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Brendan Reilly Calls for More Cars on Streeterville Streets

(Photo: You’re kidding, right? Brendan Reilly favors cars over transit in downtown Chicago.)

I am strongly rethinking my support for Brendan Reilly, the allegedly progressive Democrat who earlier this year won Chicago’s 42nd Ward from longtime alderman Burt Natarus. As if Reilly’s self-immolating opposition to Mayor Daley in the Chicago Children’s Museum controversy wasn’t enough (you recall, Richie wants to have it in Grant Park, Reilly would rather not), yesterday, the newbie alderman threw his support to increased traffic congestion in Streeterville.

Amazingly, Reilly’s current misstep (foot in mouth?) once again revolves around a new home for an institution aimed at children: specifically, the planned new Streeterville digs of Children’s Memorial Hospital. As reported in Thursday’s Sun-Times, Reilly will give the go-ahead for the $800 million structure to be built on one major condition…the hospital building a parking structure for 1,100 cars.

That’s an interesting position to take, especially in Streeterville, the Chicago neighborhood with the most vocal residential group in the city, the Streetrville Organization of Active Residents (or SOAR–sorry NEAR, they’re louder), a group that never misses a beat to complain about, well, soaring traffic generated by massive overbuilding in the neighborhood.

I was most stupefied by this quote from Reilly:

“Public transportation and shuttles aren’t enough to accommodate the thousands of new commuters coming into this area…We’re working toward securing a commitment to provide, at a minimum, 1,100 new parking spaces prior to the opening of the hospital.”

Think about that. At a time when the need for Chicago’s political leaders to support public transit has never been greater, Chicago’s most-watched alderman has gone on record calling CTA service nadequate in the heart of the city, and calling for an automobile-based solution to downtown transportation woes.

Conspicuously absent from Reilly’s position? An equal call for improvements in Streeterville public transit.

As a pedestrian, I can’t tell you how heart-warming I found it when I read in the article that Reilly is at least calling for additional count-down crosswalk timers, so that I and my fellow downtown walkers will know how much longer we may have to live before those 1,100 additional motor vehicles come barreling through our already grid-locked streets.

I don’t know who Reilly is trying to accommodate here besides the gas lobby. Downtown residents and workers who want less clogged streets? Citywide transit users who deserve their needs to be respected and met? A trusted aide to whom Reilly may own an oath of fealty?

I hate being that cynical and I certainly hope Reilly can think for himself. But at the moment I have my doubts. When your city is crying out for transit relief, any alderman is unwise to call transit inadequate and call for more cars on city streets–especially the alderman of most of downtown Chicago.

Reilly goes on to say:

“My interest is in building consensus . . . to move the project forward. I want to make sure we address these concerns and get this right before it goes to Plan Commission.”

If Alderman Reilly wants to start getting things right, he’s going to have stop thinking small. There are greater interests out there than those that live in a single block–managing downtown Chicago on a block-by-clock basis does no good for downtown Chicago as a whole, much less Chicago as a whole.

If after six months in office, Chicago’s downtown alderman still can’t figure out how to balance the needs of a ward with the equally compelling needs of the major American city of which it is a fundamental part, how much longer are we constituents expected to wait until he learns how to get it right?

More immediately, Brendan Reilly owes an apology to every transit rider in this city. And I sure hope he carefully considers any such mournful missive before he mouths it in public. Because lately, it seems like the only reason Brendan Reilly has been opening his mouth is to change feet.

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Mike Doyle

I’m an #OpenlyAutistic gay, Hispanic, urbanist, Disney World fan, New York native, politically independent, Jewish blogger in Chicago. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I write words and raise money for nonprofits. I’ve written this blog since 2005. And counting...

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5 replies

  1. Children’s is part of the Northwestern Memorial Hospital s chain, and moving it to Streeterville (and re-naming it, btw) has been a long term goal of NMH.

  2. Doyle –

    Rail access to Randolph and Michigan is a moot point when the Children’s Museum admits that the vast majority of their visitors arrive by car from the suburbs. Their plan takes those 400,000 cars a year off of eight lanes of Lakeshore Drive and puts it on narrow neighborhood streets that even Chicago residents constantly get lost on.

    I don’t know what world you live in, maybe you’re not a parent, but I don’t know many who would rely on our current mass transit system to get their kid to the hospital in an emergency, or even for an appointment. CTA’s on-time percentage in my experience is about 0%. Do you want to be standing on an el platform or a bus stop for 15 minutes with a sick kid, after a 15 minute walk to the stop, so you can spend 30+ minutes with your sick kid on a crowded train?

