The Case for Rail Transit Expansion in the Chicago Central Area

connector-imageThe study resulted in a whitepaper that proposes the design, funding and creation of a new transit line (the “Connector”) to add needed capacity in the central are of Chicago, the fastest-growing part of the city. Assuming a 7-10 year implementation timeframe, the Connector’s first phase would come online just as north and northwest side “L” lines reached capacity. This would enable the central area to absorb a larger share of subsequent increases in transit demand.

The paper recommends construction of 14 miles of new transit line; approximately 2/3 would be located on or adjacent to existing rail right-of-way, vacant land or public property. The Connector would be built in phases and would be funded by a 0.25% property tax increment levied through a special service area (SSA).

The central area is dependent on rail transit, and the majority of central area workers use transit to get to their jobs. The CTA rail system is nearing capacity, and ridership is at the highest level since at least 1960.

Principal Investigator(s):

Ed Zotti


Ed Zotti




The results of the whitepaper provide a viable argument for advancing the proposed Connector transit line in Chicago’s central area

Expected Results or Products:

The whitepaper addressed the fundamental planning components required to advance the proposed Connector central area transit line: Identifying the challenge, citing the proposed transit line, proposing funding sources and stating the next steps required – approval from the public and land owners.

The Connector would help Chicago’s central area continue to meet transit demands of the growing downtown employment and permanent residential populations. Building the Connector would:

  • Add needed capacity in the fastest-growing part of the city.
  • Significantly increase central area land that could be re-developed.
  • Could be built in phases to keep capital outlays manageable.
  • Provide an opportunity to reduce the cost and complexity of land acquisition needed for transit given the central area’s abundance of unused rail right-of-way, vacant land and publicly owned land.
  • Allow for use of the former Carroll Ave. railroad right-of-way, based on scoping meetings with property owners.

NOTE: The completed report, “The Case for Rail Transit Expansion in the Chicago Central Area,” is a very large file and can not be hosted on the UTC site. Here are two options to get the full report.

  1. Visit this page hosted by the Chicago Central Area Committee (CCAC) to download a pdf version.
  2. Respond to the UTC via email, and we’ll reply with a copy.


P.S. Sriraj
Urban Transportation Center
University of Illinois at Chicago
412 South Peoria Street, Suite 340
Chicago, IL 60607
Voice: (312) 413-7568
Fax: (312) 413-0006


National University Rail Center (NURail)

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