Last week I traveled to four different Midwestern cities to see loved ones: Minneapolis, Madison, St. Louis, and Chicago. The following is a description of my public transit experience in Minneapolis and Chicago.
This was the first city that I visited on my trip. I planned on seeing my friend Andrew first and my phone said that he was an hour away from the airport on public transit. I found the light rail easily and immediately appreciated its speed, right of way when crossing intersections, cleanliness, relevant and understated advertisements, and user-friendliness about where it was headed and how long it would take for a train to arrive.
Minneapolis has an easy to use grid street design. The bus service is frequent and street addresses have an intermediate direction (like NE) to tell you in which neighborhood you are. Although many areas are still very car-centric, it is obvious that Minneapolis is trying hard to be pedestrian and bike friendly. People are responding to this by moving there in droves.
It only took about 40 minutes to travel to Andrew’s house and I was able to walk through the beautiful Powderhorn Park on the way.
Chicago’s L train system is also uncomplicated and user-friendly, at least compared to my NYC experience. After getting off the Megabus, it only took 5 minutes for me to catch the nearest L. The train lines are different colors (maybe a problem for colorblind folks?), and tell you the last stop in the direction in which you are headed.
The loop, which is in the heart of downtown, includes stops with transfers to all train lines. Although the train did have a few slowdowns during rush hour, it ultimately was clean and less filled with oppressive advertisement than in NYC. There was also an announcement before each stop saying on which side the doors would open (so friendly!).
The most important change needed in these cities and in New York is the pricing for public transit. Single tickets are $1.75 and $2.25 in Minneapolis for off-peak and rush hour, respectively, $2.25 in Chicago and $3.00 when buying a new card, and $2.75 in New York and $3.75 when buying a new card. The weekly and monthly passes are subsidized in all three cities. The poorest among us need the subsidies, not those of us who can afford monthly passes without a second thought.