Maintenance and simple improvements to increase reliability could save Illinois train commuters more than 800,000 hours in delays every year.
Get the latest updates on active transportation issues in South Chicago below and make sure to join our In Your Community: South 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 South Side such as the #4 Cottage Grove, the #8 Halsted, and the #79, 79th street. 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!
Lakefront Trail users should be protected from traffic
After hearing from several concerned members and supporters using the Lakefront Trail on the South side near 47th street, Active Trans brought their concerns to the park district. Trail users said were concerned about their safety and the proximity of the newly separated Lakefront Trail within several feet of cars traveling at 40 miles per hour or more along Lake Shore Drive. Meanwhile, there were two incidents of cars driving off South Lake Shore Drive and crashing near the Lake Front Trail (see photo). After talking with Active Trans, Chicago Area Runners Association and concerned residents, the park district told us its goal is to install a guard rail wherever the trail is within thirty feet of Lake Shore Drive. The park district is now talking with the Chicago Department of Transportation and Illinois Department of Transportation to figure out the best way to fund and install the guard rail. Active Trans will continue to monitor the issue and talk with city leaders to ensure the guard rail is installed.
Improving biking and walking around Lake Calumet
From Steelworkers Park to the Pullman National Monument, the Park at Big Marsh and beyond, there are an incredible array of existing and planned cultural and open space destinations on Chicago’s Far South Side. The Chicago Park District recently launched a new website highlighting many of these new and existing destinations. Unfortunately, though, access to these areas, as well as to many of the nearby residential communities, continues to be a substantial barrier. Starting with the release of our Big Marsh Access Action Plan in 2015 and continuing through our advocacy around the Chicago Park District’s Southeast Area Wide Plan completed earlier this year, Active Trans has been working with grassroots leaders and community partners to push decision makers and public agencies to address the access and transportation challenges in the area. And we won’t stop until the people who live, work and visit the Far South Side have the safe, convenient and reliable transportation options they deserve.
Hyde Park residents look at improving mobility
The Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference invited Active Trans to facilitate a workshop on mobility issues in its neighborhood. Major themes identified were the lack of comprehensive planning between transit, biking and walking in the area. The state of the roads and sidewalks were also a hot button issue, as was the development of the neighborhood in recent years and in the near future with the new golf course and Obama Foundation and Library in planning stages. To ensure the community has a voice as the neighborhood develops, now is the time to organize. If you are interested in holding a similar workshop in your own neighborhood, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or contact email@example.com to get involved with the efforts in Hyde Park.
Bike lanes on Stony Island first step for multimodal plan for Riverdale community
The Local Technical Assistance fund of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning is funding a multimodal transportation plan for Chicago's Riverdale neighborhood. No information on the public engagement process has been shared as of publication. So far, new bike lanes have been installed on Stony Island Avenue, a first for the neighborhood. The bike lanes connect key streets as well as provide access to the Big Marsh Forest Preserve. Check the Active Trans blog regularly for more updates on the multimodal plan.
Metra Electric proposes cutting off-peak service
In order to pay for increased service on the Main Metra Electric Line, Metra has proposed cutting off-peak service on the South Chicago and Blue Island branches of Metra Electric. Active Trans is part of the Coalition for a Modern Metra Electric Coalition, which supports running CTA-style service on the full Metra Electric line, with trains every 10-15 minutes and fare transferability from the line to CTA and Pace buses. Metra’s proposal is a step in that direction for the main line. Comments and feedback on the proposal can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lakefront trail separation and new bridge construction
The Chicago Park District recently completed the first segment of the Lakefront Trail separation on the South Side from 35th Street to 41st Street. The city has finalized plans for the next segment, from 41st Street to 55th Street, and plans to start construction this summer. That segment will be built in coordination with the new bike and pedestrian bridge at 41st Street. The city expects this part of the trail separation will be completed in the fall and plans to complete separation of the entire Lakefront Trail by the end of 2018. The trail will be available during construction of these projects, but users will have to take marked detours along the trail. Check the park district Lakefront Trail page for future updates.
