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Dragging Survivor Scott Jacobson Is Making an Amazing Recovery

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Scott Jacobson with his family on last Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the Jacobsons.

There’s been a lot of bad news lately about bike crashes and fatalities in Chicago. Fortunately we’ve also got the inspiring story of Scott Jacobson, a man who was struck and dragged hundreds of feet on his bike, suffering horrific injuries. Jacobson has been making a remarkable recovery and has kept a positive attitude in spite of his ordeal.

On Monday, May 2, at around 6 p.m., Jacobson, 47, was riding home after biking with his two sons to wrestling practice at De La Salle Institute. He was near the intersection of 35th Street and Lowe Avenue in Bridgeport when SUV driver Joshua Thomas, 26, made a U-turn and struck him, according to police.

Jacobson was dragged hundreds of feet until bystanders ran to stop the vehicle. His pelvis was fractured in three places, and the ball of the upper femur, which fits in the hip socket, was broken. He had five fractured vertebrae in his lower back and two broken ribs. He sustained severe road rash over much of his body, with muscle and bone visible in places.

Two months later, Jacobson is back at his McKinley Park home, and he’s beginning to try walking once again. “Last week I attempted getting up on a walker and putting my weight on one leg,” he says. “It’s a very strange feeling, learning how to walk again. It’s a long recovery process, but I’m doing everything I can.” Jacobsen says he’s been doing four hours of rehab exercises a day in an effort to regain his physical abilities.

He recounted the events of the crash. He had been heading west on 35th, behind Thomas’ SUV. “He pulled to the right like he was going to park or stop,” Jacobson recalls. “When I passed him, he pulled right out and started hitting me. He may have been attempting a U-turn.”

“When he first started hitting me, I had my hand on the hood of his car,” Jacobson says. He then fell under the SUV and he was stuck under the front of the car, face down, with only his head protruding from under the front of the vehicle. “I was yelling ‘Please stop!’ I told him I had a family.” Still, Thomas kept driving, in an apparent attempt to flee the scene.

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Public Invited to Sunday’s “Ghost Bike” Ceremony Honoring Virginia Murray

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A ghost bike memorial to Jacqueline Michon was temporarily placed at Wacker and Wabash. Photo: John Greenfield.

Safe streets advocates are inviting the public to the installation of a white-painted “ghost bike” memorial as a tribute to Virginia Murray, who was fatally struck by a truck driver while cycling last Friday. The installation will take place this Sunday, July 10, at 7 p.m. at the crash site at Belmont venue and Sacramento Avenue.

Murray, 25, was riding a Divvy bike northbound on Sacramento on Friday, July 1, at about 9 a.m., according to police. At Belmont, the northbound driver, employed by nearby business AB Hardwood Flooring, made a right turn, striking Murray in what appears to have been a “right-hook” crash.

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Virginia Murray

Murray was pronounced dead at Illinois Masonic Hospital about an hour later. Her case appears to be the first bike-share–related fatality in the U.S. So far the driver has received no traffic citations or criminal charges, police said.

According to Murray’s LinkedIn profile, until a few weeks ago she had been working at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, the Divvy sponsor, since 2013, most recently as a lead marketing communications consultant. A spokeswoman for the company described Murray as “an avid Divvy supporter, a wonderful employee, and a special person.”

A statement released by the North American Bikeshare Association in the wake of the crash offered condolences to Murray’s loved ones and the Chicago bike community for this great loss. The association also noted that this was the first fatality in over 70,000,000 bike-share trips taken in the U.S. It added that a recent study by the Mineta Transportation Institute found that crash and injury rates for bike-sharing are lower than previously computed rates for personal bicycling.

Sunday’s installation is being organized by local resident Anthony Arce, who says he witnessed the crash, and Kristen Green, who serves on the board of the South Chicago Velodrome Association. “Anthony Arce has been deeply moved by this and reached out to our community to get a ghost bike in [Murray’s] honor as he was so deeply saddened by what he witnessed that day,” Green wrote in the event invitation. “So we have come together with other members of the community and will be placing a memorial “ghost bike”… to honor her. If you would like to drop a flower or a candle or note there please do.”

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Parks Group Endorses Plan to Replace Two Acres of Green Space With Asphalt

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An aerial view of 31st Street Beach. Friends of the Parks has endorsed the park district’s plan to more than double the size of the west lot, center. Image: Google Maps

[Last year the Chicago Reader launched a new weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. This partnership allows Streetsblog to extend the reach of our livable streets advocacy. We syndicate a portion of the column on the day it comes out online; you can read the remainder on the Reader’s website or in print. The paper hits the streets on Thursdays.]

