Evanston to study alternative transportation at Chicago and Main

Ciara McCarthy, Reporter

Evanston is taking steps to research and potentially redesign the Purple Line Station at the intersection of Main Street and Chicago Avenue. The Regional Transportation Authority has labeled the changes Transit-Oriented Development, which seeks to increase the walkability of urban spaces and opportunities to use public transportation.

In December of 2011, the RTA granted Evanston $100,000 to conduct a study to look at opportunities for TOD at Chicago Transit Authority and Metra stations at Main and Chicago. The study will begin next month. Steve Griffin, the city’s community and economic development director, said the study will allow Evanston to explore possible changes to the station.

“The grant is through the RTA to study the Chicago and Main area for how to better link the Metra and the CTA stations pedestrian-wise, and how we can better accommodate walkers and bicyclists to both stations,” Griffin said.

The city received funding through the RTA’s community planning program. The program offers several grants every year to do plans and studies around the Chicago area. In 2011, when Evanston received the grant, there were about 13 applications. Evanston was one of seven municipalities to receive a grant.

“We’re looking for communities interested in not only developing strategies that best utilize transit investments but that also want to spur economic development activities,” said Jay Ciavarella, RTA’s division manager of local planning and programs.

Although RTA awarded the grant to the city in 2011, the project has been stalled, Ciavarella said. City Council didn’t approve the grant and the city’s $25,000 match until June. City Council minutes show that the study was expected to begin in October.

Last month, City Council approved the firm Parsons Brinckerhoff to conduct the study in collaboration with the city and RTA. Dennis Marino, the city’s planning and zoning manager, said the study will begin in March and will likely be completed by the end of the calendar year.

“We’re very much on track at this point,” Marino said.

Representatives from Metra, CTA and Pace will also participate in the study.

Although the project has been compared to the High Line park in New York City, Marino explained that Evanston’s TOD will be nothing like the elevated walking park in New York.

Potential recommendations could include increased ease of access for bikers and pedestrians to the station, more opportunities for bike parking, or a decrease in parking spaces for cars.

Changes implemented from the study could create substantial changes to alternative transportation in Evanston, Marino said.

“What you have here is a very significant volume opportunity for people to get out of their cars and take their bikes,” he said.