Ferris Bueller and the Incipient Gentrifying Gaze

My father and brother were in town this weekend, at the conclusion of my family’s annual spring break/Passover road trip. Being serious movie buffs and very loyal to Chicago, when they discovered that my partner G had not seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, they insisted that we watch it on Saturday night. I, of course, have seen said movie many times before, so I decided to watch it with a particular eye towards what it said about ’80s culture, and cities in particular. Ferris is of course primarily a story of escape from a boring teenage life, but it (and seemingly every other John Hughes movie) also has a lot to say about escaping the staid, oppressive suburban life lived by the protagonists and their parents. But Ferris was also made at a time of significant transformation for the urban-suburban relationship in the US. The ’70s and early ’80s were probably the roughest times for most of our cities, as many of the few remaining white families fled the city for ever-expanding suburbs like those featured in the films, and decades of disinvestment from cities and subsidies for suburbs took their roll. By the mid-to-late ’80s, though, American perception of cities had begun to shift a little, and I think we find Ferris on the cusp of a significant cultural paradigm shift.

That, though, is not to say that Ferris (or Ferris) has anything particularly profound to say about cities, or really about much of anything other than privileged leisure. As Jeffrey Jones, who played red-faced Dean of Students Ed Rooney, noted, “What’s amazing about Ferris Bueller is that we’re asked to, and do, sympathise with a kid whose only complaint in life is that his sister got a car for her birthday and he got a computer.” A spoiled suburban brat Ferris might in many ways be, but he’s a spoiled suburban brat whose journey of exploration takes him from the posh surroundings of the North Shore into the city of Chicago without a second thought.

Ferris’ Chicago, of course, isn’t the Chicago that the people who lived there in 1986 experienced; it’s not even narrow slice of cultural Chicago celebrated in The Blues Brothers, made six years earlier. To Ferris and his buddies, the city is above all a massive entertainment district, where one can eat lunch at a fancy restaurant, examine the world-class works at the Art Institute, sing in a parade, and go to a ballgame. But what’s remarkable from a cultural standpoint is the utter lack of menace felt in and from the city by Ferris and his friends. Even in The Blues Brothers, Ray Charles has to shoot (literally) blindly into a wall to prevent a street kid from stealing a guitar from his store.

The only danger to Ferris and his friends (other than having a hand bruised by a foul ball) is that the sketchy parking attendants might take the famous Ferrari for a joy ride, an encounter whose damage to the car (if any) is far exceeded by what Cameron himself inflicts.

Like other aspects of their privileged lives, Ferris’ and his friends’ “discovery” of the city has its problematic aspects that, in turn, signify many of the downsides to the gentrifying rediscovery of American cities by privileged young suburbanites. After a day spent touring Chicago’s most prominent tourist attractions and participating in parts of city life reserved for the few (Chez Paul) or the lucky (the Von Steuben day parade), Ferris remarks to Cameron that “We’ve seen everything good, we’ve seen the whole city.” Actually, of course, they haven’t even come close. They’ve seen the parts most attractive to them, used them to their own ends, and erased the rest of the city from their consciousness. Most striking, of course, is the near-complete absence of people of color from the movie, even in the Chicago scenes. OK, one of the sketchy car attendants is black (though in a perhaps-progressive twist of the usual stereotypes, the slimier one is white), but the only lasting memory of people of color in Ferris is this:

bueller_twist and shout

 

People of color–in 1980, 51.4% of Chicago’s inhabitants–are nothing more than a prop for Ferris’ and his friends’ playtime.

In many ways, Ferris and his friends’ day off represents the quintessential suburban gaze on the city–the idea that you can drive your fancy car in, do exciting things, and go home at the end of the day. But Ferris also contains the beginnings of the re-animation of the American city for white, upper-class audiences. Ferris‘ Chicago contains only a hint of grit, illustrated by the joy ride incident, but even that encounter is played for satirical effect more than anything else, with Hughes using it to make light of the minor paranoias of insecure suburbanites. For Ferris and his friends, the city isn’t just there to be used, it’s transformative. Though we’re initially led to think that Cameron’s re-awakening at the end of the film is induced by his near-drowning, he reveals that it was actually a direct result of his (mis)adventures in Chicago. Could it be any other way? In the answer to that question, I think, lies some of the cultural groundwork that made gentrification, with all of its warts, and the revitalization of many American cities over the last 25 years possible. These suburban kids need the city to make their lives meaningful.