It’s another case of parks versus parking lots.

The Chicago Park District plans to put more than 250 new parking spots near the recently revamped 31st Street Beach and Harbor, in addition to the more than 650 existing garage and surface lot spaces already available within a roughly five-minute walk of the beach. That would make for a whopping grand total of more than 900 stalls at the lakeside facility.

On top of that, to make room for the additional parking, the project would involve the elimination of 85,000 square feet of existing green space south of a current car park.

The Park District says the additional parking is meant to accommodate future demand for access to the 900-slip harbor—although a spokesperson admits the department hasn’t conducted a parking demand study.

But here’s what really gets me: the parking lot expansion has been endorsed by none other than Friends of the Parks, the same group that helped tank George Lucas’s proposal to replace Soldier Field’s 1,500-space south lot with his Museum of Narrative Arts.

“Friends of the Parks has been hearing from stakeholders as well as the Chicago Park District about the great demand for parking for both beachgoers and boaters at the 31st Street Beach,” executive director Juaniza Irizarry said via e-mail this week.

I’ve had mixed feelings about Friends of the Parks’ previous advocacy work. I respect the group’s role as a guardian of our city’s recreational spaces—working, for example, to stop private music festivals from destroying public parks. It’s also taken progressive stances on parking at other parks. Still, I saw its stance in rejecting the Lucas Museum as a case of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

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Eyes on the Street: RYB Fest — A Memorial Ride for Blaine Klingenberg

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The ride on Michigan Avenue in the Loop. A display of flowers spelling “RYB” was carried on a cargo bike similar to the one Klingenberg rode. Photo: John Greenfield

About 200 people on bikes filled the streets of Chicago today to honor fallen bike courier Blaine “Beezy” Klingenberg during RYB Fest. The bike ride and barbecue was described by organizers as “a day of remembrance and celebration, and to remind all that bicyclists should also be viewed as equals when riding on the road.”

Klingenberg, 29, was fatally struck by a double-decker tour bus driver on Wednesday, June 15, during the evening rush at Michigan Avenue and Oak Street, while on his way to meet up with friends at Oak Street Beach. A native of Bakersfield, California, he moved to Chicago to join buddies who already lived here and pursue his dream of becoming a big-city bike courier, according to his girlfriend Maja Perez, 28, who followed him soon afterwards.

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Blaine Klingenberg. Photo: Facebook

Klingenberg worked for Advanced Messenger Service, delivering envelopes and packages via a large yellow, Danish-style cargo bike. Employers and colleagues have described him as a hardworking, likable, and safety-minded courier. Read more about his case here.

RYB Fest, named after the hashtag #RideYourBike or #RideYoBike, was organized by family members, friends, and the Chicago Bike Messenger Association. According to the organizers, the purpose was “to raise awareness of insecurities in bike infrastructure, the presence and vulnerability of cyclists on the streets, and celebrate the life that Beezy brought to all of us.”

The ride met at Humboldt Park’s formal garden, headed downtown to stop at some of Klingenberg’s favorite standby spots, and proceeded up Michigan to the crash site. Afterwards, the group headed northwest to riverside Richard Clark Park for the barbecue and trail riding at The Garden, a dirt jump course within the park.

Far too many people have been injured and killed on bikes in northeast Illinois in recent weeks. In addition to being a fitting tribute to a man widely described as a terrific person, RYB Fest was a reminder that we have much more work to do before Chicago streets are safe for all road users.

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Virginia Murray, 25, Fatally Struck While Riding a Divvy Bike in Avondale

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Virginia Murray

Virginia Murray, 25, was fatally struck by a truck driver this morning while riding a Divvy bike at Belmont Avenue and Sacramento Avenue in Avondale, according to police. The case appears to be the first fatal crash involving a bike-share user in the U.S.

At about 9:00 a.m. Murray and the driver of a 2001 Chevrolet flatbed truck were both traveling northbound on Sacramento, according to Officer Kevin Quaid from Police News Affairs. At Belmont, the driver made a right turn to head eastbound, Quaid said. “They collided, causing severe injury to the bicyclist,” the crash report reads.

Murray, of the1200 block of North Marion Court in Wicker Park, was rushed to Illinois Masonic Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 9:58 a.m.

So far the driver has received no traffic citations or criminal charges, Quaid said. Major Accidents is investigating. According to ABC, there is security camera video of the crash that shows the driver striking Murray. According to ABC, the driver works for a nearby flooring company AB Hardwood Flooring.

