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Transportation

Every city has transportation needs and Evanston is no exception. Those traveling to and from work, to the store or to visit family must get there one way or another. Both the city and local groups are working to minimize the impact that travel has on the environment while still maintaining a vibrant town that is accessible in a variety of ways.

street signs

Evanston’s Transportation Future is an organization that promotes “mobility in ways which will be environmentally sustainable, correcting the dominance of the auto.” Some goals the group seeks to support include improved air quality and public policy that is encouraging toward alternative transportation methods. Rick Martin is a member of the group and says that they try to help support transportation initiatives in the city that are environmentally friendly. One such “alternate” form of transportation is the bicycle, and Evanston has been making huge strides toward infrastructure improvements that will allow even more people to easily pedal around town.

The bike route implementation by the city has been a long time in the making, dating back to 2001 when the idea was first explored seriously. Volunteers from Evanston’s bicycling community were part of the process, contributing information on parking needs and suggesting street and trail improvements. When counting the number of cyclists passing the corner of Chicago Avenue and Sheridan Road in a six-hour period, volunteers found 550 of them, underscoring the need for a well thought out plan for an even more cycle-friendly community.

Evanston’s own Bicycle System Improvement Plan points out several reasons to show that encouraging people to ride their bikes around town is a good thing. Using a bike encourages people to shop locally, it requires a smaller parking area than cars and it contributes to quieter and safer streets in the city. It also is easier on the environment than cars, motorcycles or public transportation.

The fact that Evanston is “cycle-friendly” should come as no surprise to anyone who knows about the Evanston Bicycle Club, which has been around for over 25 years. The group meets monthly on the third Tuesday of every month at the Ecology Center and they organize different group rides and a few weekend trips as well. Evanston’s Transportation Director John Burke says that the city has “a very strong biking community.” Burke notes that bike routes, lanes and signage are recent infrastructure improvements, and there is also a bike rack installation study underway looking at the best places to install these structures throughout the city.

train

One of the recommendations supported by Evanston’s Transportation Future group is the addition of a stop for the city along the Chicago Transit Authority’s Yellow Line, also known to many as the “Skokie Swift.” The city has been actively exploring this option, and hired a firm to work with the Regional Transportation Authority on a market analysis for new stations in south Evanston. The study found that there is a strong market for an additional station, and John Burke says that the next step is to look closer at the engineering issues and funding that creating such a stop would require.

The City of Evanston is embracing new ideas about how their residents can travel easily while having minimal environmental impact. The move toward opening a stop on the Yellow Line and the push for a more pedestrian and bike-friendly landscape are great steps in the direction of a more sustainable transportation model—and there is surely more to come.

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