    Reality check, my friends.

    Yes, we ABSOLUTELY need to improve mass transit. I’m in favor of replacing the entire El system altogether (which is now, what, 100 years old?), wireless internet on Metra and in buses, expanded routes, the whole nine yards. But again, Reilly has no control over that. He’s Alderman, not Mayor, not Governor, not CTA Board member.

    So, just a refresher for y’all in Government 101, from the CTA website:

    Chicago Transit Board
    The governing arm of the CTA is the Chicago Transit Board. The board consists of seven members. Currently the Mayor of Chicago has appointed Rev. Charles E. Robinson, Carole L. Brown, Alejandro Silva and Henry T. Chandler, Jr. as board members. Ms. Brown serves as Chairman.

    Serving alongside them are Susan A. Leonis, who serves as vice-chair, Cynthia A. Panayotovich and Nicholas C. Zagotta who have been appointed by the Governor of Illinois. The Mayor’s appointees are subject to the approval of the Governor and the Chicago City Council; the Governor’s appointees are subject to the approval of the Mayor and the Illinois State Senate. CTA’s day-to-day operations are directed by Ron Huberman, President.

    Please direct your correspondence for Board Members to:

    Chicago Transit Authority
    P.O. Box 7567
    Chicago, Illinois 60680-7567
    Tel: 312-681-5022
    Fax: 312-681-5035

    And yes, even Children’s recognizes the need for additional parking, but while they say that they are committed to it on their website, their current proposal contains ZERO parking. Anyone can make promises on the internet, but it has to be in the actual proposal to be binding.

  3. UC: Obviously, Streeterville has no problem accomodating large hospital institutions, and many thousands of employees and residents without actually having an L station within its borders. That’s not an issue.

    Streeterville does, however, have perhaps the best CTA bus service in the entire city along Michigan Avenue. This bus service is not useful to people how? I fail to see.

    If that’s Reilly’s idea of bringing pressure to bear, I think he’s squandering precious political capital on the wrong battles. The man is alderman by dint of union money and support–his political capital is not an endless supply.

    Yellow Dog: OK Mr. Kitchen Sinky, let’s go down that list. Randolph and Michigan is adjacent to some of the best rail access in Chicago, and to underground parking that is both plentiful and underutilized.

    Thank you for underscoring my point. If Reilly is a staunch supporter of a CTA funding fix, words suggesting CTA service is inadequate should never come out of his mouth. Moreover, transit options, such as improvements in bus service adjacent to the proposed hospital, should be on the tip of his tongue. Why aren’t they? As someone who voted for him, in this instance I very much want an answer to that.

    Parents who need a child rushed to the hospital in an emergency are more than likely going to be getting them there in an ambulance. You know, those fast, loud-honking vehicles with EMTs and medicines inside that are allowed to run lights?

    Moreover, according to the hospital’s own estimation, existing parking capacity in Streeterville lots and structures is enough to accommodate the needs of the hospital when completed. An additional 800 to 1,300 spaces may (or may not) be needed by 2012, and the hospital is committed to providing those spaces.

    So not only is Reilly waffling on transit, he’s grandstanding on a parking issue that wasn’t an issue in the first place until he opened his mouth and anointed parking a key downtown need. Bad message. Worst time to send it.

  4. Maybe Reilly is trying to force them to move the proposed hospital to a far more sensible site.

    Like next door to an L station! Or to the Medical District, which is next to two L stations!

  5. Mike –

    Perhaps you think that the hospital shouldn’t be built at all?

    Perhaps you think its better to build a hospital without any parking spaces, as Children’s now proposes?

    Or maybe parents who need to rush their kids to the hospital should wait for a bus?

    I’d love to hear your solution.

    But in case you missed it, Reilly said “Public transportation and shuttles aren’t enough…” I don’t think that’s anti-transit, I think its reality. Or can you tell me another hospital in the country that doesn’t have parking?

    For the record, Reilly has STRONGLY supported a solution to the CTA funding crisis in Springfield, and he’s urged the CTA to make greater investments to fix our current infrastructure.

    But, as you well know, but fail to acknowledge, the City Council does not run the CTA. And Mayor Daley, not Reilly, is the guy who holds sway over the CTA Board Chair. So, if you want to gripe, gripe about the Mayor.

    P.S. How you can claim to be against congestion and think that moving the Children’s Museum to East Randolph is beyond me. Randolph and Michigan is the most congested intersection in the city.

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