According to Murray’s LinkedIn profile, she had been working at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, the Divvy sponsor, since 2013, most recently as a lead marketing communications consultant. A spokeswoman for the company provided this statement:

Friday’s fatal collision is a tragedy and we join Divvy and the Chicago Department of Transportation in offering our condolences to the Murray family. This touches many of us personally, as until a few weeks ago Ginny Murray worked at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. She was an avid Divvy supporter, a wonderful employee and a special person. She will be missed.

The Chicago Department of Transportation and Divvy provided this statement: “This morning a cyclist was involved in a fatal collision with a truck [driver] on the Northwest Side. Divvy and the City of Chicago express our deepest condolences to the rider’s family and loved ones.” A source confirmed that this was the first fatality involving a Divvy user since the system launched in June 2013. Almost 8 million rides were taken during that time.

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Looking north on Sacramento at Belmont. Image: Google Maps

The North American Bikeshare Association released this statement today in response to the fatal crash:  

This morning, a young woman using bikeshare in Chicago was involved in a fatal crash. The North American Bikeshare Association joins Divvy and the Chicago Department of Transportation in expressing our sincere sympathies and deepest condolences to her loved ones and the community impacted by this great loss.

Today marks a tragic milestone we wished would never come. 

This is the first time that we’ve lost someone from our bikeshare community in the eight years that bikeshare has operated in the United States. Today’s loss extends beyond Chicago and into the hearts and homes across the nation.

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Lakeview News: Right Turns Are Back at Grace/Halsted, Curbside Cafes Debut

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El Nuevo Mexicano owner Maria Rodiguez cuts the ribbon on the restaurant’s Curbside Cafe. Photo: Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce.

The controversial right-turn ban at Grace/Halsted/Broadway in Lakeview East may have created a new Chicago record for the number of community meetings held over a pair of traffic signs. Fortunately, it appears that a compromise has been reached which should satisfy the drivers who groused about the turn ban, as well as folks who are concerned about improving pedestrian safety.

Last December the Chicago Department of Transportation recently put up “Do Not Enter” and “No Right Turn” signs by the slip lane that previously allowed drivers to make quick turns from northbound Halsted to southeast-bound Broadway. Slip lanes, also called channelized right turns or “porkchop islands,” are problematic because they allow motorists to whip around corners at high speeds into the path of people on foot, and they create longer pedestrian crossing distances.

CDOT decided to try banning the right turn as a test, in advance of a street repaving project on Broadway between Belmont and Irving Park, slated for late 2016 or early 2017. If the test was deemed a success, the slip lane would be replaced by a curb extension during the road project.

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Banning right turns onto Broadway kept pedestrians from being endangered by quick-turning drivers. Photo: John Greenfield

But some residents, merchants, and the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce weren’t happy about the turn ban, and the chamber launched an online petition asking CDOT to take down the signs. They argued that the new rule made it harder to drive in the neighborhood, and caused motorist to take circuitous routes on residential streets to access Broadway south of Grace.

However, northbound drivers on Halsted who needed to access the the 3700 block of North Broadway could do so by turning east on Waveland, a block south of Grace. Moreover, CDOT rush hour traffic counts done on a single day last October found that, even during the busiest hour, 8 to 9 a.m., only 14 northbound drivers made the hard right turn onto Broadway. Overall, only 4.5 percent of all northbound motorists used the slip lane during the a.m. rush, and a mere 3.9 percent used it during the p.m. rush.

Nevertheless, CDOT recently took down the turn-ban signs and replaced them with a “No U-Turn for Trucks” sign. When I asked CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey about the change, he referred me to local alderman James Cappleman’s latest newsletter.

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Transit TIF Districts Pass State House and Senate, Would Fund CTA Projects

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The CTA wants to modernize the Blue Line’s Congress branch, and onedesign some of the stations and possibly reopen some closed entrances at single-entry stations. Image: CTA

A new bill that would generate more funding for four large-scale Chicago transit infrastructure projects, without diverting tax revenues from schools, passed the Illinois House and Senate today. The original bill was introduced in January 2015, spearheaded by the Metropolitan Planning Council. It awaits Governor Bruce Rauner’s signature, who is expected to sign a budget today after a year of operating the state without a budget for a year – reducing funding for transit agencies, schools, and social services.

The funding would come from “transit TIF districts” that would have boundaries extended up to a half mile around Chicago’s Union Station (to fund the changes in its master plan), the CTA’s North Side Main Line, the CTA’s Red Line extension, and the CTA’s Blue Line Congress branch modernization and possible extension. The bill (pdf) enables the Chicago City Council to pass a similar law to create the actual districts, but sets limits on how far the districts can extend from the proposed projects’ area.

