I went yesterday evening to what I thought was a community meeting on the proposed Union Pacific North Line project on the Northside. I was expecting a song-and-dance from the folks at Metra and UPRR about the work that needs to be done, how they’re going to attack it, blah-de-blah. There are a couple of things about the project that I think are worth noting, by way of some backstory on the project itself:
- There are several bridges that the train travels over – it’s elevated in the city – that are 100 years old. Damn, that’s old. As one might guess, these bridges need work. I can’t argue with this; I want to have a safe commute.
- I commute primarily from the Ravenswood Station. Metra has noted that this is the busiest station on the UP-N line, which sounds about right, given the traffic I see day in and day out. For being such an important station, it’s not available to a number of people because the current station is not ADA-compliant. Plus, the shelters suck. Busy station + crappy station + need to be accessible = We’re getting a new station. Staffed. With a ramp and much more overhead coverage to protect us from Chicago weather. Again, this is something we can pretty much agree is a good thing. I can’t argue with this, either.
The meeting was no Q&A, like I’d hoped. Instead, the meeting was 10 or so posters presenting plans for proposed work at different intersections along Ravenswood Ave. There were before and after drawings of the embankments, the parking, and the landscaping. There were numbers of parking spaces and square feet of greenery pre- and post-construction. There was only one posterboard devoted to the station itself; I found it rather uninformative, other than it telling me that the station would be south of Lawrence Ave., where the current (old) station is. As a commuter, I found the meeting to be pretty much useless.
So, like a good PITA (Pain in the Ass, while I’m dropping acronyms), my comment sheet was full of questions. Lots and lots of questions. Here are just a few:
- How are changing traffic patterns along Ravenswood Ave. going to affect commuters, particularly cyclists?
- What effect will there be, in terms of the schedules, for the construction of and switching to and from, the new third track, which is making it possible for the north and southbound trains to not be constrained to one track?
- What amenities will the station have? Does the public have input on them?
- Will there be increased or decreased numbers of bike racks?
- Are there community organizations that are committed to partnering in maintaining the landscaping, like the Andersonville Gardens? What about stretches of the train landscaping along industry or in areas with high rental numbers? (I got the idea they want to turn the landscaping over to communities to maintain. Um, what?)
But us? We don’t own property along Ravenswood Ave. This project might not be in my backyard, but it’s a substantial part of my work life, as someone who doesn’t have the option to drive because of a disability. I spend 90 minutes every day on those trains, so I’m a little interested in knowing how this project is actually going to affect me. Maybe I should buy a million-dollar house on Ravenswood Ave. and find out.