Pullman Transportation Access is Improving After National Monument Designation

After President Obama designated parts of the Pullman neighborhood a national monument, CTA, Metra, and CDOT pulled together some small improvements that could make a big difference.

The new warming house at the 111th Street station in Pullman. Photo: Jeff Zoline
The new warming house at the 111th Street station in Pullman. Photo: Jeff Zoline

soutYou probably knew that President Barack Obama designated parts of the Pullman neighborhood and the former Pullman Company Porter train car factory as the Pullman National Monument in February 2015. The accomplishment was based on 20 years of campaigning by residents and leaders to get a national park designation.

What you probably didn’t know was that several transportation agencies completed small projects that, together, made a big difference in attracting the federal attention and funding. However, it’s important that future improvements benefit local people, not just tourists.

Joe Iacobucci, director of transit at the Sam Schwartz Engineer consulting firm, told the audience at aMetropolitan Planning Council luncheon yesterday that “transportation investments need to work both for the visitor and the resident.” SSE is the lead firm on the Pullman transportation plan, and Iacobucci was formerly a planner at the CTA.

Last summer Metra replaced the windowless hut that served as the only shelter for waiting passengers at the 111th Street station with a proper warming house. Other planned improvements to the station included replacement of platform deck boards and the removal of the unused portion of the platform, replacement of the stairway to the platform, and repair or replacement of the roof over the stairway, according to Metra’s press release.

Metra Electric District Train at 111th Street (Pullman)
The old warming hut at the 111th Street station, which had no windows. Photo: Jeff Zoline

At the luncheon, someone asked whether there are plans to improve service to the station. Currently southbound Electric District trains from Millennium Park stop here only 18 times each weekday. Metra has better service at the Kensington / 115th Street station half a mile south, with 41 stops each weekday. Kensington is the last stop before the Electric Line  splits into branches serving Blue Island and University Park. Advocates are currently pushing for rapid transit-style service on the line.

Iacobucci said the plan right now is to improve the customer experience on existing Metra and CTA service. He explained that transportation service responds to demand, which implicitly says that by increasing the demand to take Metra to Pullman then service would likely increase.

Iacobucci also said that many people riding the Electric District pass Pullman every day but don’t know it’s there. A new “Pullman by Train” marketing campaign will begin soon, advertising to potential visitors that they can start a visit from downtown, see the sites, and return to downtown in about three hours. Another station program will involve greeters on the platform who will shepherd visitors  to the site.

“We need to demonstrate that there’s demand so Metra will respond,” Iacobucci said. As part of the Pullman Transportation Plan, SSE is collecting feedback through this survey.

Lynn McClure. Photo: Metropolitan Planning Council

Lynn McClure, Midwest regional director of the National Park Conservation Association, said that the station eventually needs to be made wheelchair accessible. She also said there’s a desire to have South Shore Line trains from Indiana stop at the 111th Street station. “Routing South Shore trains to 111th would connect two national parks with one train line,” McClure said, referring to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

McClure also said that Illinois representative Robin Kelly shifted funds earmarked for a cancelled project in the 2nd district to make changes to 111th Street.

As Iacobucci said, these transit improvements are and will be for residents and visitors alike. New jobs and industry have been coming to the area. Method opened a soap factory in the neighborhood two years ago, and Gotham Greens grows lettuce on its roof. Additionally, Whole Foods is moving a distribution center from Indiana to behind the former Pullman Porter train car factory.

  • I’ve been following “Pullman Arts” closely lately. They have an energetic push for community building through the arts that contrasts greatly with the attempts being made in Uptown. I follow to learn.

    They are not doing anything completely radical just being very persistent and curious, it shows what a small dedicated group can do when they have the backing of not just the residents, the residents always want more art, but the Alderman and the business community. In Uptown the arts are at best a side-bar issue in what is just off-the-shelf, garden-variety, developer-friendly gentrification.

    Pullman is working with what they have while thinking of what they can attract, Uptown is only thinking about what it can attract.

    The National Park designation has certainly helped, but at the end of the day it takes the right people with the right support.


  • Aleph Knull

    Why do I get the feeling this is all some shady deal between Rahm Emmanuel and (then President) Obama? It is a neighborhood of brownfields and dilapidated factories! Follow the money!

  • david vartanoff

    “removal of the unused portion of the platform” Bad move. the ultra short platforms prevent longer trains from safely serving the station. As noted,, the station needs more frequent service to be a realistic travel option. Full implementation of the Gray Line Project and associated service on the South Shore Line are vital toimproving these areas of Chicago.

  • What would be a shady deal?
    That Pullman’s state park and historic district status is augmented now by a national monument?

  • PullmanResident

    the South Shore line definitely does NOT stop at Kensington. That service ended a few years ago and it is a travesty that we can no longer get from Pullman to northwest Indiana without going back up to Hyde Park to transfer to a South Shore train.

  • Thanks. I should have verified that before posting, as I must have misheard what was said at the presentation.

  • Ken Adams

    Interesting article. Thank you for sharing.
    Free Roof Estimate Columbia SC


CDOT Will Create a Multi-Modal Transportation Plan for Altgeld Gardens Area

Residents in the Riverdale community area, which includes the Altgeld Gardens, Eden Green, Golden Gate, and Riverdale neighborhoods, are surrounded by barriers that make it hard to travel within and beyond the area. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning recently awarded the Chicago Department of Transportation a Local Technical Assistance grant to create a multi-modal transportation plan for […]