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Red Line South: A Smooth Ride

By Josh McGhee | October 21, 2013 12:59pm
 Frequent riders were overjoyed with the improvements to the Red Line.
Red Line South Reopens
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CHICAGO — After five months of construction, the southern portion of the Red Line reopened to weekday rush-hour traffic Monday to high praise from some of its most frequent riders.

And the one word riders used to describe the ride?


"Remember how it used to do all that wobbling? It wasn't doing none of that," Erica Joyner said. "It was real smooth."

Joyner, 27, rode the Red Line from 79th Street to Roosevelt Road and enjoyed the ride so much she wanted to take the train back home just minutes later.

"I'm glad it's back open, it's much quicker now. Plus it was on time and it was on point," Joyner said.

Mary Long, 48, takes the Red Line everywhere — to work, to the library and to appointments. She had grown tired of the slow-moving, crowded trains and was eagerly awaiting on the improvements. 

"The trains were so full and slow. It wasn't flowing as freely and there was a lot of uncomfortableness," Long said. "Now it's much faster and not as full. It gets you there, now. It's like being in a time warp. I missed my stop it was going so fast ... whoa."

Maurice Drane, 52, has been riding the train since he was a little kid. Now he takes the train from Englewood to work every day. He said the improvements reminded him of when the tracks first opened 40 years ago.

"Now this is what I'm talking about. This is good ... smooth sailing all the way to the next stop," Drane said. "It's much better than it was. So far, it's catching up to where it used to be."

The train he remembers from 40 years ago reached 60 mph, he said, but over time had to slow down as the tracks deteriorated.

"The shaking ... the slowness ... the stops ... before it was always stopping and going," he said. "It's a whole lot better and faster."

The reconstructed track features 60,000 new rail ties and 7.8 million pounds of new rails, as well as new cars. The improvements eliminate slow zones that plagued the southern portion of the route, CTA spokesman Steve Mayberry said.

The $425 million overhaul included about 10 miles of new tracks from the Chinatown/Cermak stop all the way south to 95th Street, with construction workers sprucing up all eight stations along the way.

Angie Starks has been riding the Red Line for 15 years, and though her commute was shorter Sunday, but is back to the same old pace today.

"Sunday it was smooth, but today they're slowing down in certain spots again," Starks said.

Though Starks said her commute from 95th street to Roosevelt Avenue was still 15 minutes, she did see other improvements.

"I could understand some of the stations were in bad shape. Now it's much brighter," Starks said.

The station upgrades include new electrical work, fresh paint and the installation of train-tracking screens. Wheelchair-accessible elevators have been installed at the stations at Garfield Boulevard, 63rd Street and 87th Street.