Comparing Transit Access in Lincoln Park to South Lawndale

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While South Lawndale has a larger population and more demand for transit, Lincoln Park has better transit access. Graphic: Alma Zamudio. Click to enlarge.

Here’s some info about transit inequality that I had to leave out of this week’s Chicago Reader column about transportation issues that impact local Latino communities, due to space limitations.

Alma Zamudio, who earned a BA in urban planning and public administration at UIC, has worked with various Latino housing, labor, and social justice organizations, including a campaign by the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and other groups to improve bus service in Little Village. During college she compared transit access in the Lincoln Park and South Lawndale community areas (the latter largely comprises Little Village) for a presentation at an Illinois African American and Latino Higher Education Alliance conference.

According to 2010 Census data, Lincoln Park had about 71,382 residents with a median household income of $82,707, while South Lawndale had a population of 81,426 with a median income of $32,320. Zamudio found that while, at the time of her research, 22 intersected Lincoln Park, only seven served South Lawndale. Lincoln Park had four transit routes with late-night “owl service,” but South Lawndale only had one, the #60 Blue Island/26th bus. And while there are three ‘L’ lines and five stops in Lincoln Park, there’s only one train line and two stations in South Lawndale. Buses and trains also ran more frequently in Lincoln Park.

Meanwhile South Lawndale had a somewhat lower household car ownership rate than Lincoln Park, 84 percent versus 86 percent. When you factor in the fact that South Lawndale had over 10,000 more residents, that came out to a significantly higher number of car-less households. Moreover, South Lawndale had the highest percentage of residents under 18 of any Chicago community area.

That meant that while the South Side neighborhood had a higher demand for transit access, it received less service, Zamudio said. “The study proved what I already knew on the ground,” Zamudio told me. “It’s not equitable.”

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  • what_eva

    I’m going to nitpick those bus numbers a bit.

    By using “intersected” LP instead of “served” like she did for LV, she’s counting *8* routes that pass through Lincoln Park without stopping. 7 are express routes on LSD (current 135, 136, 146, 147, 148 and former 144, 145, I am not counting the 134 or 143 that have stops in LP before getting on LSD at Fullerton) and the 8th is the 132 that runs down Armitage and Clybourn without any stops in LP.

    Similar story is counting 77 and 50, which have 1 stop in LP (Diversey/Sheridan and Diversey/Damen respectively). The 77 also gets very little ridership south of Belmont on the inner LSD/Diversey/Sheridan loop. I’ve used that one stop in LP and it’s very sparse until it gets back up to Belmont. The 50 stop serves Costco now that Lathrop is closed, not really the residents of LP.

    Last route count nitpick is that the difference in numbers is inflated due to LP’s boundaries being arterial streets, where LV’s are railroad tracks. This leads to LP having “boundary” routes on North and Diversey, while LV excludes 49-Western by a block. I don’t know how much of a barrier those tracks are, but they don’t look like a big one as all the streets north of 26th appear to go through. Similar story on the west side with Cicero, but those tracks are pretty obviously a bigger barrier (and appears the tracks are the western border of the city).

    Removing the 8 no-stop routes drops LP to 14, if you drop the two 1-stop routes, it’s 12. Adding 49 into LV (which I don’t know if that’s correct) ups it to 8. Not equal but very different from 22 vs 7.

    If you look at the maps, the big difference is the east side of LP. The west side looks pretty similar to LV, routes on the 1/2 mile arterials, with each having a “missing” bus (LV has no Kostner, LP has no Racine, though in LP Racine is covered by the Red Line). All the “extra” routes in LP are on the lakefront (22, 36, 134, 143, 151, 156), which is much denser than anywhere in LV except for the county jail complex (which is the highest density spot on the LV map as isn’t exactly an area whose residents need much transit…

    Her Owl numbers are also screwed up. She’s also counting 77 as owl (77 stops at Halsted overnight, it doesn’t go down to Diversey) and she’s counting the 2 Red Line stops independently for no apparent reason. She gets an owl back though as she missed 22. Correct count of Owl in LP is 3 – Red Line, 22, and 151. Again, all are on the lakefront where the highest density is.

