In the Loop: March 2, 2016 - Metropolitan Planning Council

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In the Loop: March 2, 2016

Flickr user Deb Nystrom (cc).

New York's wildly expensive--but very interesting looking--new transit hub.

In the Loop is your round-up of what’s going on in the transportation world, posted in conjunction with Talking Transit.

@metroplanners news

Metrpolitan Planning Council (MPC) is proud to announce that Senior Fellow James R. Reilly, will be headlining at the City Club lunch on Monday, April 4. At the event, he will tee off discussion about the work MPC has conducted with our Accelerate Illinois campaign to identify the true costs of Illinois’ transportation crisis. Please register for the event—we look forward to seeing you there.

MPC is also hosting an exciting Urban Think & Drink event with Janette Sadik-Kahn, who was commissioner of the New York City Dept. of Transportation under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Sadik-Kahn will be talking about her new book, Streetfight. Join us for engaging discussion and a drink on March 29.

transit in the Chicago region

Early in February, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and Sec. of Transportation Randy Blankenhorn announced a plan to add toll lanes to I-55 in the Chicago region. The project, which MPC has supported for years, will provide commuters quicker travel times from the southwest parts of the metropolitan area to downtown. It will also speed up Pace express buses, which have been building tremendous ridership in recent years despite currently running on the road’s shoulder.

Another major MPC transportation initiative also moved forward last month: the redevelopment of Chicago Union Station. Amtrak, the station’s owner, is now seeking a master developer to lead the reconstruction of the hub. More funding, however, is needed to ensure that the project is completed, and MPC is currently working to identify innovative ways to finance construction.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is bringing in millions of new riders on its rail lines. The system recorded its highest-ever ridership in 2015, attracting 241 million passengers over the year. Additional riders on the trains, though, haven’t been matched by new bus trips, which declined last year.

All these new rail riders will benefit from improved station environments thanks to new art. The CTA is ramping up its art program, which already involves 60 pieces. New works are to be added at 10 locations—including one bus stop—in the coming years.


London’s Crossrail, one of the largest transit construction projects in the world, is to be named the “Elizabeth Line,” after the Queen of England, when it opens in 2018. The project involves the construction of new rail tunnels under the center of the city, vastly augmenting the capacity of the London Underground and speeding travel through the capital. Will the Queen ever ride it, though?

Though not named after royalty, New York City’s new World Trade Center Transit Hub was built at a royal price—almost $4 billion. The project, designed by Santiago Calatrava, opened last month to commuters who use the PATH rail system connecting Manhattan with New Jersey. It’s a stunning new building, featuring soaring white arches—but it won’t offer much in terms of better transportation for the locals.

In Houston, the transit agency now allows commuters to ride buses and light rail trains with fares purchased on their phones via a mobile app. Of course, that’s a technology that Chicago’s Metra commuter rail system put into place last year. Kudos to Metra for being an industry leader on that front!


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