Looks like Chicago’s long-proposed vision to expand its Red Line south to the far South Side may be coming closer to reality. The CTA transit authority is beginning public hearings, which are the first steps towards the ultimate implementation of the project. It would mean bringing the line, which runs down the center of the Dan Ryan expressway, from 95th Street to 134th Street. Though the proposal suggests either BRT or metro service, the latter option seems more likely because it would act simply as an easy growth of the current line.
Because the Red Line’s southern branch is stuck in the middle of a heavily-trafficked highway, transit-oriented development around stations is virtually impossible. And getting to stations is an unfriendly process, requiring an approach over the highway on bridges. But the extension would act differently, diverging from the highway route. If Chicago officials are smart, they’ll take advantage of this expansion to focus development on much of the undeveloped South Side of the city.
In Washington, DC, or rather – in Northern Virginia – the Federal Government has given its final approval to the Dulles Metrorail project. This $5.2 billion project, to be built in two phases, would be an overhead extension of the DC Metro, serving the business-heavy Tysons Corner area in Fairfax County and then Dulles International Airport, way out in the city’s suburbs.
This approval has come after years of fights and represents a significant achievement for the people of Fairfax and Loudon Counties, who will now have direct Silver Line service into downtown Washington. It’s not the best project in the world. After all, just like Chicago’s existing Red Line, much of the new service would operate in the median of a highway, meaning that the line will be more of a commuter rail line than an economic generator, as the DC metro has been in the past in Arlington and Bethesda Counties. Also, an effort to tunnel the line through Tysons Corner, which would have made that district significantly more transit-friendly, now seems completely dead.
That said, this project, which has been proposed since the 1960s, is a necessary improvement to areas of Northern Virginia that simply do not have good transit access. It will mean better service to Dulles Airport, which isn’t a bad thing, and it will mean fewer Fairfax and Loudon County inhabitants choosing to drive into DC, rather than taking the Metro. As a result, it’s overall a pretty good investment for the region as a whole.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Oakland A’s Baseball team, which had been planning a new stadium far from transit access, are now seriously considering a new site, this time in Warm Springs, just steps from the site of a future BART metro station. This is an excellent idea, as it would make both of the region’s baseball teams very easy to access by transit. It might also make the transit-oriented development proposed for the station site actually a reality.