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Extend Yellow Line to Old Orchard to boost job access

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The CTA’s Yellow Line, which extends west from the Red Line’s north terminus at Howard Street to Dempster, was originally called the “Skokie Swift.”

Unfortunately, right now transportation to and from Skokie is anything but swift for the thousands of daily commuters who rely on the CTA.

The Yellow Line has been temporarily closed since a construction problem at a nearby water plant compromised the tracks in May.

While much has been made of the inconvenience for people who live along the Yellow Line, the majority of Yellow Line commuters are reverse commuters, travelling from homes in the city to jobs in the suburbs. These commuters were poorly served by the Yellow Line long before the embankment collapsed.

The proposed Yellow Line Extension in our Transit Future vision would make the Yellow Line a convenient option for more people by bringing fast and reliable service to the area’s predominant employment hub surrounding Old Orchard Mall.

This area includes the mall itself, National Louis University, Niles North High School, countless corporate offices and a significant cluster of medical-related businesses.

Getting to these jobs from the Yellow Line’s current terminus at Dempster, only 1.6 miles away, takes upwards of 20 minutes. As a result, 80 percent of commuters from Chicago’s north lakefront neighborhoods choose to drive alone to Skokie rather than take CTA to the Old Orchard employment hub.

Those commuting to the city from the suburbs would also benefit from a Yellow Line Extension.

About a quarter of the people who get on the Yellow Line at Dempster during a normal weekday transferred from a bus that stops at Old Orchard. Another one-fifth of commuters use CTA’s Dempster “park-and-ride.” But the park-and-ride, at over ninety percent capacity in 2009, reflects the need for an intermodal Yellow Line station in an area less dense than Dempster with ample room for bus transfers and park-and-ride facilities. The Old Orchard area already has both.

If you live on the North Side or in northern suburbs, click here to sign a letter to your elected officials in support of the extension and countywide rapid transit expansion.

The Yellow Line Extension, one of ten expansion projects in our Transit Future vision, would extend the line by 1.6 miles, greatly increasing convenience of access to the area. The project would use existing Union Pacific Railroad right-of-ways and would also incorporate new track to be built along the Edens Expressway (I-94).

Expected population and job growth along this corridor will induce more trips. But those working or living near Old Orchard have no efficient means of commuting to Chicago without a car, creating more congestion on the Edens and Kennedy expressways. 

The project was proposed by the CTA in 2008, but has stalled due to lack of funding. A dedicated revenue stream in the upcoming county budget, as called for in our Transit Future vision, could help secure the funding needed for projects like the Yellow Line Extension.

North Side and North Suburban residents, please take action to support the extension today by contacting your county commissioner.

Check out the Yellow Line Extension page on the Transit Future website for more details about the project.

This post was written by Sam Hersh and Zach Popp, Transit Future interns. 

This is the ninth post in our 10 lines, 5 weeks blog series. Each week from now until Labor Day, we’ll take a look at two lines in the Transit Future vision and make the case for why the county board should take action to expand the rapid transit network in Cook County.