Vision Zero Action Plan targets outreach efforts in South Side communities
The Mayor’s Office released the Vision Zero Action Plan in late June. Half of the high-crash areas identified in the plan are located on the city’s South Side, including West Englewood, Englewood, Grand Boulevard and Washington Park. Part of the plan is to develop community-led crash-reduction plans for each high-crash area. Each high-crash area will also be the focus of a community outreach plan, involving aldermen, residents, city and community partners, and city agencies. There will be community engagement groups in each of the listed community areas on the South Side as well as high-crash areas on the West Side and downtown. The city will conduct outreach at existing community meetings and additional Vision Zero events. Stay tuned for ways to get involved in the Vision Zero outreach efforts in your South Side community.
Take our survey to help improve Chicago’s bus service
Congested on Cottage Grove? Standing still on 79th? 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!
Planning developments for the far South Side
Active Trans staff recently met with the local staff of Representative Robin Kelly (IL-2) to talk about our advocacy for a new trail connection between the Pullman neighborhood and the new bike park at Big Marsh. This priority connection has also been highlighted during the planning process for the Chicago Park District’s Southeast Area Wide Plan, which is focused partly on identifying transportation and access needs among new and existing open spaces on the far South Side. We are continuing to work with community partners and other stakeholders to move the new Pullman to Big Marsh trail concept forward, along with other recommendations highlighted in our Big Marsh Access Action Plan.
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. Phase 1 of the project is mostly complete and stretches from 31st Street to 51st Street, connecting to the newly opened 35th Street bridge. The full project is expected to be completed in 2018.
South Side Leadership Network
On February 28, Active Trans hosted a South Side Leadership Network meeting. The meeting brought together advocates from across the South Side to discuss local biking, walking, and public transit issues. Topics included bikeways improvements, Vision Zero, Divvy bikeshare and organizing around Bike Week. If you’re interested in being a part of the Leadership Network, please contact Cynthia Hudson at Cynthia@activetrans.org.
Active Trans 2017 Chicago Bike Week Mini-Grant Program
Active Trans is pleased to announce a mini-grant opportunity to support community based events during Chicago Bike Week (June 16-23, 2017). This funding opportunity will award 3-6 grants of $500-$1,000 dollars each. Applicants are encouraged to be creative and there are no limitations on the types of events that may be supported. Got an idea for a community bike ride, an educational workshop, a bike repair demo or other bike-related activities. For more details, including information on how to apply, please contact Cynthia Hudson at Cynthia@activetrans.org or 312-216-0464.
#31 bus back on a trial basis
A six-month pilot program for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) #31 bus is up and running after months of campaigning by dedicated community groups. The bus runs from the Ashland Orange Line Station to the Lake Meadows Shopping Center, and operates on weekdays only. While the pilot program re-establishes critical public transit along a burgeoning commercial corridor, many are concerned that restrictive hours and low frequency will make it difficult for the bus to reach its ridership goals. We encourage those who live and work along the route to use the bus, and to contact CTA and your alderman to voice your support for making the #31 bus permanent. Check out more information about the #31 bus 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 606 trail, our action plan proposes innovative floating and decked trail infrastructure to complement the existing 13 miles of riverfront trail. New projects such as the El Paseo Trail and the Riverline Development are incorporated, and the plan encompasses all the communities along the river.
Big Marsh Bike Park opens
The Big Marsh Bike Park opened on Nov. 6 in a ceremony attended by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman Susan Sadlowski Garza, park district chief Michael Kelly and local community leaders. The $5.7 million project transformed the site from an “industrial wasteland” into an impressive 40-acre bike park designed for community members of all abilities to come out and bike. The bike park features jumps and trails for BMX and mountain bikers, a multipurpose trail for more casual riders, and a cyclocross course intended for a future competition site. This development creates a much-needed public space on the South Side and makes an important investment in bike infrastructure. While the park is designed to be used by people from every part of Chicago and beyond, work must be done to make sure that the site is accessible to everyone.
