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Does It Make Sense to Build a Green Stop Two Blocks From the Red Line?

Rendering of the new station. If only the surrounding area was actually this lushly landscaped!

Last Wednesday, when I walked the length of Chicago’s Cermak Road, I noticed that the Cermak-McCormick Place Green Line station, currently under construction and scheduled for completion this year, will be only two blocks east of the Cermak-Chinatown Red Line stop. Since that’s only a five-minute walk for most people, the new station, currently under construction, seemed a bit redundant.

Granted, the Green Line’s 35th-Bronzeville-IIT stop is the same distance east of the Red Line’s Sox-35th station. However, that’s close enough that, whenever I ride the ‘L’ home from a White Sox game, I always walk the extra two blocks in order to avoid the crowds at the Red Line.

Does it make sense to build a new, $50 million, Tax Increment Financing-funded station that’s only a few minutes closer to the McCormick Place convention center? The CTA website notes that the station will bisect the two-mile gap between the Red/Green/Orange Roosevelt stop and 35th-IIT-Bronzeville, which has existed since a previous Green Cermak stop was demolished in 1977.

From the renderings, it looks like Cermak-McCormick will be yet another attractive new CTA station, along with the Green Morgan stop, the Yellow Line’s Oakton-Skokie station, and the Loop’s upcoming Washington-Wabash stop. The platform will be encircled by a green-and gray, steel-and-glass canopy that will protect customers from the elements but allow natural light to filter in.

When I asked CTA spokesman Brian Steele about the location, he noted that the station will serve the burgeoning South Loop neighborhood, where more residential and retail development is planned. Mayor Emanuel’s controversial plan for a TIF-funded Marriott hotel and a DePaul University basketball arena north of McCormick Place is part of this building boom.

The ten-minute walksheds of Cermak-Chinatown (left) and Cermak-McCormick.

Steele added that McCormick Place facilities will be a five-minute walk from the new stop, as opposed to a ten-minute walk from Cermak-Chinatown.  Unfortunately, a half mile of walking is a dealbreaker for many Americans. “Once the station opens, we’ll work with McCormick Place to promote the station as a convenient, affordable alternative to driving,” he said.

Currently, many conventioneers arrive via shuttles from downtown hotels, which use the McCormick Place busway, and there’s also a Metra station (with infrequent service) inside the convention center’s main building at 2301 South King Drive.  However, quick CTA access would be an appealing option for many local people attending events at the center, as well as independent travelers, who currently have to rely on the #3 King Drive bus.

The station, which will have entrances on the north and south sides of Cermak, and on 23rd Street, will also serve the Motor Row historic district, along Michigan from Cermak to 26th Street. This strip, which was home to some of the nation’s earliest car showrooms, is slated to become a pedestrian-oriented entertainment district, including the TIF-funded Broad Shoulders Brewery. Sadly, plans by power-pop legends and Rockford natives Cheap Trick to open a museum/restaurant/music venue on Motor Row appear to have fallen through.

So, while building a new station two blocks from an existing one might not intuitively make sense, it seems likely that the Cermak-McCormick stop will get good use, given all the current and upcoming destinations in the South Loop. On a selfish note, since I live near a West Side Green Line station, I’m looking forward to being able to hop a train to Chinatown for tasty chow whenever I want, without having to transfer to the Red Line.

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