They would work much like existing TIF districts, where the property taxes assessed on any incremental increase in property values since a district’s inception is deposited in a separate fund. This is a form of value capture in that an increase in property values spurred by the transit infrastructure is used to help pay for it.

Other key differences are that the transit TIF districts would expire in 35 years instead of the originally-proposed 50, and that instead of a blanket maximum length of six miles, each district has a specific maximum length. Fifty years was proposed because that is the useful life of a transit facility.

The most important difference between common TIF districts and the transit TIF districts is that the new transit TIF district doesn’t divert any money from schools. The legislation says that any school district overlapping the transit TIF district will receive all the money due to it as if the transit TIF district didn’t exist.

After making the payment from the transit TIF district fund to the school district, 80 percent of the remaining portion would go to pay for the transit project, and 20 percent of the remaining portion would go to all other taxing districts – library, city colleges, etc. – in the proportions as if the transit TIF district didn’t exist.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement about the bill’s passage in the state House and Senate, saying, “Today marks the next chapter in the work we started shortly after I took office, to modernize the Red Line from 95th to Howard” and building the extension to 130th Street. “With this bill,” it said, “in just a few years we will have done what once seemed impossible.”

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Critical Mass and Klingenberg Ride Honor Fallen Cyclists, Crash Survivors

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Hundreds of Critical Mass riders raised their bikes in a salute to fallen courier Blaine Klingenberg last Friday at Michigan and Oak. Photo: Juley-Ann Perez

There have been far too many bicycle crashes with injuries or fatalities in northeast Illinois in recent months, especially during the past three weeks. With all of the tragic news, one bright spot has been that recent events have inspired bike riders from different walks of life to unite to honor fallen cyclists and survivors of traffic violence.

Last Friday, Chicago’s monthly Critical Mass ride paid a visit to Scott Jacobson, who was recently released from the hospital, almost two months after being struck and dragged hundreds of feet by a hit-and-run driver in Bridgeport. The ride also stopped at Michigan and Oak to pay tribute to courier Blaine Klingenberg, who was run over and killed by a tour bus driver at the intersection two weeks ago.

Family, friends, and colleagues of the messenger have also announced “RYB Fest: Blaine ‘Beezy’ Klingenberg Memorial Day,” a bike ride and barbecue to which they’re inviting the entire cycling community, named for the hashtag #RideYoBike. The Facebook event describes the event as a “day of remembrance and celebration, and to remind all that bicyclists should also be viewed as equals when riding on the road.” Here’s the basic info on the memorial ride:

RYB Fest: Blaine ‘Beezy’ Klingenberg Memorial Day
Saturday, July 2, 12:30 p.m.
Humboldt Park Formal Garden, northwest corner of Division and Humboldt
Ride ends with a barbecue at Richard Clark Park, 3400 North Rockwell

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The route map for RYB Fest. Image: Chicago Bike Messenger Association

Jacobson, 47, was riding home after biking with his two sons to wrestling practice on Monday, May 2. Near the intersection of 35th and Lowe in Bridgeport, SUV driver Joshua Thomas, 26, made a U-turn and struck him, according to police.

Jacobson was dragged hundreds of feet until bystanders ran to stop the vehicle. The cyclist’s pelvis was fractured in three places, including the ball of the upper femur, which fits in the hip socket. He suffered severe road rash over much of his body, with muscle and bone visible in places.

Inexplicably, Thomas was initially only charged with misdemeanors. It remains to be seen whether the Cook County state’s attorney’s office will level more serious charges against the motorist. While Jacobson came home from the hospital last week, it will take several more months and multiple surgeries before he can resume work. A GoFundMe page has been established to help support the family until Jacobson is back on his feet.

Klingenberg, 29, moved to Chicago 13 months ago from his hometown of Bakersfield, California, to join buddies who already lived here and pursue his dream of becoming a big-city bike courier, according to his girlfriend Maja Perez, 28, who followed him soon afterwards.

On Wednesday, June 15, at about 5:30 p.m., Klingenberg was riding northbound on Michgian to Oak Street Beach to meet up with friends after work. When he reached Oak Street, he was fatally struck and dragged by double-decker tour bus driver Charla A. Harris, 51, an employee of Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co.

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Police Blamed Courier for Fatal Crash; Witnesses Say Bus Driver Ran Stoplight

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Blaine Klingenberg and Maja Perez at her brother’s wedding in March. Photo courtesy of Perez

[Last year the Chicago Reader launched a weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. This partnership allows Streetsblog to extend the reach of our livable streets advocacy. We syndicate a portion of the column after it comes out online; you can read the remainder on the Reader’s website or in print. The paper hits the streets on Thursdays.]

