A whiny post at YoChicago (the blog that’s subsumed “Loft Living”) complains about service on the #70. (Well, it is a crosstown half-section route and you’re boarding at the eastern end…) Anyhow, my response avoided the whole “well, technically Millennium Park funds came from a segregated TIF account not available for use elsewhere,”* but does dig on density.
bq. Mass transit requires a _mass_ of people to transit, and much of Chicago unfortunately doesn’t quite have the mass. The least crowded parts of Manhattan are still denser than the most crowded parts of Chicago—and even most of Brooklyn and Queens pack in as many residents as “overcrowded” Chicago neighborhoods like Lincoln Park. If you want NYC service, try moving to the one part of Chicago that approximates NYC density: namely, downtown. Or else we can hope that good developers will build so many new condos that we’ll have enough density to sustain really great transit—except that the annoying NIMBYs who want [dog] parks and parking lots instead of new neighbors will keep that from ever happening. Oh well.
(Millennium Park: the park received TIF special taxing district funds, not general tax revenue, and can only be spent on economic development activities downtown; MP certainly counts, as it’s substantially raised property values and thus could eventually pay for itself. Central Loop TIF funds could have gone to CTA capital improvements downtown, possibly freeing up cash for capital improvements elsewhere in the city, but not for operating. Furthermore, the park is operated by the private Conservancy, not the park district. On the other hand, sales tax revenue generated by new retail sales to tourists attracted by MP — and yes, they do actually come to see the park [CAF reports that half of tour participants on its park tours are from out of town], or at least extend their shopping to the Loop from NMA — probably ups CTA’s tax base, so it’s probably at best a wash.)
You’re spot on that Chicago doesn’t approach the densities needed to justify really good public transit. As of the 2000 census, only 5 community areas in Chicago (all on the lakefront) even come close to Brooklyn’s overall density of 35k people per mi^2. Only three surpassed it – Rogers Park, Near North & Edgewater.
Like Chicago, the NYC subway is, in the main, designed to get people to the the business district. It’s amazing because it there are *two* of those. Only two subway lines that don’t go directly into Midtown or Wall St, and bus service in NYC is nothing special.