CHICAGO — It takes Patricia Roberts 20 minutes to get to work Downtown from the Green Line station at Garfield Boulevard, but starting May 20 that could all change.
"The morning rush hour is my main concern. I cannot afford to be late to work," said Roberts, 59, an office worker from Englewood. "I hope the CTA adds more trains since they are adding more people than usual to the Green Line."
Beginning May 19, the CTA will begin a five-month, $425 million reconstruction of the Red Line from Cermak Road to 95th Street. The project is expected to be completed by Oct. 19, CTA spokesman Steve Mayberry said.
During the project, many Red Line riders will have the option of picking up shuttle buses at far South Side Red Line stations. The free buses would run along State Street to the Green Line station on Garfield Boulevard, where riders will be able to board trains for free.
Mixing Red Line riders with Green Line riders is not a good idea, said Tracii Smith, 14.
"There are different gangs that ride the Red Line and the Green Line, and if they are forced to ride on the same train there could be problems," said Smith, an eighth-grader at Legacy Elementary Charter School on the West Side.
"I take the Green Line to and from school, and then I take the No. 3 King Drive bus home [in Woodlawn]. I know the CTA has to make a way for everyone during construction. I just wish there was another way people from the 'Wild Hundreds' could ride besides my train."
Far South Side communities such as Roseland and West Pullman are often referred to as "the Wild Hundreds."
"There's a different class of people that ride the Green Line that I care not to associate with," said Sonya Redding, 38, who lives in Roseland and rides the Red Line to her job as a retail store clerk In Bronzeville. "I am not sure what way I will take once the Red Line shuts down, but I know it won't be the Green Line."
Kathy Henry, 42, said mixing riders from different "L" lines on the same trains is no different than merging students from different schools into one. She said delays caused by the construction will extend beyond rail lines.
"It takes the [No. 3 King Drive] bus 30 minutes to arrive at my stop [at 63rd and King] now. I can only imagine how long it will take once Red Line riders start taking the Green Line," said Henry, a college student who lives in Woodlawn. "I hope more buses and trains are part of the plan while they fix the Red Line."
Harold Lucas, a community activist and president of the Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council in Bronzeville, also worried about the effect on South Side bus routes.
"Using shuttle buses is one option for Red Line riders, but they may also opt to take the bus, too," Lucas said. "Red Line riders could instead take the No. 3 King Drive bus from the (Red Line) terminal all the way downtown (to North Michigan Avenue). The King Drive bus goes past the Green Line at 63rd and King Drive, too, which creates a greater capacity of bus riders."
Increasing rail and buses is exactly what the transit agency plans to do, said Steve Mayberry, a spokesman for the CTA.
"CTA will increase Green Line service and expand bus service as we continue to serve our customers during the Red Line South reconstruction project," Mayberry said. "[Expect] an increase in service to the Ashland/63rd station, which will serve as the southern terminus of the Red Line, due to the frequency of Red Line Service, and 100 new buses to accommodate the need for shuttle buses and increased service during the project."
Still, Eric French, who has rode the Green Line for 30 years, said there's nothing good about the upcoming transition.
"More congestion, longer wait times for the train and bus and more crime that is bound to happen. What's so appealing about that?" said French, a 54-year-old office worker.
"I work Downtown and have to be at work at 6 in the morning. I normally leave from home [in Washington Heights] around 4, but if more people are riding the train I might have to leave at 3, and I'm definitely not feeling that."