CTA's least walkable rail stations

CTA's least walkable rail stations

Creative Commons Attribution: Zol87 at en.wikipedia

Last summer I wrote about using Carfree Chicago’s train stop guide to measure the “walkability” of your own CTA rail station.

Now Carfree’s Lee Crandell has named the CTA’s least walkable train stations. Based on the walk scores for
each train station, which “give a sense of whether the station has lots
of people and activity within convenient walking distance,” here are Lee’s least walkable stations, with walk scores:

  • 47th Street Station (Red): 46
  • Cicero Station (Blue): 48
  • Garfield Station (Red): 49
  • 69th Street Station (Red): 52
  • 51st Station (Green): 55
  • 43rd Station (Green): 57
  • 95th Street Terminal (Red): 57
  • Pulaski Station (Pink): 58
  • California Station (Green): 60
  • Kostner Station (Pink): 60
  • 79th Street Station (Red): 60

From Lee’s notes on his findings:

“All of these stations were in the City of Chicago, which may surprise
some folks who think of suburbs as always being less walkable than the
city. Six of these stations are located on freeways.

“Often conversations about improving transit revolve only around how
to expand train and bus lines to serve more riders. But Chicago also
needs to be looking at how to bring more riders and economic activity
closer to our existing transit service by encouraging development near
under-utilized stations. In order for public transit to be an enticing
mobility solution, potential transit riders need to be able to
conveniently get to the nearest station by foot. And they need to be
able to conveniently get to their final destination by foot from the
stop they get off at. Also, there needs to be a lot of potential riders
near the stations, and there needs to be a lot of destinations near the
stations, or the transit system wouldn’t be particularly useful to very
many people. So the key to having a transit system with a meaningful
impact on a city’s mobility is having transit stations surrounded by
walkable areas with lots of people and lots of activity (jobs, shopping,
parks, entertainment, etc.)”


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  • I wonder if he is in Chicago, given that he only briefly mentioned that most of the new lines built in the last 60 years are in expressway medians, and he called them "freeways."

    Obviously, any station in the middle of the Dan Ryan Expressway is not walkable, given, not only that it is in the middle, but usually surrounded by frontage roads and ramps (Wells/Wentworth or State/Lafayette). The only walkable station is north of there at Cermak/Chinatown. The Kennedy portion of the Blue Line is marginally better.

    Grand Boulevard Plaza at Garfield exemplifies the problem. After crossing the ramp and frontage road, the plaza is behind a parking lot behind an iron fence.

    The south side Green Line stations are technically walkable, but basically are in a wasteland. I remember that they said that they had to keep some of them open, despite the fact that they were also served by the Red, because one would have to walk through gang territory. However, 51st and 43rd were to be saved from the beginning because they weren't served by the Red, so it has to be the gang issue (note also that the rerouting of the 43 and (now) 15 buses to 47-Red Line has never been rescinded). Garfield was supposed to be a superstation, but, again, nothing developed around it.

    Pink; Kostner is in the middle of nowhere, but Pulaski was supposed to be a hub, so something other than the station being located there must be the problem.

    He also should face the fact that the reason that some lines haven't been built into more "walkable" areas, such as the Red to 115th, is lack of an obvious right of way; hence why the expressways were used. A Halsted subway from 99th to 127th would be walkable, but way down on the AA list. Of course, 130th will never be walkable.

    His reference to the suburbs is also unwarranted. Most suburbs grew around their neighborhood train station, and RTA or Metra is giving grants for TOD. The only walkability issues are if you are more than a mile from a train line, or on a line like the NCS that was built on a preexisting freight right of way. However, I am sure that most L riders (other than those within a mile of the any line) are transferring by bus, not walking. One theoretically could walk from Clark and Devon to Loyola, but I doubt that many do.

    He mentions TOD for possibly 43rd, but, as I mentioned with the Grand Blvd. Plaza, that's impossible on the south Red.

    So, this seems like poor analysis of, in most cases, the fairly obvious, coupled with a lack of real suggestions for improving the situation.

  • In reply to jack:

    For the record, I've lived in Chicago for eight years. I ditched my car a couple months after moving here in favor of transit and my own two feet (and sometimes two wheels), which is why I pay little attention to the names of the freeways.

    What we might think is obvious is not always obvious to others. Obviously it wasn't obvious to the planners who placed train stations in the middle of the freeways. It was not wise planning then to spend billions on transit that not many people would be able to walk to and with little potential to impact economic development. Fortunately, most planners today seem to have learned their lesson. And it's not as simple as just right-of-way. If planners of their day were focused on serving city residents' transit needs and promoting urban economic development as much as they were interested in helping suburbanites rush through the city, they would have come up with more contemporary solutions like bus rapid transit much sooner, which provide great service in limited right-of-way at a great bang for your buck. Take a look at the early Red Line extension alternatives and you'll see the CTA looked at two freeway alignments. Thankfully they came to the conclusion that freeway stations wouldn't contribute to thriving neighborhoods, and they found other solutions. The city is also moving ahead with bus rapid transit plans as another solution for expanding transit.

