Tuesday, September 04, 2007

So Blue, Not on the Blue Line

Awhile back, I wrote about what happens to transportation patterns when transportation arteries are (temporarily or permanently) closed off. The motivating example, in this case, was the closure of the Pittsburgh's outbound highway leading east. The major observation, not surprisingly, is that traffic really sucks when you close down a highway.

I spent some time in Chicago recently, a city that has the glorious distinction of being one of the few American cities with really great transit systems. Like most such cities (New York being a notable exception), Chicago's elevated train is a hub-and-spoke system. Downtown (the Loop) is the hub, and the train lines extend outwards therefrom.

The blue line runs northwest from downtown all the way to O'Hare airport. CTA is currently doing quite a bit of work on the blue line, and on the weekend that I visited a significant portion of the line was unavailable. Practically speaking, this means that I could not simply fly in to O'Hare, hop on the train, and travel downtown to my hotel. Quite frustrating, I must say! One of the great advantages of visiting cities like Chicago is being able to travel exclusively by transit.

A few urban thinker asked recently how we can mitigate the effects of disabled transportation infrastructure. I've given a lot of thought to it, and my answer is (unfortunately) simple and a bit sad: there's not much we can do. Usage patterns of infrastructure are clear: people use infrastructure as much as humanly possible. When you disable a portion of infrastructure (like the I-35W bridge over the MIssissippi), the practical result is chaos and frustration.

I still love Chicago, however. The construction on the blue line will be finished soon, and I'll be back.


Anonymous Bonnie Erickson said...

The windy city is my husband's home town. We seldom used the car as the "el" went everywhere. It was fun to ride at night when the theater crowd was dressed for the show.

9:01 PM  

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