Friday, April 24, 2009

Central Area Action Plan: South West Loop Part 2

As we posted a couple of weeks ago, Chicago has recently unveiled a plan for many neighborhoods in the downtown area. Many of these plans affect various areas of the Sloop and as a result we are going to have some posts over the next couple of weeks looking into these changes. Some of the changes are already underway, but most are plans that could happen sometime before 2020. Will they happen? Who knows, but it's still good to consider.

South West Loop - Part 2
For more info on Part 1 of this area click here.

1) South Branch Bridges
In our opinion these projects are no brainers. By adding bridges at Polk, Taylor and 16th street (in order from north to south) it will better connect the "South West Loop" to the rest of the city grid. This in turn will help the area with traffic flow and make the greater Printers Row area easier to access.

2) Bicycle Lanes & Markings
This is a minor addition and probably relatively inexpensive. So, there is not much argument coming from us. If it happens great, if not no big deal.

3) Clinton Subway (Station at Roosevelt)
Although this is debatable, we're not sure a Clinton Subway line is the best use of public transportation funds. We realize that it would connect to the main proposed multi-billion dollar "West Loop Transportation Center" but won't the circle line also connect everything? In a perfect world the city could afford both the Circle Line and Clinton Subway line, but we truly hope that the Circle Line is the priority. It seems easier to implement and would be better for the greater region. We would love to hear your thoughts on this one...

4) South Branch Riverfront
As we stated in part 1 of this segment, we love this idea. However, it shouldn't be a priority. There are a ton of other projects and things the city needs to focus on (transportation, schools, etc.). Although it would be great to have additional riverfront paths for recreational purposes we don't think it's necessary.

What do you think about these proposed additions? Which ones do you think should get the green light?


Anonymous said...

I disagree wholeheartedly that the Circle Line would take priority than the Clinton subway.

In fact, it's not even close. It's clear that the west loop is going to be the future for office & job growth in the city's core, yet the current L system doesn't adequately service that area, giving an advantage to suburban Metra commuters and a disadvantage to city residents.

The Clinton subway does just that--it not only gives north and south side residents direct access to west loop jobs & a future intercity rail hub, it also gives suburbanites & out of towners traveling to Union Station by Metra or Amtrak an opportunity to directly access the red line and thus get to north lakefront destinations more easily, not to mention Chinatown. To me, that pretty much gives us half of what the Circle Line would give us anyhow, but with only one transfer needed.

The Circle Line is limited in what it accomplishes, plus it is still debatable whether it would shorten peoples' crosstown trips by very much. Add to that the fact that it does little to connect people to jobs (lets face it, the number one priority for transit anywhere) and I'm convinced that the Clinton Subway wins out as a priority.

Andy Sites said...

Bridges on Taylor and Polk would make the commute west to UIC and Medical District so much nicer for me. All for it!

I also concur about Clinton subway versus Circle line. It serves a new area to L lines, and by subway no less.

Sloopy said...

In our opinion, the circle line would be easier to actually execute and probably less expensive as most of the tracks are already in place. The Clinton subway and west loop transportation center would be great additions to the city, but they seem ridiculously large in scope. Hopefully we're wrong, but let's remember the block 37 station debacle. If we can't pull that off, can the city really pull off a 3 billion dollar mega station (as well as a 3 billion dollar Clinton line)?

We're still trying to figure out what the Clinton subway route would actually look like. Would it be a spur of the red line? So one red line train would go through the loop and the new red line route would go through the Clinton subway line? Do you have anymore information on the Clinton subway line?

To be fair, the circle line and the Clinton subway/west loop transportation center serve different purposes. The Clinton subway would be good for the west loop, river north and south west loop, but is it to close to the center of the city again? One of the biggest criticisms of our current transit system is that you have to go through the downtown core to get anywhere. Although this might alleviate the problem in some instances, you still have to go downtown.

The beauty of the circle line is that it allows people ways to avoid the downtown core. Commuters and tourists from the suburbs wouldn’t have to go to the loop to get to the neighborhoods. Which in turn would help with congestion and make traveling through the loop more efficient for those of us how have to.

The one thing we haven’t discussed is the talks about Chicago being a high speed rail network. If this progresses as had been discussed, then the West Loop Transportation Center needs to happen. We just feel like that’s a long ways away.

Your points are valid and definitely not wrong. But we feel like the circle line is actually achievable quickly. Conversely there are tons of unanswered questions about the West Loop Transportation center. Without that, the Clinton Subway won’t happen.

Anonymous said...

