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Updates: Hyde Park Transit Task Force

of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference

A service of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Transit and Transportation/Parking Committee and the HPKCC website, Help support our work and receive the Reporter quarterly: Join the Conference! Join the Transit Task Force-contact chairman James Withrow.

Transit Task Force Chairman's transit blog service.


Centers for Neighborhood Technology unveils webtool to transit-efficient mortgages, transit-sustainable neighborhoods and more. Includes comments by the HPKCC Transit Task Force chair, James Withrow. CNT spoke at the March 10 TIF meeting.

Hyde Park Herald, April 23, 2008. By Kate Hawley

Longtime Hyde Park resident Charlotte Des Jardins hasn't driven a car in three decades--which she estimates has saved her $150,000. "You can literally go anywhere on public transportation," she said. She takes it to work downtown, to farflung parts of the city and even out to the suburbs, where she recently visited a friend in the hospital.

That's an example of how public transportation can cut down on the cost of living, according to the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a Chicago-based nonprofit that focuses on sustainable urban development.

In early April, the center unveiled an online tool that looks at the affordability of hosing based on access to public transit. The two-year project was supported in part by the Brookings Institution. Through interactive maps, the site reveals that living in the suburbs isn't necessarily a better bargain. While home prices tend to be cheaper the father you go from th city's core, those savings are often offset by the higher costs associated with car ownership and commuting, according to the center's data.

to create the web site, the center used information from the 2000 Census in 52 metropolitan areas, including Chicago. Color-coded maps give a visual breakdown of demographics such as median household income, average monthly rent, housing affordability, vehicle ownership and access to public transportation.

The center is considering ways it can update the data, especially to reflect the recent rise in gas prices, according to Nichole Gotthelf, a spokesperson. A zoom function allows users to spotlight Hyde Park. according to the map, the neighborhood has a high degree of public transit "connectivity," meaning that everyone who lives in the neighborhood is within walking distance of at least two public transportation stops. Large swaths of the neighborhood are near 9 or more stops.

But Hyde Park's public transportation could be better, argues James withrow, a neighborhood resident since 2001 and the author of the blog Hyde Park Urbanist. "There are a lot of different choices here, which is wonderful," he said, but the CTA and Metra trains don't connect well." Withrow is a supporter of the Gray Line, and idea floated by Mike Payne, a transit buff with no Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) affiliation who's nonetheless gotten some attention in the press for his proposal to convert Metra tracks running south and southeast from downtown into a CTA-run service. This, Withrow argues, would make Hyde Park more inviting as a shopping destination for those who live outside the knighthood.

For those who live in the neighborhood, bus and train options are plentiful, Des Jardins said. She has no complaints about the CTA, only about the very occasional rider who doesn't allow a senior citizen like herself a spot in one of the priority seats. "I don't know why people complain about public transportation," she said. "It's really not bad when you consider that there's very little available in most places."


CHA raises cash fare a quarter and ends transfers for cash patrons. Task Force chair gives take.

HPKCC Transit Task Force chairman James Withrow told the Herald (rep. October 12 2005) that he is disappointed with the increase. "People who are tourists can't be expected to buy the Chicago Card Plan and people who ride the CTA irregularly use cash. [The increase] doesn't make the CTA seem any warmer to them."

Withrow also told the Herald that the hike is a just a quick fix to the CTA's deeper, long-term budget problem. "The city at some time is going to have to come up with more money for public transportation. The state can't be expected to pick up the tab all the time."

More on the fare hike in the Fare Hike 2005 page.

Local advocates, including James Withrow of the HPKCC Transit Task Force and Judy Roothaan of OWL (Older Women's League) expressed disappointment at the HPKCC December board meeting that CTA designated no Hyde Park sites for touch-and-go money adding machines for Chicago Cards--the nearest being in the 300 block of E. 47th. CTA says the currency exchanges initially chose are near bus stops where or near the cards can be bought and that this is an initial trial. Roothaan to HPKCC that in general CTA seems not to take senior's needs into account.


