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No clear winner in ‘L’ stop study

A study of ridership potential for an Evanston stop on the CTA Yellow Line shows no clear winner among the three proposed locations for a new station.

The study, presented in preliminary form at a meeting at the Levy Center tonight, considered stations at Ridge, Asbury and Dodge Avenues — all of which once had stations when the tracks were used by the old North Shore line.

The study showed that 8,800 people have work trips that start and end along the Yellow Line, but only about a third of those people actually use the train to get to work.

Stations at Oakton Street in Skokie and Dodge Avenue in Evanston would each add about 3,000 potential work-trip riders, according to the study, while stations at Asbury and at Ridge would each serve about 4,000 potential work commuters.

Chris Kopp of Cambridge Systematics, the lead consultant on the project, said how many commuters actually would ride the train would depend on several variables, including whether riders had to transfer at Howard or could ride directly to the Loop, whether the Yellow Line was extended to Old Orchard as proposed, and the pattern of population growth in the area.

A survey of South Evanston residents conducted last month as part of the study showed almost 41 percent favored a station at Asbury, nearly 36 percent favored one at Ridge and just over 34 percent wanted one at Dodge.

Over a third of the 500 residents responding to the survey said they use mass transit regularly with most of those using CTA rail lines. But few now use the Yellow Line, given the lack of any stops in their neighborhood.

Residents who showed up at tonight’s meeting to discuss the study were split in their views. Most seemed to favor having at least one new station. They said using mass transit reduces pollution and would let them save money by using their cars less, or perhaps even getting rid of a car.

But a number of residents said they didn’t want a station near their homes, either because of concerns about increased noise from trains pulling in and out or a fear that crime would increase near a station.

Others argued that property values tend to rise for areas that gain easy mass-transit access.

Some residents said they’d favor putting a station near the shopping center at Howard Street and Hartrey Avenue. That site generates the most shopping-related trips of any destination along the Yellow Line’s Evanston route.

The area also is filled with commercial uses, so noise from a station would impact fewer residents.

But Mr. Kopp said the track rises steeply there for its flyover of McCormick Boulevard, and the CTA would rather have stations on relatively level track so train operators don’t have to keep the brakes on while loading passengers.

And Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she’d find it no more convenient to drive to a station there than to the existing station at Howard Street.

Mr. Kopp said preliminary checks of design parameters indicate it would be feasible to build stations at Ridge, Asbury or Dodge. All three locations have the straight and relatively level track that CTA wants for a station site and could accommodate up to eight-car trains.

Dodge, he said, was the only location with the potential of providing commuter parking without buying additional land. He said it would be possible to create "head in" parking along the south side of the extension of Mulford Street west of Dodge that now serves James Park.

The final report from the study is expected to be posted on the city web site next month.

The next step will be to seek funding for a more extensive engineering study of the three proposed station locations to determine whether there would be any major cost advantages in favor of one of the sites.

Ald. Rainey suggested the whole process could take another five to ten years, noting that Skokie began work on getting a station at Oakton Street several years ago and officials there now are hoping that stop will actually be completed within the next couple of years.

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