The last in a four-part series by writer Natasha Julius, which I discovered on the blog Urbanophile, outlined some really fantastic ideas to improve access to mass transit in Chicago. Some of the ideas are new to me, some are ones I’ve played around with in my head (more about that at a later time). In the last piece she discusses the need to put transit in places that are actually accessible and enjoyable (link), Julius asserts that constructing the new Green Line Station at Cermak near the growing McCormick Place complex is just the result of mayoral pet projects and ill-conceived.
I must disagree with her though. While she makes a strong argument citing the negative effects of political whims on long-term transportation projects, I think there is certainly a benefit to the construction of a new stop at Cermak along the Green Line.
First, the stop will more directly serve McCormick Place, which means more people will likely opt to take the ‘L’ to the convention center rather than drive. This is especially true for people who might be working there, but staying in the Loop. As of now, the center is only directly accessible by the Metra Electric station, which puts commuters at the mercy of Metra’s limited runs. Better access to an ‘L’ stop means shorter, better access to trains and the ability for more spontaneous transit trips.
A new stop will also be a major gateway to the new DePaul arena (posed to be a center of activity for DePaul University athletics amongst other things) for this site. Whether you like the arena or not, direct access to it from the ‘L’ is much better than indirect access that would discourage people from opting for the ‘L’.
Julius argues that this new stop is a just the result of Emanuel’s hand and that a new stop would be better further north (18th Street is one suggestion), because the Cermak Red Line stop is nearby.
Here’s the thing though: McCormick Place primarily serves tourists, conventioneers and other visitors to the city, would be less likely to take the Red Line to McCormick Place for a number of reasons: 1) it might not appear as close to McCormick Place as it does to locals who are more adept at moving around a city they’re familiar with. The Cermak Green Line stop will likely be advertised as the transfer point to the convention center; 2) a stop at Cermak cuts the walk to McCormick Place’s main entrance by five minutes, not to mention a shorter walkt to the to-be-built arena and secondary entrances;* 3) The area around 18th Street, the location Julius gives as a potential site for a new Green Line stop, isn’t that big, but it’s also very pedestrian and bike friendly area with many bus connections. Local residents can easily access other nearby ‘L’ and Metra connections already.
Making McCormack Place accessible via the Green Line is also a boon to Chicagoans and would help draw further development south of the Loop and hopefully allow that to begin sinking into Bronzeville and other parts of the South Side.
I simply don’t feel that the people going to McCormick Place are the type of people who will want to or have the know how to easily navigate the (yes,relatively short) distance to the McCormack Place complex from the Red Line, which necessitates a new ‘L’ stop along the Green Line. The Green Line stop is intended to serve this particular audience, albeit not always residents. However, if that still means getting people out of cars, that’s a good thing.
*According to Google Maps, the walk from the location of the new Green Line Cermak stop to the main entrance of the McCormack Place is five minutes shorter than the walk from the Chinatown Red Line. It should also be noted, that the walk from the Red Line requires pedestrians to pass sparsely developed sites at the corner of Cermak and State, which makes for a more unpleasant experience.