Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=125521
Story Retrieval Date: 5/18/2013 12:49:15 PM CST
Bill VanEmburg knows what to expect every time the Bears play in Chicago.
“I live right down by Soldier Field. I know exactly how rough it gets,” he said.
“It” is traffic—and now that there’s the possibility of seeing a bigger game in town, VanEmburg’s gridlock worries have gotten a lot bigger. The Chicago 2016 committee anticipates 2.5 million spectators will pass through the city if Chicago receives an Olympic bid—and those millions will need a way to get around.
“I expect that when the games happen, I’m going to be shut in,” VanEmburg said.
He went to the Chicago Cultural Center Thursday for a meeting about Chicago 2016’s legacy—how parks and transportation would be affected by the games in the long term. VanEmburg and about a hundred others learned that the city’s bid book doesn’t include specific plans for improvements to the public transportation system.
“We feel like the bones are there, that there’s adequate infrastructure there, that would need to be supplemented to support the games,” said Arnold Randall, Director of Neighborhood Legacy for Chicago 2016, during the meeting.
While Randall said there need to be investments in Chicago transportation to support the Olympic Games, he said the committee considers the system here a strength.
However, Randy Neufeld from Active Transportation Alliance said these investments would need to be significant, in a system where adequate funding is already a problem.
“The bid book says there will be no permanent structural changes to the Olympic Games,” Neufeld said, in his presentation on public transit needs. “That’s probably going to be a great challenge for the Olympics.”
He said the Chicago 2016 committee should be focused on improving the rail system and stations, as well as making public transit more accessible for people with disabilities. This could be costly; according to Neufeld, 54 of 144 CTA stations are not accessible, and it costs $10 million to $50 million to completely overhaul a single station.
In a city where the public transit system is already facing a budget crisis, Neufeld said it will be hard enough to simply maintain the status quo. Citing the Regional Transportation Authority, he said it will cost $1 billion per year to provide current services.
“If the current funding levels are maintained, we will have less capacity in 2016 than there is today,” he said.
Randall said the Chicago 2016 committee has acknowledged the possibility of funding problems, but expects the city will get some financial support from the federal government.
The men agree any transportation improvements the Olympics could help the city’s transportation system in the long-term.
“It would be great if the games could be a catalyst for a good solution,” VanEmburg said.