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Eyes on the Street

RTA tries making stations safer with community events at 8 transit stops in Chicago, Joliet, and Maywood

Free programs at stations across the city and the region will help provide more "eyes on the street".

The 63rd and Cottage Grove Green Line Station. According to RTA, as part of a special event this summer, “Gardeners will execute a one-day plant-based pop-up festival” here. Photo: John Greenfield

This post is sponsored by Boulevard Bikes.

There's a longtime concept in urban planning that having more "eyes on the street," residents spending time in public space and keeping an eye on things, helps make the area safer. Now the Regional Transportation Authority, which oversees the three Chicagoland transit agencies, is taking that concept for a spin with a new pilot program.

Earlier this month, the agency announced it will be putting $120,000 toward funding several Transit Station Activation projects. The goal of each project is to improve public safety and create a greater sense of community near CTA, Metra, and Pace stations and stops. The manager for the program is the RTA's Division Manager of Local Programming and Program Management, Heather Mullins.

"All riders and frontline workers deserve to feel safe on transit," said RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden in a statement. "We are excited to announce the projects selected for Transit Station Activations and see these projects come to life, helping make our region’s transit stations and stops feel safer and centering them as hubs in their communities,"

This pilot program was born out of the RTA’s "Transit is the Answer" plan to address the region's looming $730 million fiscal cliff, as well as the RTA Public Transit Safety and Security Summit last February. The summit brought together almost 80 riders, transit professionals, and stakeholders in order to explore solutions to the safety issues facing the three transit systems.

The RTA has published a report on the recommendations that came out of the summit, which you can read here. This station activation pilot program can be found on page 11, under "Goal #3: Create safer, more welcoming environments in transit stations and stops." (Goal #1 is "Enhance personal security for transit riders and workers and address perception of crime on transit" and Goal #2 is "Incorporate transit-specific strategies into social services initiatives.")

"We were trying to come up with ideas to kind of address these real or perceived issues of safety and security at transit stations throughout the region," Mullins told Streetsblog. "We were trying to come up with something we at the RTA could do to help with this issue."

"This was something that we were able to roll out with our existing community planning program," Mullins said. "If you're familiar with that, it's a program that we offer every year. Offering funding and technical assistance primarily to municipalities and our service borders to do planning projects that support transit and land use. But since we had a call for projects going out earlier this year, we were able to quickly develop an add-on program with these station activations to allow applications to come in for these particular projects."

According to Mullins, this pilot is different from their community planning program in that RTA will be putting on more events. The organizations that applied to the 2024 Community Planning Call for Projects were nonprofits, chambers of commerce, and service boards. Eight projects were selected based on their ability to address safety and security, and a good plan for staging the program. Each organization will receive between $10, 000 to $20,000 to plan and host the event, most of which will take place over a single day in the summer and fall.

Here’s a summary of the project based on the RTA's press release. Check out the full descriptions here.

  • Cicero Green Line Station (CTA) - "The Chicago Film Archives will enhance the existing projection system at the street-level mezzanine of the Cicero Green Line station which was installed in March 2023 to project 20th century home movies from Chicagoans."
  • 63rd and Cottage Grove Green Line Station (CTA) - "Gardeners will execute a one-day plant-based pop-up festival at the 63rd and Cottage Grove Green Line station that aims to showcase the impact of plant-based foods, urban agriculture, biomaterials, and sustainability on individuals' health and the ecosystem."
  • Morse Red Line Station (CTA) – "Mandala South Asian Performing Arts will host live music and dance performances at the Morse Red Line station that will reflect the unique cultural identity of the neighborhood and the diversity of the City of Chicago."
  • Maywood Station (Metra) - "The Maywood Chamber of Commerce will host a one-day event that celebrates Maywood's historical and cultural treasures and underscores its accessibility by transit with a three-pronged event centered on the Maywood Metra station along with nearby Pace bus service on 5th Ave."
  • 79th Street Station in Chatham and 147th Street Station in Harvey (Metra) - "Metra will host one-day community celebrations coinciding with the completion of station reconstruction projects at the 79th Street (Chatham) station on the South Side of Chicago and the 147th Street Station in south suburban Harvey, both on the Metra Electric Line."
  • Joliet Transit Center (Pace) - "Pace, in coordination with the City of Joliet, will host a one-day transit activation event during the annual Kidz Fest hosted by Joliet City Center Partnership. The Pace element of the event will be held in the commuter parking lot adjacent to the Joliet Transit Center."
  • Loyola Red Line Station and Bus Routes 151 and 147 (CTA) - "The Rogers Park Business Alliance will hire local bands to perform at the Loyola CTA station plaza and on patios of several businesses located near CTA Route 151 and 147 bus stops on Sheridan Rd. from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on three different Friday evenings over the summer."
  • Bus Routes 36 and 81 in Uptown (CTA) - "Uptown United will hold free yoga sessions on multiple Saturday mornings throughout the summer."

"We just wanted projects that would bring more people out to these stations and really create more of a sense of welcoming for people who may be nervous or have a sense that maybe they might not be safe going to some of these stations," said Mullins. "Let's bring things that are going to bring people out and get them there and perhaps change their perceptions that they might have about transit. I's not something we've ever done."

The earliest program will begin in June. Mullins will likely provide a QR code to a short survey to get feedback on the events from participants and hosts. Those interested in transit, the arts and the community might want to check some of these programs.

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