Don't be fooled. CTA changes take effect

Train service added on Blue Line; bus schedules, routes reduced or tweaked

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Spring is in the air, and starting Monday so are service changes affecting some CTA bus routes and the Blue Line.

There is some good and some bad, from the viewpoint of riders who will either gain or lose service.

From the perspective of CTA service planners and schedulers, it's all about the numbers, adjusting service to better match ridership and demand to seasonal travel patterns as well as improve efficiency and reduce costs.

On the Blue Line, three eight-car train runs are being added during the evening to help meet heavy ridership, officials said. The augmented service represents a total of 24 additional rail cars during the evening peak hours, each car capable of carrying 90-plus passengers under crush-load conditions, although the goal is to provide improved passenger comfort on less-crowded cars.

The beefed-up Blue Line service follows the addition in December of three more Blue Line trips in the morning and one more in the evening, as part of the transit agency's $16 million "de-crowding" program, which also eliminated or cut service on more than 12 bus routes with lower ridership, while adding service on 48 bus routes.

Starting Monday, say goodbye to the No. 33 Mag Mile Express bus. The CTA and Metra failed to negotiate a new agreement on how much more funding Metra, which has always appeared to favor its suburban customers over commuters who live in the city, would provide to subsidize the No. 33, the two transit agencies said.

As a result of the funding impasse, the No. 33 has been eliminated effective Monday. It provided morning rush service between the Clybourn and Western Metra stops in Chicago. About 670 rides daily were provided on the No. 33 last year, which was a 24 percent increase from 2011, according to CTA data.

No. 33 riders might find that alternate service on the No. 65 Grand bus route works for them. The No. 65 route is being lengthened and extra trips added during the morning rush.

Effective this week, overnight "owl" service on the No. 151 Sheridan bus route is being discontinued on weekdays and weekends due to low ridership, officials said. Only about 133 riders used the owl service on an average weekday overnight period, officials said. The No. 151 owl buses traveled between Union Station and the Berwyn Red Line station in the Edgewater neighborhood.

The service cut means there will be no No. 151 service from about 12:30 a.m. to 4 a.m. weekdays from the north end of the route at Clark Street and Devon Avenue going south to Union Station; and no service from about 1:30 a.m. until 5 a.m. weekdays from Union Station going north to Clark/Devon. The weekend service elimination starts about a half-hour earlier and extends about 30 minutes later.

CTA officials recommend overnight riders use the No. 22 Clark bus and the Red Line, which both provide 24-hour service.

The CTA has the opportunity to make service changes four times a year for bus routes and twice a year for rail. It's the result of an employee "pick" system for work assignments, based on seniority, that the CTA long ago negotiated with the Amalgamated Transit Union.

As part of the process, the CTA announced the following service changes also take effect this week:

•Adding one to three weekday peak-hour trips on the No. 49 Western, No. 82 Kimball/Homan, No. 147 Inner Drive Express and No. 156 LaSalle bus routes.

•Extending three trips on the No. 72 North bus to the full length of the route during the morning rush period, and shortening the wait time between buses during evening peak hours.

•Rerouting the No. 52 Kedzie/California bus route to serve Addison Street and Rockwell Avenue. The route will no longer operate on California Avenue north of Belmont Avenue.

•Reducing hours of service and/or frequency on the No. 48 South Damen, No. 54A North Cicero/Skokie Boulevard, No. 85A North Central and No. 88 Higgins bus routes.

•Tweaking the routes on the No. X98 Avon Express and No. 169 69th-UPS Express buses, both of which are subsidized by companies to serve their employees.

Full details on the new bus schedules are at transitchicago.com. Click on the "Updated bus timetables" link.

Contact Getting Around at jhilkevitch@tribune.com or c/o the Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611; on Twitter @jhilkevitch; and at facebook.com/jhilkevitch. Read recent columns at chicagotribune.com/gettingaround.

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