My stepdaughter and I spent Friday in Chicago. We had a wonderful day together, and now that I’ve had a chance to reflect on our day together, I’ve come to the realization that Chicago “gets it” when it comes to mass transit. Instead of driving down to Chicago, we decided to take the Metra from Kenosha to Chicago. The entire train trip both ways only cost $14.10, thanks to kids riding for free, and it goes without saying that was a significant savings over what we would have spent on gas, tolls, and parking if we had driven down. Now sure, it took a little longer to get to Chicago than it would have had we driven, but the extra time we spent on the train was well worth the savings.
Once we arrived in Chicago, we immediately realized we had no shortage of mass transit options for getting around, and seeing as how we were going to be doing some shopping, we hopped on the free “red dot” trolley which took us right to the Magnificent Mile for some shopping. What most impressed me about Chicago’s free trolley system is the number of options available to riders. In addition to the trolley through the shopping district, riders could choose trolleys to take them to (or near) any number of Chicago’s biggest attractions, including Milennium Park, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, and Navy Pier, just to name a few. It’s also worth noting every trolley I saw was packed full of riders, just as the Metra coming in to Chicago was nearly full to capacity.
Now despite the mass transit options available to folks in Chicago, traffic is still a nightmare, but the point I’m trying to make is that the options available to Chicagoans are being used extensively. Now sure, Chicago’s more of a tourist and shopping destination than a city like Milwaukee, but in an age of rising gas prices, it would seem to make sense for Milwaukee and Southeastern Wisconsin as a whole to take a long, hard look at how to improve the mass transit options for citizens, because I believe given more mass transit options, our citizens would take advantage of those options. More specifically, I’d like to see the KRM line come to fruition, because a commuter rail connection between Milwaukee and Chicago – with stops in places like Cudahy, South Milwaukee, and Racine – would be a boon for commuters while likely reducing traffic on our highways.
Now all we need is a little foresight from our elected officials to make it happen.