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Southwest Side (wards 11, 12, 13, 15, 18, and 22) candidates talk transportation

Kedzie Orange Line Stop. Photo: Jeff Zoline

As part of our 2023 Election Coverage, Streetsblog Chicago sent a questionnaire out to every candidate running for alderperson. Today, we’re sharing responses from candidates in Southwest Side districts, including wards 11, 12, 13, 15, 18, and 22.

We asked about their plans to restore CTA ridership, what actions they would take to reduce fatal crashes, and if they supported additional protected bike lanes in their ward. We also asked if they supported more affordable housing options near transit, including Equitable Transit Oriented Development, and allowing Accessory Dwelling Units and three-flats to be built in every neighborhood. See the full set of questions at the bottom of this post.

You can see the full responses from candidates in every ward here.

Here are our writeups of the responses:

Ward 11: Chinatown, Bridgeport, Armour Square, and Canaryville

Nicole Lee
Nicole Lee
Nicole Lee

About the race: Chicago’s 11th Ward covers Chinatown, Bridgeport, Armour Square and Canaryville. Streetsblog received a response from incumbent Ald. Nicole Lee (appointed by Mayor Lightfoot in 2022). Anthony Ciaravino, Ambria Taylor, Steve Demitro, Froylan Jimenez, Don Don and Elvira Jimenez are also running but did not respond to outreach from Streetsblog. Block Club is covering the race here

CTA Ridership: Lee first prioritized hiring, and suggested the CTA hold more decentralized job fairs outside of headquarters. She also noted that some factors were outside of the CTA’s control, such as the shift to work from home patterns, but also highlighted her efforts to secure more police officers to provide security on transit. 

Traffic Safety and Protected Bike Lanes: Lee noted that a bike rider had recently been killed in her ward by a distracted driver, and noted the importance of educating motorists. She wrote that she has been in conversations with CDOT personnel. She endorsed protected bike lanes and traffic calming measures, and noted that since her appointment, she has added a left turn signal, two speed cameras and bump outs to the ward. On bike lanes, she suggested 18th Street (in part to deter parking in the existing, unprotected bike lane), as well as Halsted and 35th Street. 

Equitable Transit-Oriented Development: Lee endorsed ETOD principles, observing that “in order for neighborhoods to thrive we need to have sufficient density,” but also mentioned the need to respect the wishes of existing residents. She suggested the Orange Line stops in her ward as the best options for new ETOD investments. She also argued that that ARO requirements are “much too low” and wrote that she’d prioritize more affordable units for new developments than are currently required. 

Accessory Dwelling Units and 3-Flat Legalization: Lee unambiguously endorsed ADUs citywide, but did note that homeowners must be aware that exceeding four units on a property would eliminate eligibility for city garbage and recycling services. She was less committal on 3-flats, writing that while she lives in a multi-generational 3-flat and sees their benefits for both renters and homeowners, she’d want to defer to the City’s ongoing land-use rewrite process (likely referring to the city’s We Will Chicago Comprehensive Plan update). She also noted that “Generally speaking, at this time I would have to defer to my colleagues because they should know their neighborhood better than I do.”

Ward 12: McKinley Park and Brighton Park

Anabel Abarca and Julia Ramirez
Anabel Abarca and Julia Ramirez
Anabel Abarca and Julia Ramirez

About the race: Chicago’s 12th Ward covers McKinley Park and Brighton Park. Streetsblog received responses from both candidates running here: incumbent Ald. Anabel Abarca (appointed by Mayor Lightfoot in 2022), and community organizer Julia Ramirez. Block Club is covering the race here

CTA Ridership: Ramirez pointed to funding, writing that “It is no secret that our public transit system has lacked the necessary funding needed to offer equitable and reliable transportation to Chicagoans everywhere.” She proposed using Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill funds to support Bus Rapid Transit on Western and Ashland, as well as other streets to connect residents in areas of the city where transit is scarce. She also proposed looking at eliminating fares or reducing fares for individuals living below the poverty line. Finally, she proposed proven strategies to accelerate bus trips, such as all-door boarding, and bus bulbs or floating bus islands. Abarca did not respond to this question. 

Traffic Safety and Protected Bike Lanes: Abarca wrote that she was “100% supportive” of protected bike lanes on Archer, Pershing, 35th St and Kedzie, as well as traffic calming measures, and efforts to create bike infrastructure connecting major streets with Orange Line stations. She also mentioned Western as another potential option for a concrete protected bike lane. Ramirez agreed that the city should do more to protect cyclists and pedestrians. She noted that “our infrastructure informs how our drivers drive,” and endorsed lane narrowing and reductions, as well as “curb extensions, raised crosswalks, concrete bike lanes, and bollards.” She also endorsed education or drivers, but wrote that “over half of speeding tickets issued in Chicago go to suburban drivers, who will be harder to reach.” She endorsed protected bike lanes on Western and Archer, but noted that Chicago required a citywide network of lanes. She also expressed support for the Bike Grid Now pledge to prioritize pedestrians and cyclists on 10% of streets. 

