The Chicago region’s current hub-and-spoke transit system leaves nearly half a million Cook County residents stranded in transit deserts.
The South Suburbs include south suburban Cook County, Will County, as well as Lake and Porter counties in Northwest Indiana.
Get the latest updates on active transportation issues in the South Suburbs below and make sure to join our In Your Community: South Suburbs e-newsletter list. The e-newsletter comes out quarterly and offers a quick read on issues related to bicycling, walking and transit in your area.
If you are interested in learning more about any of the information provided on this page, please feel free to contact Leslie Phemister at Leslie@activetrans.org or 312-427-0474.
Better biking coming to Will County
Biking and walking in Will County will soon become more connected, safe and accessible thanks to the first-ever Will County Bikeway Plan, which was recently approved by the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Board. The plan envisions a future network of bikeways and trails with 14 new routes that provide improved biking and walking connections to major destinations such as Metra stations, Governor’s State University, numerous parks and many commercial centers. Other goals include expanding “transportation choices by enabling bicycling to become a more viable transportation option in Will County” and providing “easily-accessible recreation opportunities for the public.”
What does your mayoral candidate think about biking, walking and transit?
Cities and villages around the region are gearing up for local elections on April 4. Where do candidates in your community stand on biking, walking and transit? Active Trans contacted candidates for mayor and village president from municipalities across the region with a request to complete our Suburban Municipal Candidate Questionnaire. The questionnaires are an educational resource to inform voters about candidate’s priorities for improving biking, walking and public transit. Check out our voter guide today.
New commuter rail coming to Northwest Indiana
Our regional commuter rail network is getting a major expansion in Northwest Indiana thanks to the West Lake Corridor Project. This nine-mile extension will connect to the South Shore Line and Metra Electric District Line, improving the connection between Northwest Indiana and downtown Chicago. While this project is an exciting improvement in the region, we must make sure that it is planned and implemented appropriately. If you have thoughts or concerns, you're welcome to submit a comment on the project online. Prioritizing adequate access to the new rail line will be an important part of the process. Biking and walking access to new stations should be included in the planning process. Read more on our blog.
Unveiling the Broadway Metro Express
The Gary Public Transportation Corporation (GPTC) is putting the final touches on plans for Northwest Indiana’s first rapid bus service, the Broadway Metro Express, launching in summer 2017. GPTC recently held two open houses and a public hearing on the project, offering residents an opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed bus route. Community members spoke enthusiastically about the new amenities that the upgraded system would provide, especially faster and more frequent service. Planned facilities of the service include new bus platforms with public art by local artists and new crosswalks. Bus bypass lanes and stop consolidation will help make the buses run more efficiently.
ITEP funds new active transportation projects in Will County
Channahon and Romeoville were recently awarded grants through the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP). The Village of Channahon is planning to use the funds for a multi-use bridge over the DuPage River and Illinois & Michigan Canal at Bridge Street. The new path will give people who walk and bike a safer option for crossing the river, bridging the community. The path would also improve access to the Illinois & Michigan Canal trail, which runs alongside the river. Romeoville’s grant will fund construction of a new Metra station. The village plans for the station include a biking and walking path and new sidewalks. Read more about the grants here.
Complete Streets in Willow Springs
Over the past couple of months, Active Trans worked with five south suburban communities on temporary demonstrations of Complete Streets projects that help create safer, more enjoyable streets. The demonstration in Willow Springs, for example, repurposed the traffic roundabout in front of village hall, converting it into a plaza-like setting that drew more than 300 people. To slow traffic and encourage recreation and community interaction, parklets were created with artificial turf, picnic tables and plants. A buffered bike lane built out of duct tape and a crosswalk fashioned out of tar paper and white latex paint were also part of the demonstration. Willow Springs Mayor Alan Nowaczk was an enthusiastic supporter of the event. “No mission is more crucial than ensuring the safe passageways for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists,” he said. Each Complete Streets project was supported by Healthy HotSpot, which is an initiative led by the Cook County Department of Public Health.
