[This piece originally ran in Checkerboard City, John’s column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets on Wednesday evenings.]
Social worker and transit fan Courtney Cobbs moved to our city from Little Rock, Arkansas, in 2013, partly because she wanted to be able to live car-free. She has posted some thought-provoking comments on Streetsblog Chicago in the past about the need for better bus and train access on Chicago’s South and West Sides. I caught up with her by phone to hear more of her take on the equity issue.
John Greenfield: What’s the public transportation system like in Little Rock?
Courtney Cobbs: There really isn’t much of one. I actually had a brief conversation with the people there about, for example, how ridiculous it was that I lived about five or six miles from the community college that I attended and that, in order to get there, I would have to take two buses and it would take me 30 minutes, versus a ten-minute drive. The bus service is very infrequent and doesn’t run very late. It’s like not having a system at all, for the most part.
JG: You wrote a while ago that the transit system is one of the things that brought you to Chicago.
CC: Yes. I wanted to live in a city where I didn’t have to own a car, because I really care about the environment, and public transportation saves you money. I really like big cities, and I felt like Chicago was an affordable option versus New York or L.A., and I could live here without a car relatively well.
JG: Where do you work nowadays?
CC: I work for Thresholds Psychiatric Rehabilitation Centers, at their Ravenswood location. I work with adults with chronic mental illness, helping them with daily living skills and integrating them into the community. For example, I help them navigate the CTA.
JG: You live in Edgewater, near the Bryn Mawr stop. How far a walk do you have to the train station?
CC: Two or three minutes. It really just depends on if I have get walk signal or not. [Laughs.]
JG: So you’re really only about a block away. Is train noise an issue in your apartment?
CC: It isn’t, surprisingly. If it’s late at night and I have my window open, occasionally I can hear “Doors closing,” but that’s about it.
JG: Where did you live when you first came to Chicago?
CC: I lived in Kenwood, at 44th and Drexel. Transit service wasn’t as good. The best part about living there was the #4 Cottage Grove bus. That runs along Cottage Grove between the Illinois Center and Chicago State University.
JG: That was how you got downtown?
CC: Yeah. When I started with Thresholds, I would take the 43rd Street bus to the 47th Street Red Line station. My commute was about an hour, hour and fifteen minutes every day, which was really physically draining. Moving to the North Side has cut down on my commute time considerably.