“Transit Future” Wish List Tantalizes Chicago Commuters with $20 Billion in Improvements

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle speaking at the Transit Future campaign press conference. (Steven vance)

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle speaking at the Transit Future campaign press conference. (Steven vance)

Here’s something to meditate on the next time you see three Chicago Transit Authority buses leapfrogging one another on a crowded street, or have to shell out for a cab because the trains won’t get you where you want to go on time: a grand proposal called “Transit Future” that seeks to improve the way Chicagoans get around the region.

Proposed expansion of transit in Chicago. (Courtesy transit future)

Proposed expansion of transit in Chicago. (Courtesy transit future)

Imagine a South Lakefront line that connects the South Side to the Loop, running through the University of Chicago campus and South Shore. Or a “West Side Red Line” dubbed the Lime Line that would run along Cicero Avenue, connecting the Blue, Green, Pink and Orange Lines, before jogging East and connecting to the Red Line at 87th Street. Or how about a Brown Line extension connecting the North Side to O’Hare International Airport.

Those are just some of the recommendations in the “Transit Future” plan unveiled last week by the Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Active Transportation Alliance, two longtime advocates of sustainable development and alternative transit in the Chicago region.

The plans also include a bus rapid transit line along Ashland avenue—a work-in-progress that proponents say will energize commerce along the corridor, but detractors say will clog streets—and an extended Red Line that could relieve pressure on the overburdened 95th Street station, which is slated for renovation.

Great, you’re thinking, but it will never happen. Transit Future’s backers say the $20 billion wish list could become a reality if Cook County Board officials “create a robust local revenue stream…[that] will open the door to federal and other financing tools that will pay for the rest.”

They point out Los Angeles residents voted in 2008 to raise their county’s sales tax by one half-cent, authorizing $40 billion in new revenue for transit lines over 30 years. That measure passed with nearly 68 percent of the vote.

Head over to Transit Future’s sleek website to read more about the project. Or check out WBEZ’s The Afternoon Shift show that discussed the proposal with CNT’s Jacky Grimshaw Wednesday:

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