Starter Line

Clark Street
Wrigley Field to the Loop

The Route

The Clark Street line would run through the four zip codes with the highest transit ridership in all of Chicago. In these neighborhoods, drivers are the minority. They'll still be able to drive to work, but not down Clark Street: Clark is going to be optimized for commuting and shopping.

The Clark Street line connects the city's most densely populated neighborhoods with the Near North and the Loop. It connects downtown to some of the city's most popular attractions, including North Avenue Beach and the Lincoln Park Zoo, where quality transit service is desperately needed.

It runs through the area with the highest transit ridership, but where it's too far to walk to the elevated train, so those riders have been relegated to buses stuck in traffic.

The Numbers

With over 70,000 daily boardings onto buses, the Clark Street corridor already has more ridership than all but one of Chicago's elevated train lines. That's more than four times as many riders as the entire Portland Streetcar, the biggest and most profitable streetcar system in America.

Upgrading from buses stuck in traffic to modern streetcars in dedicated lanes provides much faster and more comfortable service. And the streetcar gets faster and faster the more people use it, with more trains and more frequent service. Combine that with convenient shopping on the way home in a pedestrian-friendly environment, and the Clark Street streetcar will surely attract even more riders.

And yet it would cost less to operate than the current bus system and one-tenth as much as building a new elevated train line.

Attracting more commuters to take transit instead of driving is the only thing we can do to address our $7.3 billion-a-year congestion problem short of dreaded congestion pricing. And unlike congestion pricing, modernizing the transit system encourages people to come into downtown to grow the economy.

Every year more people and fewer cars in the Loop--more commerce and less congestion.

Clark Street today

Clark Street is choked with through traffic at rush hour, with buses crawling at little more than walking speed.

The street is underdeveloped, with many surface parking lots in the Near North and vacant single-story commercial buildings in Lincoln Park.

Half of the neighborhood's commuter buses (22 and 36, with 38,695 daily boardings) go down Clark Street, where they are stuck in traffic with cars. The other half (134, 143, 151, and 156, with 34,306 daily boardings) run on the outer edge of the neighborhood, where congestion is lighter but there is no shopping.

Move transit to the heart of the neighborhood and through traffic to the periphery

Consolidate all six commuter bus lines onto Clark Street. That doubles the frequency of bus service, and brings commuting and shopping together in the same street, increasing the foot traffic that drives local retail.

Reroute through traffic from Clark Street to Stockton and Lake Shore Drive, where there's less congestion. Eliminating through traffic on a diagonal street simplifies some dangerous three-way intersections and speeds up traffic on the grid.

Deliveries and vehicular access are still allowed on Clark, but through traffic and parking are replaced by transit, foot traffic, and shopping. Transit runs much faster and attracts many more riders when no longer stuck in traffic with cars. Residents benefit from being able to combine commuting and shopping, and local business benefits from the increased foot traffic.

Upgrade from bus to streetcar

Upgrade transit service on Clark to modern streetcars running freely in a dedicated lane with signal prioritization and rapid boarding through multiple doors.

Cuts the operating cost dramatically, because each driver can carry 3-6 times as many passengers as a bus, and the drivers account for most of the cost of operating a transit system. That's a big savings for taxpayers.

Streetcar lines increase neighborhood property values and spark development, in time generating enough new tax revenue to pay the capital costs of the line.

Streetcars are public transit that people love-even people who would never take the bus. They increase transit ridership and reduce car congestion in the Loop.

Turns Clark into a pedestrian-priority transit-optimized shopping street: convenient local shopping on the way home in a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood environment.