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Crossroads Collaborative helps connect everyday transit riders with the planning process

The Crossroads Collaborative logo.

According to Crossroads Collaborative executive director Arnold Bradford, the South Chicago-based organization "is a connected community partner in the transportation and planning arena. We survey, canvass and infuse community concerns into the conversation and, through our participation, we push for practical solutions to issues of common concern. Simply put, we are the voice of those who cannot speak directly to the power elite and planners."

Arnold Bradford
Arnold Bradford
Arnold Bradford

The collaborative is part of the Alliance of the SouthEast, a coalition of churches, schools, businesses, and community organizations working to address community issues on the Southeast Side. The alliance is also part of the Coalition for a Modern Metra Electric, which has advocated for more frequent and affordable commuter rail service. However, Bradford says Crossroads' work takes place all over the city, and occasionally in the suburbs.

"If you're making a pot of stew for the family or a big group, you put in the ingredients," Bradford explained. "There are a lot of ingredients that go into stew or gumbo or whatever you want to call it. But you have to heat it up on a low, slow fire, and you have to keep stirring. If you don't, it sticks. We make sure the ingredients don't stick. We keep it moving, and we make sure that we get results no matter what anybody does anywhere else, or how their funding works."

Bradford describes Crossroads Collaborative's five areas of community development thusly:

    • Transportation, technology and training
    • Housing, helps, healing, hospitality and hope
    • Education, employment, enterprise, e-commerce and economic development
    • Environmental protection, natural resources and energy conservation
    • Empowerment, enfranchisement, engagement, encouragement and equitable development.

The collaborative advocated for the Fair Transit South Cook pilot, which halved the fares on the MED and Rock Island District lines as a transportation equity strategy. The group is currently pushing to the make the discount permanent.

A #30 South Chicago bus sign. Photo: Jeff Zoline
A #30 South Chicago bus sign. Photo: Jeff Zoline
A #30 South Chicago bus sign. Photo: Jeff Zoline

Crossroads is also concerned about the "ghost bus" problem, runs that appear on Transit Tracker and navigation apps only to disappear from the screen before they arrive because there was no one to run them. He said that's particularly been a problem on the #30 South Chicago bus. "The bus goes out to the end of the city limits to a community called Hegewisch. There is no alternative bus service there. And there are no sidewalks. The people who live out there are totally isolated if the bus does not come. Well, guess what? There were two-hour, two-and-half-hour wait times for buses for seniors trying to get to the doctor, trying to go to the grocery store, trying to just take care of basic business."

"It wasn't just a function of the COVID," Bradford added. "Don't let that president of the CTA tell you that. It's been a problem for the longest time, but after COVID, it got even worse."

He said Crossroads is focused on grassroots organizing, and he's flagged transit issues to folks at partner organizations. "They don't know anything about public transit because they drive. And so we started a campaign to educate them on what's really going on with the people depend on public transportation. They didn't know about the stabbings and the shootings on the Red Line. So we brought that to the forefront, and then they started to talk about that in their settings."  

Fundamentally, Bradford said, the Crossroads Collaboration is about bettering people's lives, and improving transit is a major piece of that puzzle. "We understand that essentially, the value of public transit flows out of how it serves the people in our community, city and in Cook and surrounding collar counties. It connects people with jobs, resources and family members scattered throughout the region."

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