Chairman's update September 2005

By James Withrow: Friends of Transit,

The CTA's decision to move the #15 bus from S. Hyde Park Blvd to Lake Park paid off for our Transit Task Force with some great publicity. I'm sure many of you saw the August 31st Hyde Park Herald article concerning this bus route change, but if you didn't I've copied more of it than is strictly kosher to my blog: . Again, you can use this blog as a place to comment about transit in Hyde Park if you wish to.

I'd like to thank Ald. Hairston for the kind remarks quoted in the article, which showed that her aide Sue Purrington has kept her more than well informed about the TTF's work. The Herald reporter for the
story Nykeya Woods deserves special praise for her professionalism while writing this story. While our workshop participants overwhelmingly called for the #15 to be moved, I should point out that both Sue and Nykeya are personally inconvenienced by this change.

In other news, the University of Chicago has recently created a new position of Director of Campus Transportation and Parking Services and found an experienced person to fill the position in Brian Shaw. Shaw's home page at contains some brief biographical information and a short outline of his goals and responsibility. His hiring makes clear that the University is motivated
to create incentives for employees to arrive at work without their cars because parking spaces are scarce during the day and new garages will cost the University over $20,000 per parking space.

I'm thinking that the Transit Task Force should consider holding an event to introduce Brian Shaw to the neighborhood, maybe let him speak for a while and then ask him questions in a National Press Club-style
format. His mission is much the same as ours and I'd like for us to find ways we can work together. A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of chatting with him for an hour and I can promise that we could learn quite a bit from him.


Chairman's Transit Update and reflections from the Spring 2005 HPKCC Conference Reporter: CTA Funding Woes Continue

by James Withrow

The state legislature will probably address the Chicago Transit agency's budget crisis in the only manner possible, given the CTA's poor relationship with legislators, taxpayers, and its riders. This year's legislation is likely to be a stop-gap measure centering on paratransit (special services for those with disabilities), with no significant change in the regional funding formula. Because 2006 is an election year, it may be two years before the legislators consider raising taxes in the collar counties to cover the services they receive from Metra. Those of us who value transit in our area would be well-advised to "help" the CTA repair its image both in Chicago and statewide. In our neighborhood, the CTA could begin by respecting the wishes of our aldermen, our Transit Task force, and other residents in regard to the placement of the #15 bus.

At their town hall meeting on Saturday, April 23, State House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie and state Senator Kwame Raoul voiced strong support for finding more money for the CTA, according to our Transit Task Force's roving reporter Gary Ossewaarde. Unfortunately, our legislators hold little hope for a long-range solution this year. What may happen, according to Currie, is that the CTA's responsibility for paratransit (which costs the CTA about $55 million this year) may be shifted to the Pace suburban bus system. The state would find money for Pace and seek federal reimbursement.

The beauty of this solution is that the CTA ends up with a better-looking budget, but suburban and downstate legislators won't be burdened with voting to give the CTA more money. Given that many Chicago legislators and citizens are also reluctant to give to give the agency more cash without attaching strings, this may be the only politically viable solution. And, the legislation can be broadened to provide funding for paratransit on a statewide basis, which is necessary since service is spotty in the suburbs and often null downstate. As long a Pace provides paratransit service equivalent to what CTA doe now, it's difficult to find a flaw in this plan.

With a closer-to-balanced budget, the service cuts and fare increases currently proposed by the CTA can be scaled back significantly, which is vital for our region. Fare increases lead to ridership losses, which means more automobiles clogging our roads and competing for parking spaces--not to mention additional asthma-causing air pollution from car exhaust. The proposed cuts for the #6, for example, were drastic, with service ending at 10 pm, leaving second shift workers with long, indirect bus rides. No matter which doomsday proposal the CTA picked, our quality of life would have been significantly harmed across the region.

So, we'll likely retain a reasonably good public transportation system. If the legislature acts so that there are no fare increase or service cuts, we should pause in thanks. Briefly. Then we should start building a world class transit system. We should work to move the CTA from what I would subjectively grand as a B-minus system to an A system. What would that take?

