How does wayfinding on the CTA compare to BART?


Plentiful signage at this CTA station makes it easy to figure out which station you’re at and where you need to catch your train. Photo by Mickey B. All other images courtesy of the author.

This guest post was contributed by Rachel Hyman, a senior at the University of Chicago who studies geography. A resident of Hyde Park, she’s made it her mission to see every corner of Chicago, by bike if possible. In her free time, she edits the literary blog Banango Lit.

Almost all of my experience with urban public transit has been in Chicago, so I was excited to come out to San Francisco for a summer internship and scope out their system. to get to work I take BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), essentially a subway that runs within San Francisco and in the East Bay. In Chicago, I live in Hyde Park, which doesn’t have great access to the ‘L’, so it’s nice to live closer to a train station here. Just last week, though, I had an experience which soured me a bit on BART.

Continue reading How does wayfinding on the CTA compare to BART?

Window watching on the Brown Line


James Porter, pictured above at the O’Hare Line’s Western stop, is one of Chicago’s foremost authorities on getting around the town without an automobile. As a music journalist, singer, harmonica player, and one half of the DJ duo East of Edens Soul Express, he travels from his home in the Mid-South neighborhood of Chatham to every nook and cranny of the city to get to record stores, concerts and gigs, usually by walking, bus and train. Here’s a guest post from James about one of the many perks of riding the CTA.

One of my favorite things to do, whether walking, riding the bus or driving, is traveling down the street and watching the neighborhoods change. ‘L’ riding offers a more sophisticated version of this. Unlike the bus, which on most routes sticks to one street, the trains slip and slide through a circuitous route and once the train emerges from the underground tunnel, you can view some interesting takes on the city skyline.

Continue reading Window watching on the Brown Line

Metra’s inconsistency makes me want to drive: Am I the only one?


Can we board? Photo by Melissa McClarin. 

Ed. note: This op-ed was originally posted on The Chainlink by Adam “Cezar” Jenkins and is published here with his permission. Jenkins commutes on Metra from Mokena to his job as a web developer downtown. He is vice president of the Folks on Spokes bicycling club in Southland Chicago. -Steven

My family is car-lite. One car. I’ve been riding Metra for over a year to work and the city for whatnot. Something the entire time has stuck out at me.

I will preface the below with the understanding that I know it’s getting better, but that it exists at all is a problem if you support a real workable public transit system.

There’s one thing above all others that makes me want to buy a second car and use it. Inconsistency. Let’s start with what hits home with The Chainlink the most. Bikes. Continue reading Metra’s inconsistency makes me want to drive: Am I the only one?

Does the City of Chicago do enough to keep pedestrians and bicyclists safe?


“Biker Boy” by Alice Dubois. Alice’s paintings are on display this month at Charmers Cafe, 1500 W. Jarvis, and the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington.

[Ed. note: This article was contributed by Carly Syms, a grad student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. The piece also appears on the Medill Reports website. Carly completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin. She eventually wants to get into sports journalism.]

Chicagoans are speaking out about the city’s active transportation initiatives amidst growing research that shows walking and biking to work can result in extensive health benefits.

One of the biggest improvement projects under way is the Bike 2015 Plan, which the city says is meant to “make bicycling an integral part of daily life in Chicago,” and for many residents, that begins with safety.

John Greenfield, co-founder of, a blog dedicated to local transportation concerns, said that while many of the city’s initiatives have yielded positive results, there’s still room for improvement.

“Too much car traffic is one of the main obstacles to safe, pleasant conditions for walking, biking and transit use,” Greenfield said. “I’d like to see policymakers doing more to discourage driving and fund healthier modes.”

Continue reading Does the City of Chicago do enough to keep pedestrians and bicyclists safe?

Put Chicago on the path to an electrified Metra


Ed. note: Roland Solinski is a graduate student of architecture at Tulane University. “I am a Chicagoan by birth and the city runs in my blood. I’m fascinated by all aspects of urban design and urban systems, but especially transit systems and public space.” Photo is of a southbound Metra Electric train. 

In November of 2010, the Chicago Tribune published an article that shocked Metra commuters. In it, Tribune reporters revealed that massive quantities of diesel exhaust were hanging in the air on platforms at Union Station and Ogilvie Transportation Center. Worse, the atmosphere inside each railcar contained the same exhaust at even higher concentrations – 72 times that of a normal city street.

In numerous other cities, commuters do not need to worry about harmful exhaust fumes, because their trains run off of electric power. In fact, many cities installed rail electrification systems at the turn of the last century specifically to eliminate toxic smoke emissions, including the Illinois Central’s line right here in Chicago, now called Metra Electric. Continue reading Put Chicago on the path to an electrified Metra

Will a new ordinance make taxis safer and greener, or just hurt cabdrivers?


Photos by Paolo Cisneros

Taxicabs make it easier to live in or visit a city without owning a car, and they help reduce traffic congestion and the need for parking spaces, so they definitely play an important role in Chicago’s sustainable transportation scene. This article was contributed by Paolo Cisneros, a graduate of the journalism program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a former writer with the Chicago Dispatcher, which covers the local taxi industry. A native Chicagoan, Paolo’s work focuses primarily on environmental and social justice issues. Follow him on Twitter at @PaoloCisneros.

Remember last fall when a bunch of fancy-pants meteorologists predicted this was going to be one of the harshest winters in Chicago history?

Be honest. How filled with anxiety and dread did your life suddenly become?

For most of us, such a reaction was to be expected, but there was one group of people who couldn’t have been happier about the news: Chicago’s taxi drivers.

Continue reading Will a new ordinance make taxis safer and greener, or just hurt cabdrivers?