Transit TIF Funding – Please Use Wisely


Clark Street in Lakeview with planned TIF-funded Flyover.

Mayor Emanuel and the CTA have approval for their Transit TIF funding. Now watch them waste millions on an unnecessary and neighborhood-crushing project.

The idea is that residents and businesses near CTA lines will benefit from the modernization of the rail system, so property values will rise.  Projected property tax revenue increases become TIF funding used to fund needed improvements to aging CTA stations, rails, and supports.

Makes sense generally. But in Central Lakeview, just the opposite is true.
Here, the CTA plans to build what it has called a “Signature Project,” a $570+million Brown Line “Flyover” just north of the Belmont station. It means constructing a Jane Byrne interchange-style curvy skyway in the middle of Lakeview. The purpose is to lift the Brown Line tracks up and over the Red Line tracks to shave a mere 20-30 seconds off 40% of Red Line trips downtown.

To do this, they plan to tear down 16-21 buildings, many right on historic Clark Street. Putting a railway in the sky above the heart of this thriving entertainment-theater-restaurant district will turn much of this popular neighborhood into a permanent under-El wasteland.  Increased property values? Just the opposite.

Artistic renderings of a post-Flyover Central Lakeview the CTA has presented are filled with fanciful buildings that couldn’t possibly fit on the lots left after construction. Lovely to look at, but not at all related to the ugly, empty future we will face.

Who cares? Everyone should. It’s our money they will waste, a part of our city they will strip of its character and charm.

Whose name on it?
Before the Mayor and the CTA waste $570+ million to destroy Central Lakeview for this “Signature Project” Flyover, they should consider: Who will want to put their signature on this?

Who will want their name on the Belmont Flyover in 10 years when Central Lakeview – a major restaurant, theater, entertainment district – has been gutted?

Who will want their name on this curving ride up and over other elevated tracks after 20 years of what would most assuredly be poor maintenance?

And isn’t there something sickeningly familiar about this new “Signature Project”?
Remember all the excitement and rush to create the “Super Station” under Block 37? Now we have a cavernous hole deep under Block 37 – a $400 million Super Station that connects to nothing, and we’ll be paying for it for years.

How about the bold O’Hare Express plan – happily now on hold – to construct a second Blue Line track high above the existing Blue Line, to create a thrillingly expensive, exclusive, super-fast ride to O’Hare for executives?

Let’s stop and think this time. Let’s not rush to ruin Central Lakeview with another dramatic, expensive idea we are bound to regret. Instead, focus Transit TIF funding where it’s desperately needed – updating tracks and stations and expanding CTA service to reach more neighborhoods all around Chicago.

No more “Signature Projects,” please.


Want More People to Leave?

population chart

Mayor Emanuel and the CTA now have approval for a new Transit TIF which will fund the much-needed RPM Red Line Project. And the much-NOT-needed Brown Line Flyover at Belmont.

Is this really a good time to ruin Central Lakeview, one of Chicago’s best-loved neighborhoods, gutting blocks and blocks of its heart for a cement CTA Flyover??

Is a $570 million “Signature Project” Flyover  which will shave a precious 20-30 seconds off 40% of Red Line commutes really something we want to waste our tax funding on?

Hey, maybe more people will want to leave, huh?

Here’s Central Lakeview before – and after – the CTA Flyover.

Ignore Distressed South Side, Focus On ‘Golden Corridor’!

While the CTA focuses intensely on the North Side lakefront – which they call the ‘Golden Corridor‘ – vast areas of the South and West Sides continue to lack transit service and fall deeper and deeper into poverty.

Needing to show their Core Capacity project would provide a 10% increase in ridership, the CTA decided ‘fixing’ an occasional 20-30 second delay for North Side riders is the best way to achieve increased ridership.

How do you think that will work out, Chicago? Bright future?


Check out this just released “Distressed Communities” report in DNAInfo:

‘Distressed Communities’ Report Shows Big Divide
Between North, Side Sides

By Tanveer Ali, DNAinfo,2/29/2016

CHICAGO — When it comes to being “distressed,” a new study shows a stark difference between North Side neighborhoods with South Side neighborhoods.

