Chicago’s Pedway has long had a reputation for being dark, dingy and drab, but all that would change under a proposal from the Environmental Law and Policy Center.
ELPC wants to freshen up the underground warren of tunnels that connects 50 building in the Loop as well as Metra, CTA trains and the South Shore Line.
Among the proposed changes: Better lighting and wayfinding systems, as well as buy-in from various stakeholders who own sections of the Pedway.
So, why does an environmental organization care about the often overlooked Pedway?
It’s all about getting Chicagoans and visitors to the city out of their Lyfts and Ubers and onto their own two feet, reducing carbon emissions as they go.
Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, joins the Morning Shift to discuss changes to the Pedway and other environmental issues at play in Chicago.
What is the Pedway?
Howard Learner: The Pedway is a great, underutilized asset for the city of Chicago. 2.2 million people use it each year. They get from the Metra station if they’re coming from the South Side up to Randolph Street, they take the Pedway to go to City Hall, or the County Building. It’s a great way, when the weather’s cold or windy or rainy, or a really hot summer day, to get from building to building, from place to place. What we need to do is make it better. You know, the Pedway is not built as one system. It’s a group of Pedway spaces underneath the downtown buildings that are spliced together….What we need is better navigation, it needs to be lighted and coordinated better, [and] it needs to be activated with arts and culture. Make it fun.
Making the Pedway more navigable
Learner: The Pedway was built piece-by-piece and put together like a puzzle, but sometimes not all the sections are open at the same time. Some of the sections are lighted well, some of them not-so-well. If you know where you’re going, it’s pretty easy, but if you are a visitor to Chicago, or if you don’t take the Pedway a lot, or if you want to figure out how to get from one point to another, or over to, say, the Riverwalk, the signage, the navigation, the wayfinding really does need to be better.
How the Pedway can make Chicago more sustainable
Learner: We all talk about the Loop becoming car-light, you know, less cars driving around, less pollution. If you want to make that real for people, then you need to give people good options to walk around and to ride bikes. So the Divvy bike system, when the weather’s [nice] out there and you can take a Divvy bike, that leads people to bike half a dozen blocks — maybe a mile, mile-and-a-half, and not take a taxi or a Lyft or an Uber. Sometimes the public transit or the city bus goes exactly where you want; sometimes it doesn’t. [But] we need to make the city and the downtown area more pedestrian-friendly….You know, Chicago’s a great city to live in nine-and-a-half months out of the year. And anybody who tells you it’s a great city [all] 12 months hasn’t been through some of our Chicago winter weather.
This interview was edited for clarity and brevity by Char Daston. Click play to hear the full conversation.
GUEST: Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center
LEARN MORE: Let’s Revitalize The Chicago Pedway (Crain’s Chicago Business 2/19/19)