photo: michael tercha / chicago tribune

The partial closure of the Chicago Transit Authority Brown and Purple el lines (planned through March 11) was in full effect Monday morning.  Besides the expected sardine-like cramming onto Red Line trains, commuters reported delays in southbound service starting at Fullerton and throughout the State Street Subway tunnel to Roosevelt. The CTA couldn’t immediately produce the average delay time, but they could explain it: During rush hour only, two out of every three Brown line trains is being rerouted through the tunnel, which caused the delays, says CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski. “People need to adjust their schedules and allow for extra time. Commute times are going to be longer.”

This morning was bad. But, wait—it could get worse. A storm’s a comin’. And, in Chicago, that means an uptick in the number of commuters.

According to the National Weather Service, a winter storm advisory will be in full effect during the Tuesday morning commute (at 11 a.m Monday, the advisory was to start Tuesday at 3 am and go through 12 pm, with up to 8 inches of snowfall anticipated.) 

Here’s the eeeeek: The CTA says it has no plans to do anything differently in the wake of the anticipated storm. But, it will analyze the today’s morning commuter traffic to see if it needs to add more rail or bus service, says Hosinski, who described this particular rerouting plan as “complex.” “The first day is critical,” she explained. “After that, we monitor and adjust.” (Note that the Brown Line rerouting through the subway only occurs during rush hour times, which the CTA has extended. 

In the meantime, here are a few tips for riders in advance of Tuesday:

  • Leave early (though, on Monday morning, the Red Line was already overcrowded at 7:30 a.m., my officemates report). Or, conversely, leave late. It’s often smoother sailing by 10am. Same thing goes for afternoon rush hour: The best exit times are usually before 4 and after 6.
  • Stay on the Brown Line instead of sardine-ing on to the Reds. “My Brown Line train had open seats at Belmont and still lots of aisle space at Fullerton,” says senior editor Geoffrey Johnson. “Two of every three southbound Brown Line trains will go into the subway this week, so essentially, those subway Browns are Reds.”
  • Take the bus. Use the CTA’s trip planner to map your route. (Tip to occasional bus users who live along the Brown Line: Do not try to take the Lincoln 11, or you’ll be waiting in vain; the CTA halted service in December.)
  • Find a little inspiration with these guys and ride your bike. The Chicago biking group Active Transportation Alliance updates trail conditions via Twitter: @activetransLFT.

The sad thing is that this advice comes too late for a few riders who braved the trains this morning. Here's what they had to say about the CTA's performance on day one of the service disruptions:

A dire prediction:

Possibly an overreaction?

And a storm on the horizon! CTA, can' you even make the weather run on time?


This might be interpreted as sarcasm:

Let's not get carried away, now.

Excuses, excuses.

And this was just so polite. Thanks, Marisa!

She and the rest of the commuting public will need that optimism, because this won't the last of the irritation: The Brown and Purple line construction will be in two phases. The second phase is scheduled to resume 10 p.m. Friday April 26 and lasts until Monday morning rush hour on May 6.