Hyde Park, for the most part, will be spared the direct impact of cuts in bus service routes. In contrast, several adjacent north-south express lines that had experienced very impressive growth between 2006 and 2007 will be cut:
X3 King Drive Express (growth of 1303.7% from 2006-2007)
X4 Cottage Grove Express (627.7%)
X55 Garfield Express (141.2%)
X28 Stony Island Express (104.3%)
Hyde Park's major bus connector to the Loop, the North Side, and Chicago in general, the X6 Jackson Park Express, will remain. Its ridership increased 7.2% between 06 and 07, the lowest increase of the lot. The key difference, and probably what saved it, is the fact that it has higher annual ridership than any of the others.
What's the upshot of all this for neighborhood politics?
The upshot is that it's all about transit, not parking. If Hyde PARKERS lose what transit service they have, they'll rue the day they worried about insufficient street parking. Congestion and tight parking are classic NIMBY issues because they focus on individual inconveniences, while sidestepping the broader social problem.
Parking is not the primary congestion issue in dense urban environments. Public transportation is the primary congestion issue in dense urban environments. If public transportation is removed from a major city, congestion will become infinitely worse. If public transportation is improved, congestion will be mitigated.
The reason Hyde Park will retain the X6 Jackson Park line probably has to do with its stable ridership, which in turn is guaranteed by the corridor of density along Hyde Park Boulevard between Lake Park and Lake Shore Drive. According to the classic study of ridership and density (Pushkarev and Zupan 1977 -- see Table 1), express bus routes typically require 15 households per acre.
Think about how to fit at least that many households on one acre and you have an idea of the minimum build-out that Hyde Park and neighboring communities will require to keep this kind of bus service in an age of funding cutbacks. Some corridors -- like Hyde Park Boulevard and stretches of Lake Park -- already have this. But there's no way around this fact: if we want public transportation we have to accept high urban densities. The alternative to this publicly shared good is privately experienced inconvenience.
NIMBYs who block higher density developments -- well represented in Hyde Park by the Council of Neighborhood Pomposities familiar to readers of this blog -- are therefore directly undermining one of Chicago's greatest public assets, its public transportation system. Acting on the basis of claimed entitlements to private space and free parking, NIMBY obstruction makes it more expensive, more time consuming, and just more difficult for everyone else to get around the City of Chicago.
Be sure to think about that this winter when you're waiting -- and still waiting -- for the next bus.
*Photo from the amazing pool at CTA Tattler