July 24, 2009

Bus routes #173 and #174 set to be slashed

I always like getting vague e-mails from the University, because it either means a) no one knows what's going on or b) no one wants anyone else to know what's going on. The former figured into messages like the one President Zimmer sent out in October about the economy; it appears that the latter was behind a message sent on Tuesday to the Campus Transit listhost.

from: dgarfi@uchicago.edudate: Tue, Jul 21, 2009 at 5:28 PMsubject: [Campustransit] CTA routes 173 and 174A CTA public hearing will be held in regards to these routes. Information on this hearing can be obtained from the CTA website at the below web address. The information is located under the News and Initiatives column. or questions can also be forwarded to
Following that prompt takes you here, at which point it becomes clear that the hearing has a single purpose: the elimination of both routes.
Notice is hereby given that the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) shall hold a Public Hearing on the proposed elimination of bus routes #173 U of C – Lakeview Express and #174 U of C – Garfield Stations. At the request of the University of Chicago, the proposal is to eliminate these routes.
The #173 and #174 are University-subsidized CTA routes. The #173 takes passengers on a winding path from Hyde Park to the Loop to Belmont; the #174 ferries people from the Garfield Red and Green Line stops back to campus. A page offering additional information about the routes displays the findings of the bus study that the University commissioned earlier this year: Both routes have relatively low ridership (the #173 has 172 passengers per weekday; the #174 has 427) and easy substitutes (the #6 and #55 respectively), and should therefore be eliminated.The two routes do have problems. The #173 is slow - some two dozen stops will get you from the Lab School to Belmont - and runs infrequently. In two years of taking the Red Line to and from downtown, I've caught the #174 back to campus twice, even though the #55 is infamously slow and unpredictable. The fact that the routes are underutilized owes less to their design than to their deployment: If the routes ran more frequently and were more tailored to community members' needs, they would be used more.This is reflected in Student Government President Jarrod Wolf's CTA- and Transportation Office-backed efforts to rework the #173 to better serve the University of Chicago community, with service to the new South Campus dorm included. We backed this last year, encouraging the University to get rid of the #174 to help offset the costs of a more expensive #173. The reworked #173, called the X173, would cost $145,000 more than the combined #173 and #174, which it was set to replace. Though it garnered a Facebook group with some 200 members, even in January administrators expressed doubt about the X173's viability.Now it seems that the University is simply going to scrap both routes entirely, with the X173 put on hold indefinitely. Undoubtedly, this is due to budget pressure as the ever-underfunded Transportation and Parking Office works to make cuts in areas that won't mean trimming back on campus safety (e.g. SafeRide service). The #173 and #174 are hardly vital to the community thanks to their present lack of practicality - but the X173 would be a boon to the University, better connecting South Campus and facilitating access to downtown Chicago.The public hearing to discuss the eliminations will take place on July 30 at 6:00 p.m. in room E-1 in the Social Services Administration Building. Comments can be submitted to the CTA until August 4.