Navigating Oprah Winfrey’s Michigan Avenue Closure on CTA

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This content originally appeared on my former Chicagosphere online-media blog, hosted on the Chicago Tribune‘s ChicagoNow network.

Whether you’re an Oprah Winfrey fan or not, if you’re traveling through downtown Chicago and the Near North Side over Labor Day weekend and the first workday to follow, chances are you’ll be significantly impacted by Winfrey’s two-and-a-half-day closure of North Michigan Avenue–Chicago’s most important transit bus corridor–to tape the season premiere of her talk show. If you’re a CTA rider–and heaven knows you should be this weekend–here’s what you should know about the detours.

It’s too late to debate whether Winfrey’s show gave sufficient notice of the lengthy, massive road closure (according to the Sun-Times, the city’s Office of Special Events says yes, while many leaders including Transportation Committee Tom Allen and 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly say, “Huh?”), or Mayor Daley’s laughably out-of-touch comments that Chicagoans will simply “understand” and that we should “do this every day in the city of Chicago.”

While we’re at it, let’s also ignore the irony that IBM just ranked the Windy City as #4 on the National Commuter Pain Index. Cause it’s about to get worse. From 10:00PM Sunday, September 6th, through 6:00AM Wednesday, September 9th, three blocks of North Michigan Avenue will be closed from Wacker Drive (including the Michigan Avenue Bridge) through Ohio Street (see PDF map of the closure.)

CTA riders will be hard hit by the closures because of three things:

  • Almost every major North Side CTA bus route travels Mag Mile including most Lake Shore Drive express routes;
  • These routes will be detoured onto alternate streets where the extra traffic congestion will further impact other North Side CTA bus routes; and
  • The closure includes the Tuesday after Labor Day–a normal business day.

Sound like fun? Heck, these closures even–almost–got the CTA Tattler complaining about them.

Here’s how it’s going to work (see this this sadly hard-to-find CTA press release for full details):

  • Being diverted are the #2, #3, #4, #10, #26, #143, #144, #145, #146, #148, #151, #157, and the #66 owl (overnight) routes;
  • NORTHBOUND these buses will generally divert west on Wacker to Dearborn, north on Dearborn to Ohio, and east on Ohio back to Michigan Avenue;
  • SOUTHBOUND these buses will divert west on Ontario to Clark, south on Clark to Wacker, and east on either Wacker or Washington back to their regular routes.
  • EASTBOUND only, the overnight #66 will operate via Fairbanks, Columbus, and South Water.

Remember:

  • If you’re traveling northbound, find your bus on Dearborn.
  • If you’re traveling southbound, find your bus on Clark.

Or if the Michigan Avenue sidewalks are passable–which might not be an easy trick on Tuesday–you can catch all daytime buses by making your way to any any bus stop north of Ohio (for northbound buses) or Ontario (for southbound buses.)

Also, be prepared for major North Side routes #22 (Clark) and #36 (Broadway) to be impacted, too. Northbound, the both operate on Dearborn in the diversion area, and southbound the #22 runs on Clark in the diversion area. Meaning, if you’re riding any North Side bus, at all, over Labor Day and Tuesday, be prepared for major delays.

The CTA suggests customers use alternate (Red and Brown Line) ‘L’ service. That, of course, won’t help folks living in lakefront areas that are a bit of a hike from the train (like the eastern halves of Lincoln Park and Lakeview), but it for other folks, it’s probably good advice.

Those of you wanting to drive downtown to Oprah’s shindig during the detours and congestion (and really, more power to you), here’s a handy tip. The Sterling Self-Park on the southeast corner of LaSalle and Kinzie is $8 (yes, $8) all weekend, on holidays, and weekdays after 3:00PM. North Michigan Avenue is a leisurely 10-minute stroll east from there. Lifelong non-driver that I am, you folks may end up with the easiest commute of all this weekend…

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