Maintenance and simple improvements to increase reliability could save Illinois train commuters more than 800,000 hours in delays every year.
The South Suburbs include south suburban Cook County, Will County, as well as Lake and Porter counties in Northwest Indiana.
Get the latest updates on active transportation issues in the South Suburbs below and make sure to join our In Your Community: South Suburbs e-newsletter list. The e-newsletter comes out quarterly and offers a quick read on issues related to bicycling, walking and transit in your area.
If you are interested in learning more about any of the information provided on this page, please feel free to contact Maggie Melin at Maggie@activetrans.org or 312-427-0474.
Bike Walk Every Town
Over the last two months Active Trans hosted four regional suburban summits across the region to give residents tools and resources to advocate for better biking and walking in their community.
The south suburban summit was hosted at the Flossmoor Station Brewery. Overall, 65 advocates from 44 municipalities participated in the trainings. If you missed the in-person summits, a free online webinar version of the summit will be hosted on Thursday, November 16 from 6:30pm to 8pm.
Salt Creek Greenway: Connecting Trail Gaps Lecture
Earlier in November, the Frederick Law Olmsted Society hosted a free lecture about the future trail development of the Salt Creek Greenway. The Salt Creek Greenway spans nearly 27 miles from Busse Woods to the Brookfield Zoo through several counties. However, there is a critical gap in the trail in southwest Chicagoland between Brookfield and Lyons. Drawing a crowd of over 50 people, bicycle path design expert David Landeweer discussed the potential future of the scenic trail and what it might take to close the trail gap and connect the Greenway to the Centennial Trail on Willows Springs Road.
Burnham Greenway Trail Gap Dispute in the News
In case you missed it, back in August the Chicago Tribune published a report on the four-year-long battle with the railroads to close a two-mile gap along the 11-mile Burnham Greenway. Once completed, the Burnham Greenway would connect Chicago to Lansing, Illinois and fill in a major gap in our regional trail system.
While $5 million in federal and state funding is currently available for the project, the issue hinges on crossing five railroad tracks. Trail advocates and the village of Burnham want to see the sidewalk at the crossing expanded from 5-feet to 10-feet and include railings, crossing gates and signs. However, the railroad operator, Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD), believes building such a crossing would be dangerous. A resolution to the conflict will eventually be made by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), which oversees railroad crossing changes. Active Trans will keep you updated as we learn more about any scheduled hearings.
2018 Pace & Metra fare update
Due to public transportation funding cuts in the state budget, Pace Bus and Metra both voted to increase their 2018 ticket prices. This November Pace’s board approved a 25-cent fare hike for all trips while Metra’s board approved both fare increases and cuts in service. A regular bus trip on Pace will now cost $2. Under Metra’s new budget, all ticket fares will increase including one-way tickets which will go up 25 cents and monthly passes which will increase by $9 to $12.50 per month depending on the zone. Cuts in service were approved to the North Central Service, SouthWest Service, Rock Island Line and Milwaukee District North Line.
Highway expansion advocacy
While widening highways may at first seem like a good solution for congestion, research and experience have shown that expanding roads leads to more traffic congestion in the long run and undermines efforts to make our communities better places for walking, biking and public transit. As part of our advocacy around this topic, Active Trans recently published a letter in the Chicago Tribune about the problems of highway expansion, similar to our previously issued statement opposing the extension of Route 53 in Lake County.
2017 Bicycle Friendly State Report Card – Illinois ranks #16
The League of American Bicyclists ranks Illinois 16th in the country and third in the Midwest for biking and walking. The state finished first in the Legislation & Enforcement category – thanks in part to the strength of Illinois’ Cyclist Anti-Harassment and Must Stop for Pedestrians laws, which Active Trans helped pass in 2010. Illinois ranked 45th, however, in Infrastructure & Funding, as the state lacks dedicated funding for bicycle infrastructure and has limited bike facilities on state roads. Active Trans continues to talk with leaders at the Illinois Department of Transportation and elected members of the general assembly about the need for progress on these and other state priorities.
