The Chicago region’s current hub-and-spoke transit system leaves nearly half a million Cook County residents stranded in transit deserts.
Get the latest updates on active transportation issues in North Chicago below and make sure to join our In Your Community: North Chicago e-newsletter list. The e-newsletter comes out quarterly and offers a quick read on issues related to bicycling, walking and transit in your neighborhood.
If you are interested in learning more about any of the information provided on this page, please feel free to contact Jim Merrell at Jim@activetrans.org or 312-216-0470.
Speeding up Chicago’s buses
Bus ridership in Chicago has been steadily declining for the past ten years, even on some of the highest ridership routes on the North Side such as the #8 Halsted, #66 Chicago and the #80 Irving Park. Active Trans recently released a report that focuses on service and policy changes that can be made to get Chicagoans back on the bus. To apply some of the principles laid out in the report, we suggested specific intersections where dedicated bus lanes, traffic signal improvements and faster boarding could be implemented to increase speed and reliability of bus service. Fewer Chicagoans riding the bus means more driving and more cars on our already congested streets. Bus service has major implications for equity as well, due to the disproportionate number of bus riders who live in low-income communities or work in places that lack access to the rail transit system. Please read and share the report on social media with #backonthebus or have your organization join the Back on the Bus Coalition!
312 RiverRun Trail construction has begun
In early October, the Chicago Department of Transportation broke ground on the 312 RiverRun Trail, which will boast a 1.5-mile path and bridge along the North Branch of the Chicago River for biking and walking or running. The new trail includes a new bridge, and a trail connection under the Irving Park Road Bridge, providing a continuous path from Belmont to Montrose linking Clark, California and Horner Parks along the way. Construction of the Irving Park under-bridge path that connects California and Horner Parks will start in 2018. The Riverview Bridge will soar 18 feet above the water and cross over the North Branch from the eastern edge of Clark Park to the western side of California Park. Scheduled to be completed in 2018, it will be the longest pedestrian river bridge in the city and span a length of 1,000 feet. This is an important step towards building a continuous trail along the Chicago River.
Join the Chicago River Trail Coalition
We are looking for individuals and organizations in Chicago who support a vision for a continuous river trail. You can show your support by joining the Chicago River Trail Coalition either as an individual or an organization. Learn more at www.activetrans.org/chicagorivertrail and sign up to receive the monthly newsletter highlighting campaign progress and further opportunities to get involved.
Major makeover for Milwaukee Ave. in Logan Square
The Chicago Department of Transportation is in the planning stages of a major reconstruction to Milwaukee Avenue between Belmont Avenue to the north and Logan Boulevard to the south. The first public meeting was held in August to collect community input and to share existing conditions, such as what percentage of residents in the project study area bike, walk, take transit or drive to get to work. Over the last 15 years, there has been a 9 percent increase in people taking transit to work and a 2 percent increase in people biking to work. We need your help to ensure that this trend continues and to advocate for the appropriate infrastructure in this crucial corridor in the heart of Logan Square. The next public meeting will happen in early winter of 2018. Stay tuned for ways to provide input on the future of walking, biking and taking transit on Milwaukee Avenue.
Residents look toward better biking, walking on Northwest Side
Northwest Side residents came together on a recent evening at Cosmic Bikes in Jefferson Park to strategize how to improve biking, walking and transit conditions in their neighborhoods. Some themes that emerged were extending the Divvy network to the Northwest Side, improving accessibility and safety near the Blue Line stops along the Kennedy Expressway and improving east-west connections for biking and walking across the expressway. Email email@example.com if you would like to get involved in contacting local alderman to advocate for these changes or if you would like to hold a community forum in your neighborhood.
Plans for Milwaukee Avenue a step in the right direction
Building off the momentum of the rally for a safer Milwaukee Avenue, many supporters came to the July 12 public meeting, where the Chicago Department of Transportation presented proposed improvements to the Milwaukee Avenue corridor, took questions from the public and then held an open- house style input session with printouts of key intersections of the corridor. Active Trans believes the proposed improvements are a good first step to making the Milwaukee Avenue corridor safer for all, but we want a commitment for protected bike lanes and parking removal to happen sooner than the proposed five- to 10-year timeline. The support for this project is clear, indicated by more than 1,500 signatures and counting for our petition. Please sign and share the petition if you have not done so already.
A complete bike network in Edgewater in the works
A groundbreaking bikeways project is starting up in Edgewater, which Active Trans hopes sets a precedent for all of Chicago's neighborhoods. The Chicago Department of Transportation and the office of Alderman Harry Osterman of the 48th Ward hosted a community meeting to kick off the conversation around the pilot program to create a neighborhood bikeways network for Edgewater. The goal of the project is to create a well-connected neighborhood bike network designed for people of all ages and abilities. The project is fully funded and set to move forward with a community bike ride later in the summer and a second community meeting in the winter of 2017. If you have any comments or questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
39th Ward engages in community visioning session as North Branch Trail extension is set to open in August
On May 29, more than 50 people showed up for a planning session for the 39th Ward and to kick off the opening of the North Branch Trail Alliance. A key part of our Chicago River Trail campaign seeks to ensure the project will meet the needs of the community. So we want to make sure that the neighborhood residents and other stakeholders along the route are involved in the planning process. The strong turnout underscores the demand for more trail and bikeway networks in Chicago.
