One-Track Mind | Letters | Chicago Reader

One-Track Mind 

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To the editors:

Mr. Krohe's October 18 article, entitled "Daley's Trolley," presented a pretty picture and many nice statistics on the proposed light-rail transit system for Downtown Chicago. This is understandable if the major source of his information is from the Metropolitan Planning Council, whose own reports may be somewhat biased. The common attitude seems to be that "We do not like buses, so what else might We use?" Perhaps we should be questioning what it is that we don't like about buses, and how might we improve these conditions?

Firstly, evaluating the bus relative to travel times, traffic congestion and rider comfort is irrelevant if we do not look beyond the way current bus routes operate. If given a dedicated thoroughfare as required by the light-rail system (LRV), any vehicle will perform as well as the railed system and fare even better considering that the costs of track, power cables, and their maintenance have been eliminated. In addition, self-propelled vehicles will be more flexible to our city's future growth and traffic patterns, and therefore, a sound long-term investment.

Immediate improvements to our transit bus routes might include "skip-stop" downtown shuttles making stops every four or so blocks instead of at every block. The number of peripheral stops on regular routes may also be reduced to decrease travel time and enhance riders' comfort. And if it's the romantic trolley feeling you're after, buses are available that look and feel just like them.

At a presentation to the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects last year, the Metropolitan Planning Council admitted that the evaluation and improvement of existing bus routes had not been addressed and probably wouldn't be in the near future. Their reason simply stated that Federal funding was available for a LRV system, so we should spend it while we have it. I don't believe this philosophy considers the long-term costs involved with such an undertaking. Actually, funds would only be partially provided for and given the existing financial crisis of our transit system, it is advisable to examine the affordable solutions.

Secondly, Mr. Krohe should also be aware that the "cosmetic" benefits of the proposed transit system, such as new trees, street paving and "designer shelters," are largely independent of what type of circulator system is selected. Nor am I convinced that the Downtown LRV would attract more upscale riders than any other system. The "great unwashed" he refers to are probably as interested in getting around downtown easily as the hygiene-conscious.

One final concern addresses the Loop's development in particular. The article observes that "access encourages development where there is none and [will densify] development where it already exists." It is in the best interest of our city to emphasize the latter and minimize the former. Business developments have been rising to the west of the Loop in search of lower rents. This trend must be reversed before the Loop's core becomes any more desolate with vacant lots. Certainly an outer Loop circulator will not be the root of the problem, but it will not be of much help in promoting the Loop's vitality.

David M. Moehring

N. Marine Drive

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