Do long travel times contribute to segregation?

Chicago’s hub-and-spoke transportation system serves to prolong segregation in Chicago’s neighborhoods, according to a recent story at Medill Reports Chicago:

Some Chicagoans and transportation experts think long travel times could be a creating more than just an inconvenient travel experience; it could be a contributing factor that’s keeping Chicago’s neighborhoods segregated.

Pilsen residents gathered at the National Mexican Museum of Art recently to discuss the 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan and called for a better transportation system to help connect Chicago’s diverse communities. A common complaint at the meeting was a lack of cultural interaction among Chicago neighborhoods.

I can see some merit in the argument. The long distance – and time – to get from south to north in the city, or even worse, from south to west, certainly exacerbate a long-term, deep-rooted problem of segregation in the city. But the CTA suggested a solution in 2002 – the Circle Line. However, even called the plan “highly conceptual.”

The proposed Red Line extension to 130th Street could help, but only for those who south of 95th Street.

Other transit experts don’t buy the Medill story theory. “I’ve never heard of the conclusion that [the El] is a barrier between neighborhoods,” said Steve Schlickman, executive director of the Urban Transportation Center at the University of Illinois Chicago. “The El and commuter rail systems have maintained and fostered vital hubs of connectivity.”



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  • I'm sort of with Schlickman on this one. For instance, the South Side Green Line provides pretty rapid transit, but that area (south of 35th) has been segregated for about 100 years, and then pretty well decimated population-wise in the past 30 or so years. If Pilsen is the example, they have the Pink Line.

    IMO, the real cause of segregation is that immigrants with entrepreneurial skills moved into much of the north side (such as Albany Park and West Ridge, and even Broadway-Argyle), while vast amounts of the population in the south and west sides have moved out (as noted by how reapportionment of the City Council turned out).

    Now, if you want to talk about that many of the jobs have headed out to Deerfield and Schaumburg, and the way to get to them is using either Metra or the Blue Line and then a Pace feeder, or that Pace is still running express buses to get people from the south suburbs to Oak Brook, now maybe that's an indication of socioeconomic segregation. It is of course worse if the job is in Lincolnshire, for instance.

    BTW, there is a topic on under the RPM based on a rumor that, if true, would really set off this debate.

    As far as the Circle Line, the consultants pretty much killed it by holding it up 3 years to kill what Mayor Daley wanted (the Mid-City Line), and then punting on the Ashland-Ogden subway connecting Paulina-Lake with North & Clybourn. [Check>News and Initiatives->Planning and Expansion->Circle Line Alternatives Analysis] For that matter, the Yellow and Orange Line extensions haven't been heard from since, the Yellow one for obvious reasons. From the Carter initiative press conference, it sound like Emanuel is banking on BRT.

  • Side by Side - the Red line Extension would serve the area from 130th to 95th & State. St. only (for 1.4 Billion Dollars):

    The Gray Line Conversion would connect Hegewisch, Downtown Blue Island, and the USX Lakefront Development - through the South Side, and Hyde Park - to the Loop (for 200 Million Dollars - 1/7th the cost of the Red Line Ext.)

  • Have the consultants that got a $1/2 million actually come up with a cost estimate to support your $200 million statement? If so, please post a link.

  • RIGHT ON! Conversion of the parts of the Metra electic in the city, and the Blue Island branch, to rapid transit would provide a much larger part of the South side of the city with rapid transit than expansion of the Red line farther south. Since it will be using existing underused infrastructure, that will be much more cost effective than building an expensive new elevated line. Unfortunately politics prevents Chicagoland from having a unified, co-ordinated public transportation system.

  • Another thing about the Circle Line, have any of the costs and infrastructure changes to Metra been thought out.

    For example, at 16th & Paulina it would cost a lot to realign the BNSF tracks to provide space for platforms, and that location is 1 mile east and west of existing stations.

    North & Elston provides NO space on the UP ROW for a station, and is 1 mile south of Clybourn; which trains would stop at which stations - as on the BNSF?

  • You can consult the consultants' reports for which I posted a path above. By only concluding that the bridge between Ashland/Archer and Paulina/21 was worth considering a couple of years ago, I think that the inference is no.

    Anyway, as you know, CTA no longer recognizes the existence of Metra or Pace, even if, in 2003, this project was supposedly also in aid of Metra passengers.

  • The interesting thing here isn't the story itself -- which is clearly just a bunch of race-baiting garbage -- but rather that they held their meeting in Pilsen. Used to be, you wanted to pull a stunt like this, you went down to Englewood, roped in a few "reverends", and got your coverage that way.

  • In reply to darkwing:

    While I wouldn't quite put it that way, it does remind me that if the people of Pilsen want to mingle with other cultures, they can transfer from the Pink to Green any place between Ashland and Adams and then get off at 43rd.

    They can even go west on the Pink Line and get off anywhere between Kedzie and Kostner.

    So, it isn't the lack of rapid transit that is preventing that.

  • My comments involve the line itself. The circle line left me cold the first few times I saw the layout years ago, because I didn't really see lots of ridership for the money it would take to study and build it. I'm warming to it as I see it now. Whether it prolonges segregation, or not, our hub and spoke system is a detriment to the entire city. It makes getting around difficult if you have to go anywhere outside the Loop. European cities have more of a mesh system, allowing for easy transfers that take you just about anywhere (you can traverse Paris easily without ever seeing the inner Arrondisments). In Chicago, it's a slow bus or sadly, a car if you want to go accross town. I can see the Circle line alleviating at least some of that, AND if there are ways to better connect the system with Metra, that certainly doesn't hurt either. I frequently take 3 Metra lines and wish for better cta connections.

    A side note on segregation from my own experience: I grew up in Roseland. I spent alot of time there and all over the far South Side and suburbs. My family/friends almost never went north of 79th St. Why? Because when your life is that far from the city center, there's little reason to come downtown. We also never mingled with the whites in the communities where we shopped. Why? Because they wouldn't let us, though I see some improvement of late. I didn't start coming to downtown, north and west sides frequently until I got to high school. Building better transit connections will definitely make travel easier and faster--we definitely need it in Chicago. But as far as decreasing segregation, I doubt the black Roselander, or white Mt. Greenwooder will suddenly put aside decades of differences over new train lines. Transit can speed us around, but it won't necessarily change our attitudes about each other, sadly.

  • Bus rapid transit on Western, if done right, will provide much better crosstown service than the Circle line. But it has to be more than just souped up express bus.

    To improve conectivity, a Western station has to be built on the Lake street portion of the Green line. And the service has to be extended into Evanston as far as the Yellow line, with a station built there. The BNSF and Milwaukee district Metra lines have stations at Western, and the Kedzie station on the UP west line could probably be relocated to Western.

    In the long run, if the Western ave BRT picks up enough ridership it could perhaps be upgraded to light rail.

  • In reply to CaptainVideo:

    "And the service has to be extended into Evanston as far as the Yellow line, with a station built there."

    An even better alternative, if feasible, is to run the Western BRT line on Howard between Western and the Howard Red/Purple/Yellow line station. The would provide excellent transfer options between those lines.

  • If the city had not foolishly torn down the old Logan Square elevated line along Paulina between Lake and Milwaukee avenue, the Circle line would be a lot less prohibitably expensive, but the mistake has been made.

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