By Katelyn Skye Bennett | Editor-in-chief

This summer, the city of Chicago renamed the iconic Lake Shore Drive to Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive, honoring the legacy of Chicago’s first non-Indigenous resident. 

According to Black Past, DuSable was born in Haiti to an enslaved African woman and a French man, educated in France, and became multilingual due to his travels in Europe and North America. As an adult, he moved to the Midwest and married a Pottawatomie woman, later establishing a trading post in what is now Chicago. 

The street’s name change was contested but eventually compromised to include both DuSable’s full name while keeping Lake Shore Drive as a reference point. With Chicago being the nation’s fourth most segregated city, renaming this popular road is a notable way to commemorate part of its Black heritage.

Racial justice has remained a talking point as the city expands its public transportation as well.

Photo by Chait Goli on Pexels.com

The Red Line Expansion Project

This December the city of Chicago is holding its final public meetings to discuss expanding the Red Line, part of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). The Red Line is the longest of the “L” trains, running from the Howard stop in the northernmost neighborhood of Chicago down to 95th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway in the Southside.

CTA spans the city, but there are currently several dead zones, including one in Rogers Park a couple miles west of the Red Line, and large portions of the Southside. While busses run in the Southside, train access is limited, and about 40 city blocks on the Far Southside have no access to the “L.”

However, conversations are now wrapping up on a project that would extend the Red Line further south, through Roseland down to Altgeld Gardens, to the bottom of Chicago proper. 

The Red Line Extension Project lists equity as one of its benefits, “by providing affordable rapid transit to historically underserved communities and improving mobility for transit-dependent residents and people with disabilities.”

A map of Chicagoland with 2010 census data, showing the Northside being primarily white, the Westside being primarily Hispanic and then Black, and the Southside being almost entirely Black.
The Racial Dot Map displays Chicago’s stark segregation. Data is taken from 2010 as the University of Virginia project is seeking additional funding to update the map with 2020 data.

According to the CTA website, “The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is proposing to extend the Red Line from the existing terminal at 95th/Dan Ryan to 130th Street, subject to the availability of funding. The proposed 5.6-mile extension would include four new stations near 103rd Street, 111th Street, Michigan Avenue, and 130th Street.”

The description continues, “Each new station would include bus and parking facilities. This project is one part of the Red Ahead Program to extend and enhance the entire Red Line.”

Accessibility Lacking in CTA

Although the CTA has made improvements to other lines in the past decade, physical accessibility remains a concern. Despite the updates to the Blue Line’s appearance, for example, many train stops do not have any elevators whatsoever, and the existing elevators are commonly out of service. 

Plans for the new Red Line stops appear more inclusive, but as a whole, Chicago’s transit system lacks a much-needed focus on disability and accessibility. The color-coded “L” system is unhelpful for colorblind residents and tourists as well. 

Get Involved!

In the Transit-Supportive Development Plan, the CTA announced two virtual meetings for this coming week, where it will be seeking community feedback on the Red Line Extension Plan itself. This, it exclaims, will “help determine the preferred, future development of the station areas!”

Chicagoans interested in attending and advocating for accessible, equitable decisions must register to attend. Each meeting will cover two stops.

The Tuesday, December 7 meeting will be held virtually from 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. regarding the 103rd Street & Michigan Avenue station areas, and the Wednesday, December 8 meeting will be held at the same time regarding 111th Street & 130th Street station areas.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The proposed map is visible on the CTA website, where a page is also dedicated to potential displacement of community members, with the property owners’ and tenants’ rights listed, compensation information explained, contact information made available.

Contact CTA’s customer service department by telephone at 1-888-YOUR-CTA (1-888-968-7282), or by e-mail at RedExtension@transitchicago.com.

This extension will help make the city accessible to its Far Southside residents, bolstering inclusion and increasing equity as residents gain access to colleges and jobs previously too distant without a car or train. 

Still, construction projects have historically displaced minoritized groups and contributed to gentrification. Residents attending the public meetings on December 7 and 8 will have a voice in city planning and can lend their wisdom as locals in order to guide the project in its vision of equity. Community members can register online to receive the link for these virtual meetings.

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