ENGLEWOOD — Almost every weekend, Janice Robinson travels from her home in Austin on the West Side to the South Side to hang out with friends.
But now that the Chicago Transit Authority has shut down the Green Line stations at 63rd and Ashland and 63rd and Halsted for the next three weekends to upgrade the tracks, Robinson said she won't be seeing her friends anytime soon.
"It's bad enough we pay all this money in taxes and fares for lousy service, but now they want us to be without train service for a month. That's crazy," said Robinson. "They just love sticking it to us black folks."
The upgrades, which started March 22, are scheduled to be completed April 15. Until then, the two stations are closed from 10 p.m. Friday until 4 a.m. the following Monday, according to CTA officials. Free shuttle buses are available for riders at the two stations to take to other train stations.
"The shuttle buses stop at 63rd and Ashland, 63rd and Halsted. the Garfield Red Line [station], and the Garfield Green Line station," said Steve Mayberry, a spokesman for the CTA. "Shuttle buses will depart every 10 to 15 minutes depending upon time of day."
The train is faster but taking the bus is safer, said Avery Carpenter, 15, a freshman at William Harper High School. Carpenter said bus drivers are more aware of what is going on behind them — it's easier to get robbed on the train.
"If I had to take the bus to school I would be late every day," said Carpenter, who lives in Washington Heights. "It would have been better if the CTA would have closed the stations overnight but reopen them in the morning. That way people could still use it to get to work."
However, Mayberry said restricting upgrades to overnight work only was not feasible.
"There is a tremendous amount of equipment and material being used for this project with much of it coming back down at the end of the weekend," added Mayberry. "A night work window for all of this would not provide enough time to mobilize and perform the work that needs to be done. Any other scenario other than the one CTA has chosen would be lengthier, more expensive and, most important, would not be complete in time for the beginning of the Red Line South reconstruction project."
Upgrades are being made to the Green Line tracks in preparation for the $425 million Red Line south reconstruction project, which will shut down the Red Line from Cermak Road to 95th and State streets beginning May 19 and lasting until Oct. 19.
And when that happens, Mon'tay Jackson, 14, a freshman at Harper, said all hell will break loose.
"It's already crowded on the Green Line with the West Side now you're gonna throw in South Side riders too?" Jackson said. "What were they thinking?"