The Chicago Transit Authority Board officially approved staff recommendations last Wednesday for a series of changes to its bus and train routes that would have notable effects on the Forest Park branch of the Blue Line.
The changes are based on the CTA’s West Side Corridor Study, which was first initiated in 2003.
According to the CTA, the changes will increase the frequency of service on the Forest Park branch, particularly during off-peak hours and weekends. The changes will also increase the frequency of bus service along the route.
The Cermak branch of the Blue Line, which currently merges with the Forest Park branch at Racine, will be rerouted to travel to and from the Chicago Loop by way of the Paulina Connector, a currently unused section of track that will allow the line to link with the Green Line at Ashland before heading downtown.
“The service enhancements will provide additional transit options that are designed to meet the needs of the growth in population and jobs throughout the West Side and west suburbs,” said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown in a press release.
The changes received mixed feedback at a series of town hall meetings hosted by the CTA earlier this year, one of which took place at the Forest Park Community Center.
Some expressed concerns that while weekend service would be enhanced, the changes would slow service during regular weekday commutes, especially for those who use the currently existing Cermak branch rush hour routes, which would run only once every half hour.
The changes will also include the creation of five new bus routes, including three express routes and two local routes, as well as extensions and schedule improvements for numerous other routes.
Among these changes, the #90 Harlem bus route will be extended south and link the Harlem Blue Line station to the Harlem/Lake Green Line Station in Oak Park. Also, the #21 and #25 Cermak routes will be merged, eliminating the need to transfer while traveling to the North Riverside Park Mall on weekdays, according to the CTA.
The #91 route to Austin will be modified to provide travel to Jefferson Park at all times.
A new express bus route, #X20, is intended to improve travel speed along the Madison Corridor from the far west side to downtown Chicago. It will run along the same route as the current #20 bus, from Austin Boulevard to Central Park Avenue on Madison Street and from Central Park Avenue to Michigan Avenue on Washington Boulevard.
The bus changes will go into effect in June while the rail changes will be implemented in July. Both will be tested for a 180-day trial period before possibly being made permanent.