    So, is the disparity in service due to CTA’s preference for an affluent white neighborhood or is it due to the differences in density? It looks to me like the “coverage” routes are about the same and LP has a bunch of “ridership” routes due to the high density on the lakefront.

  • ardecila

    Yeah, this is well-intentioned but doesn’t take into account realities of transit planning. Lincoln Park is close to downtown and many of the busiest routes are radial, so of course it will have a higher concentration of radial services – radial lines get closer together as you approach the center. Lakeview would be a better comparison, since it spans from Diversey (2400N) to Irving Park (4000N) and Little Village spans roughly Western (2400W) to Kostner (4400W).

    Also, the graphical choices seem intentionally misleading. Lincoln Park’s bus routes are shown in a vibrant shade of magenta that pops out, while Little Village’s bus routes are shown in a maroon that blends in with the density map.

    A lot of this is just the artifact of historical patterns. Long before any Latinos set foot in South Lawndale, the hot spots in the neighborhood grew up blocks away and disconnected from the Burlington railroad (today’s BNSF) while the Douglas Park branch of the L (today’s Pink Line) was laid out to serve the Jews in North Lawndale and the Czechs in South Lawndale equally. Again, not really close to the hotspots, but very convenient to reach factory jobs.

  • Roo_Beav

    Another problem with this analysis is that 8000-9000 residents of South Lawndale live inside the Cook County Jail. Their need to access transit is greatly limited.

    Saying LP has 3 ‘L’ lines is also misleading because all 3 are in the same corridor for the most part. The Purple Line also does not run through LP except for weekday rush hours.

    LP is fairly residential throughout except for along the river (for now) and the park (which itself is a destination.) SL has large industrial areas.

    The maps are on different scales, so LP’s transit appears more condensed when it’s just the scale of the map.

    To me, both maps show that residents of both areas are all within about 1/4 mile of transit.

    This study doesn’t show what the author is claiming.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Good point about the jail. That’s the dark-brown, high-density rectangle at the southwest corner of 26th and California on the map.

  • Carter O’Brien

    Your analysis needs to factor in the people who attend cultural institutions and businesses. The Zoo, Chicago History Museum, Notebaert, live music venues like Park West, Lincoln Hall, Kingston Mines, the theatre district on Halsted, restaurants, etc pull in all kinds of people from outside the neighborhood.

  • david vartanoff

    Let’s ask more detailed questions. What is the profile of not outs in the 2 areas? How bad is schedule adherence, given that you point out headways are longer? It is all very fine to have a bus route, but if the buses don’t show up as advertised, they are useless.
    As to the somewhat snide comment about the jail population, not only do they get legal visitors, but next door is the criminal court building which would likely also generate trips–in both cases many are likely to be transit dependent.

  • Carter O’Brien

    Excellent point – I am sure there are hundreds of jurors going that courthouse on a daily basis.

  • JacobEPeters

    I think the points you bring up speak to the question “what existing South Lawndale trips are not well served by frequent transit options”.

    The two community areas are very different in terms of
    A) trips that pass through them (Lincoln Park has many routes beefed up w/ frequency bc neighborhoods beyond it are served by the same lines as they access downtown)
    B) trip generators within the neighborhood (DePaul, the beach & the Zoo generate a lot of travel from other neighborhoods)
    C) Proximity to Downtown vs. Proximity to the city edge

    In order to make service more equitable, the types of services needed in Little Village may be very different from the services provided in Lincoln Park. Beefing up frequency of local routes, and introducing better connectivity to nearby industrial areas might better address local needs than the myriad of express busses and the 3 train lines sharing the same trunk corridor that provide service as they pass through Lincoln Park from outer neighborhoods.

  • What’s a not out?

  • Even though the three lines have different stopping patterns and different frequencies, it is still three ways that the CTA provides service to several neighborhoods, and that kind of rapid, all-day service isn’t being provided on the Pink Line.

    I am in agreement with some commenters here (like @ardecila:disqus) that counting lines and stops and comparing them to population and density isn’t a sufficient way to measure transit equity.

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