Welcome to the Transportation Issue
Chicago boasts one of the best transportation networks in the country. And recently, important steps have been taken to improve it, from the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) making progress on the long-awaited Red Line extension to Metra developing a simpler fare system to the transportation department’s commitment to increase the number of low-stress and protected bike lanes.
But problems remain, and some have persisted for decades, as you’ll read in Jasmine Barnes’s poignant essay about the difficulties South Siders face trying to travel between neighborhoods. Barnes celebrates the poetry of public transportation—how it creates opportunities for us to encounter difference by moving between places. She also describes how transit’s potential is thwarted by inefficiencies and inequities in service, many of which existed when Langston Hughes wrote about Chicago’s transit system for the Chicago Defender in 1949, a time when segregation was still legal.
Lucia Whalen’s article highlights the failures of our bike network and uplifts the work South Side bike advocacy groups have done to promote bike safety and demand safer infrastructure for cyclists that could save lives. “Unfortunately, for bikers all over the city—but especially on Chicago’s far South Side, where bike lane infrastructure is still sorely lacking—the decision to bike can be treacherous,” Whalen says.
Reema Saleh sounds the horn on labor issues faced by CTA workers, including staff shortages, low pay for part-time workers, and hazardous working conditions—matters that affect workers’ ability to support their families and deliver consistently high-quality service to riders.
And Kelly Rappaport describes the haunting of Hegewisch, one of many Southeast Side neighborhoods plagued by unreliable transportation, by ghost trains and buses.
This issue tells the story of the in-between—those moments South Siders spend moving from one place to another. I hope you enjoy the diverse articles inside as well as Jim Daley’s “South Side Bus Tracker” crossword puzzle, perhaps while sitting on the train or waiting for a bus. But we hope your wait isn’t too long. As Hughes said, “Nobody likes to be left standing at the corner.” May your waits be short and your rides be quick.
—J. Patrick Patterson, politics editor
Protesters Call for CTA President Dorval Carter to Resign
Last Friday, grassroots transit advocacy group Commuters Take Action held a protest outside CTA headquarters calling for CTA President Dorval Carter’s resignation. On Oct 8, CTA released updated timetables that showed an average reduction of sixty trips on weekday, Saturday, and Sunday schedules—in other words, a twenty-four percent overall reduction compared to pre-pandemic schedules.
“L service has been cut by twenty-four percent since 2020. Bus service has been cut by thirteen percent. With all these cuts, it’s time to #CutCarter,” read a tweet from the group leading up to the protest. Carter came under scrutiny this May when records showed that he only used his agency-issued public transit card on twelve days in all of 2021 and 2022. Despite low ridership, long waits and ghost trains and buses, in 2021 Dorval received a thirty-three percent raise bringing his salary to $350K. Reflecting their complaints, Friday’s protesters held signs that read “CTA has ghosted me more than my ex,” or simply “Run more trains,” and “Cut Carter, not the CTA!”
The Weekly launches a Community Investigations Hub
South Side Weekly NFP, which publishes the Weekly and the Hyde Park Herald, is pleased to announce the launch of the Community Investigations Hub (CIH), a project dedicated to deepening residents’ access to local government, broadening their media literacy, and helping them hold powerful people accountable. Weekly senior editor Jim Daley and Herald staff reporter and Invisible Institute fellow Max Blaisdell will serve as its coordinators.
Weekly journalists will source, vet, and act on tips from community members, who are encouraged to get in touch if they know of an issue that needs light shed on it. We offer several options for sending tips, including an online form and, for confidential communications, secure text messaging and encrypted email. Our journalists will follow up on every tip we receive. Not all tips lead to stories, but we will always ensure residents who contact us are connected with resources, including partner organizations, attorneys, and watchdog groups, that can help them with the issues they face. More information about sending tips is here: bit.ly/SSWInvestigates.
The CIH is also partnering with the Better Government Association, a nonprofit news organization and civic advocate for transparency, efficiency, and accountability in Chicago government, to offer workshops on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which allows people to request documents from government agencies. FOIA is an integral part of investigative journalism, and it’s also one that community organizations, activists, and neighbors can use to find out more about what their government is doing. Our workshops will show you how.
Founded in 2013, South Side Weekly NFP is a nonprofit community newsroom dedicated to producing local journalism that is for, by, and about the South Side of Chicago. South Side Weekly’s tradition of supporting and developing emerging journalists and storytellers will be continued by the CIH, an investigative project that is embedded in the communities it serves. Stay tuned for more information about upcoming workshops and events—and get in touch if you’ve got a tip or story idea!