NU, Chicago Transit Authority announce free bus service to replace Ryan Field shuttle


Daily file photo by Lan Nguyen

The University announced it will be discontinuing operations of the Campus Loop shuttle due to low ridership. Though it has not made any changes to the Evanston Loop shuttle yet, it continues to monitor ridership.

Julia Jacobs, Summer Editor

Northwestern students and employees will be able to ride the Chicago Transit Authority 201 bus route for free starting in September as a result of a five-year partnership between the University and the CTA.

The CTA route along Central Street and Ridge Avenue will replace NU’s Ryan Field shuttle, providing riders with more frequent service, longer hours and further geographic reach, the CTA announced Wednesday. On a monthly basis, the CTA will record how many passengers board the bus with valid University-issued identification and NU will reimburse the company for each $2 fare.

The service, which connects passengers to downtown Evanston and Ryan Field, will be free to NU students and employees from the beginning of September to the end of June until 2020.

Although the free service for students and employees will cost the University more than operating the Ryan Field Shuttle, the higher expense is worth the increased service, said Brian Peters, assistant vice president for university services. Unlike the existing shuttle, the CTA service is active on Saturdays and provides transportation to Howard Street ‘L’ station and the Westfield Old Orchard shopping center, Peters said.

“We think it’s a real win-win for all faculty, staff and students,” Peters told The Daily. “I’m really happy that the two institutions could come together and agree on the terms.”

Another goal of eliminating the Ryan Field shuttle — which ran 24 times each day — is to reduce the traffic along its path, Peters added. All other NU shuttle routes will remain running through the school year.

“This benefits not only the school, but also the surrounding communities by making it easier to connect to local communities and neighborhoods and reducing local traffic congestion and harmful emissions as a result of fewer buses traveling many of the same roadways,” said CTA president Dorval Carter Jr. in a news release.

CTA foresees 600 additional passengers along the 201 bus route on weekdays as a result of the agreement with NU.

Although this is the NU’s first partnership with the CTA, the University worked with Pace bus service about a decade ago to provide transportation to students and employees before and after work day hours, Peters said. He said the University and the CTA are likely to revisit discussions regarding additional opportunities to work together.

“We’ve been in contact with CTA for several years discussing possibilities on both campuses and this is the one that finally came to be,” Peters said. “I’m hoping that this is just the first one and there will hopefully be more in the future.”

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