Economic Innovation Group, a D.C.-based organization, recently released its “Distressed Communities Index,” a study that looked at over 26,000 ZIP codes across the United States, compiling factors from high school degree rates to unemployment to housing vacancies into a “distress score.”

Based on the organization’s definition of “distressed,” nearly 40 percent of Chicagoans live in distressed ZIP codes.

“Chicago is really striking,” said Kenan Fikri, ‎EIG’s manager for Research and Policy Development. “Over 1 million Chicagoans live in these distressed ZIP codes.”

These ZIP codes are almost all on the West and South sides.
Link to full DNAinfo article


The O’Hare Express Craziness Is Back!

The very crazy, $$multi-billion scheme of an express train for the rich to the city from O’Hare is alive again, courtesy of Mayor Emanuel!

Maybe our mayor thinks announcing something this outrageous, glittery, and expensive will take attention away from the police killing of Laquan McDonald & the cover-up, the CPS disaster, or the violence everywhere in Chicago, to mention a few of his problems.

But shouldn’t Rahm worry we’ll actually take a look at THIS idea??

With the Blue Line, Chicago already has one of the most efficient airport-city transit connections around. And when the CTA’s “Your New Blue” update to tracks and stations is completed, that trip will be even faster, smoother.

best airport transit

The CTA Blue Line station at O’Hare pictured in “No taxi needed: The best cities for airport mass transit,” by travel writer Mark Chestnut, 10/2012

An O’Hare Express Train – Who benefits?

  • Not anyone on the city’s South Side where transit deserts prevail,
  • Not the handicapped who continue to wait 20 years for full CTA accessibility,
  • Not the CTA itself, with $$ billions still needed to repair crumbling infrastructure everywhere on the system,
  • Not O’Hare workers or average citizens who can’t pay $30-$35 per ticket,
  • Not anyone traveling to O’Hare from stops along the way,
  • Not anyone with property standing in the way,
  • And, sadly,  not the giant, gaping hole under Block 37 that will never connect a train to O’Hare, but will continue to cost us all $400million + interest since the last time this Express Train idea took hold.

But it WILL be great for:

  • Well-connected companies already getting $$millions to design it,
  • Companies here and abroad who will get $$billions to build it, and
  • A mayor who wants another shiny thing to brag about. Just like the Belmont Flyover. Both these “accomplishments” will be best viewed from very, very, vey far away.

Why not build the O’Hare Express Train? 
Please read this logical & simple explanation in Chicago Magazine:

Four Reasons an Express Train to O’Hare is still a Terrible Idea

By Daniel Kay Hertz, Chicago Magazine, 2/2016


Do Something Right: Increase South Side Transit Service

The CTA is eager to spend $570 million+ on the Belmont Flyover to shave a mere 20-30 seconds off only 40% of the rides downtown for North Side Red Line riders.

Meanwhile, they’re busy ignoring a simple, inexpensive CTA/Metra fix which would vastly increase commuter service along a long corridor of the South Side, bringing people to jobs and vitality to multiple under-served neighborhoods.

How about a real increase in transit service on the South Side for a change?

Transit Activist Michael Payne, author of the Gray Line proposal, has been proposing this simple, good idea for years. Now, some South Side groups are giving it a push. Here’s hoping the CTA can finally listen.

What’s the idea? Read here:

South Side Groups: Make the Metra Electric Run Like the CTA ‘L’
By Steve Vance, Chicago Streetsblog, 1/14/2016

southside metra

From the article:

A dozen neighborhood organizations, along with the Active Transportation Alliance and the Center for Neighborhood Technology, are calling for the Metra Electric line, with its three branches that run through several South Side communities, to operate like a CTA ‘L’ line.

