At Pullman event, residents say pilot would make Metra accessible to more South Siders

The 111th/Pullman Metra Electric station. Photo: Jeff Zoline
The 111th/Pullman Metra Electric station. Photo: Jeff Zoline

While Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is generally on the right page when it comes to sustainable transportation, her opposition to the South Cook Fair Transit Pilot Project is frustrating. This initiative, championed by Lightfoot’s former mayor rival Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, would create more frequent and affordable Metra service on two South Side lines, the Metra Electric District and Rock Island lines and offer discounted transfers between the two lines as well as the CTA and Pace.

While this initiative would be great for giving South Siders and Southland residents better access to job and education opportunities, Lightfoot is stubbornly opposing it, claiming that she’s concerned about riders being diverted from the CTA, which she controls. That argument makes little sense, since Cook County would cover any revenue lost by the CTA and Metra during the pilot.

Fortunately, advocates for the South Cook pilot are continuing to gather support for the project. Yesterday the Coalition for a Modern Metra Electric hosted a community meeting at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in West Pullman that was a chance for residents to learn more about the plan and discuss it with elected officials and community leaders.

The seminar was emceed by Linda Thisted, one of the founders of the coalition, and several several local leaders and residents had a chance to speak about the Metra initiative. Perhaps the most persuasive remarks came from Ariana Hinton, a student at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep in Roseland, located near the 111th/Pullman MED station. She discussed how the Metra pilot could make her commute more convenient and affordable, and increase ridership.

Pastor Luther Mason speaks at the event. Photo: James Porter
Pastor Luther Mason speaks at the event. Photo: James Porter

Pastor Luther Mason of Pullman’s Greenstone United Methodist Church noted that many residents in the area are currently forced to take indirect, time-consuming commutes with one or more bus rides plus the CTA Red Line in order to save money. He noted that if the Electric Line became financially competitive with the CTA, their trips downtown could be reduced to as little as a half hour.

After the formal remarks several attendees told Streetsblog they they support more frequent Metra service, lower fares, and more affordable transfers. “I used to work in this area for three years,” said Richard King, who has lived on the South Side for sixty years. “I taught at a school here, and I lived in Hyde Park. I had to take two, sometimes three buses, and the ‘L’ to get to work from Hyde Park. I tried taking the Metra one time, but I would have had to pay another fare to transfer to the CTA.” He also said he’s in favor of the city’s plan to extend the Red Line from 95th Street to 130th Street, which¬†“would help working people.”

Jarvis Payton, a member of the Rebirth Of Roseland community group, also said he’s in favor of the pilot. “Currently, [the Metra fare] prices a few folks out. A lot of people, especially in this area, can’t afford it.” But he added that he’d like to see a consensus among community members that the plan is a good idea, adding that he’s concerned about the possibility of better Metra service to lead to gentrification and housing displacement. “What are they gonna tear down? Who are they gonna throw out?”

Dr. Kendrea Atkins argued that lower fares could make Metra much more accessible for Far South Siders and Southland residents. “The fare can be $9. Some people don’t really have that.” She also voiced support for extending the Red Line. “I lived in Altgeld Gardens for about seven years. The [Red Line-plus-bus] commute was a mess.”

Click here to sign the Active Transportation Alliance’s petition in support of the South Cook Fair Transit Pilot.

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