With the second part of the North Branch extension set to open Aug. 12 in the 39th Ward, the North Branch Trail Alliance rode together along the new North Branch extension to Bunker Hill and Caldwell Woods and finished in Niles. The group stopped at local businesses along the way to highlight the value of a business location close to a trail.
Support dedicated bus lanes on North Lake Shore Drive
On July 12, a public meeting sought input on the plan to redefine North Lake Shore Drive. The Illinois Department of Transportation and the Chicago Department of Transportation have initiated a study to improve North Lake Shore Drive from Grand Avenue to Hollywood Avenue. This will require an extensive outreach program to generate ideas that address user needs and respect the values and character of neighborhoods yet fits within a complex implementation process. Achieving a balance between the original vision of a park boulevard and the realities of today's travel demands will be critical. There is still time to submit your comments and support for dedicated bus lanes along North Lake Shore Drive online.
Next phase of Lakefront Trail separation set for Ardmore Avenue to Montrose Avenue
Active Trans is currently providing input on the Chicago Park District's plans to create separated lanes for people biking and people walking on the Lakefront Trail between Ardmore Avenue and Montrose Avenue. The city presented design concepts at a public meeting on Aug. 1 and plans to start construction later this year. Construction of this particular portion is slated to begin and end in 2017. Lakefront Trail users will have to use marked detour routes on the trail during construction. Check out the current detour map in effect from Fullerton Avenue to Ohio Avenue, expected to last until late 2017. The park district aims to complete separation of the full Lakefront Trail by the end of 2018.
Make Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park bike friendly
A new neighborhood master plan, released by Wicker Park Bucktown Special Service Area (WPB SSA), includes a proposal to re-balance North Milwaukee Avenue by relocating on-street parking to create space for buffered bike lanes. This recommendation gives advocates a great foothold to build upon. Active Trans will continue to campaign for permanent improvements for biking and walking in this corridor, including pushing for physically separated protected bike lanes.
Separation is coming to the Lakefront Trail
After decades of advocacy by Active Trans and our community partners, full trail separation is coming to the lakefront! Thanks to a generous donation from a local philanthropist, it was announced that the entire 18-mile Lakefront Trail would be separated into two paths — one for foot travel and one for biking. The separation will ease congestion and cyclist-pedestrian conflict along the busiest trail in the country. Since the announcement, Active Trans has been working closely with partner organizations and the parks department on developing a plan for moving forward. The project is expected to be completed in 2018. Learn more at a public meeting to discuss the project on Wednesday, March 22, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the Lincoln Park Cultural Center (2045 N. Lincoln Park West).
Chicago River Trail advances in community plans
Groundwork is getting laid for the development of the Chicago River Trail! The recently unveiled Goose Island redevelopment plan includes pedestrian and bicycle trails, which would go a long way towards filling one of the largest remaining gaps in a continuous river trail. Also, finishing the Weber Spur Trail — a key river trail connection on the city’s Northwest Side — was on people’s minds at a recent public forum. If you live in these areas and have ideas on these issues, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact Steve Simmons at Steve@activetrans.org.
Take our survey to help improve Chicago’s bus service
Halted on Halsted? Inching along on Irving Park? Bus ridership has been declining significantly over the last several years, and we believe the central problem is unreliable and slow service. Thus, many people are choosing alternative options when it comes to getting around the city. Our new campaign, Speeding Up Chicago's Buses, seeks to change this downturn by promoting near-term, low-cost bus service improvements to the city’s highest ridership routes — such as faster boarding practices, dedicated bus lanes, and traffic signal improvements. Please take our survey and share your opinion on improving Chicago's bus service!
Manor Greenway moves forward
After several contentious meetings on the Manor Greenway project in the 33rd Ward, construction is slated to move forward as planned in 2017. While the controversial traffic diverter at West Wilson Avenue and North Manor Avenue will not be included, the project will still create a high-quality low-stress connection between existing parks and trails in the area. 33rd Ward residents also have a chance to suggest other infrastructure improvements for the ward by taking this survey. The deadline for the survey is March 31.
City unveils river trail concepts
Chicago city planners have unveiled draft concepts for extending the 606 to the east and building a seven-mile continuous river trail loop along the North Branch of the Chicago River. If implemented, these concepts would go a long way towards filling one of the largest remaining gaps in a continuous Chicago River Trail, as envisioned in Active Trans’ Chicago River Trail Action Plan. Learn more on our blog.
Active Trans announces Chicago River Trail Action Plan
Active Trans recently released the Chicago River Trail Action Plan, outlining our vision for a continuous system of mixed-use trails along the Chicago River. Building on the success of the Riverwalk and The Bloomingdale Trail, our action plan proposes innovative floating and decked trail infrastructure to complement the existing 13 miles of riverfront trail. Because the north branch of the Chicago River is experiencing an exciting period of development, the action plan includes important connections to places like the Finkl Steel site, Goose Island, and The 606/Bloomingdale Trail.
