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Only 0.7 percent of federal transportation funds are spent on improving pedestrian facilities.

Red Line Extension takes major step forward

This week a key hurdle has been cleared to bring high-quality rapid transit to Chicago’s far South Side.

Chicago City Council’s approval was nearly unanimous for a “transit TIF” that leverages the property value realized from investments already made in places like the South Loop and Chinatown.

This local TIF (tax increment financing) funding provides the match funding needed to unlock the investments from federal sources.

Once completed, Chicago’s major north-south L line will extend to the southernmost neighborhoods and fulfill a decades-old promise. The 5.6-mile extension will begin at 95th Street and head south to 130th Street, hitting four new stations along the way.

There is broad community support for the project, bolstered by the understanding that extending CTA’s L system to the far South Side will improve residents’ access to education, employment, healthcare, and other crucial services. The Red Line Extension will also attract construction jobs and future development along the proposed corridor.

Communities across the city have long benefited from access to transit and, as a result, greater economic opportunities. Roseland, Altgeld Gardens, and the other communities adjoining the extension deserve the same type of development and transit access as the neighborhoods in the proposed TIF district.

Continued robust community engagement with far South Side residents will be vital to ensure that the project results in equitable development and economic opportunities for generations to come.

Currently, the project is in the preliminary engineering phase; CTA estimates construction will start in 2025, with service along the Red Line Extension beginning in 2029. 

Prior to the city council vote, we made a joint statement with the Metropolitan Planning Council in support of the transit TIF. Here’s the statement:

 

Members of Chicago City Council:

Every Chicago resident deserves equitable access to high-quality rapid transit. For that reason, I come to you today representing the Metropolitan Planning Council and Active Transportation Alliance – organizations committed to racial equity in transit – to ask for your yes vote for the Red Line Extension Tax Increment Financing District and its associated ordinances before you today.

Put simply, we support this transit TIF because it will provide rapid transit in an area of the city that has long awaited transportation investment. It will connect people to jobs and amenities throughout the city and reduce travel times to the Loop by 30 minutes. It will benefit the city as a whole by giving employers access to an expanded labor market, increasing development potential of underutilized land, increasing tax revenues, and helping the city meet its Climate Action Plan transportation goals.
Our organizations do not always support TIFs: As a market-based tool, TIFs are too often used in areas where developers already want to invest due to the overly broad definition of “blight.” TIFs are too infrequently used to finance projects in areas that have little development momentum because of the inability to raise sufficient funds. In the case of the Red Line Extension, the wealth generation potential of downtown and the near south side is being used to finance investment in historically disinvested areas. This use of TIF centers equity within the process.

Not only is this a good way to fund transit in an underserved area, it comes at a critical moment for Chicago’s transit system. The challenges facing transit are well known to City Council members. This project and this Transit TIF are key pieces of building the service needed to put transit back on track. This is a once-in-a generation opportunity to leverage increased federal funds offered by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to improve transit equity in Chicago and build on CTA’s yearslong investment in this project.

The Red Line Extension carries tremendous potential when coupled with other city incentives and programs. The City’s new Connected Communities ordinance, which deepens incentives for development near transit, provides new opportunities to build housing, retail, and walkable, accessible, thriving streetscapes along this corridor. That potential is magnified as the City leverages other programs – like Invest Southwest – to create vibrant, equitable, transit-oriented development (ETOD) around the new RLE stations.

We thank you for your consideration of this major opportunity for Chicago’s South Side. Metropolitan Planning Council and Active Transportation Alliance urge your yes vote on the for the Red Line Extension TIF.

 

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With support from people like you, Active Transportation Alliance works to make our transportation options safer, more sustainable, and more equitable. You can be part of the movement by joining Active Transportation Alliance, renewing your membership, or donating today