Equitable Transit Oriented Development: Ramirez wrote that “As gentrification has crept west along the Orange Line, it is important that we guarantee affordable housing in close proximity to transit.” She committed to engage residents in planning efforts, and to prioritize housing “rather than the drive-through businesses my predecessor has allowed.” She would also prioritize development on city-owned lots, and suggested using the Archer/Western TIF to support affordability efforts. Abarca also endorsed ETOD principles and pointed to her efforts to bring Divvy Bikes to the ward. 

Accessible Dwelling Units and 3-Flat legalization: Abarca provided an unambiguous “yes” on both questions and noted that she had already registered her support for ADU expansion at the most recent zoning committee meeting. Ramirez also endorsed ADU legalization, and also suggested simplifying the requirements so that lower-income property owners are able to benefit, by doing things like removing parking requirements for coach houses. She expressed support for “exploring the legalization” of 3-flats, noting their benefits for soft density, but also noted that she would implement a community zoning process and would do more to solicit community input on zoning decisions. 

Ward 13: Garfield Ridge, Clearing

Paul Bruton
Paul Bruton
Paul Bruton

About the race: Chicago’s 13th Ward covers portions of Garfield Ridge and Clearing. Streetsblog received a response from Paul Bruton, who formerly worked in the Chicago Inspector General’s Office. Incumbent Ald. Marty Quinn is also running but did not respond to outreach from Streetsblog. Block Club is covering the race here

CTA Ridership: Bruton noted that the CTA’s challenges are “well-documented,” and that the first step he wanted to see was honest communication from the CTA about efforts to address safety and cleanliness. He noted that “if we can provide safety, cleanliness, and reliability, then ridership will follow.” He endorsed regular City Council hearings, and committed to help the CTA make “necessary investments” to address these challenges going forward. 

Traffic Safety and Protected Bike Lanes: Bruton agreed that traffic safety was a major concern, and endorsed traffic calming measures including raised crosswalks and bump outs. He also backed more speed camera enforcement on Pulaski south of Archer Ave, which he noted had been identified by CDOT as a high-crash corridor. He proposed Pulaski as well as parts of 63rd Street for protected bike lanes, noting that “the more we can encourage cycling as a safe and convenient way to get around our neighborhoods, the better.”

Equitable Transit Oriented Development: Noting that the Ward had only one CTA stop (Midway Airport), Bruton expressed his support for ETOD in principle, but observed that there were limited opportunities on the ground. He wrote that “I would certainly consider any proposals for transit oriented development, but I don't expect there will be too much opportunity for that here in the foreseeable future.”

Accessible Dwelling Units and 3-Flat legalization: Bruton strongly endorsed ADUs, writing that the change would “will help create more housing, prevent displacement, and allow multi-generational families to live together more comfortably.” He also expressed general support for legalizing 3-flats, but wrote that “I want to make sure that we are thoughtful about this change and that we educate the public about what such a change would and would not do before implementing it.” He did endorse upzoning areas near CTA and Metra stations “at a minimum.” 

Ward 15: Back of the Yards, Brighton Park, Gage Park, and West Englewood

Ray Lopez
Raymond Lopez
Ray Lopez

About the race: Chicago’s 15th Ward stretches across Back of the Yards, Brighton Park, Gage Park and West Englewood. Streetsblog received a response from incumbent Ald. Raymond Lopez. Vicko Alvarez and Gloria Ann Williams are also running but did not respond to outreach from Streetsblog. Block Club is covering the race here

CTA Ridership: Lopez argued that safety was the primary threat to CTA ridership, and that “the half-measures taken by this administration and its enablers have only emboldened criminals, turning the circulatory system of Chicago against its city.” He endorsed efforts to hold the CTA accountable “particularly when asking for TIF or other city-controlled funds.” Recognizing the urgency of the challenge, he noted that “we cannot reduce car volume on the streets if people are reluctant to use the CTA.” 

Traffic Safety and Protected Bike Lanes: Pointing to Israel, where “bike lanes do not coexist on the same level as automobiles,” Lopez expressed support for raised bike lanes adjacent to sidewalks to protect cyclists. He did not suggest any specific locations for new protected bike lanes, but argued for a City-wide bicycle licensing regime to offset the cost and maintenance of new bike lanes. Lopez did not provide any thoughts on the cost of running such a licensing regime or the deterrent it might have on bicycling in the city. 

