Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chicago Rapid Transit

The CTA last week announced plans to extend three of its existing rapid transit lines. The Red Line would be extended south to 130th Street. The Orange Line would be extended south to the Ford City Shopping Center. Finally the Yellow Line, formerly known as the Skokie Swift, would be extended north to just west of Old Orchard Shopping Center.

From an extremely unscientific survey I made the other day judging from internet comments, it seems that the folks along the two south side lines welcomed the extensions while those up in Skokie for the most part opposed the project. This could be due to the fact that the Yellow Line extension would be built closer to existing homes and businesses while the other two lines would be built in relatively undeveloped areas. A couple of north siders even suggested that the Yellow Line extension would bring crime along with it.

The haves vs. have nots factor could also account for the difference in attitude as the south side has traditionally been bereft of rapid transit service. The Red Line extension for the first time would extend the L all the way to the city's south limits. It would also hopefully be a shot in the arm for development along the transit corridor, as the construction of the elevated line to Howard Street a century ago was to the Edgewater and Rogers Park neighborhoods on the far north side. The same could be said for the Orange Line extension, although it would not extend to the city limits as would the Red Line.

Another excellent post from the Urbanophile can be found here. It suggests that while these projects indeed have merit, they should be integrated into a far more comprehensive, Burnham, "make no little plans" style plan that would include major renovations and extensions, some practical, others perhaps not. The idea would be to bring the issue of public mass transportation to the forefront by including the entire city.

I couldn't agree more. Big plans for the future of the city are a far more fitting tribute to the legacy of the Burnham Plan than the two insignificant temporary pavilions by (St)archchitects Zaha Hadid and Ben van Berkel which are currently on view at Millennium Park.

I think the time is right to plan big in terms of public transportation in the city. In that vein I think the south side is the place to start by conceiving plans for a light rail system. If the Olympics come to Chicago, the opportunity will be right at our doorstep.

Let's not drop the ball.

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