Traffic-calming design for new village hall in Steger
What would access around a new village hall look like in Steger? That’s the question Active Trans and Steger public officials worked to design and test this summer at their Complete Streets pop-up demonstration on Aug. 13. Designs featured a temporary roundabout and crosswalk to calm traffic. With almost 100 people in attendance, community members were excited about the proposed changes, and the village is planning a permanent roundabout at the site.
South Chicago Heights event transforms Jackson Avenue
Active Trans and South Chicago Heights officials worked together to transform Jackson Avenue on July 27 for a Complete Streets demonstration that focused on pedestrian safety. Because the area around Jackson Avenue and 29th Street is mostly used as a cut-through street, people who walk around that area find it difficult and dangerous to cross. Active Trans and South Chicago Heights officials created a temporary bump-out, crosswalks, roundabout and signage, which delighted community members. They especially liked the roundabout because it slowed the traffic on Jackson. One school-aged community member who attended the event gave the crosswalks a big thumbs-up and proclaimed that, “Don’t even think about it, complete the street!”
Richton Park temporary bike lane well-received
Richton Park’s Richton Square Road between Lee Avenue and Polk Avenue was transformed by a Complete Streets pop-up event on Aug. 3, making it safer for commuters to traverse the area. The highly trafficked road near the Metra station will be repaved by the village in the next few years, which provides an opportunity to rethink the street’s facilities. Active Trans and community partners created a temporary two-way protected bike lane, roundabout and bump-outs using duct tape, chalk, potted plants and traffic cones. The event also provided an opportunity to talk to residents about the Active Transportation Plan that Active Trans is developing for the village. Village officials were pleased with the event and are considering the option to install a two-way bike lane on Richton Square Road.
Midlothian’s 147th corridor transformation
Active Trans worked with Midlothian volunteers and staff, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) and Center for Neighborhood Technology to host its sixth and final Complete Streets pop-up event in Midlothian on Oct. 22 in an effort to show residents how to make 147th Street safer for all who traverse that area. More than 125 Midlothian residents tried out the temporary buffered bicycle lane, admired the rain garden bump-out, learned about storm water management and voted (with scarecrows) on amenities they want to see on 147th Street. The event was held near 147th Street because the state-owned arterial is riddled with serious safety concerns. CMAP is leading a corridor study for 147th Street between Cicero Avenue and Kedzie Avenue to develop recommendations for streetscaping, stormwater infrastructure and improving the environment for people who walk. If you’re interested in learning more about this process, please contact Leslie Phemister at Leslie@activetrans.org.
Better transit for south Chicagoland
For decades, South Chicagoland residents and transit experts have recognized the potential benefits of enhancing service along the Metra Electric District line, which would greatly improve access to transit in an area that is currently a “transit desert.” Now this idea is finally gaining momentum with interest from the mayor’s office and a glowing article from the Chicago Tribune editorial board. The Coalition for Modern Metra Electric, which includes Active Trans and community groups from the South Side and south suburbs, is calling for the line to operate like true rapid transit with trains running every 10-15 minutes throughout the day. Take action today — sign a letter to your legislators supporting upgrades to Metra Electric service.
Trail extension to connect south suburbs
The Illinois and Michigan Canal State Trail runs more than 75 miles along the historic canal that was built in the mid-1800s to help connect the East Coast to the Gulf of Mexico for commercial trade. The only thing missing? A connection to Chicago’s trail network. Public officials, business leaders and community members met recently to kick off the conversation about a regional project focused on expanding the I&M Canal State Trail. Not only would the trail extension provide incredible access to recreation, it also would have positive impacts on public health, economic development and community growth.
New map for Northwest Indiana
Looking for a comfortable bike route between Chicago and Indiana? Look no further! The 2016 Northwest Indiana Regional Greenways & Blueways map has just been released for free to the public. This past winter and spring, staff at Active Trans worked with the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission to update and revamp its 2012 map for people who bike, hike and paddle. Since the release of the old map, Northwest Indiana has seen numerous trail additions, making the region more bike-friendly than ever. Check out the new map online!
Local Community Resources
South Suburbs Active Transportation Council: Leslie@activetrans.org
Please email suggestions for additional local community resources to Jim@activetrans.org.