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Albany’s Unique Parking Crater

Streetsblog’s 2014 Parking Madness challenge, documenting the ways in which American cities have sacrificed the vitality and financial viability of their downtowns to the gods of Suburbanites Driving In, concluded recently with Rochester, NY being named grand champion. That got me to thinking about one of the more remarkable aspects of my own Upstate city, Albany–that its biggest parking crater (the name given by urbanists to formerly vibrant urban landscapes eviscerated by the unquenchable desire for parking) isn’t downtown.

Oh, Downtown Albany has a parking crater alright, and it’s a doozy:

The roughly triangular building at the lower right hand side of the crater is the city’s armpit, its depressing Greyhound station. I-787 runs along the eastern edge of the picture, and the ill-fated and entirely unnecessary South Mall Arterial runs across the lower part of the picture.  The landscape may be bleak, but at least some of this land is slated to become part of Albany’s new convention center (a, shall we say, interesting project in its own right). And sadly, downtown parking craters are part of American life, for now at least.

One parking crater, though, isn’t enough for Albany. A couple of miles away from downtown, in an area labeled on city maps as “University Heights,” the land around a number of medical and educational institutions has been turned into a vast sea of concrete and metal whose scale can only be appreciated by zooming out:

Unlike the typical downtown parking crater, to the best of my ability to tell this one never wiped out a gridded streetscape. Owned by Albany Medical Center, Albany Law School, the state and federal governments (there’s a VA hospital and at least one state agency building), Sage College, and various other institutions, as far as I know the land simply remained unoccupied as the city developed around it until the various institutions were built in their present forms from the 1950s onwards. Via @albanymuskrat, the area once looked like this:

Embedded image permalink

 

The city’s institutional land-ownership map provides a sense of the complexity of ownership in the area:

AMC ownership

 

Though a coherent region within the city, the area is owned by a variety of nonprofit institutions with little responsibility to the city itself. Albany Medical Center, the only Tier 1 trauma center between New York City and Montreal (Albany has a lot of “The only X between New York and Montreal”), is the dominant institution, and it brings hordes of drivers from the suburbs onto city streets every day. AMC’s property holdings have also advanced into the city fabric, resulting in an old-style urban renewal plan for several square blocks of the Park South neighborhood just to the north. Yes, we’re talking “rip out dozens of old buildings and replace with new ones, including a huge garage.” I mean, ok, the proposed buildings look kinda New Urbanist, but I thought we weren’t doing that kind of shit anymore.

What makes the Park South project even more galling is the presence of so much other essentially empty land around AMC and its sister institutions. If anyone were able to unite land-use planning for all of the parcels now used as parking, AMC could avoid ripping out old buildings in Park South and share with the other institutions an enormous parking structure (if it’s even needed!) that’s nowhere near residential areas. Instead, it appears that the city has declined to force the various institutions in the area to cooperate, and instead allowed institutionally individualized, and therefore wasteful, land-use plans to go into action.

But let’s think bigger than that. Imagine if instead of being a single-use, dead-at-night parking wasteland, this area around some of Albany’s most vital and vibrant institutions could be transformed into a mixed-use real neighborhood? The opportunity exists. Let’s introduce a street grid into the area. Let’s turn some of those parking lots into apartments and condos, so that the doctors and nurses and support workers who work at AMC can roll out of bed and stroll to work and don’t clog city streets with their cars. Let’s make a real, productive, neighborhood, with taxpaying businesses and citizens, in a city that desperately needs it. Let’s integrate the institutions of University Heights into the neighborhood framework around it, as Pittsburgh has managed to do even as the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center became the region’s dominant economic force:

Albany doesn’t need any parking craters. It certainly doesn’t need two. We can do better.

Looking West, not East–Analysis of Chicago’s Transit Future

On Thursday, a coalition of Chicago nonprofits, advocacy groups, politicians, and corporate leaders unveiled the Transit Future campaign, dedicated to bringing improvements to Chicago’s public transit system through dedicated revenue streams. On Friday, I offered my thoughts on some of the specific lines proposed; today, I want to take a step back and look at the political processes that might lead to some of this actually getting done.

The primary reaction to the revealed map of proposed improvements on Chicago planning Twitter and in the comments on Streetsblog Chicago’s article about the campaign was surprise, ranging to shock, at the extent to which the ideas presented consisted of extensions of the L into relatively sprawly suburban areas, such as Schaumburg and Oak Brook. Personally, I’m skeptical of the utility and fiscal efficiency of these extensions, but I do think there is a method to the madness in some ways, and that it actually says a lot about the political strategy being implemented with the purpose of getting these projects done.

