About $10 million in upgrades to the CTA Red Line’s Harrison station were formally unveiled Tuesday, including the debut of energy efficient station lighting and “train tracker” arrival information that’s visible from the street.
In addition, Chicago Transit Authority and suburban Pace officials revealed they hope to provide traffic signal priority to buses on nine routes. That includes the CTA’s No. 9 Ashland and No. 49 Western Avenue buses, plus 11 Pace routes, topped by the No. 270 Milwaukee Avenue that runs from the Jefferson Park Transportation Center to the Golf Mill Mall in Niles.
The CTA’s Harrison Station represents the new “model” for the system, which adds up to a “much more esthetically pleasing, cleaner, brighter” station, CTA President Forrest Claypool told reporters Wednesday.
The new model starts before riders even reach the station. Two street-level stair entrances in the 600 block of South State feature new canopies holding Train Tracker information on when the next CTA train will arrive.
Over the next eight weeks, more Train Tracker displays will be added to the mezzanines and platform, and a “blue light” phone will allow riders to hit a button lit by a blue light and talk to a station attendant in an emergency, CTA officials said.
The 70-year-old Harrison station is the first to use all-LED lighting, which is more energy efficient. Other improvements include new high-definition security cameras, updated stairs and granite flooring. The “contemporary,” random-tile pattern in the station and stairwells is meant to “reflect the community,’’ which includes students of Jones College Prep, a half-block away, one CTA spokeswoman said.
Improvements were funded with tax increment financing through Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Neighborhoods Now program.
Also Wednesday, Claypool told reporters that the Regional Transportation Authority has been “slow to parcel out” a pool of $40 million in federal funding it received in 2012 for bus traffic signal priority. The money has been “sitting there,” Claypool said. CTA has only gotten $2 million of it, officials said.
RTA spokeswoman Susan Massel was “surprised” by Claypool’s comments as she said the RTA was “instrumental” in pulling together different agencies to apply for and obtain the money.
“We heard what he said,” Massel said. “We don’t agree with him. We believe we created a great regional project.”
Massel said the RTA had to establish regional standards and technical specifications before doling out the money. Since then, she said, it’s given money to both the CTA and Pace, and the CTA is poised to get a second award.
“Nothing was done here to slow it up,” Massell said. In fact, CTA, Pace and RTA have been meeting monthly to talk about such projects, she said.
The CTA hopes to give buses priority at traffic signals on Ashland, affecting the No. 9 Ashland bus from 95th to Cermak, and on Western, affecting the No. 49 Western bus from Howard to 79th, CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said. If a proposed “bus rapid transit” line is approved for Ashland Avenue, the feature would extend even farther, on dedicated bus lanes proposed from Irving Park to 95th St.
The only CTA bus route currently allowed traffic signal priority is the No. J14 Jeffrey Jump, which runs from the Loop south to Lake Shore Drive and then along Jeffrey Blvd. to past 99th Street, CTA officials said.
The feature can extend a green light when an approaching CTA bus is running at least two minutes late, CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said. Eventually, the CTA would like to add the feature to other routes.
Pace used $1.1 million of the special funding to experiment with traffic signal priority on Routes 350, 352 and 364 in Harvey, said Pace spokesman Patrick Wilmot. Rush-hour travel times were reduced by up to 15 percent after 55 buses and 20 intersections were outfitted with the necessary equipment, he said.
The next Pace target for the idea is the Milwaukee Avenue Corridor bus, which could see it as early as 2016, Wilmot said.
Other Pace routes proposed for traffic signal priority are:
— Cicero Avenue Route 383, from 115th St. in Alsip to 159th St. in Oak Forest;
— 159th Street Route 364, from 94th Avene in Orland Hills to Burnham Avenue in Calumet City;
— 95th St. Routes 381 and 385, from Oak Park Avenue in Oak Forest to LaGrange Road in Hickory Hills.
— 147th St/Sibley Boulevard Route 350, from Vincennes Road in Harvey to the Illinois-Indiana state line.
— Roosevelt Road Routes 301 and 308, from Harlem Avenue in Forest Park to Summit Avenue in Oakbrook Terrace.
— Grand Avenue Route 565, from Sheridan Road in Waukegan to Lewis Street in Waukegan.
During Wednesday’s monthly CTA meeting, staff also revealed that the CTA wants to place a traditional $450,000 traffic signal at Foster and Albany but the Chicago Department of Transportation “has no funding available for it.’’
As a result, CTA board members agreed to pay CDOT up to $2 million through September of 2017 for “infrastructure improvements,” including the Foster-Albany signal, that would improve CTA efficiency and “rider satisfaction.’’
Currently, rush-hour buses coming out of a nearby Foster Avenue bus barn are delayed at the Foster-Albany intersection, which “decreases service and increases costs,” Claypool said. That includes the No. 147 and No. 146 Lake Shore Drive express buses, officials said.