March 3, 2009

South Side group pushes for Gold Line

Community organizers outlined a plan Monday for improving Chicago rapid transit on the South Side that would greatly increase student access to the downtown area.The organizers, from Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL), are part of a loose coalition backing a plan to more efficiently use the existing Metra tracks, which pass through Hyde Park. The meeting took place in Stuart Hall and was hosted by the South Side Solidarity Network, a student group that seeks to involve students in the South Side. The plan centers around running a train, called the Gold Line, on the Metra rails every 10 minutes and making them open to CTA fares and transfers. Metra trains currently run once an hour, except during rush-hour, and do not accept transfers from the CTA. SOUL is indifferent to who operates the Gold Line.“We don’t care who runs the line, as long as it runs every 10 minutes,” said SOUL organizer Will Tanzman, adding that they also insist transfers be available between the Gold Line and the other CTA branches.Tanzman said SOUL supports the line as a way of reducing South Siders’ commute times, implementing more sustainable transit in Chicago, and ensuring that the city’s 2016 Olympic bid permanently benefits the city by diverting some of the Olympic budget to the Gold Line. The project has met significant opposition from Metra, however. Tanzman and fellow SOUL organizer Jake Werner said that Metra has been reluctant to embrace an overhaul of its city service because it is based in the suburbs.Metra “was not receptive at all” to SOUL’s proposal, Werner said. Metra denied SOUL’s request for a feasibility study of the Gold Line, which Werner said would have cost around one million dollars. SOUL and its allies are now hoping to bypass Metra by gathering popular and legislative support for the Gold Line. Tanzman said the proposal has the backing of five aldermen, two state representatives, and one state senator.