Traditionally, Chicago’s transit system has (and for good reason) been most closely compared with those of the older, core cities of the East Coast. The Transit Future campaign, though, is looking west. The presence of former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at the press conference, and the prominent mentions of Los Angeles’ Measure R sales tax campaign, which Villaraigosa helped shepherd through as mayor, make it clear that the leadership of Transit Future intend to copy not from the playbook of New York’s MTA (as the governor’s commission on Chicago transit had proposed), but from that of Los Angeles, acting at the county level. A brief recap: Measure R was a half-cent sales tax increase on Los Angeles county residents approved by referendum (which, in California, requires a 2/3 majority) on the November 2008 ballot. At the time of passage, it was expected to raise up to $40 billion for transit projects. Since then, LACMTA has expanded its transit system with alacrity, with a combination of Measure R and some federal funding.

So how, exactly, did a massive spending increase on public transit pass with a 2/3 majority in famously car-mad Los Angeles? One possibility is that Angelenos had simply tired of sitting in traffic all day and wanted options for getting around. More importantly, though, I think, is the careful coalition-building that the supporters of Measure R conducted. The Measure R coalition included politicians from several different constituencies, labor groups, business groups, and environmental groups–the same mix apparent on Transit Future’s “supporters” page. For better or for worse, determinations of where Measure R-supported lines would go weren’t determined by technical measures alone; the benefits were spread around to ensure political support, even from semi-suburban constituencies who might not be expected to vote for transit funding. It’s worth noting that, even though an LA County follow-up measure known as Measure J failed very narrowly in November 2012 because of a drop in support from suburban voters, a majority (though not enough to pass a 2/3 vote) supported transit improvements in almost every suburban area. Is every line built with Measure R funds going to show maximal return on investment? Probably not. Is the system going to get built, when it would not have without massive county-wide support? Yes.

Chicago’s task is, in many ways, easier than LA’s was. First of all, for better or for worse, Cook County’s Board of Commissioners can approve a tax hike without a referendum, needing, as far as I can tell, only a simple majority of Commissioners. The Transit Future plan appears to already have the signature of 9 of the 17 commissioners, and the presence of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and Board President Toni Preckwinkle at the press conference means they are at least willing to consider lending their considerable clout to the project. Ultimately, though, the ability of the Commissioners, especially those from suburban areas, to continue supporting the Transit Future plan will rely upon their ability to present the plan to their constituents and point to specific benefits which those constituents will be receiving. That means spreading the love around.

And that, ultimately, is I think one of the major factors underlying the structure of the Transit Future plan. Everyone wins a little. The white, liberal North Side gets a rebuilt Red/Purple Line. The poor, African-American South Side gets better service along the Metra Electric District (the “South Lakeshore Line“), and a way to get to Midway Airport and the industrial corridor with its few remaining jobs along Cicero Avenue (the “Lime Line,” or Mid-City Transitway). Commuters in the western suburbs, who confront horrible traffic on any given day, get a new commuting option with the Blue Line extension to Oak Brook (which is, oddly, in DuPage county–I don’t know how that would work). The northwest suburbs would also get a new commuting option, with the Blue Line extension from O’Hare to Schaumburg fitting in nicely in the geographic gap between Metra Milwaukee District West and UP-NW line service. The denser first-tier northern and southern suburbs would get extensive Arterial Rapid Transit (think express buses, with many of the amenities of full-blown Bus Rapid Transit, but without dedicated lanes) networks. The business community gets improved access to both airports, including a direct link between them (though I think that’s the single least likely project to get built). There’s a little something for everyone.

Is every one of these projects going to be a success on a dollars-for-riders basis? Probably not. But some of them will be, and we won’t get those projects without countywide political support, and we won’t get countywide political support without a few projects that satisfy the the parochial needs (ok, probably wants) of certain constituencies. Given the timing of then announcement–in an election year–and the fact that 9 out of 17 county commissioners have already signed on, there seems to be a decent amount of confidence in the plan’s ability to go forward. Ultimately, this is Chicago. Chicago has the benefit and curse of having a tradition of strongly centralized, almost authoritarian political maneuvering. And though that tradition has certainly been weakened in recent years, if Rahm and Toni want Transit Future to get done, it probably will.

