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Solving Chicago’s Last-Mile Problem

10:36 AM EDT on April 29, 2010

irvingparkblueline_thumb_500x334_131195.jpgThe view from the Irving Park station on Chicago’s Blue Line: Not exactly an inviting mile to walk. (Photo: Elevating Chicago)

Today on Elevating Chicago, the ever-perplexing problem of the "last mile" comes up for discussion again.

As the blog’s author points out, in downtown Chicago, it’s not generally too hard for commuters to walk the distance between their transit stops and their destinations. But outside the downtown area, the area between transit stops and residential destinations can be bleak and off-putting to any but the most dedicated pedestrian (the picture at right of the Irving Park Blue Line stop makes the point).

In Elevating Chicago’s opinion, this is at least in part a zoning issue:

Any Chicagoan who has driven along 90/94 and 290 has seen the Blue Line stops in the highway medians on the North Side and West Side, and the Red Line stops in the highway medians on the South Side.… [T]hese highway stops are making the "last mile" a problem for many riders. It is far from easy to walk or bike to these stops. In general you’d need to cross a major intersection, bypass all the impatient drivers attempting to merge onto the on-ramps, not to mention the fact that these stops are more often than not further than a half-mile from most residences.…

The solution is for the CTA to ask for some help from the city. Primarily, the CTA needs the areas closest to these stops re-zoned, which will then allow private industry to take over and build.… The CTA’s objective must be to build these areas up, both residentially and commercially. As of now, businesses are not keen to open up shop by these troubled stops because there is limited walk-by traffic. However, increasing population density in these areas would solve that problem.

Have you seen any innovative solutions to the last mile problem? Let us know in the comments.

More from around the network: Livable Norwalk on the mysterious three-sided crosswalks of Norwalk, Connecticut. Reimagine an Urban Paradise asks drivers to allow her to live through her commute. And Let’s Go Ride a Bike reveals the competitive spirit of the female bicycle commuter — you know, the one wearing a dress and heels who left you in the dust this morning.

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