New “Belmont Gateway” improves Avondale transit
The Belmont Blue Line Station is set to receive a $15 million transformation into a new Belmont Gateway. This investment will make significant improvements to the station, including redesigned bus boarding areas, improved walking space, and permanent implementation of prepaid boarding for busses and trains. These changes are important steps forward for car-heavy Avondale. We will continue to work with the city to expand ADA accessibility to the Belmont Gateway. Check out our blog to learn more about the gateway and ways to make it even better.
North Side wards hold participatory budgeting vote
Chicago has been a national pioneer for participatory budgeting, a system in which citizens are given a direct vote in how city funds are spent. The 31st, 35th and 36th Wards recently concluded their annual vote, and the 36th Ward saw a 35 percent increase in participation from last year. All three ballots included bike and pedestrian infrastructure upgrades. Unfortunately, the bike lane funds for the 31st and 35th Wards failed to pass, but safety improvements for residents who walk in all three wards were funded. Participatory budgeting is a fantastic way for community members to advocate for greater investment in bike lanes, greenways, traffic calming and other efforts to make streets safer and more equitable. We encourage anyone who lives in a participatory budgeting ward to vote and make your voice heard! Read more on our blog.
North Branch Trail extension opens
The much-anticipated North Branch Trail extension is finally complete! Phase 1 of the extension connects Caldwell and Devon Avenues to Forest Glen Avenue, and winds through 2 miles of scenic wooded areas. The extension also includes two new bridges, improving connectivity over the Chicago River North Branch and the Metra Milwaukee District North Tracks. This project is an important part of our Bikeways for All vision and furthers the goal of creating a stress-free bike networks that’s accessible to everyone. Read more about the extension, and check for updates on Phase 2 on our blog.
Transit TIF unlocks project funding
In today’s financial climate, funding for even the most necessary of transportation improvements can be hard to come by. However, a new state law allowing tax increment financing (TIF) districts to be created around major projects opens the door to much-needed funding. The law allows the city to leverage the future benefits of transit investment to gain access to federal funds. Transit TIF districts can help fund critical projects, such as the Red Line extension, the Blue Line Forest Park modernization and the Red-Purple Line modernization. Transit TIF funds will allow the Chicago Transit Authority to reduce congestion and wait times by adding more trains and expanding ADA accessibility through station improvements. Check out our blog for more information.
48th Ward sees biking improvements
Following positive public feedback, Alderman Harry Osterman recently announced two new projects to increase bike safety in the 48th Ward. Beginning in spring 2017, a new contra-flow bike lane will be built on Glenwood Avenue, creating a route from Rogers Park south all the way to Uptown and the Lakefront Trail. Additionally, the alderman announced the formation of a Cyclist and Pedestrian Working Group for ward residents designed to advise on improvements to safety and communication about issues facing residents who bike and walk in the community. This is your opportunity to help influence and transform your neighborhood to be more amenable to people who walk and bike. If you are interested in joining the alderman’s working group, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support the #11 bus
After years of community advocacy, the #11 Lincoln Avenue bus is back — but just for a limited time. The Chicago Transit Authority is piloting the bus for six months, and the route needs to meet ridership targets to become permanently restored. Learn more about the route by going to the Lincoln bus page on our website.
No fatality on our streets is acceptable
Earlier this summer in Avondale, 25-year-old Virginia Murray was struck and killed by a truck while riding a Divvy bike. The crash is believed to be the first bike-share fatality in the country. This tragedy is the latest in a string of serious injuries and fatalities among people biking that have been reported widely in the media. We’ve heard from a lot of Active Trans members and supporters who are understandably concerned by these reports and are eager to take action. Instead of discouraging us, these recent events should impel all of us to work ever harder — both directly and indirectly — to address the unacceptable number of bicycle and pedestrian crashes in the region. Read more on our blog about ways that we are working to make this happen.
Ventra still a problem for social service providers
The transition to Ventra has made it more difficult for many low-income residents to ride transit to job training, housing, medical appointments, childcare and other critical destinations. A recent Chicago Jobs Council (CJC) report, "The Hidden Cost of Ventra," highlights the key issues and recommends specific changes that would remove unnecessary hurdles for providers and boost ridership and revenue for the transit agencies. The report details the challenges providers face in ordering transit passes in bulk for their program participants. Active Trans supports the policy recommendations in the report and is working with CJC and social service providers to advocate for the changes to be implemented. Read our blog to learn more about this issue.
Local Community Resources
Please email suggestions for additional local community resources to Jim@activetrans.org.
North & Northwest Side Community Areas
Albany Park, Avondale, Belmont Cragin, Dunning, Edgewater, Edison Park, Forest Glen, Hermosa, Irving Park, Jefferson Park, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, Logan Square, Montclare, North Center, North Park, Norwood Park, O’Hare, Portage Park, Rogers Park, Uptown, West Ridge.