February 5, 2010

CTA cuts #55 and #6 service, threatening downtown travel

Several CTA bus routes connecting Hyde Park and downtown will be cut or reduced in service Sunday as part of major budget reductions across the transit system.

Two express bus routes running through Hyde Park will be cut: the X55 Garfield Express that runs along 55th Street to the Red and Green Lines and Midway Airport, and the X4 Cottage Grove Express that runs to Michigan Avenue. The 55 Garfield and 6 Jackson Park Express routes will operate less frequently, and the 6 will begin running later in the morning and make its final runs at 12:30 a.m. All major CTA rail lines will also operate less frequently.

“It’s going to be increasingly hard to get out of Hyde Park,” Student Government president and fourth-year Jarrod Wolf said. “People who don’t live in the eastern part of town near the 6 will suffer.”

Students said that while they still want to make the trip north, seemingly minor service changes have a large impact on their ability to leave Hyde Park.

“Less service means longer waits,” first-year Valerie Michelman said. “While it may not seem like much, trust me, when you are waiting for the 55 outside the Garfield stop in bone-chilling wind, every minute counts. If that wait gets any longer, I may think twice before going downtown.”

The impending changes are the result of a significantly decreased CTA budget, which has had trouble keeping up with workers’ salaries and maintenance costs.

“In total, the CTA’s 2010 operating budget is nearly $1 million lower than the projected 2009 operating budget,” a December CTA press release said. The CTA has laid off over 1,000 employees to help balance the budget.

Though the current decisions to cut back on routes have helped avoid fare increases, the downsizing may have safety consequences. “How will students come back to the University in the late hours of the evening, especially considering high crime in the area?” Wolf said.

CTA officials said the cuts should increase wait times two to five minutes during rush hour on affected routes.