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The world expels oil over a rate of 1,000 barrels per second. It is fascinating that we are planning for transportation needs beyond 2040 by adding new lanes along with rebuilding the Eisenhower Expressway! [Oak Parkers, IDOT collide at Ike meeting, News, June 13]
Transit supporters have offered the CTA Blue Line extension as the "Magic Bullet" to achieve the corridor's transportation goals. Although IDOT has acknowledged some contribution of the rail extension, they retort, "Transit and highway modes have different sets of users; the expressway serves a much broader travel market than transit with widely dispensed origins and destinations for autos."
IDOT is moving along with their final round of the expressway evaluations.
Current transit statistics are dissuasive:
A) Chicago ranked fifth in the nation relative to transit rides taken per resident per year. We average 75 compared to New York City's 281;
B) Within the Ike corridor, only 20 percent of the traditional commuter trips are on transit;
C) Blue Line-Ike is only used to 56 percent of its peak-hour capacity.
Despite the poor usage of transit, IDOT has not suggested improvements to transit service in an effort to shift a greater margin of the travel market from their vehicles to rail. IDOT considerations for express buses, carpool lanes, and tolls are half-hearted as they would run without barriers along general purpose lanes.
They maintain that we have a robust transit system, and there is little that may be done to influence drivers to keep their cars at home. True? Only if we do not provide auto drivers with a safe, affordable, and convenient transit option — then consider IDOT's mission accomplished!
If the considered Blue Line extension is not the "Magic Bullet," then is there one? All we have to do is observe other U.S. cities and overseas to respond with a confident "Yes!" The "Magic Bullet" could very well be the Bullet Train. Different from the other transit options, the express service would specifically target vehicle commuters between major locations such as O'Hare, Midway, McCormick Place, suburban expressway intersections, and the Loop. The Ike's station — call it the 'Bullet Train Oasis' — could be located near the heart of the corridor where I-88 and I-294 intersect the Ike.
In June 2010, Chicago Tribune revealed for the first time that suburbanites' majority opinion was to invest in mass transportation alternatives rather than roads. Shouldn't our transportation planning and reconstruction dollars focus in this direction rather than allocating an estimated $4 million for each lane mile on an expressway reconstruction?
The Bullet Train impact within the trench? The good news is the easement for express rail already exists through the majority of the Oak Park trench and at significant portions to the Blue Line subway tunnel at Clinton.
Use it or lose it — as IDOT may have their eye on this easement to expand additional lanes.
David Moehring is an Oak Park architect and visiting assistant director of Capital Programs at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has been involved in the Eisenhower expansion process since 2007 and an invited Corridor Advisory Group attendee since 2010.