The intersection of Michigan and Oak, at the north end of the Magnificent Mile, is a complex and intimidating junction. Here, Michigan is a massive seven-lane boulevard, while Oak is a broad, two-lane street with turn lanes, lined with pricey boutiques and luxury high-rises. To the north are on- and off-ramps for Lake Shore Drive as well as curving roadways leading to and from Inner Lake Shore Drive. At the northeast corner there’s an underpass leading to the Lakefront Trail and Oak Street Beach. As such, this crossroads is often filled with a chaotic mix of pedestrians, bike riders, private cars, taxis, and buses.

Bike courier Blaine “Beezy” Klingenberg, 29, lost his life in the daunting intersection of Michigan and Oak on Wednesday, June 15, after being run over and dragged by a double-decker tour bus at the height of the evening rush. Described by employers and colleagues as a hard-working, likable, and safety-minded messenger, Klingenberg has been posthumously reduced to a poster boy for irresponsible urban cycling.

The driver, 51-year-old Charla A. Henry, is employed by Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co. She was the second company employee to fatally strike a vulnerable road user on Michigan Avenue within the last seven months.

The Chicago Police Department along with major news outlets, reported that Klingenberg brought on his own death by pedaling through a red light. But in exclusive interviews with the Reader, two witnesses say they’re convinced the bus driver was at least partly responsible for Klingenberg’s death because she entered the intersection after the light turned red.

Klingenberg, a native of Bakersfield, California, worked for Advanced Messenger Service, delivering envelopes and packages via a large, yellow, Danish-style cargo bike.

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As of Friday night, a white-painted bike wheel hung on a pole at the crash site as a memorial to Klingenberg. Photo: John Greenfield

On June 15, while he was finishing up the day’s runs, he posted on Facebook, “Who’s down for the lake?” According to friends, he planned to meet up with other couriers after work at Oak Street Beach.

Here’s the CPD’s account of the fatal collision from the crash report: Around 5:30 PM Klingenberg was riding his cargo bike north on Michigan. Meanwhile, the bus driver was heading westbound on Oak, east of Michigan (where Oak is officially called East Lake Shore Drive).

“The victim disregarded the light at Oak and turned into the bus, causing the collision,” the crash report stated, laying the blame squarely on Klingenberg.

Henry ran over Klingenberg, who was dragged and pinned under the bus’s middle-right side. Firefighters had to use large airbags to lift the bus off him. Klingenberg was rushed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and pronounced dead on arrival.

Henry has not been issued traffic citations or charged with a crime.

Initial reports by CBS 2, ABC 7, DNAinfo, and Chicagoist essentially took the police version at face value.

At least two eyewitnesses tell a different story.

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Rosemont Transit Center Rehab, Bus Lanes on I-90 Could Spur New Ridership

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The Rosemont Transit Center. Photo: Jeff Zoline

Pace Suburban Bus is starting a $1.5 million dollar project to modernize and rebuild the Rosemont Transit Center to increase capacity, improve service and maximize efficiency of traffic flow between buses, cars and pedestrians. The project is being coordinated with the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways and the Chicago Transit Authority. The scope of the program details is as follows:

  • Expand the bus station islands to accommodate two buses in each bay for additional boarding capacity
  • Construct two new bus bays for additional boarding and one new bus bay for extra buses to sit on layovers
  • Upgrade sidewalks and bus boarding islands for improved ADA compliance
  • Improve pedestrian and bicycle access and safety around the transit center with additional sidewalks, crosswalks and bike racks
  • Improve the flow of traffic for taxi, shuttle, and Kiss-n-Ride zones to avoid conflict and congestion
  • Realign the bus lanes from the Tollway exit to reduce conflict with vehicular traffic around the parking lots upon entry into the Transit Center
  • Repair pavement and construct new parking lot gates

Pace will reimburse Cook County for the cost of the project because Cook County owns the land where the project will occur. The project is expected to start this summer and to be completed around October. However, according to northwest suburban news site Journal & Topics, Pace is still finalizing selection of a construction manager.

The Rosemont Transit Center was built in 1983 during the extension of the CTA Blue Line from Jefferson Park to O’Hare Airport. Today, the center is a busy multi-modal station hub located in the northwest suburban village of Rosemont serving over 6,000 riders a day. Rosemont is a small town with a large concentration of businesses, entertainment, restaurants and lodging adjacent to O’Hare Airport. In addition to the Blue Line, it’s served by 12 Pace bus routes. Additionally, the station is served by taxis as well as corporate and hotel shuttles. The station also has a 798-space Park & Ride lot for commuters and a drop off (Kiss-n-Ride) area.

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