Equitable Transit Oriented Development: Lopez wrote that he supported expanding the radius for ETOD, and recently voted in favor of expanding the demarcation points for TOD incentives. He also wrote that “There is more that we can do, such as allowing ETOD at bus routes at major intersections.” It is worth noting that he voted against the Connected Communities ordinance which passed last year, which both expanded the radius for TOD incentives near transit and applied them to major bus routes. 

Accessible Dwelling Units and 3-Flat legalization: Lopez wrote that he didn’t support the ADU pilot because it had the potential of “validating illegal conversions and unsafe modifications without dual egresses.” He thought it was too early to determine if the pilot had succeeded. He didn’t respond directly to the 3-flat question, but wrote that he has “no issue with them other than the parking of tenant vehicles.” More broadly, he argued that curbing aldermanic prerogative was the best way to increase the housing stock across the city, and instead endorsed a neighborhood plan “adhered to by all aldermen connected to a community.”

Ward 18: Ashburn, West Lawn 

Heather Wills and Ald. Derrick Curtis
Heather Wills and Ald. Derrick Curtis
Heather Wills and Ald. Derrick Curtis

About the race: Chicago’s 18th Ward covers Ashburn and parts of West Lawn. Streetsblog received responses from both candidates running, community organizer Heather Wills and incumbent Ald. Derrick Curtis (no website provided). Block Club is covering the race here

CTA Ridership: Wills wrote that “CTA performance is tied to staffing and ridership is tied to safety and staffing.” She endorsed efforts to protect operators and address their safety concerns, to ensure “they can protect themselves and others.” Curtis suggested returning to the old “Super Transfers” to attract riders, as well as increasing transit patrols, with more police officers “riding and following transit.” He also sounded a note of hope in his answer, urging Chicagoans not to give up on transit, and that “better is coming.” 

Traffic Safety and Protected Bike Lanes: Curtis noted that more needs to be done, and that drivers young and old are “blowing straight through” stop signs. He suggested greater code enforcement, as well as bike lanes on all arterial and secondary streets. Wills agreed that more should be done to protect pedestrians, and endorsed better markings for walkways and signals. She didn’t think the ward needed additional protected bike lanes, as the ward is “a heavy car commuter neighborhood.” 

Equitable Transit Oriented Development: Wills expressed hostility to ETOD, arguing that “I believe transit development enhances gentrification, red lining, and gerrymandering. Instead, people should be able to live where they want and have accessibility come to them.” She argued that transit investments should reflect the existing demographics of neighborhoods. Curtis was in favor, endorsing developing more affordable units within walking distance of transit arteries. 

Accessible Dwelling Units and 3-Flat legalization: Curtis endorsed the ADU expansion. While he didn’t directly endorse legalizing 3-flats citywide, he noted that he had already supported efforts to add 2- and 3-flats to single-family blocks. Wills had a strong answer on ADUs, noting that she’d seen the benefits in the ward, and that “many neighbors need this additional income to survive.” Her answer on legalizing 3-flats was somewhat confusing. She wrote that “it depends on how it will impact the class dynamic as rental property normally widens the wealth gap and can lead to gentrification and gerrymandering.” 

Ward 22: Little Village

Ald. Mike Rodriguez
Ald. Mike Rodriguez
Ald. Mike Rodriguez

About the race: Chicago’s 22nd Ward covers most of Little Village and a portion of Garfield Ridge. Streetsblog received a response from incumbent Ald. Mike Rodriguez. Neftalie Gonzales and Kristian Armendariz are also running but did not respond to outreach from Streetsblog. Block Club is covering the race here

CTA Ridership: Rodriguez argued that “We have starved our public transportation system of dollars and of ingenuity and have allowed CTA leadership to escape accountability at every turn.” He noted reliability, cleanliness, and safety challenges, and committed to pushing for more accountability for the system. 

Traffic Safety and Protected Bike Lanes: Calling for “infrastructure that reflects our values” Rodriguez noted that he had deployed lane reductions and traffic calming, including narrowing streets, limiting curb cuts, bump outs, medians, traffic circles and improved lighting in the ward. He also endorsed lowering speed limits.  He also noted that “we need more bike lanes in every corner of the city, and they should provide more protection for cyclists.” He suggested adding protected bike lanes adjacent to recently added protected bike lanes on 26th Street and Keeler.

Equitable Transit Oriented Development: Rodriguez agreed that more should be done to support ETOD. He noted that he had been a champion of recent ETOD efforts, and co-sponsored last year’s ETOD expansion (the Connected Communities Ordinance). 

Accessible Dwelling Units and 3-Flat legalization: Rodriguez endorsed citywide ADUs, but reserved judgement on 3-flat legalization. More broadly, he noted the role of highways in dividing and segregating Chicagoans. He pointed to his work to add 200 units of affordable housing, as well as a school, grocery store and healthcare center at the site of the LeClaire Courts Housing project, providing a comprehensive set of services for residents. 

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