The fourteen organizations signed a letter to the editor of the Chicago Maroon, the independent student newspaper of the University of Chicago, stating that if Metra Electric trains were operated more like the Blue and Red Lines, “[it] could unlock the enormous development potential of the South Side and South Suburbs.” They described the neighborhoods and places the trains already reach:

The Metra Electric serves many key destinations on the South Side, such as the University of Chicago, the Pullman district, Chicago State University, the Museum of Science and Industry, Governor’s State University, McCormick Place, the South Shore Cultural Center, and the proposed Lakeside Development. The communities surrounding its stations are densely populated and walkable, ideal areas for rapid transit development.

The idea of turning the Electric Line into a rapid transit route isn’t a new one. For years, local advocate Mike Payne has been pushing a similar proposal called the “Gray Line.”

Read the Streetsblog article

Loop Link: $32M To Go .75 MPH Faster??

The CTA wouldn’t waste $32 million just to speed up Loop bus service from 3 mph to 3.75 mph, would they?

Yes, they would! And they’re proud to say so.

As Blair Kamin reports: According to CTA spokesman Brian Steele, the agency seeks to increase peak-hour bus speeds to 3.75 mph from the snail-like 3 mph that was the average before the system made its debut. In off-peak hours, the goal is to get speeds up to as high as 6 mph.

Next, the CTA plans to bulldoze 16-20 buildings in the heart of Central Lakeview and waste $570+ million to shave 20-30 seconds off 40% of  Red Line trips downtown.

running loop link

Are Riders Being Thrown for a Loop?
by Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune, 1/9/2016

The driving idea behind Loop Link, the Emanuel administration’s attempt to speed CTA buses through traffic-clogged downtown streets, is to make bus service more like rail service — in a word, faster. In this optimistic spirit, the city refers to Loop Link bus stops as BRT stations, short for Bus Rapid Transit. But three weeks after Loop Link’s late December debut, the “R” in BRT seems more aspiration than fact.

Let me illustrate with a “bus versus man” experiment I conducted during the Friday morning rush.

First, I rode the CTA’s No. 20 bus down Washington Street, a key corridor in the Loop Link network. The trip from Canal Street to Michigan Avenue took 13 minutes and 22 seconds, a rate of 3.6 mph. Then, I walked the same route, moving, I hesitate to add, at an ambling pace rather than top speed. That took 14 minutes and 49 seconds, which works out to 3.25 mph.

So bus beat man, but not by much. Which may lead you to ask: Is Loop Link a $32 million boondoggle?

To be fair, the so-called express bus system is going through a breaking-in phase and remains very much a work in progress. To Chicago’s credit, Loop Link is an ambitious work of civic infrastructure, one that for the most part balances competing agendas and transcends the purely utilitarian approach that many cities take to such projects.

Still, the jury remains out and expectations aren’t high. Even if Loop Link achieves its modest goals, the time savings for riders won’t be huge. According to CTA spokesman Brian Steele, the agency seeks to increase peak-hour bus speeds to 3.75 mph from the snail-like 3 mph that was the average before the system made its debut. In off-peak hours, the goal is to get speeds up to as high as 6 mph.
read full article

Flyovers First! Disabled Riders Can Wait.

It’s great that the CTA finally is talking about making all its transit stations accessible for riders with disabilities. It’s not great that they’re giving themselves 20 years to do it.

First, they have more important things to do!

Their urgent priority is to spend $570Million+ and gut Central Lakeview to build a Brown Line Flyover, all to shave 20-30 seconds of 40% of Red Line commuters’ trips to work.

Seriously. That’s their first priority.

Yes, upgrade the Red Line stations and track infrastructure. But waste $570Million on this crazy Flyover while disabled riders continue to wait?

CTA Makes Rail Accessibility for Riders with Disabilities a Long-Term Goal
Tony Briscoe, Chicago Tribune, 1/7/2016

The CTA is about to start looking at how to make its rail system completely accessible to riders with disabilities within 20 years, agency officials said Wednesday.

The agency expects to publish a report late in 2016 or early 2017 on the initiative, which would outline new capital improvements and concepts necessary to make every CTA train station accessible to those who use wheelchairs or devices such as scooters.

Currently, 99 of the city’s 145 ‘L’ stations, or 68 percent, satisfy regulations put forth in the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, CTA spokesman Brian Steele said.
link to full Tribune article