In the last four years, I've worked with the HPKCC Transit Task force to advocate for public transportation as a social good and to insure that our neighborhoods are well served. We've met with CTA representatives, attended hearings and exchanged letters. In that time, everyone I've met at the CTA has impressed me as smart and supportive of transit. Why is it then that the agency comes across as arrogant, uncaring, and manipulative. Why is the whole so much less than the sum of its parts? I don't know.

I can tell you that the CTA's record regarding the #15 Jeffery Local would be a case study of what a public agency shouldn't do. The CTA rearranged our bus routes in September of 2003 without consulting our elected officials, our Transit Task Force, or the public. The September changes put the #15 on S/ Hyde Park Blvd. with the #28 traveling on Lake Park and going to the Loop at al hours of the day. In December, again without any meaningful consultations or notice, the CTA moved the #15 to Lake Park and switched the #18 to S. Hyde Park Blvd. We know that the motivation in moving the #28 was to supplement the new #6, which had ridership far in excess of what the CTA expected.

Of course, the CTA didn't realize that many people used the #28 to shop at the Co-op Grocery Store and other businesses near Lake Park. The Co-op hosted a petition drive to bring the #28 back to Lake Park and customers signed in great numbers. So, in early summer of 2004, the CTA responded to the petition and, again without any further meaningful consultation, split the #28 in two parts, with rush hour service to the Loop vial S. Hyde Park Blvd. on the #28X and all day service on Lake Park ending at 47th st. For some reason, which has never been explained to the public, the CTA also moved the #15 back to S. Hyde Park Blvd.

So, during the Summer of 20004, the Transit Task Force held three workshops that looked at the new and ever-changing bus routes. The first workshop identified the routes for study and the second accumulated the best arguments for placing the #15 and #28 buses on Lake Park and S. Hyde Park Blvd. I led the workshops and I felt that we moved slowly enough that everyone attending could express their thoughts on the matter. At the third workshop, we re-read our best arguments and then voted on placement. It was clear that Hyde Parkers wanted the #15 to run along Lake Park. Few people who lived along S. Hyde Park Blvd. use the #15, while the businesses along Lake Park welcomed it. Those who regularly rode the #15 and attended our workshop also voted for Lake Park. For residents of S. Hyde Park, the extra congestion caused by these unused buses was aggravating.

So, the Transit Task force took a clear position that the #15 should return to Lake Park. Our aldermen and their able aides Sue Purrington and Pam Cummings expressed the same position at public hearings and in letters to the CTA. Yet, the #15 still runs down S. Hyde Park Blvd. even though that route is longer and the CTA would save a little money by moving it to Lake Park.

Let me repeat that: The CTA still chooses to run the #15 along S. Hyde Park Blvd., even though the community has repeatedly asked for a different routing that would save the CTA money.

Recently, Judy Chernick, one of my favorite Transit Task Force members, wrote the CTA on his subject and received a reply from a senior executive. Apparently, the agency is under the impression that its customers want the #15 on S. Hyde Park . It's difficult to understand why the agency is so misinformed, but I suspect that the petition concerning the #28 has been confused with our desired placement of the #15.

the agency should ask itself why these phantom customers are in such disagreement with the rest of the community. I'm sure that there are some situations where residents prefer not to have buses running along their streets and that they may suggest changes that would harm public transportation. Other aldermen might even take the side of car-driving residents rather than transit riders when such conflicts arise. And I'm sure that in many of these situations, the CTA is in the right to protect its riders for the greater good of the city as a whole. However, our aldermen have excellent records on transit issues and even the residents of S. Hyde Park Blvd., by and large, appreciate their block's transit options--as long as those options are casually used, which is not the case with the #15.