Initial Thoughts on Chicago’s Transit Future

Following a depressing winter for system reliability  that itself followed the disastrous rollout of the new Ventra fare system, recent weeks have been exciting for transit advocates in Chicago. The governor’s task force released a report on Monday detailing the (numerous) ethical and infrastructure flaws undermining Chicagoland’s transit system, generating (to judge by my Twitter feed) some cautious hope from advocates that change might be possible, if not likely. Yesterday a coalition of elected officials, advocacy and community groups, corporations, and labor organizations calling itself Transit Future held an initial press conference, detailing what might be possible for the region’s transit system should it become possible to build up the political will to bring Chicago’s transit funding up to snuff with a dedicated revenue stream. Deserving prominent credit among the sponsoring organization is my former employer the Center for Neighborhood Technology, which has been advocating for a dedicate revenue stream for transit for years. The presence at the press conference of prominent local politicians like Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle gives the initiative a definite hint of momentum within Chicagoland’s famously fractious political system. Who knows if anything will come from the initiative; the proposal, though apparently lacking details beyond a $20 billion cost at this point, is modeled on Los Angeles’ Measure R, which brought that city a dedicated revenue stream for its ongoing massive transit expansion (former LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who shepherded through Measure R, was at the Transit Future press conference today). It would bring Cook County a small (Measure R was a ½ cent) sales tax increase to pay for transit improvements, and require the approval of the Cook County Board. The political future may be uncertain (maybe that’s a future post), but the transit-project proposals are exciting, and I’ll offer quick hits on each of them here. You can see maps and graphics about each line at the website; they’re presented in a not-very-copyable format.

South Lakefront Service

What Transit Future is calling the South Lakefront Service is a continuation of the long-advocated-for Gray Line/Gold Line proposal. This would essentially convert excess capacity on Metra’s lakefront Metra Electric District line and South Shore branch to rapid-transit service, using standard railcars rather than L equipment and running on existing tracks. This conversion is, as many many people have noted, a no-brainer that should have been done long ago. The Electric District is the only Metra line with high-level platforms, which can accommodate fast loading and unloading and high passenger volumes (and the South Shore branch’s have even been renovated recently!) Faregates would be installed and trains would run every ten minutes or so–rapid transit, rather than commuter rail, frequencies. Cost estimates I’ve seen place the cost of conversion under $300 million, though that doesn’t seem to account for new rolling stock, which would seem desirable; neither Metra’s on-their-way-out Highliners nor the new gallery cars (for some reason, modeled on the awful car design of Metra’s diesel lines) are particularly appropriate for rapid-transit style service.

That being said, if we’re shooting for the moon and dedicated transit funding, I’d like to see the proposals for the Metra Electric become more ambitious. Metra Electric is a unique asset; it’s got plenty of excess capacity, is already electrified, and boasts between 2 and 4 tracks fully separated from competing freight traffic (a rarity in the Chicago area). Let’s aim for something closer to the Midwest High-Speed Rail Association’s CrossRail Chicago proposal, which would link the Electric District to O’Hare via the St. Charles Air Line, Union Station’s run-through tracks, and the tracks that host the Metra Milwaukee District West and North Central Service trains (owned by Metra, Canadian Pacific, and Canadian National). The weakness of that proposal was that it was very focused on business- and professional- class travelers; by combining it with revamped South Shore service, we could both provide a very fast crosstown connection (and end a transit desert, which the part of the Northwest Side through which the MDW tracks run currently is) and connect underprivileged communities to new opportunities.

In addition, both the Gold Line proposal and Transit Future’s South Lakeshore Service envision enhanced service only on the South Shore branch of the Electric District. I see no reason enhanced service couldn’t run down the main line as well as far as Kensington, and possibly down the Blue Island branch (which would need to be double-tracked) as well. Bringing that service in would, at least in the interim, relieve some of the need for the proposed (see below) Red Line extension into Roseland, at much lower cost.

