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Abe Tekippe/MEDILL

Stairs are the only option for passengers at the Purple Line Dempster Station.

Red, Purple line modernization aims to make stations more accessible

by Abe Tekippe
Jan 26, 2011

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CTA hopes to revamp parts of Red, Purple linesNorth Red and Purple Modernization ProjectCTA "El" map

Accessible stations

  • Linden (Purple)
  • Davis (Purple)
  • Howard (Red/Purple)
  • Loyola (Red)
  • Granville (Red)
  • Addison (Red)

“El” passengers who have mobility problems  — or who are simply tired of walking up all those stairs — may eventually find relief in the form of new escalators and elevators at stations along the Red and Purple lines.

The CTA’s North Red and Purple Modernization Project, though still in the planning stage, seeks to address poor accessibility at a number of stations in Evanston and northern parts of Chicago, many of which were constructed in the early 20th century.

“We want to eventually move toward making sure that all of our system is accessible for people with disabilities,” said Kevin O’Malley, the CTA’s general manager of strategic planning and policy.

Currently, only six of the 21 stations north of Belmont are accessible to people who may have difficulty getting to station platforms, CTA officials said. This could include the elderly, people with children and strollers, and those with disabilities.

“Accessible transportation is really important to people with disabilities because it promotes independence and provides them with opportunities to interact with the rest of society and increases opportunities for employment,” said Barry Taylor, the legal advocacy director for Equip for Equality, an Illinois-based non-profit organization that promotes the rights of individuals with disabilities.

Taylor said that while all CTA buses are now accessible, trains can serve as a faster mode of transportation that gets people closer to their desired destinations.

Depending on which of the project’s six proposed plans is selected, accessibility along the Red and Purple lines could become a non-issue, provided state and federal funds are available for the project.

The three most expensive proposals, all of which are estimated to cost around $4 billion, would fully address accessibility concerns, adding escalators and elevators and widening platforms, among other changes, according to the CTA. The $2.9 billion and $2.4 billion plans, though an improvement, would address only some of those concerns.

The worst-case scenario for passengers with mobility problems would be the cheapest option, according to the CTA. At $280 million, the “No Action Alternative” would maintain the status quo, making the minimum repairs necessary to keep the lines functional. Under that plan, the number of accessible stations would remain at six.

Community members who attended the first of four public planning meetings on Monday said they’ve noticed accessibility problems along the lines.

“I just got off at the Argyle stop and I want to come back with a level and measure the grade of the stairs because there’s one section that looks like a quake has come through and tipped it,” said Michelle Jones, 48. “It’s ridiculous. You walk down one set of stairs and it’s OK and you walk down another set and it feels like you have vertigo.”

Jones added that other stops, such as the Wilson station, are also in need of an overhaul.

Although the project is expected to take several years after funding is secured, O’Malley said accessibility is a priority for the CTA going forward.

“You’re impacting tens of thousands of people every day who can’t get to work if their ride is in a slow zone or if their station is inaccessible to them if they’re a person with disabilities,” he said. “Most of [the stations] are not accessible, so our goal is to make them accessible. It’s gonna take some time, but that is our goal.”