Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Updates From Mayoral Panel Tasked With Improving Access To/From Museum Campus

A bus drives on the private 'busway' through Grant Park next to the 11th Street Metra Stop (via google maps)
Back in the summer, Mayor Emmanuel announced that he was seeking ideas to improve access to and from the Museum Campus.  Crain's has an update from the mayoral panel who is working on this project:
A mayoral panel has recommended some intermediate steps to make it easier to get to the city's Museum Campus, which draws millions of people a year but has little public transit.  
But the group, picked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, has put off for further study more significant but also much more expensive proposals, such as expanding and better using what now is a private busway between the Loop and McCormick Place and potentially building a rapid line along Cermak Road that would connect the lakefront to the commuter railroad stations. " 
There's a lot of low-hanging fruit here, some things we can do now," Chicago Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld said in a phone interview. The initial recommendations approved by the city task force "will have some impact," she said, but it's too soon to say if the bigger ideas are feasible.  
Short term, the panel urged the city to expand the Divvy bicycle sharing program in and around the campus and establish a trolley bus service like the one that went to Navy Pier for many years. No cost estimates are available, but officials said such a system briefly operated about a decade ago, and museum chiefs are interested in restoring it.  
The group also gave the green light to: improved pickup and drop-off zones, more cab stands, better traffic management and perhaps establishing a coordinated transit center and welcome center near 18th Street.
While nothing being implemented is a game changer, the idea about better utilizing the "busway" between the Loop and McCormick Place is interesting and could be a big deal:
Longer term, Scheinfeld said the group, which is chaired by Metropolitan Planning Council chief MarySue Barrett and Emanuel's chief operating officer, Joe Deal, is quite interested in expanding use of the private busway that now runs along Metra tracks from Randolph Street to McCormick Place.

The busway is limited to transporting conventioneers but could be extended south to 31st Street, near the proposed new Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts. Convention officials have expressed some concern about but "are open to further discussion of this," Scheinfeld said.

The biggest potential fix—but one which likely would cost at least hundreds of millions of dollars—would be to revive a portion of the never-built Central Area Circulator system, which would have provided a light-rail system from Navy Pier and the Near North Side, west to the commuter railroad stations and then east to the lakefront.
Stay tuned, this could get interesting.

(Hat tip: TO!)

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