At the Heart of the U.S. Freight Rail System, Chicago Advances Grade Separation

» A grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation will speed up both passenger and freight trains by eliminating delays caused by a grade crossing.

Chicago is at the center of the American freight rail system, handling 40% of U.S. rail freight on 500 daily trains. It forms the primary junction of the four biggest American freight rail companies — BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific — in addition to the two big Canadian carriers, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific. But the complex and intertwined web of tracks that brings trains into and out of the city is hopelessly out of date and causing congestion that limits the number of both freight and passenger trains that can run there.

Last week, ground was broken on the Englewood Flyover, a major element of CREATE, a grand scheme to eliminate such delays in the Chicago area. CREATE — which

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In Chicago, a Massive BRT Plan Could be the Best Bet for Inner City Mobility

» Chicago’s bus network is already slated for improvements. But what about a huge upgrade?

When he assumed office early this summer, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he would pursue the construction of a network of bus rapid transit lines in his city — in addition to the extension of the Red Line L and the implementation of a number of bike lanes. A focus on buses in the Windy City is nothing new: The Chicago Transit Authority carries almost a million riders a day on its network, and the city came close in 2008 to establishing a $153 million BRT system paid for by the Bush Administration, before the city’s refusal to implement a downtown congestion charge got in the way.

Newly empowered by the change in leadership, the CTA has moved forward quickly on three proposed corridors — one in the Loop downtown, another along Western

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Local Neoliberalism’s Role in Defining Transit’s Purpose

» Must transit capital projects be construed either as for capitalist development or social welfare? Can the two goals be reconciled?

Detroit has staked its development hopes on the creation of a light rail line down Woodward Avenue in the heart of the city. For the past few years, public and private groups there have banded together to suggest that this project, more than any other, would provide the kind of spark necessary to spur economic growth in this city that is losing population so quickly. Thanks to government grants and private donations, the project is mostly financed and may enter construction this year.

Yet the city’s budget situation is so bad that the mayor has suggested that if the city council moves ahead with cuts it approved this week, he will have to shut off bus service at nights and on Sundays — and eliminate service on the People Mover,

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Rahm Emanuel and the Power of Municipal Entrepreneurship

» Taking the realm of America’s third-largest city after 22 years under Richard Daley could produce big changes for local transportation.

Despite its burgeoning downtown, Chicago has big problems. The city lost 200,000 people between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census. Vast tracts of the south and west sides of the city sit vacant. Job growth in the metropolitan area is slower than in most other regions of the country. The city faces a $75 million budget deficit just over the next few months.

Thus the swearing-in this week of the city’s first new mayor in 22 years, Rahm Emanuel, cannot come at a better time. In order to gain ground over the next few decades, Chicago has to do a better job keeping its existing residents and attracting new jobs. The mayoral election in February was a landslide for Mr. Emanuel, which means he has the political

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Stuck in the Land of Missed Opportunity

» The development of Rosemont, just adjacent to Chicago O’Hare Airport, is indicative of the missed development opportunities that too often plague America’s transit systems.

Being bumped from a flight has its benefits: A few hundred dollars’ worth of free travel, a restaurant certificate, a little more time to avoid getting back to work.

Getting stuck in an airport hotel, on the other hand, is less exciting, especially when it is off-site. Take the fate of those staying in the accommodations of Rosemont, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago just adjacent to O’Hare Airport. I bunked there a few nights ago.

While in theory the town’s cornucopia of hotels are close to the CTA’s Blue Line rapid transit corridor, they are isolated from it perceptually. So is a major convention center, a movie theater, and a performance hall. Walking from the station situated in the median of the Kennedy Expressway (I-190) to the

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The Site / The Fight

  • by Yonah Freemark
  • Twitter: @yfreemark
  • yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com
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