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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Rebuild of Howard station possible as CTA Purple Line plans to modernize

A+northbound+Purple+Line+train+approaches+Main+Street+station+in+Evanston.+CTA+officials+say+they+have+plans+to+address+riders%E2%80%99+complaints+about+reliability+and+service.
Shun Graves/The Daily Northwestern
A northbound Purple Line train approaches Main Street station in Evanston. CTA officials say they have plans to address riders’ complaints about reliability and service.

Riding the Chicago Transit Authority’s Purple Line poses a challenging dilemma for Jay Baglia: pick up a roasting-hot coffee or try to make a train that doesn’t show up on time?

“I can’t risk the cup of coffee because I’ll miss the train,” the DePaul University professor said while waiting at Howard station. “But then the train doesn’t come for 15 minutes. I’ve denied the coffee shop the sale — and my own comfort.”

Riders said the not-so-rapid transit hasn’t just forced them to forgo a cup of joe. No-show trains and frantic transfers have scrambled commutes and commitments, frequent riders told The Daily. Some have even taken their frustrations to Evanston’s City Council.

Now, as the CTA turns to Purple Line renovations in its long-range Red and Purple Modernization project, big upgrades could improve the more than century-old rail line running through Evanston. Though resolving its bus and train operator shortage could address these reliability problems, CTA officials said the reconstruction of Purple Line stations would address bigger issues.

“A future phase of RPM would include rebuilding the transfer station at Howard and reorganizing train traffic, which would support seamless same-level transfers,” the CTA said in a statement to The Daily.

The Howard CTA station serves as the nexus between the Red, Purple and Yellow Lines. Outside of rush hours, the Purple Line, which runs through Evanston from Wilmette, ends at Howard. To travel any farther, riders must transfer — sometimes inconveniently, they say — to and from the Red Line.

“They’ll have the Purple Line scheduled to get here,” said Devante Hampton, a frequent rider from Chicago to Evanston. “They’ll take off, and then immediately, the Red Line gets there. It makes people who were going to transfer on that Purple Line miss the train and have to wait 15, 20 minutes for the next one.”

A current nationwide bus and rail operator shortage “is directly correlated” to the reliability of the “L,” the CTA said in its statement to The Daily. Still, the Purple Line delivered 95% of scheduled trips in December, according to the CTA’s performance dashboard.

Despite some experts’ doubts, the CTA can fulfill its goal of training 200 rail operators this year, CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr. wrote in Saturday’s Chicago Tribune, adding that the agency will keep “making progress” toward those goals.

Larger-scale issues remain: Except for Howard, Linden and downtown Evanston’s Davis Street, several Purple Line stations lack ADA accessibility — including the Central Street stop near Ryan Field. The CTA plans to mitigate those concerns with the RPM project.

“The Purple Line stations, including Central, would be rebuilt in a future phase of RPM and would be also fully accessible,” the CTA said in the statement. “At this time, CTA is conducting analysis and public outreach that will determine what the future phases will be, when they would occur and how they would be funded.”

Any reconstruction of Evanston’s Purple Line stations remains far off: An initial study on the project’s “next phases” should finish this year, according to the CTA. The RPM project has so far focused on the Red Line and rush-hour Purple Line Express tracks on Chicago’s North Side.

A Yellow Line train’s crash into a snowplow in November as it approached Howard reignited questions about the safety and reliability of the aging system. Then, the several-week-long suspension of service drew critiques about the treatment of suburban riders.

This year, even more delays could be in store for Evanston riders. Track work in Evanston could affect service after 9 p.m. on weekdays through April, according to a newly released CTA bulletin. And the agency’s performance dashboard shows “slow zones,” parts the track where trains must run at slower speeds and have grown over the past year on the Purple Line.

Recently, it seems more trains have stuck to their schedules, but wait times remain long, Hampton said. And at times, the inefficient, “stupid” transfers at Howard don’t line up on the same platform, and the train leaves as he tries to make it, he added.

“Sometimes the people on the platforms are communicative,” Hampton said. “But sometimes, otherwise, they’re indifferent.”

Email: [email protected]

X: @realShunGraves

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