Is the New Oakton Stop Paying Off For Downtown Skokie?
About six weeks have gone by since the grand opening of the new CTA Oakton Stop near downtown Skokie. See how many people are boarding the station daily and hear what local business owners are saying.
The CTA, the Village of Skokie and local businesses are all rating the Oakton Yellow Line station an unqualified success in its first month-plus of operation.
Since opening April 30, the two-entrance station has averaged 689 daily riders, said CTA spokesperson Catherine Hosinski. No figures were available for passengers debarking.
However, anecdotal evidence suggests riders are patronizing downtown Skokie businesses, a key goal of village planners. Skokie spokesman Ann Tennes specifically cited the reopened Skokie Theater - now Gorilla Tango Theatre - and the new Aw Yeah Comics, 4933 Oakton St., as destinations for Yellow Line patrons.
And Crafty Beaver, adjoining the station to the west, is taking advantage CTA traffic with Tuesday discounts for those presenting their transit cards.
The station is part of an overall growth in Yellow Line ridership, Hosinski said.
“While we cannot speculate as to what increases in ridership will be seen with the addition of the new Oakton Street station, in recent years there has been a steady increase in ridership year-over-year,” she said.
“Prior to groundbreaking for the station in 2010, there was a 5 percent increase in the total number of boardings along the Yellow Line compared to 2009," she added. "And in the past two years, CTA ridership has continued to grow along the Yellow Line and across the entire rail system.”
Boardings better than expected?
Steve Marciani, planning supervisor in Skokie’s community development department, said long-range ridership numbers were run for 2020 and beyond, when the nearby Illinois Science and Technology Park is supposed to be fully occupied. Short-term, the boardings may have exceeded expectations.
“I’m very happy with the number,” Marciani said. “I was telling people after the first year there would be 800 to 1,000 boardings (daily). I was really surprised it was that high (nearly 700) from opening day. That’s a good starting number. We’re seeing new riders (not formerly boarding at the Dempster terminal)."
“To be within 100 boardings of that (800) number is excellent,” said Tennes.
Skokie will have an official celebration of the new station on site from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 24.
The station opening was perfect timing for the May 5 start of business for Aw Yeah Comics. Store manager Marc Hammond and employee Charles Bowman said “dozens” of customers have specifically used the station to come to the store from Chicago’s North Side.
“Some have said they’re using the train instead of driving because of parking issues in downtown,” said Bowman. No other comic book store is known to exist on the far North Side or in Evanston. Although there is a comic shop in downtown Winettka near the Metra station.
What people are saying -
The station is especially convenient for Skokie Park District employee Eric Robinson, who was visiting Aw Yeah Comics recently.
A resident of the near-Southwest Side Pilsen neighborhood, Robinson takes three El lines to his job at the park facility adjoining Oakton Pool, across Skokie Boulevard from the station. In the past, Robinson would get off at Dempster and use his skateboard, which he toted in the store, to finish his commute to Oakton.
“It’s absolutely more convenient,” Robinson said. “I used to ‘roll’ (for five minutes) from Dempster. Taking the bus was a bit of a wait.”
Hammond, who lives near Loyola University in Rogers Park, also formerly got off at Dempster Street. The new station eliminates his 20-minute walk to Aw Yeah to stock the store before its opening.
With a sign next to one plugging the June 24 village event near the station entrance, Crafty Beaver promoted a 10-percent off program on all purchases up to $100 each Tuesday for customers showing their transit cards.
The CTA knows the long-term growth potential for the Oakton station is enormous.
“This steady increase in ridership combined with the fact that new station would be located adjacent to the Illinois Science and Technology Park ... indicated that there would be a continued growing need for access to reliable public transit,” said Hosinski.