“Walk To Transit” Targets 20 CTA Stations For Quick Safety Fixes

Passengers arriving at the Clinton Station often can’t find the Greyhound, Union, or Divvy stations.

A new “Walk To Transit” initiative by the Chicago Department of Transportation will target 20 CTA stations for a slew of simple pedestrian infrastructure upgrades. People walking to several Blue Line stations on the west side and along Milwaukee Avenue, along with stations on the south and north sides, will see safety and usability improvements like re-striped zebra crosswalks, curb extensions, repaired or widened sidewalks, and new signage.

Suzanne Carlson, pedestrian program coordinator at the Chicago Department of Transportation, said at the Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council meeting to weeks ago (theme: connectivity) that construction on a first phase of ten stations should begin in the spring of 2015. CDOT has grant funding for another ten stations, yet to be identified. She said that the designs [PDF] were published in March “at 30 percent,” but only one minor design element has changed since then. 

Some stations will get new and improved wayfinding signage. New signs outside the Blue Line’s Clinton station, hidden underneath a Eisenhower Expressway overpass, will direct CTA riders to Metra, Amtrak, and Greyhound, and vice versa. Even among the majority of American adults who carry smartphones, figuring out where to go from the Clinton station can be a puzzle: The other stations aren’t immediately visible from any of the station’s four dark exits. Adding “breadcrumb” sign posts along the way would help. CTA and CDOT managing deputy commissioner Sean Wiedel have had conversations about adding Divvy wayfinding signs within stops like Clinton, where Divvy is similarly hiding around the corner from the station entrance, “but we haven’t reached a definitive agreement at this point.”

This is where Divvy signage should be displayed
Signs within the Clinton Blue Line station point CTA riders to Greyhound and Metra, but not Divvy — and once above ground, no further clues are available.

Above the Blue Line station at Grand-Milwaukee-Halsted, CDOT proposes reprogramming the signal with “leading pedestrian intervals,” which will give people walking across the street a green light before drivers can make a turn. New curb extensions (bulb-outs) at Ohio Street, between the station and Milwaukee’s bridge over the Ohio Street Connector, will slow down drivers and prevent them from driving down Milwaukee’s faded bike lane.

Around the Pulaski Blue Line station in West Garfield Park, which is within the median of the Eisenhower Expressway, recommended improvements include curb extensions to slow turning drivers at all corners of Harrison and Pulaski, a pedestrian refuge island within Pulaski at Van Buren, and signs that will direct bicyclists to and from the station from Keeler Avenue — a nearby “neighborhood route” under the Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan.

Outside the 63rd Street Red Line station in Englewood, new trees will enliven a dull corner at Princeton Avenue — and also replace a dangerous gas station driveway, which eliminates the conflict between cars turning across the sidewalk into the gas station, right by a bus stop. Such dangerous curb cuts are not forever, since they have to be renewed annually.

pedestrian improvements for 63rd/Princeton
CDOT proposes to remove this driveway at 63rd and Princeton and replace it with trees. That small change will make waiting for the bus, or walking to the Red Line, safer and much more pleasant. Image: Google Maps

Some of the proposals don’t do enough to calm car traffic outside busy rail stations. Above the Division Blue Line station, for example, CDOT proposes to add a much-needed refuge island at Greenview to allow pedestrians to cross wide Division Street in two stages. But where Division meets Milwaukee, CDOT’s proposal of repainting faded crosswalks does little to shield pedestrians from drivers making wide (and fast) right turns from Division onto Milwaukee. New curb extensions there could tighten the angle a bit, and require drivers to turn more carefully and considerately.

The stations that will benefit from the first round of Walk To Transit are:

  • North/Clybourn (Red)
  • Clinton (Blue)
  • Central-Lake (Green)
  • 63rd Street (Red)
  • Pulaski-Congress (Blue)
  • Grand-Milwaukee (Blue)
  • Kedzie-Homan (Blue)
  • Division (Blue)
  • Kimball (Brown)
  • 35-Bronzeville-IIT (Green)
  • rohmen

    It would be great to see the breadcrumb idea applied to the IMC/Damen stop on the Blue Line. If the station were rebranded to note it serves United Center, with a breadcrumb/signed route leading to the stadium and patrolled at night, it seems to me that you could increase transit access to that stadium by quite a bit.

  • Anne A

    I would hope that the LaSalle blue line station would get a few signs pointing to LaSalle St. Metra station, especially on the south side of Congress where the recently built intermodal connection is located.

  • surryus

    I’m not so sure that LPIs at Grand/Halsted/Milwaukee would improve things much, the cycles there are already pretty long. It would be much more helpful if they reopened the CTA station egresses on the south side of Grand.

  • Roland Solinski

    The IMC station will see a major renovation start next year… hopefully CDOT is paying attention. They seem to have a special focus on the Forest Park Branch, which is next in line for a rebuild.

  • Roland Solinski

    All of this signals a definite change in the way CDOT thinks – they are anticipating the needs of transit users and making a bunch of small, inexpensive tweaks to improve station access. It may not seem like much but repeat this process every year for a decade or two and watch ridership increase. The sidewalk expansion at the SW corner of Lawrence/Kimball is something that’s been needed for a long time, even if they do tear that building down for a Walgreens.

    I’m also really impressed that they are reclaiming the right-turn slip lane at 35th/State. That could be a cool NY-style plaza with some planters to keep drivers out, and green paint over the asphalt.

  • Duane

    This is sorely needed at Clinton. That used to be my daily stop and I frequently gave directions to confused travelers stumbling around with their luggage.

  • R.A. Stewart

    For some reason, poor signage seems to be so endemic around here (not just in the city–try following Lincoln Avenue through Skokie) that it’s a wonder anyone finds their way anywhere. Luckily most people in Chicago seem to be very helpful to lost visitors. These changes may be small individually, but they can make a big difference in the quality of travel through these locations.

    Slightly off topic, but my God is that second picture depressing. Architecture makes a statement. In this case the statement is “Public transit is sad, ugly, and vaguely menacing, and you’re a hopeless loser for relying on it.”

  • Deni

    Wayfinding signage is so bad in this city for public transit users, especially if you are from out of town. The elevator buttons at Clark/Lake are a fine example. You get in and the three button choices are something like “platform,” “mezzanine,” or “subway” (I think that’s what they say). How hard would it be to have color-coded labels by each button saying “Green Line,” Purple Line,” etc? If you are from out of town how do the labels now help you at all? I’ve helped so many out of towners with luggage there looking for the blue line on the L platform.

  • When I took this photo I gave directions to a couple going from here to a station where they could board the South Shore Line train to Gary!

  • What is a mezzanine anyway? I’m pretty sure it’s consistently the place where you buy your tickets, but why not have tickets for sale at any level, outside the turnstile?

  • what_eva

    The elevators at Clark/Lake are inside the paid area. “Platform” is the Loop L platform (brown/purple/pink/green/orange). “Mezzanine” is the ground level inside the turnstiles. “Subway” is the underground subway (blue) platform.


The Loop Link Bus Rapid Transit System Launches This Sunday

The long-awaited Loop Link bus rapid transit corridor, featuring dedicated bus lanes, limited stops, island stations, and other timesaving features, will begin operations this Sunday, December 20. Whether the new system is deemed to be a success or a failure by Chicagoans will be a crucial factor in whether the city moves forward with its […]