Metra’s plan to enhance Electric District service to Hyde Park has provoked chatter on the South Side and beyond since its announcement in May. Is the return of frequent, quality service on the Electric close at hand? Unfortunately, it seems that the current plan misses many opportunities and takes as many steps backward as it does forward.
Over the past year, the city’s Divvy bike share program—one of the largest in North America—has added over a hundred stations across the city, dozens of them on the South Side. A year ago, the last time the Weekly reported on Divvy’s service of the South Side, we found that South Siders accounted for just a twentieth of total riders. At that time, Divvy had recently announced its expansion, so there was some cause for optimism—perhaps the city would successfully replicate the dense network of popular stations in the North Side and portions of the West Side and the statistics would improve.
As the year comes to an end, the Chicago Transit Authority is preparing for a changing of the guard at the federal level, and city officials are doing everything they can to secure funds for high-cost ventures before President Barack Obama leaves office. The Far South Side expansion of the Red Line, however, will have to wait another year, well into a Donald Trump presidency, to secure federal funding.
On November 1, the St. John Missionary Baptist Church on 115th Street in Roseland became the forum for discussions that could shape the future of the area for years to come—with changes potentially rippling across the entire South Side. Community members, CTA officials, and organizers came together for the only public hearing on the environmental impact statement for the Red Line extension project, the details of which were announced in late September. “The draft environmental impact statement looks closely at the potential benefits and impacts of both the east and west options,” says Jeffery Tolman, a spokesperson for the CTA, referring to two possible routes for the extended Red Line.“The public meeting was to seek out the community’s feedback.” The final route and impact statement will be unveiled in 2017, Tolman says.
For years, talk of extending the Red Line to Chicago’s southern-most limits was an urban legend. Longtime African-American residents of the South Side discussed it, but nothing has happened since the public train line, which runs along the city’s north-south racial divide, began operating in 1969.
Hyde Park presents one of the most encouraging examples for Divvy expansion on the South Side
“There’s no question that a lot of people are getting service that weren’t getting it before,” Mayer said of Uber’s ridesharing services, but at the same time, “most folks driving Uberx are not bopping over to Englewood or Pullman or Roseland to get a cup of coffee.”
A Chicago newcomer—one unfamiliar with the Dan Ryan Red Line’s history of slowness or with its recent reconstructions—might have taken a ride from the 95th/Dan Ryan station to Chinatown on October 20 and concluded that nothing was out of the ordinary. An experienced rider, however, would have noted that the trip took them only twenty minutes, which, according to the CTA, is a phenomenal twenty-five minutes faster than it was prior to the reconstruction. Continue reading