Busway to Nowhere

(Cover of a transit survey appearing this month under downtown high-rise residential doors.)

The City of Chicago is surveying downtown residents about their traveling habits. Why? To spend tens of millions of dollars to build an exclusive bus transitway between…Union Station, Mag Mile, and Navy Pier. Hmm.

Why worry about real transit problems that impact Chicagoans on a daily basis, like filthy buses and trains, rotten maintenance, or closed stations, when my City tax dollars can be used to make it easier for suburbanites to go shopping and drinking in Streeterville.

The survey asks downtown residents how often they use transit or a car to get around downtown and positively dotes on questions regarding auto use and parking. But asking River North residents if they ever actually go to Navy Pier? Not so much. (Last time I checked, most Chicagoans sneer at the place as a suburbanite tourist trap).

I know on the odd day when I actually have to go to Union Station, the West Loop, Mag Mile, or Streeterville–and I don’t feel like walking for 10 minutes–I think to myself, “Gee, I wish we had a multi-million dollar busway to whisk me there.”

Well, actually, I don’t think that at all, because the CTA already runs service throughout downtown to those destinations. Downtown residents can already hop on the 29 bus to Navy Pier, the 125 to the West Loop, the 36 up State, and any number of buses up and down Michigan and down around Wacker Drive to the financial district. So if you’re looking for who this busway idea will serve, don’t look here.

Look at the proposed transitway map included with the survey, instead:

surveymap.jpg

I’ve highlighted the locations of Northwestern (Ogilvie is just so wrong) and Union Stations, North Michigan Avenue, and Navy Pier. Notice how the transitway virtually “connects the dots”?

Another good question is which bus routes will run in the proposed transitway? Existing peak-hour buses that already run in droves from the North Side to the financial district on the recently and expensively refurbished Upper Wacker Drive? Or new routes that, er, could more easily be run along the recently and expensively refurbished Upper Wacker Drive?

Still looking for that raison d’etre? How about, simply, a City administration fundamentally out of touch with the daily needs and problems of City transit riders? Witness the multi-million dollar Block 37 airport L project for business travelers and others who also don’t live in Chicago to save eight minutes on a rapid transit ride to O’Hare. In that light, a pork transit project to link City-phobic commuters with two locations that are already the two top tourist draws in Illinois–meaning the masses are going to come anyway–is, sadly, not that difficult to understand.

Think about those priorities the next time you step onto an unmaintained, uncleaned Red Line car and sit down in pee.

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