Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Students, residents share concerns on proposed CTA changes

Video by Michael Walton and Matt Epstein/ The Daily Northwestern

The Chicago Transit Authority gauged the thoughts of residents – including Northwestern students – on plans that could close multiple Evanston El stops and severely limit express service in a public scoping meeting Thursday night in Evanston.

The plans, part of the CTA’s North Red and Purple Modernization Project, include proposals to close the Foster and South Blvd. El stops in Evanston and eliminate significant portions of the Purple Line’s express services to and from Chicago, changes that could significantly impact NU students traveling to and from downtown.

The CTA began formulating five final proposals in early 2009, said Michael Connelly, CTA manager of program development. The program’s aim is to reduce future maintenance costs and travel times and increase train capacity.

“There’s a need to rebuild this part of the system,” Connelly said. “It’s very old. It has a lot of old stations, a lot of old viaducts, a lot of old tracks and structures.”

The two rehabilitation options – which wouldn’t close any stations – will cost around $2.4 billion to $2.9 billion, according to CTA reports. Meanwhile, modernization proposals will cost approximately $4 billion to $4.2 billion. These plans include reduced express service both in and out of Chicago along with closure of the Foster and South Blvd. stations.

Oddly enough, the pair were the only Evanston El stops with increased ridership between Dec. 2009 and Dec. 2010, according to the CTA’s most recent ridership report. The stops’ riderships grew 4 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

Station closures aside, the modernization plans would outfit existing platforms for larger trains and add access points to the Noyes, Main and Davis El stops.

Thursday’s meeting not only revealed the possible plans to Evanston residents, but also cleared preliminary hurdles for the CTA to gain funding for the projects with State of Good Repair funding from the federal government.

“We want to be positioned to aggressively go after the new money that becomes available,” Connelly said. “When the money is ready, we want to be ready to go.”

Regardless of which plan is chosen, changes will greatly affect both Evanston residents and NU students’ transportation options. While Associated Student Government hasn’t taken an official stance on the project, the organization encouraged student involvement in the meeting to voice concerns, said Ethan Merel, ASG vice president of external relations.

“Overall, it’s an issue of convenience,” Merel said. “But it’s also a safety concern. Students returning from Chicago late in the evening will have to walk farther distances to their residences in Evanston from either the Davis or Noyes stops.”

Weinberg freshman Philip Keeve came to the meeting after seeing ASG’s Facebook group regarding student involvement. NU students’ use of the Foster station is great enough to warrant its stay, he said.

“Campus is long enough that it merits having that intermediate stop,” Keeve said. “If (the CTA) closed it, that would upset me.… You’d also have a lot of very angry Kellogg students.”

Any student opposition to the CTA’s station closures will be aided by an unlikely source, given the week’s events. Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl appeared at the scoping meeting Thursday and expressed shared support for keeping both the Foster and South Blvd. stops.

“The students of Northwestern, I’ve already told the (CTA), need Foster,” Tisdahl said. “Neither stop is expendable.”

Station closures and the elimination of express service might damage the Evanston local economy, especially since many professionals commute to Evanston on the El, Tisdahl said. And despite the CTA’s plans, she’s still confident the business community won’t feel any adverse effects.

“We have transit-oriented development in Evanston, and it won’t be very good without transit,” she said. “My plan is to have the community speak.… We’re going to keep all the stops.”

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Students, residents share concerns on proposed CTA changes