I had an opportunity to attend the November 14, 2016 CTA Board meeting and testify during the public hearing on the 2017 budget. There were 5 people from the NLCCC in attendance including myself. Three of the 5 were from the Transportation Subcommittee, and 2 were from the Economic Development Subcommittee. I didn’t have the opportunity to prepare written testimony, but I will share my recap below.
I introduced myself as a member of the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council, a group charged with facilitating community planning for the North Lawndale community. I indicated that this was our first comprehensive plan in 58 years, and that transportation is an integral part.
We are working with CMAP, and that, while we have not yet begun planning in earnest, we have received a draft of our existing conditions report. Data gleaned from the report suggest that between 2010 and now North Lawndale ridership on the Pink and Blue lines increased at a significantly faster level than the citywide average. North Lawndale ridership on the Pink Line increased by 26.2%. Blue Line ridership from North Lawndale increased by 19.4%. Citywide, ridership increased by 14.6%. In spite of the fact that ridership in North Lawndale grew faster than city averages, 9 stations were closed on the Blue Line east of Austin, 5 of which serve North Lawndale, Austin, East Garfield Park and West Garfield Park. (Figures on closed stations from Thom Alcazar, a local business owner who is looking to open a new grocery store on the West Side). CTA has effectively created an express line where they “fly over” predominantly African American communities on the West Side, while providing local service to communities beyond ours to the east and in the Western Suburbs. We admonished the CTA Board that, while they lobby for increased state and federal funds, they also address the apparent inequities in their transit service to local communities.
We respectfully requested that the closed stops be restored, particularly in light of our planning process, and the Mayor has designated one of our industrial corridors as a Manufacturing Growth Zone. You can’t attract employers that will hire locally if local residents can’t access public transit near work in their own communities.
North Lawndale is more dependent on public transportation than the average community in Chicago. While bus ridership declined system wide, our bus ridership has been steady on most lines, with a few lines losing ridership. Even when we lost ridership, it hasn’t been as low as city averages. (Bus ridership citywide has decreased 10% while bus ridership for North Lawndale has declined 3%) Yet, the Ogden bus stops at California, and doesn’t go further into the neighborhood. About 2 miles of Ogden Avenue between California and City Limits has no bus service. (This is essentially the width of the community from east to west)
There have been a number of developments along Ogden Avenue that were not in place when the service was cut. Impacted businesses and institutions include local schools (Collins, Crown, Legacy), Mount Sinai Hospital, Cinespace, Lagunita Brewery and Lawndale Christian Health Center. Residents have been cut off from efficient and safer routes to work, school and recreation. We respectfully requested that the Ogden bus line is restored to where it was before it was shortened. This would mean that the bus would run as far west as Pulaski, and turn around at the Pink Line Pulaski stop on 21st and Pulaski.
We expressed thanks and appreciation for programs like Second Chance, that provides training and employment opportunities at CTA for ex-offenders. (NLEN is a partner). However, we requested that CTA work with local community organizations to create opportunities for adults who would like to re-tool their skills and change careers. We also asked them to work with local schools to develop a curriculum and training programs to prepare our youth to work for CTA upon graduation from high school.
We noted that CTA is hosting a large scale city-wide procurement fair on November 15th at the Chicago Cultural Center Downtown. We asked the CTA Board to host a similar event in North Lawndale and offered to help coordinate it. We indicated that we wanted our focus to be employment (for people including ex-offenders, college graduates and career changers); procurement for small businesses and opportunities for local artists to have their work commissioned for bus and train stations.
In closing, we asked for a meeting with staff to share our plans and how we can incorporate transit into our strategies.
We were referred to Jeffrey Wilson, who works with CTA Intergovernmental Affairs. After the meeting, we were approached by Rev. Johnnie Miller to discuss our concerns in more detail.
I will debrief with members of the Executive Subcommittee and the Transportation Subcommittee, and set up meetings with Rev. Miller and Mr. Wilson.
Valerie F. Leonard
Valerie F. Leonard
Chair, Transportation Subcommittee
Member, Executive Subcommittee