CTA Purple Line may see improvement

Alan Yu

Northwestern students and staff may be better sheltered from the elements in Chicago Transit Authority Purple Line stations in the future.

Despite budgetary problems, the CTA is carrying out a study of the North Red and Purple Lines from Belmont station to Linden station to determine how to improve existing facilities, said CTA media relations manager Wanda Taylor. Most stations and bridges have deteriorated, and the power and signal systems are at the end of their service life, according to the CTA’s website.

The CTA’s 2011 budget calls for rehabilitation of stations every 40 years, and Foster and Noyes need upgrades as they have not been rehabilitated since 1964. The Purple Line is better than most other lines as it has only two slow zones, or areas where trains have to slow down due to track conditions.

But NU students and staff who commute regularly on the El said the Purple Line stations need to be renovated. Although the Belmont station now has better lighting, elevators and wider platforms after being renovated this fall, the rest of the North Red and Purple Lines still need improvement.

“Foster and Noyes are in pretty bad shape, ” said Kathleen Geraghty, a research associate in NU’s psychology department. “The roof is leaking, the paint is peeling and the platforms get wet when it rains or snows.”

Evanston officials are also concerned about the poor condition of the viaducts along the Purple Line, especially those at Greenleaf Street, Grove Street and Dempster Street. Ald. Jane Grover (7th) and Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) and Intergovernmental Affairs Coordinator Matt Swentkofske attended the CTA board meeting Wednesday to discuss the situation, and the CTA has allocated funds for the replacement of the three viaducts in the 2011 budget, Swentkofske said.

Although the CTA has plans to rehabilitate stations system-wide, its 2011-2015 Capital Improvement Program , which aims to improve the system by measures such as renewing tracks, replacing rail cars and upgrading stations, remains underfunded. Of the $9.4 billion needed, $6.8 billion is still unfunded.

Whether the CTA will receive capital funds depends on state and government grants, said Ian Savage, a professor of economics and transportation at NU.

“A lot of capital side for the CTA, in some ways, lives outside of its control, which is the events in Springfield and in Washington,” Savage said. “There hasn’t been a capital financial bill in Springfield for 10 years now, and while there’s been talk of a capital program, which builds roads, transit and schools, how this might be funded was never resolved in the General Assembly.”

However, the CTA is making progress on some reconstruction programs. In early 2011, the CTA plans to finish reconstruction of the Cermak-Chinatown station, where an entrance was damaged in an accident in April 2008, according to Taylor. The reconstructed station, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will include a new stationhouse, escalator, bike racks, lighting, landscaping and public art.

The Graduate Student Association sent a letter to the city of Evanston last year expressing concern about the “state of disrepair” and “poor conditions” at the Foster and Noyes stations on behalf of NU graduate students, who are given a U-Pass allowing unlimited rides and commute frequently on the El. The GSA appreciates the effort the CTA has put into rehabilitation of its facilities, but the stations along the Purple Line still need improvement, said Kate Bjorkman, president of the association.

“It would be nice if we weren’t rained on standing at Noyes, or Foster for that matter,” Bjorkman said.

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