    But beyond expanding transit service to where people currently are, the city also needs to work on focusing future growth near transit service. Transportation infrastructure funding and economic development funding is scarce -- the two need to be coordinated. Yes, that's challenging with stations in the middle of freeway, but are we really that uncreative that we can't come up with a solution? If Dallas can build a park on top of a freeway (http://www.theparkdallas.org), then surely Chicago can come up with a solution to better connect neighborhoods to train stations stranded in freeways. I wouldn't suggest any solution that costly to the city, but maybe we can sell air rights over the freeway to private developers to help cover up the freeway blight with new street-level retail? Who knows what this city could come up with if we tried? I never claim to have all the solutions, but I think it's worth putting these topics out there for conversation. There are certainly many other challenges facing these neighborhoods, but it would be foolish to overlook the impact of basic access.

  • In reply to carfreechicago:

    Chicago just talks...talks...talks about that.

    Except for the Congress (now Blue Line Forest Park), there never was any thought of through rapid transit service via expressways (that is the Chicago term) to the suburbs. There was talk about building parking garages over the expressway at 87th and 79th, but apparently there was no suburban driver demand for that.

    There is some talk in Oak Park about malling over the expressway, but it would make no sense over the Dan Ryan, given the vast swaths of empty land in the adjoining areas north of Garfield.

    You and "planners" can talk a good game, but one is not going to undo what was thought as good planning in the late 1950s. The debate over the north main, which is in walking distance of population, indicates that we can't just rip things up because theories change.

  • Yeah, the suburbanite's stations are so walkable, they walk right to their cars and drive away.

  • In reply to chris:

    Not if they live in downtown Naperville, Lisle, Arlington Heights, Westmont, Clarendon Hills, Des Plaines, etc.

    In fact, the parking lots in the DuPage communities have so little capacity, that Pace runs feeder buses.

    Also, how about the city folk who park at the Edgewood Milwaukee North station, which is in the city, but nowhere near an L line (except a 20 minute ride on the 85A)?

    Let's hear it for the uninformed city resident.

  • In reply to jack:

    It's the Edgebrook station at Devon & Kinzua.

  • In reply to ScooterLibbby:

    Thank you. I thought I might have goofed after hitting Post.

    The point remains the same.

  • In reply to jack:

    I don't disagree.
    Many of the burbs that developed along the railroads are redeveloping their downtowns to make them walkable.
    As people get older, they drive less or are incapable of driving, so a compact, walkable place is highly desirable & profitable.

  • In reply to jack:

    The stations he lists as not "walkable" are also extremely depressed economically. They do not have the population density that would justify public transit today. A lot of history has transpired in the last 100 years since the green line was built. There are few businesses or employment centers. These are areas that are suffering from poverty, crime, the drug trade, and steep population loss.

    The concerns of these communities are safer streets, better schools, and community engagement necessary to build businesses and job centers. The last thing they care about right now is their "walkability" score.

    It is one thing to note that they have low walkability scores, which is fine. But it's quite another to say it should be a policy priority to "encourage development" near a train station that people are afraid to walk to. The policy priority should be public safety, first, followed by schools and general economic development.

  • In reply to jeffbaird:

    Totally agree. The Garfield stop on the Green line (55th street) is another example, yikes. Least walkable for certain, boarded up storefronts. But that 55 bus is convenient connection to U of C hospitals. The Green line towards Cottage Grove is a remnant (rehabbed remnant I guess) of another era. Until the blight becomes busier again, it's not likely to get any better just east of the Dan Ryan.

  • In reply to jeffbaird:

    Jeff, you seem to be missing the idea that walkability as an indicator of safe streets and strong business and job centers. Of course people in these neighborhoods don't care what their "walkability score" is. But they do care if there are basic services and jobs near their homes, which is what the Walk Score is based on. And they do care if they have to spend 1/3 of their household income on transportation costs because they have to drive everywhere, which is the case if transit stations don't provide access to jobs and services.

    I shouldn't have to state that crime and economic development are very closely related. Policies focusing economic development around train stations are important to improve access to services and jobs while conserving scarce transportation infrastructure dollars.

  • In reply to carfreechicago:

    Basically, the stations at Garfield are just transfer points, as are many on the Dan Ryan. The only two stations that have indigenous sources of passenger traffic are Cermak and Sox-35.

    And, carfree, you may have your crusades, but unless something is done to pacify those neighborhoods, no body is going to move into them voluntarily. The census demonstrates that.

  • In reply to jack:

    I have friends who live 3/4 mile to 1 mile from the 95th St. red line station. They are physically capable of walking the distance, but choose not to walk for safety reasons. They take the bus or call friends or family to pick them up at the station.

    Most of the destinations within easy walking distance of these stations are fast food restaurants, gas stations and small churches. Many of the gas stations and fast food restaurants are magnets for illicit activity, reinforcing the safety issue.

    As long as public safety continues to be a significant issue at this and other stations on this list, I don't see these walk scores improving significantly.

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