(I'm the same person as the first anonymous poster):

All due respect, I think your assumptions are based on very false premises:

1. The only thing the Block 37 megastation and a West Loop Transportation Center have in common is that they are underground. The Block 37 megastation, which was poorly conceived and began construction even before there was hardly an effort to procure Federal funding for express airport lines, was doomed to hit a wall at some point. The WLTC, to the contrary, is part of a regionwide plan to unite various modes of transportation in Chicago to a proposed midwest high speed rail system, which has far-reaching support from several midwestern states.

2. The argument that the Clinton subway is too big or expensive of an undertaking simply doesn't register with me as a solid rebuttal. Chicago has certainly managed to obtain billions of dollars in Federal transit funding before. And in the city that makes "no small plans", with the assistance of Federal funding, what is more important is the cost to benefit ratio. I'm arguing that the Circle Line, which will still cost billions to build, will give the city far less bang for the buck than the Clinton Subway which may perhaps end up costing more to build. There are a lot of questions about how much ridership the Circle Line will generate for the system, especially serving relatively low density neighborhoods.

Even more problematic, I scarcely believe that the Circle Line is going to shorten crosstown trips by such a degree to warrant its construction. I certainly don't think it's going to convince suburbanites to abandon their car and instead use Metra, transfer to the Circle Line, transfer again to the red line, etc etc just to get to Lakeview. The promise that the Circle Line holds for some supporters just doesn't seem evident to me--at all. In fact, I have yet to hear any evidence from the blogger that the Circle Line will actually live up to the inflated expectations that have been put on it, and not end up an expensive debacle that we all will have to put up with for decades.

IMHO, I don't even think it will do much to encourage neighborhood residents to use transit for crosstown trips versus the car. For now, I think Chicago would be prudent to abandon trying to create a heavy rail solution for crosstown trips and instead focus on bus service and perhaps a BRT system. But heavy rail, with all of its associated costs for construction and maintenance, only seems justified for downtown-bound trips.

3. The Clinton subway is not a pie in the sky fantasy but has been conceptually around for several decades, longer than the Circle Line has, which was really a Frank Kreusi pet project.

4. You failed to acknowledge that the Clinton subway accomplishes half of what the Circle Line would ANYHOW, plus many other things, without falsely promising to create a whole new era of crosstown heavy rail options which, as I argued above, I sincerely don't think will ever pan out.

What will the Clinton subway accomplish?

a. Linking Union/Ogilvie and thus Metra to the CTA rail system and thus access to the north lakefront and Chinatown with only ONE transfer, assuming that the Clinton Line would become a whole new L line that would run all the way from the north to the south side of the city
b. Linking Amtrak and thus a potential midwest HSR system to the CTA rail system
c. In the context of a Monroe transitway, linking south suburban Metra and NW Indiana lines to the CTA rail system (this is obviously a less direct effect)
d. Allowing city residents paying city taxes whose TIF dollars are sprucing up all those downtown streets and plazas that downtown corporations are enjoying (not to mention being spent to lure corporations downtown--think Boeing and MillerCoors and plenty of others) to finally have better access to the JOBS these corporations are creating, which largely tend to be in the west loop. The Clinton subway would bring large numbers of city commuters right into the heart of Chicago's new business district, instead of into Chicago's business district circa 1970. This last one is quite possibly what justifies this line the most--not only because of what I just said, but because in Chicago as well as most cities, the work commute is the number one generator of transit rides. In fact, nothing comes anywhere close to that.

So like the Circle Line, the Clinton subway links Metra and CTA, but ideally with only ONE stop needed. Secondly, the Clinton subway links people to jobs, which is the most important trip generator out there--by far. Third, it also happens to link intercity rail to the CTA rail system. Finally, the evidence that the Circle Line will cut trip times (and thus get people out of their cars or buses) for crosstown routes is meager at best, and with low potential for much trip generation, I hardly believe the Circle Line is worth building.

Last point: a better idea to improve crosstown transit access is the BRT system Chicago has been looking into. Unfortunately, that funding has expired and I'm not sure whether Daley will be able to procure it again. Leave heavy rail for the daily trips, such as the downtown work commute.

Sloopy said...

Anonymous, thanks for the comments! Obviously you're pretty well versed in this area and bring up some great points.

My opinion is probably selfish as I was just hoping to get a direct train to wicker park/bucktown (ala the circle line).

The West Loop Transportation Center would be good for the city. We will continue to monitor the developments.

Do you have any more information on the proposed Clinton Subway? I couldn't find much doing simple searches.

Anonymous said...

Sloopy, my knowledge is pretty much from gleaming the web.

I'd like to know a lot more about these transit proposals as well, I'm just giving you my thoughts based on what I know.

Thanks for this wonderful blog.