Telling the Story of Chicago, One Train Stop at a Time
It’s amazing how much a strong transit system can reshape the city
around it. And not just through the physical changes that transit
brings, but the mental ones too. A transit system can reshape the way
we imagine or understand our surroundings. In some cities, for example,
you identify your location with the nearest subway stop, not a
neighborhood. "I work near Metro Center" is a pretty common statement
in Washington D.C. When you spend enough time on transit, individual
stations start to take on meaning, shared or personal.
As a way of exploring the cultural resonances that build up around
transit, you couldn’t do much better than this exercise from Mandy
Burrell Booth at Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council blog:
Before I joined MPC in 2004, I worked full-time as a journalist. As
a j-school student, one of my class projects was to write about every
stop on the Red Line. Each of us chose a stop and found a nearby story
to share with our fellow students. That experience stayed with me: On
the rare weekend when my husband and I don’t have plans, we like to
ride the El or bus to a new neighborhood. We’ve even taken the South
Shore to Michigan City, Ind., and the Metra to Geneva.
I’d have loved to hear more about Booth’s travelogue of the Red
Line, but she does one better, pointing to a crowdsourced attempt to
catalog ratings and comments about every rail stop in Chicago. If
successful, Carfree Chicago’s Train Stop Guide
could answer everything from the practical — like where to get off for
a good cup of coffee — to the more impressionistic. For example, one commenter
calls the area around the Belmont station "one of those rare places
where queers, punks, suburban tweens, yuppie families, jocks and
trixies all come together."
It looks like the Train Stop Guide is just getting started, since
most stations don’t have comments yet. But once it fills out, we’ll
have a transit-oriented portrait of the way Chicagoans experience their
More from around the network: The Chicago Bicycle Advocate explains how the two Chicago men actively trying to hit bikes with their car got off with a light sentence. The Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation catalogs the successes of Safe Routes to Schools in their state. And the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition praises a Critical Mass ride where the police were respectful participants.