By Tracy Swartz
So not fare.
When the CTA shuts down portions of the Blue Line this year, replacing train service with shuttle service amid track work, riders who board at the O'Hare station and pay per ride will still have to shell out the $2.75 O'Hare surcharge.
The CTA announced Monday it will close the Blue Line O'Hare branch between the Western and Logan Square stops for seven weekends and the track between the Damen and Western stops for three weekends between March and August.
The first temporary closure is slated for March 21-24. Closures will last from 10 p.m. Friday to 4 a.m. Monday. The shutdowns are part of the first phase of the $492 million, four-year Blue Line overhaul that aims to reduce slow zones and improve 13 stations.
Though shuttle service will be free and available at all shuttered stations to other Blue Line stops, riders without unlimited passes who board at O'Hare will have to pay $5 to ride the Blue Line -- even if their Blue Line trip includes a shuttle bus.
"[The CTA] will still have direct connection to and from the airport," CTA spokesman Brian Steele said. "The travel time will still be very competitive compared to other options out there."
The CTA a year ago introduced the $2.75 surcharge at O'Hare -- the only station that sees a $5 fare -- as a budget-balancing measure. Riders who don't have unlimited passes pay $5 for trips that originate from O'Hare.
Compare that fare to what was offered during the five-month Red Line shutdown last year. As the CTA replaced Red Line track on the South Side from May to October, the CTA offered free shuttle service to the Garfield Green Line, where riders could enter the CTA for free.
The agency also gave a 50-cent discount on bus rides along routes south of 63rd Street.
"The two projects are completely different in scope and duration," Steele said. "[The Red Line overhaul] was going to pose five months of inconvenience for customers. We wanted to provide them something to offset that."
The O'Hare station records about 8,200 entries on a typical Saturday and 10,000 entries on an average Sunday, according to CTA ridership data in September, the most current month posted. Entries tend to rise in the summer during tourism season, which will coincide with the Blue Line track work.
With 2.6 million entries, the O'Hare stop was the most visited station on the O'Hare Blue Line branch last year through September.