CTA #174 route must survive six-month trial

By Kim Drelich

The new #174 shuttle to the CTA’s Garfield Red and Green Line stations has the funds to continue running through the academic year, but the CTA bus route must first pass a 180-day trial period before it becomes permanent.

The University and University of Chicago Hospitals (UCH) have allocated 14 percent of the transportation budget for the bus route.

“The #174 route will continue in service if it successfully meets the needs of the University of Chicago, U of C Hospitals, and the Hyde Park community,” said Ibis Antongiorgi, spokesperson for the CTA. “This will be determined by several factors that include ridership, feedback from customers, and the University and CTA analysis.”

The University will begin a comprehensive survey in January 2007 to collect data on the #174 bus, which started the 180-day trial period required of new CTA routes on August 27. According to Brian Shaw, director of Campus Transportation and Parking Services, the data in the University’s analysis will include the CTA’s ridership numbers. The results of this survey will determine the route’s future.

“CTA planning staff, the University’s Transportation & Parking Operations Committee and Policy Committee, the Transportation Student Advisory Board, and UCH transportation staff will all have input based on ridership surveys and feedback from riders,” Shaw said.

After it examines its fiscal budgets in the spring, the University will decide whether to fund #174 service next year, said Shaw.

Shaw went on to say the University will actively assess the need for improvements in the shuttle service as well. Possible areas of consideration include the addition of more stops along East 57th Street, changing the frequency of the bus, and adding midday service. The bus currently operates during weekday rush hours and Friday and Saturday nights.

Shaw said he expects the shuttle will remain in service past the 180-day trial period. He added the bus route has drawn a positive response from faculty, students, and staff, including people who use the new shuttle to commute to and from campus.

“The #174 serves a need for consistent, reliable, and convenient service to the El,” Shaw said. “It also gives peace of mind to late-night El riders on Friday and Saturday nights.”

Feedback from a spring Town Hall meeting, along with meetings with student groups such as the Transportation Student Advisory Board, Inter-House Council, and Student Government, indicated a need for the #174 bus, and the UCH also wanted the shuttle to help lower its parking demand, Shaw said.

“The Red Line was desired by students we met with last spring, and UCH wanted service to both Green and Red Lines to help their employees’ commute,” said Shaw.

Shaw said some El riders found the #55 bus was providing inconsistent service. He also said the new shuttle provides service to areas where the #55 bus does not go to, particularly south of East 57th Street and the medical center.

“The #174 provides much faster and direct service to the 57th Street corridor,” Shaw said.

The #174 bus, which currently makes up 14 percent of the University’s transportation budget, is operated by the CTA and collects regular CTA fare.

“CTA has the lowest operating costs,” said Shaw about the decision to have the CTA operate the bus. “We could collect fares and have the route be open to anyone to ride and serve the community.”

Undergraduates expressed mixed views about the new bus route; some students are enthusiastic about reduced waiting times, while others find the new route and operating times unfamiliar.

Roxanne Corkin, a third-year in the College who has used the #174 bus twice, ended up taking the shuttle while waiting for a #55 bus to arrive.

“I liked that the bus came faster,” she said. “Waiting at bus stops is not the most pleasant thing.”

Monica Bowen, a third-year in the College and a Shoreland resident, said she has not yet used the #174 bus because she uses other transportation options closer to the Shoreland. She said she did not know the #174 bus route and time schedule, but that she would take the #174 if it came before the #55 when leaving from campus.

“It’s still relatively new and they haven’t got the schedules out to people yet,” Bowen said about the shuttle. “I’m much more familiar with the #55 Express,” she added.