Used as an apposite noun, the word “Chicago” can have many different meanings. Coupled with “pizza,” the word means stuffed and delicious. Attach it to “Cubs,” and the word connotes lovable losers. Pair the word with “economics,” and we think of Nobel laureates. But the phrase “Chicago politics” evokes a far more negative interpretation: bullying and inefficiency.
Fifth-Ward alderman Leslie Hairston reinforced this principle last week when she announced her intent to remove the stop at 57th Street and South University Avenue from the #171 bus route. The reason for the change? To create four unmetered parking spots. The bus—and the 550 riders who use the stop each day—are to be rerouted to South Woodlawn Avenue.
Hairston’s decision flies in the face of opposition from both the University and the CTA. At first glance, it would seem that the new route would only cause an extra block’s walk. But it will take riders time to get used to the new stop and cost time and money to reprogram the buses and teach bus drivers the new route. Woodlawn Avenue will now face increased congestion, and the street will struggle to accommodate both the #171 and #172 routes.
In truth, Hairston’s decision has less to do with parking than it does a bruised ego. The alderman is responding to a perceived slight that the University and the CTA committed against her last summer when the stop at 57th and University was moved from the intersection’s north side to its south side, eliminating the four spots. This move was apparently made without Hairston’s approval.
Hairston claims that last summer’s move is indicative of strained town–gown relations, with the University steamrolling community interests so it could move a bus stop. This argument is factually inaccurate and a red herring: According to Brian Shaw, University director of transportation and parking, it was the CTA’s responsibility to secure Hairston’s approval for the change. And although the University and Hyde Park have been at loggerheads before, last summer’s bus stop change certainly did not provoke an outpouring of protest to Hairston. It was only when the alderman happened to drive down University Avenue—eight months after the change—that she noticed and decided to retaliate.
In the end, it’s unclear who exactly is at fault. Perhaps the University and the CTA should have done a better job communicating with the alderman. However, it’s unfair that the 550 people who use the stop daily are being punished because of a bureaucratic squabble.
The University should take the high road and try to appease Hairston. If that means setting up town hall meetings to discuss the four parking spots, as the alderman has suggested, so be it. If it means apologizing for an eight-month-old miscommunication, fine.
Petty politics shouldn’t matter, and protocol can be overrated; what’s important is getting a workable solution that inconveniences the fewest and satisfies the most people possible.
The Maroon Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Viewpoints Editors, and an additional Editorial Board member.