CTA, neighbors hope new Roosevelt 'L' entrance will end jaywalking

This way up

09/05/2012 10:00 PM

Contributing Reporter

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The Roosevelt 'L' station’s new entrance will allow people to board trains without walking through traffic.

It’s a scene that repeats itself time and time again. A bus pulls up to the southern side of Roosevelt Road, right under the Green and Orange Line ‘L’ tracks. The passengers get off. The traffic keeps going in both directions, but the bus passengers wade into it without a second thought.

The reason for that is simple — the only ‘L’ station entrance is right across the street. So they walk, often without even looking, as cars slam on their brakes and buses slowly pull away.

A new CTA project promises to change that. Since the beginning of June, the agency has been working to convert a Roosevelt station exit on the south side on the street into a full-fledged, two-way entrance. Later, CTA will add smaller improvements to the existing northern entrance. The project promises to create better connections and improve pedestrian traffic flow, making Roosevelt Road safer for pedestrians and drivers alike.

The Roosevelt ‘L’ station is made up of two sections — the elevated Green and Orange Line station and the underground Red Line station. Originally, the underground portion has several entrances at the Roosevelt Road and State Street intersection, while the elevated portion had a single entrance on the north side of Roosevelt Road, right under the ‘L’ tracks. The Roosevelt Transfer Tunnel, which was built 2002 to connect the two sections, allowed Red Line passengers to use the elevated entrance to get from one to the other.

In addition to the entrance, the elevated station had an auxiliary exit on the south side of Roosevelt Road. To passengers wishing to transfer to eastbound buses, the exit offered a useful shortcut. But it wasn’t particularly useful to the passengers who wished to transfer to the train from those same buses, as they would still have to cross the street to reach the trains.

The new entrance is trying to change that with new high gate turnstiles. Unlike the turnstiles on the north side entrance, these devices use turnstiles similar to one-way exit gates. Swiping a CTA fare card unlocks the gate, allowing a passenger to pass through.

The high gate design physically prevents turnstile jumping, which allows the CTA to operate the southern entrance without a customer service agent. Since the early 2000s, this has been the agency’s preferred set-up for secondary entrances. The Harrison Red Line ‘L’ station’s Polk Street entrance is one of the more recent examples.

However, the setup isn’t without downside. Unlike conventional turnstiles, high-gate turnstiles aren’t wide enough to accommodate passengers with strollers and large pieces of luggage. The second part is particularly important considering how many passengers use the Orange Line to reach the Midway Airport.

The southern entrance also has no provisions for people in wheelchairs. And because the entrance would be unmanned, the station has no pass vending machines. If the passengers don’t have fare cards, or if their fare cards need to be refilled, they would still need to cross the street and use the north entrance.

In addition to the installation of high gate turnstiles, the CTA plans to improve the entrance includes adding new lighting, landscaping and signage. And according to the CTA website, the new entrance would double as a shelter for passengers waiting for eastbound buses.

The project also calls for renovations to the north side entrance. Those modifications include a new door, new, more visible station signage. The Roosevelt project is currently scheduled to be completed sometime before the end of 2012.

Even though the construction has been ongoing since mid-June, most of the area residents seem unaware of what the project actually entails. The survey of the bus riders waiting on both sides revealed that most of them thought that CTA was only making minor renovations.

But in the South Loop at large, community groups have been following the project with interest. Gail Rutkowski, President of the Greater South Loop Association, said the new auxiliary exit would be a welcome change.

“I believe the project will help to alleviate the rampant, dangerous jaywalking from south to north where people cross Roosevelt to get to the “real” entrance to the train,” she said. “It would help for the city to add a pedestrian barrier as further protection.”

That added protection could go a long way toward curbing jaywalking. Chicago Journal observed the intersection during the Labor Day weekend, and it became clear that adding the new entrance alone wouldn’t necessarily eliminate it. While most jaywalkers crossed the street to reach the station entrance, about a fourth of them crossed the other way.

There is also the matter of Red Line passengers. Theoretically, they can use the south entrance to get up to the platform, then take two flights of stairs down to the Red Line level, but most would likely find it easier to use the north entrance.

But whatever impact the auxiliary entrance project will ultimately have, one thing is certain — it will be an improvement over the current situation.

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By Brianbobcat
Posted: 09/10/2012 0:58 AM

I sent the RedEye an email a couple years ago asking why more newly renovated Brown Line stations didn't utilize the HBGs more. The response was cost. I'm happy to see this getting an entrance finally as that exit only seemed to be barely used. A pedestrian fence in the media would be nice. Speaking of fences, can the temporary bike fences that seemingly are always setup along Roosevelt east of Wabash be made either permanent and thus nicer or gone all together? I'm sick of them always a mess.

By Michael Doyle from Edgewater
Posted: 09/07/2012 4:25 PM

@MarioMims The stop is already fully ADA accessible. There is elevator access from the main entrance up to the Green/Orange platform and down to the Red Line mezzanine. On the Red Line mezzanine, there is elevator access down to the platform and back up to the street.

By Michael Doyle from Edgewater
Posted: 09/07/2012 4:23 PM

Brakes, not breaks.

By Mario Mims from South Lawndale
Posted: 09/07/2012 9:05 AM

If the new entrance will only provide access via a RotoGate that can only be activated by a CTA Farecard and only single-person entry what good will that do as there is a tendancy of a lot of rapid transit boarding at that stop. The stop need to be completely re-configured and made ADA accessible.

By Another SL Parent from South Loop
Posted: 09/06/2012 1:35 PM

Great idea whose time is past due. I