Hyde Parkers might remember a hubbub of discussion about the hypothetical CTA Gold Line as the International Olympic Committee geared up to check out the city’s digs last spring. Now, with the 4th of July and the Taste of Chicago safely (?) out of the way, Mayor Daley and the rest of his Chicagoland kingdom can go back to fixating on the prospect of the 2016 Olympic Games.
Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL) is once again pushing for the Gold Line. The new line would bring more transit service to the South Side with a fusion of the ever-underfunded CTA and the stubbornly retro Metra (which is going to be allowing credit cards soon! Maybe someday they’ll introduce a real website?). SOUL proposes running CTA cars along the Metra Electric Line rails, putting a station at 35th Street, and making CTA-RTA transfers feasible. (The latter is a longstanding goal of the RTA’s and is slated to begin next year in the form of a universal fare card.)
The Trib published a helpful graphic to show just what would be going down under the proposal:
The Maroon announced its support for the construction of the Gold Line in an unsigned editorial in April, highlighting it as a huge plus (if not necessity) for the Olympics and as something to sweeten the deal for reluctant neighbors. That said, the whole thing seems ridiculous. If Chicago gets the Olympics – and that is a big if, in spite of Daley’s acrobatics – there is already an elaborate system of shuttles planned to deal with the two weeks of massive crowds. The Gold Line is being floated again now in anticipation of the IOC’s October 2 selection of the Olympic host city – but, with the bid book long finished, it seems that the bargaining phase is over.
Today’s Trib article calls attention to another important fact: “The Regional Transportation Authority has lobbied vigorously for a $10 billion, five-year capital plan to maintain and expand transit systems, but the legislature this spring came up with only a ‘status quo’ $2.7 billion capital package.” There just isn’t the money for the new line, even if it would “help support the needs of thousands of people on the South Side,” as Dhyia Thompson, the co-chair of the SOUL’s Gold Line Task Force, alleges.
It’s not that pitching the Gold Line in tandem with the Olympic Games was a bad idea – it’s just that that door is very much shut. There is no denying that the line would be nice for those of us commuting to the Loop from the South Side, but the proposal has very little to offer on the practicality front. (And I don’t think the question of whether this is even necessary in non-Olympic conditions is a small one.) Dragging out the discussion with continued sighs of what an immeasurable commute north to downtown it is for those of us who live farthest from it – and the mere thought of the $995,000 Congressman Danny Davis, who represents downtown Chicago and a large chunk of the South Side, wants to spend on a study of the Gold Line – isn’t going to change things that are both set in stone and financially impossible.