The Transit Task Force has chosen to join an ad hoc group called the Chicago Transit Coalition. Other members of the Coalition include Metro Seniors , the Blue Line Transit Task Force, Break the Gridlock, Equip for Equality, the Jane Addams Senior Caucus, the Lawndale Neighborhood Organization and Pilsen Alliance. The Coalition has been lobbying Chicago legislators and media with three goals: no fare increases or service cuts for transit, better accountability for the CTA, and changes to paratransit funding.

When we've lobbied for our goals, our targets have often expressed a reluctance to simply give the CTA more money--and those targets have been legislators and media people here in Chicago, usually people who are otherwise very supportive of transit. You can imagine how suburbanites and folks downstate view the issue.

The irony is that the CTA actually gets a lot of bang for its buck. There's not a lot of fat to cut that I can see. If anything, the CTA may actually need more staff to improve it interactions with the public and with legislators, to work on public liaison issues, to consult with neighborhood groups, and to advocate for transit.

Of course, throwing more people at the problem is unlikely to make a difference unless top executive embrace a different ethic. While I salute the CTA's efforts to promote transit as a regional good, the agency's attitude toward the legislature and suburban concerns has been quite a bit less than adequate. The CTA may be able to strong-arm the legislature this year into crafting a funding solution that is absolutely fair and reasonable, but the agency shouldn't count on that being the case in 2007, when the regional funding formula may be revised substantially.

In preparation for that revision, transit advocates should cast a wide net for allies across the city, the suburbs, and downstate.


May 29 both houses of the General Assembly passed, and the Governor said he will sign, a budget deal that included the CTA bailout this site reported in April as likely: A one-time grant of c$54 M and a shift, starting next year of paratransit responsibility to PACE and its cost to the state. As little as $47 M (vs the CTA deficit of $55 M) may actually goes to CTA since there is a tug of war with PACE, which actually wants $7-10M--IDOT wants it all to CTA but RTA makes the decision. This is supposed to be settled at a June 23 meeting.

CTA was early reported at first as required to certify no service cuts or fare hikes this year, and the (House only?) passed a resolution by Rep. Fritchey May 31 requiring CTA accounting on such matters as performance, pensions, capital, and compliance--as sought by our Task Force, Chicago Transit Coalition, and Campaign for Better Transit. CTA says it will comply with the resolution.

This is a just a one-year stave-off, enabled by $1.2 billion that were to go into state-run pension plans (with disputed reforms) used to plug the state's budget deficit over the next two years. Because it may fall short of the deficit, CTA is reluctant to scrap the enacted July 17 cuts yet. CTA pres. Frank Kruesi says he is in contact with the gov. and legislators about long-range solutions. So far, the legislature is irked both at CTA's ideas an its tactics; many think Kruesi will go within a few months. Rep. Hamos says we have come only half way and the CTA has some moving to do, and while the legislature knows CTA may have to still have a fare hike, service cuts would be a no-no this year. (Even this does not guarantee there will in the end be no cuts at all this July, although RTA leadership says CTA needs to get by on already-identified administrative savings.) Still, there is no remedy in sight for future deficits, and even a permanent fix would not help for 2006 without another one-timer, which wouldn't happen this year at least--so expect "doomsday revisited" to pop up in this website as soon as September, for effect in January.

April 13 the CTA Board chose a modified option to go into effect if there were no legislative bailout. And a legislative committee did report that the current funding formula is flawed.
See Plan Details, since they will probably come up again:,
or the press release at
displayarticledetail& articleid=131918
. To offer input
on the possible cuts, call 1-888-968-7282 or mail/e-mail
to the CTA at P.O. Box 7567, Chicago, IL 60680, Attention: CTA board assistant secretary Gregory Longhini or to
Chicago Transit Coalition mtg. w. Julie Hamos reports progress April 30

Looming in coming years? CTA fund and regional allocation crisis and fight? See Cuts/Hikes 2005 page. Regional (incl. differing views on changing formulas, giving more to CTA...That page also has news on regional planning and the federal transit funding fight). CTA's site on its needs for funding and proposed cuts: or
CTA's url on its proposed "worst cast" cuts: go to pp. 9, 13, 14 etc, summ. p. 59.