'L' of a controversy in the South Loop
03/28/2012 10:00 PM
Since when did proximity to ĎLí stations become the latest civil right? All everyone is talking about in the South Loop these days is the new proposed and soon to be begun new Green Line stop at Cermak, just east of State. Everyone has an opinion. And even if you donít care if the stop goes there or not because, perhaps, you already have a stop (or stops) in your life like I do at Roosevelt and State ó or you donít mind walking a few blocks in one direction or another to the nearest stop ó you are bound to offend and alienate one neighbor or another if you weigh in. Or get a high-five from someone else. An extra Green Line stop has become the local equivalent as to whether or not to stay in Afghanistan.
Iíd like to know when buses went out of style? We certainly have enough routes moving north and south in the South Loop so that an extra Green Line stop isnít really necessary between Roosevelt and Bronzeville. Since I am speaking with the voice of one who has two stops with trains going in seven directions right out my front door, maybe I should shut up.
Some say it will serve South Loopers in general, especially those who live beyond Roosevelt. Well, OK, but again, what about the buses like the 62, 29 and 3? Some say it will be good for McCormick Place conventioneers. But are conventioneers really the type who will leave a downtown luxury hotel and get on a train at one of the funky stations on Wabash? And then walk a few blocks south of Cermak to the convention doings?
Donít most conventioneers have a little cash reserved for taxis? Donít they get free shuttles with the price of the convention? And if they really want to get on a convenient train, they can jump on the Metra at Randolph or Van Buren ó or Roosevelt, for that matter ó and be delivered right into McCormick Place itself. And I happen to know firsthand that a free Metra pass often accompanies oneís convention materials. It canít possibly be for conventioneers that the South Loop is spending its TIF money on a new stop.
There is also the theory that a new Green Line stop at Cermak will be good for the development of Music Row ó a proposed hub for new night life along Michigan Avenue south of Cermak. I hate to sound like a broken record (no pun intended) but whatís the matter with the aforementioned buses? Yes, the bus routes have had cutbacks, but so have the train routes. Yes, itís cold (or hot) waiting on the street for a bus, but an ďLĒ platform isnít exactly a toasty retreat from the elements.
I just donít get it. Are we so psyched for speed these days that a few extra minutes on a bus on a city street as opposed to an overhead train ride with fewer stops becomes the difference between a good lifestyle and one from which to head for the hills? (I mean the suburbs.) I remember when people reminisced about the old Red Line stop at Polk and State. They revisited the good old days of that stop so much that a few years ago, the CTA opened up the street and put it back in. The train still stops officially only at Harrison, but you can also enter with your farecard on Polk. This gives the impression ó in oneís head at least ó that there is really an extra stop. While itís nice to be out of the elements for an extra block now and then within the Harrison Station, the downside is that you are out of the elements in a CTA Red Line stop, complete with all the detritus that such a station hosts.
Speaking of the Red Line, that is sort of the elephant in the room. Uh, folks? Did you all forget that there is a Red Line stop at Cermak just a mere two blocks west of the proposed Green Line stop? I mean, talk about an embarrassment of riches for those who live, work or are just visiting around Cermak and State. Whatís the matter with that stop over at Cermak and Clark on the eastern edge of Chinatown? Is such a short distance west a deal breaker for people? I donít get it.
Which brings me to a new-stop connection I thought of about the Lexington complex on Cermak, a huge condo complex that so far has sold nary a condo. But has since been named ďThe LexĒ and a new group is going to begin (if they havenít already) an aggressive rental campaign to fill the place with tenants. Could the new Green Line station be a perk for this process? Hard to believe when that Red Line stop is already there. But the new stop being so short a distance closer may be what the doctor is ordering to heal the wounded building. And if so, is that a good outlay of taxpayer money?
And last but not least, why not a new Green Line stop at 18th, if you have to have a stop after Roosevelt and before 35th? There are far more residents, and established restaurants, etc. that have settled around 18th Street in the South Loop, and it would be nice for those South Loopers and those businesses to have a little train action in their midst, if thatís what they want. But the CTA says thereís nowhere to build a station there. An explanation which makes me very skeptical. There is empty land (an eyesore I might add) just east of the tracks (as well as west) on the south side of 18th. Neither of which gets in the way of the turning Orange Line tracks. Condemn that land, buy it and use it!
I say, put the station on 18th if there has to be a new station ó and encourage those who think they need the Green Line stop at Cermak to get acquainted with the stop they already have: the Red Line stop at Cermak. I think a new station on Cermak, when there already is one on Cermak a five minute walk away is a misguided concept, and well, a train thatís left the station.