The Lime Line

The Lime Line (ok, first things first: we need a new color. “Lime Line” is an awful name–it sounds like a train that wants lots of attention) would run down a largely abandoned or underutilized freight rail corridor on Chicago’s West Side parallel to Cicero Avenue from Montrose to just below Midway Airport. There it would turn east, also within existing freight rights-of-way, and run east and a little south across the South Side to meet the Red Line at 87th. This is a revival of the old Mid-City Transitway concept; the right-of-way it would occupy has been fought over between freight and passenger interests over the years, with some proposals having been put forward to convert it to an all-truck toll road, since many of the city’s remaining manufacturing firms are located in the stretch along Cicero, particularly north of the river. The presence of those same firms means that this is likely the single most important line in the entire plan from an equity perspective. If there’s one thing that’s true of Chicago transit, it’s that the existing system serves Loop-bound commuters, who are predominantly white-collar, decently well, while the dispersion of the few remaining manufacturing and other blue collar jobs has made it very hard for most lower-income people to rely on transit. Less importantly, building this line as an L line would also enable a one-seat ride between the airports. This is as much of a no-brainer as the South Lakeshore Service, though it would be significantly more expensive. My only thought would be to extend the eastern end of the line from 87th to 95th and then run it east to meet the South Shore branch at its 93rd Street terminus. Various proposals have been put forward to extend the northern end of this line into Skokie along the old C&NW right-of-way, but that would likely be very expensive for relatively little ridership, and NIMBYs would probably fight it tooth-and-nail (there are actually two very nice houses built squat on the right-of-way at Bryn Mawr, and some of the rest is a trail), so the extension hardly seems worth it.

 Ashland BRT

Anyone who follows the news in Chicago has heard lots about this project, so I won’t offer my thoughts at much length. Just get it built.  1) In terms of full corridors, I’d rather see BRT on Western than Ashland, but for an initial “prove-it” segment, the one selected for a trial on Ashland makes the most sense of any on either street. 2) Ending the BRT at Irving Park is dumb. The commercial district along Clark north of there needs better transit access desperately, and the sloooowww 22 bus isn’t cutting it. Ashland and Clark have four travel lanes all the way to Devon; run the BRT all the way to the old trolley turnaround at Clark and Devon (currently used by the 136).

Red Line Extension

As I said above, I think some of the goals of this project could be, in the short term at least, met by improvements to Metra Electric District service and by the introduction of Southeast Service (see below). Having both would be great for the neighborhood, though, especially for intra-South Side travel (MED would be much faster for travel to the Loop). The cost estimates I’ve seen seem high, but it’s probably a good project.

Brown Line Extension

This would continue the Brown Line from its current terminus at Kimball as a subway under Lawrence Avenue until it met the Blue Line, where trains would continue out to O’Hare. It’s the first project on this list that would require extensive underground work, which would make it expensive, though tunnelling shouldn’t be too complicated. I’m a little biased on this one, as it would make my parents’ life a lot easier, giving them a two-seat ride (one local bus and then the L) to O’Hare from their home in West Rogers Park. It’s probably a worthy project, but I don’t think it’s a high priority. I also worry about capacity issues on the Brown Line, which is already crush-packed at rush hour, and, as I understand it, can’t run any more trains because of capacity issues in the Loop. Adding riders from west of Kimball would almost certainly exacerbate that problem. Perhaps some Brown Line trains would run through the State Street subway, as has been proposed?

Red Line Modernization

The CTA seems to have done a bang-up job with the rebuild of the Dan Ryan section of the Red Line, bringing it in on-time and on-budget. As far as I am concerned, the challenge on the North Side is much larger. Higher ridership and the lack of a parallel transit option like the Green Line (as well as, let’s be honest, the unwillingness of rich North Siders to tolerate long-term closure) make the possibility of doing something similar on the Howard end remote. But the infrastructure is old and in need of updating. One would hope that any rebuild would include closing some of the stations that are too close together–Jarvis is hardly a train-length from Howard, and Argyle/Lawrence/Wilson are only two blocks apart–as well as a flyover at Clark Junction. Smoothing out the slow curve above North and Halsted on the Brown Line wouldn’t be bad either. Contrary to some, I don’t think any radical changes are really necessary on the North Side L, but modernization could bring massive benefits in terms of reliability and capacity. Being one of the first projects to receive Federal Core Capacity grants makes this a project quite likely to happen.

Blue Line Modernization–Forest Park

Pretty straightforward. I don’t have much to say.

Orange Line Extension to Ford City

Not very interesting. Been in the planning for years. Do it.

Southeast Service

This line would bring commuter rail service to Union Pacific’s ex-Chicago & Eastern Illinois mainline through the south suburbs. In general, I think Chicago’s commuter rail has gone far enough and more money shouldn’t be spent on outbound extensions. The south suburbs through which the line would run, though, are generally very poor and heavily African-American. That simultaneously makes me more open to the utility of the Southeast Service and less sure of its success; how many of the people in Dolton or Harvey or Chicago Heights are commuting to jobs in the Loop? Presumably some are, but the proportion is also presumably much lower than in the more white-collar suburbs that are Metra’s typical hosts. The C&EI line is also a very busy freight corridor, leading me to think that reliability for these trains would be relatively low. The corridor does run through Roseland and other underserved far South Side neighborhoods, though, so if it runs frequently enough it could be a success.

