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Telling the Story of Chicago, One Train Stop at a Time

8:25 AM PDT on July 1, 2010

Train_Stop_Guide.pngThe Train
Stop Guide website would allow you to rate and describe every train stop
in Chicago. Image: Carfree Chicago.

amazing how much a strong transit system can reshape the city around
it. And not just through the physical changes that transit brings, but
the mental ones too. A transit system can reshape the way we imagine or
understand our surroundings. In some cities, for example, you identify
your location with the nearest subway stop, not a neighborhood. "I work
near Metro Center" is a pretty common statement in Washington D.C. When
you spend enough time on transit, individual stations start to take on
meaning, shared or personal.

As a way of exploring the cultural resonances that build up around
transit, you couldn't do much better than this exercise from Mandy
Burrell Booth at Chicago's Metropolitan
Planning Council blog

Before I joined MPC in 2004, I worked full-time as a journalist.As a j-school student, one of my class projects was to write about every stop on the Red Line. Each of us chose a stop and found a nearby storyto share with our fellow students. That experience stayed with me: Onthe rare weekend when my husband and I don't have plans, we like to ride the El or bus to a new neighborhood. We've even taken the South Shoreto Michigan City, Ind., and the Metra to Geneva.

I'd have loved to hear more about Booth's travelogue of the Red
Line, but she does one better, pointing to a crowdsourced attempt to
catalog ratings and comments about every rail stop in Chicago. If
successful, Carfree Chicago's Train Stop Guide
could answer everything from the practical -- like where to get off for
a good cup of coffee -- to the more impressionistic. For example, one commenter
calls the area around the Belmont station "one of those rare places
where queers, punks, suburban tweens, yuppie families, jocks and trixies
all come together."

It looks like the Train Stop Guide is just getting started, since
most stations don't have comments yet. But once it fills out, we'll have
a transit-oriented portrait of the way Chicagoans experience their

More from around the network: The Chicago
Bicycle Advocate
explains how the two Chicago men actively
trying to hit bikes with their car
got off with a light sentence.
The Missouri
Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation
catalogs the successes of Safe
Routes to Schools in their state. And the Los Angeles Bicycle
praises a Critical Mass ride where the police were
respectful participants.

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