Red Line expansion plan draws lively response
More than 250 South Side residents met with the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) on Nov. 1 to discuss the city’s plan to extend the Red Line to 130th Street. Many community members were excited about the potential for shorter commutes and greater connectivity to the rest of the city. Locals also expressed hope that the extension would remove traffic from the Dan Ryan Expressway, help students get to class and match community members with job opportunities elsewhere in the city. The CTA plans to hold additional public meetings before the public comment period comes to a close, and we’ll forward that information when it becomes available.
Beautiful 35th Street pedestrian bridge opens
The long-awaited 35th Street mixed-use bridge is open! The new $18.3 million structure is a beautiful white suspension bridge that strategically curves to offer residents crossing on foot or by bike stunning views of the lake and skyline. Replacing a 75-year-old crumbling box bridge, the 35thth Street Suspension Bridge is fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and creates a vital connection between Bronzeville and the lakefront. By providing all residents of Bronzeville with a safe and accessible route over Lake Shore Drive and the Illinois Central railroad, the city is making an important investment in connectivity and walkability.
Safer streets coming to Cottage Grove
The six-block section of Cottage Grove Avenue from west 77th Street to West 83rd Street will be upgraded this year to make this crash-prone stretch of roadway safer for people walking while also boosting local businesses.
The Chicago Department of Transportation kicked off construction on the $4.8 million project this past spring and expects it to be completed in a year. It includes improving the intersection of 79th and Cottage Grove, one of the most dangerous intersections in Chicago for people biking and walking. The intersection appeared on the Active Transportation Alliance’s Safe Crossings list as a result of its 36 reported pedestrian and bike crashes 2006-2012 – the fourth highest in the city.
Improvements include enhanced lighting, sidewalk repair, updated ADA ramps, additional trees and side-street bumpouts to slow and reduce cut-through traffic. Although two lanes of traffic in both directions on Cottage Grove will be maintained in the new design, Active Trans hopes the streetscaping improvements will help calm traffic and make the overall environment safer for all users, especially people walking.
Better transit for south Chicagoland
For decades, South Chicagoland residents and transit experts have recognized the potential benefits of enhancing service along the Metra Electric District line, which would greatly improve access to transit in an area that is currently a “transit desert.” Now this idea is finally gaining momentum with interest from the mayor’s office and a glowing article from the Chicago Tribune editorial board. The Coalition for Modern Metra Electric, which includes Active Trans and community groups from the South Side and south suburbs, is calling for the line to operate like true rapid transit with trains running every 10-15 minutes throughout the day. Take action today — sign a letter to your legislators supporting upgrades to Metra Electric service.
PlayStreets: building community on the South Side
PlayStreets Chicago is a citywide initiative to encourage neighborhood organizations and residents to temporarily close off residential streets and provide Chicago families with pop-up play spaces to come together, be safe and get active. This summer, dozens of PlayStreets events in South Side neighborhoods have been facilitated by Active Trans and World Sport Chicago, in collaboration with community groups. The events are designed to bring neighbors together, promote a sense of community, and encourage healthy and active living. To learn more about PlayStreets and find information about upcoming events, check out the PlayStreets Chicago website and watch this great video.
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.
South Side Community Areas
Ashburn, Armor Square, Auburn Gresham, Avalon Park, Beverly, Bridgeport, Burnside, Calumet Heights, Chatham, Douglas, East Side, Fuller Park, Grand Boulevard, Greater Grand Crossing, Hegewisch, Hyde Park, Kenwood, Montclare, Morgan Park, Mount Greenwood, Oakland, Riverdale, Roseland, Pullman, South Chicago, South Deering, South Shore, Washington Heights, Washington Park, West Pullman, Woodlawn