South Suburban ART Network

Not much detail available, so I don’t have a ton to say. Better transit is badly needed in a part of the region that is both relatively poor and heavily car-dependent. An ART network could be truly transformative. I think 95th Street deserves full-scale BRT from the South Shore branch terminus to Oak Lawn.

Airport Connector Express

The first project I don’t like. The idea seems to be to build rail transit of some sort–I assume an L, though it could be European-style regional rail–to connect the two airports, mainly utilizing the Indiana Harbor Belt tracks parallel to Mannheim Road. Firstly, the IHB corridor is possibly THE busiest freight corridor in Chicagoland–the freight railroads aren’t giving up any of the ROW. That means the line would have to be elevated along the IHB tracks, making it very expensive. Secondly, the Lime Line/Mid-City Transitway would presumably already be providing a one-seat  (or at worst, two-seat with an easy transfer) ride between the two airports. I think that long-term the IHB corridor could be a very well-utilized regional rail line, running all the way from Des Plaines to Blue Island or potentially even Gary; but that’s going to require years of negotiations with the freight railroads and probably some re-routing of the traffic that uses that corridor. An express connecting the airports? Expensive as all get-out, and hardly necessary.

Blue Line Extension, Forest Park to Oak Brook

Yeah, okay, the ROW exists, it’s been studied. Would suburbanites actually use it? Multiple Metra options exist not far away, and I can’t imagine off-peak demand would rate extension of an L line. NIMBY opposition would probably be fierce, especially along the former Chicago Great Western ROW, which is where the greatest potential for walkability exists…because the ROW runs really close to residential areas. The tagline for the project on the Transit Future website is “Creates a fast commute to one of our region’s top job centers,” so I guess the thinking is focused on the reverse commute to the Oak Brook corporate center,, which is actually quite progressive (and Chicago has a very strong reverse commute). I kind of get that logic, but let’s extend to Mannheim in Bellwood first and see what happens.

West Suburban ART Network

I doubt this network would be as successful as its southern cousin. Not only are the western suburbs wealthier and less transit-dependent, but they’re also less dense (with the exception with the first ring immediately west of the city). Also, the traffic is absolutely horrible, so not having dedicated lanes could be a death blow. Especially until the IHB ring regional rail line gets built, Mannheim Road should probably have full-scale BRT with dedicated lanes and all; the development along it is dense enough to support it and there is potential to connect with several L and Metra lines.

Blue Line Schaumburg Extension

This one I don’t really get. Would suburbanites really ride the slow (yes, even after reconstruction it will be) Blue Line all the way into downtown every day? I’d think it would make much more sense to drive to the nearest Metra station. I guess the reverse-commute potential is quite high here as well, but I don’t know if it will be high enough to support this long an extension. Also, running trains from Schaumburg all the way into the Loop would likely require express trains, and the Blue Line is two tracks without room for expansion, so how would that be handled?

Purple Line Rebuild

Yes, it needs it. No, it’s not really an express as it stands. I don’t think closing a couple of stations in Evanston (as has been discussed) will make much of a difference. I miss the North Shore Line, and it closed when my parents were two years old. Maybe we should repaint the Purple Line rolling stock in the Electroliner paint scheme.

Yellow Line Extension

This is a no-brainer. It’s short, the ROW exists, and the demand exists. I’d imagine there are times of day when the ridership on the 97 bus exceeds that of the Yellow Line, since instead of ending in a parking lot (ok, it’s got a nice Starbucks too), it actually goes to Old Orchard, which is a major job center (as well as home to the district court, which is a major destination it is own right). There will likely be NIMBY opposition, but I’m not very sympathetic; there were freight trains on that ROW less than fifteen years ago.

North Suburban ART Network

The first- and second- ring northern suburbs (Evanston, Skokie, Lincolnwood, Niles, Morton Grove, Des Plaines) are actually pretty dense and have a decent mix of incomes, with the potential for reasonably high transit usage. Better bus service along corridors like Touhy, Dempster, and Milwaukee (ok, mainly those three) could be very successful. As with the other ART networks, specific features will be key; queu jumps at lights especially could make a big difference.

Analysis and What Else I’d Like to See

Just kidding. That’s another post. UPDATE: New post on the political strategy behind Transit Future here.

 

UPDATES: Added various hyperlinks, especially in section headers. Thanks to J. P. Velez in the comments.