stops.

But three of the plans do not call for eliminating any stops at all. Two of them instead merely call for transfer stations between the Red and Purple lines at Loyola and Wilson.

A different scenario would replace the existing four tracks with three tracks, which would eliminate reverse-direction Purple Line Express trains.

CTA said in a statement that it is not taking steps to close stations, at least yet.

"It would be misleading to say that the CTA is proposing closing stations," a spokesperson said in a statement. "What the CTA is doing is gathering community input on a range of options that were developed based on community meetings held in 2009."

The statement said that no plan is being proposed at this time and that CTA merely seeks to elicit input from riders and community residents to determine the potential impacts and issues.

But CTA is arguing for one of the options that would eliminate stations and possibly express service, saying, "Under such a scenario, station improvements could be focused on fewer locations, allowing for ore effective use of limited funds."

The statement said that CTA wants to prioritize its spending "for locations with high ridership and those in need of enhanced ADA accessibility."

Loyola University student Travis Boewadt said he uses the Jarvis stop a couple times a week to get to school.

"They got to keep it open. It's a lot easier to me," Boewadt said. "I wouldn't like it. I'd prefer to come here where I've been coming for 20 years, almost now. Going to Morse, it's a lot tougher to park there. Going to Howard, I got to pay to park."

Fellow CTA rider Ellen Herdeck said, "so many people use it. I think that's a terrible disservice to the neighborhood."

DePaul University student Derrick Cooper said he uses the Jarvis station every day. Although he acknowledged the Howard station is still close to him, using that station is sometimes inconvenient for him, so he wants the Jarvis station to stay open.

"It just means I can get to class on time. It means I can be more productive," Cooper said.

Cooper said he understands the CTA needs to find ways to save money, "but I think that public transportation is really important. … It's important for our economy."

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said he hadn't heard about the CTA's options for renovating the Red and Purple Lines until Tuesday.

"I am absolutely opposed to any option that would include the closing of the Jarvis station," Moore said.

He said the options that include closing Jarvis are more expensive than options that would call for renovating the station instead.

"We're talking billions and billions of dollars that they don't have right now," Moore said.

The CTA was planning a public hearing on Wednesday to discuss the various options and Moore said he'll be there with local residents to oppose any plans to close the Jarvis stop.

"We'll have a call of arms to everybody to come to this meeting tomorrow night so that the CTA knows in no uncertain terms that this community wants this station improved, not shut down," Moore said.

"Every 10 to 20 years, the CTA comes up with one of these hare-brained schemes to close the Jarvis station," Moore added. "And every single time, the community rises up in anger and the CTA backs down, so we're going to do it again."

He also said that closing the Jarvis station "would be a terrible disservice" to the coffee shops, restaurants and other businesses that operate near the Jarvis station and rely on CTA commuters to stay open.

The CTA is in the process of applying for federal funding to update the lines. The tracks and stations on the north Red and Purple Line corridor date from the 1920s, and by the CTA's own admission, most of the stations are in "deteriorate condition, have very narrow platforms and are not accessible."

Most of the line runs on a concrete embankment structure rather than the steel trestles that compose most of the 'L,' and much of that structure is in poor shape.

Last year, CBS 2 reported that at the Red Line viaduct over Hollywood Avenue, pillars were decaying and forcing the CTA to put in a costly shoring system.

The Red Line is the city's busiest rail line, having seen an average weekday ridership of nearly 250,000 people a day last year. The Purple Line comes in sixth, with about 38,000 riders per day, but it saw a 1.7 increase in 2010 compared with 2009.

A public meeting on the Red and Purple Line modernization plan is set for 6 p.m. at Senn High School, 5900 N. Glenwood Ave. Meetings are also scheduled at the same time Wednesday at New Field Primary School, 1707 W. Morse Ave., and Thursday at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center, 1655 Foster St. in Evanston. A public meeting was also held on Monday night.

CBS 2 Web Producer Adam Harrington, CBS 2's Jim Williams and WBBM 780's Bob Roberts contributed to this report.

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