Suburban Bikeways for All
At the end of June, Active Trans released our Suburban Bikeways for All report, which lays out our vision for biking in the suburbs and action steps on how to achieve it. The priorities in the report will lay the foundation for the new Bike Walk Every Town initiative. Check out the report: Despite progress, biking options limited in suburbs.
First Grade Transportation Advocates of Summit
Earlier this year, first graders from Graves Elementary School in the Village of Summit sent their Mayor a letter asking for a meeting. The students requested that the village work on improving the pedestrian bridge that many students rely on to walk to school every day. See their letter and the models they designed of what a safe bridge could look like. Read the letter and learn about the first grade transportation advocates of Summit.
Pop-up Complete Streets Projects
Bike lanes made from duct tape? Curb extensions made of flowers? In case you missed it, please enjoy these videos of our pop-up complete streets projects in Midlothian, Richton Park, Skokie, South Chicago Heights, and Willow Springs. The videos showcase five temporary street treatments that provided community members with a tangible visualization of how walking, bicycling, and public transit facilities can create safer, more engaging streets. Watch the videos.
In order to pay for increased service on the Main Metra Electric Line, Metra is planning to cut off-peak service on the South Chicago and Blue Island branches of Metra Electric. Active Transportation Alliance is part of the Coalition for a Modern Metra Electric Coalition, which supports running CTA-style service on the full Metra Electric line, with trains every 10-15 minutes and fare transferability from the line to CTA and Pace buses. Metra’s proposal is a step in that direction for the main line;however, we are concerned about the reduction of service proposed on Metra’s south suburban branches. Read about Metra’s new schedule.
Better biking coming to Will County
Biking and walking in Will County will soon become more connected, safe and accessible thanks to the first-ever Will County Bikeway Plan, which was recently approved by the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Board. The plan envisions a future network of bikeways and trails with 14 new routes that provide improved biking and walking connections to major destinations such as Metra stations, Governor’s State University, numerous parks and many commercial centers. Other goals include expanding “transportation choices by enabling bicycling to become a more viable transportation option in Will County” and providing “easily-accessible recreation opportunities for the public.
New commuter rail coming to Northwest Indiana
Our regional commuter rail network is getting a major expansion in Northwest Indiana thanks to the West Lake Corridor Project. This nine-mile extension will connect to the South Shore Line and Metra Electric District Line, improving the connection between Northwest Indiana and downtown Chicago. While this project is an exciting improvement in the region, we must make sure that it is planned and implemented appropriately. Prioritizing adequate access to the new rail line will be an important part of the process. Biking and walking access to new stations should be included in the planning process. Read more on our blog.
Unveiling the Broadway Metro Express
The Gary Public Transportation Corporation (GPTC) is putting the final touches on plans for Northwest Indiana’s first rapid bus service, the Broadway Metro Express, launching in summer 2017. GPTC recently held two open houses and a public hearing on the project, offering residents an opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed bus route. Community members spoke enthusiastically about the new amenities that the upgraded system would provide, especially faster and more frequent service. Planned facilities of the service include new bus platforms with public art by local artists and new crosswalks. Bus bypass lanes and stop consolidation will help make the buses run more efficiently.
ITEP funds new active transportation projects in Will County
Channahon and Romeoville were recently awarded grants through the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP). The Village of Channahon is planning to use the funds for a multi-use bridge over the DuPage River and Illinois & Michigan Canal at Bridge Street. The new path will give people who walk and bike a safer option for crossing the river, bridging the community. The path would also improve access to the Illinois & Michigan Canal trail, which runs alongside the river. Romeoville’s grant will fund construction of a new Metra station. The village plans for the station include a biking and walking path and new sidewalks. Read more about the grants here.
Local Community Resources
Trails Map: Google Map of planned and completed trails in Northwest Indiana and Will County
Please email suggestions for additional local community resources to Jim@activetrans.org.