Evanston moves forward with Main Street transportation project

Ciara McCarthy, Managing Editor

City officials got a first look Wednesday at a report on a potential upgrade to the public transportation stations near the intersection of Main Street and Chicago Avenue.

In 2013, Evanston and the Regional Transportation Authority began a study to investigate a transit-oriented development project at the Chicago Transit Authority and Metra stations on Main Street, which would increase accessibility to the stations and contribute to the livability of the neighborhood. On Wednesday, Damir Latinovic, a city employee in the planning and zoning division, presented the final study to Evanston’s plan commission.

“As part of this study, the focus then sort of shifted a little bit towards how the existing train stations … can be improved to overall improve the vitality of the area, increase the ridership numbers and just become an incubator of activity for commercial businesses and for residential developments,” Latinovic said Wednesday.

The study’s findings highlight both short-term and long-term changes to the station area, all of which would make public transport more accessible. Some of the more significant changes include making the entrance to the CTA station Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible, expanding the CTA platform to accommodate more train cars and creating a walkway underneath the CTA embankment to connect the two stations.

Evanston and the RTA decided to investigate the opportunities for transit-oriented development because of the area’s unique attributes. Main Street is one of just three locations in the Chicago area in which the CTA and Metra stations are located in close proximity to each other.

In addition, the Main Street stations have seen increased ridership in recent years, encouraging officials to make transferring between the transportation systems easier. The Main Street CTA station saw a 2 percent increase in weekday ridership in 2013 compared to 2012. The Metra station saw a 13 percent increase from 2002 to 2006.

The consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff was contracted to undertake the study to research ways to identify opportunities for public space and improve the multi-modal connectivity of the station areas.

Also in consideration was the creation of an elevated bicycle and pedestrian path between the Metra and CTA corridors. It now looks unlikely that such a path would be included in the project’s potential plans.

“During the study it was determined that this would be very costly, so not a lot of time was spent on this portion of that,” Latinovic said.

The study was funded by a $100,000 grant from the RTA and a $25,000 contribution from Evanston.

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