CHICAGO — Residents are calling for major improvements to CTA service on the West Side, saying they want an overhaul of the Green Line and a Lake Street bus.
Residents who are part of the Westside & West Suburban Infrastructure Coalition held a news conference Wednesday morning where they called for sweeping changes to to transportation infrastructure throughout the West Side. They said the updates are needed to make it easier for residents to travel around city and to boost economic development and support local businesses.
“We have been neglected on the West Side for the past 53 years,” said West Side resident Tiffany Smith. “It is outrageous that we don’t have the services we need.”
After the news conference, the residents attended a CTA board meeting to share their concerns and suggestions for improving public transit.
“The CTA strongly supports new federal funding for infrastructure improvements, to help meet the agency’s $13 billion in unmet capital needs,” spokesman Brian Steele said in an email. “Federal funding is vital to helping CTA continue to address the need to modernize and invest in transit infrastructure across the city, to ensure that public transportation remains the backbone of the regional transportation network.
“CTA is still developing a list of project priorities, including projects we’ve been pursuing for some time, including the extension of the Red Line to 130th Street, the conversion to an all-electric bus fleet, and the All Stations Accessibility Program, which will make the CTA rail system 100% accessible.”
The West Side has long suffered disinvestment and neglect from the city and other officials. Though portions of it closer to Downtown have boomed as they’ve gentrified in recent years — like the West Loop and Fulton Market — areas further west continue to struggle. Members of the coalition said all parts of the West Side need improvements to public transit.
The members hope to see the passage of a $2 billion infrastructure bill that is part of President Joe Biden’s recovery plan for the pandemic. They urged Mayor Lori Lightfoot to support the bill’s passage and said funds sent to Chicago should be used on West Side improvements.
The group’s demands:
Modernize the Green Line Lake Street Structure
A structure that supports the Green Line tracks runs along a long portion of Lake Street. Part of the structure was modernized so its columns were moved onto the sidewalk instead of being in the street.
But in a portion that wasn’t modernized — between Talman and Laramie avenues — drivers crash into its steel columns and truck drivers get stuck between the beams, according to the coalition. That part of the structure needs to be modernized and have its columns moved, according tot he group.
Green Line Changes
Members of the coalition called for renovations at Green Line stations — and the creation of a stop at Western Avenue. The coalition “urgently” recommends a station be built there so it’s easier for West Siders to travel and to boost economic development, according to a news release.
It’s “absolutely disgusting” there is not a Green Line stop at Western and Lake for West Siders to use, area resident Tiffany Smith said during the news conference.
“There needs to be immediate renovation of the Green Light throughout. And also, there needs to be a station at Western,” Smith said. “Also, we could use a lot of attention at the train stops on the Blue Line at Pulaski and Homan as well. Because those train stops are horrible.”
Members of the coalition also demanded the CTA bring back a long-closed Lake Street bus. The route provided “essential service for decades,” connecting Downtown to Fulton Market and the West Side — until it was ended in 1997, according to the group’s news release.
“Today, with Fulton Market booming and thousands of new employees and residents needing bus service connecting to CTA and METRA Stations and with Westside residents wanting jobs in Fulton Market and elsewhere, CTA should restore the #16 bus,” according to the coalition.
The group also wants express buses on Madison Street and Cicero Avenue to help economic development.
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