Too bad you can't get there from here.
Well, OK, you can get there … sort of, technically, if you have enough time.
Moms and dads intent on taking the kids to see mannequins of Luke Skywalker or Jabba the Hutt can herd their kids and push their strollers out of the Ogilvie or Union stations onto Clinton Street or Jackson Boulevard. There they can wait in the weather for a Route 130 Museum Campus CTA bus. It runs summers-only and makes 35 stops as it chugs to and fro across the Loop.
During rush hours, or lunch hour when crosswalks are jammed, plan on spending more time getting to the Lucas from the train station than you did riding Metra from Naperville or Arlington Heights. Ask any workaday Metra commuter if you think I'm exaggerating. They'll tell you it's not much better as they navigate that last leg to stores or offices near Michigan Avenue or Illinois Center. Their buses are "Express" in name only.
What we've got here, fellow strap-hangers, is a world-class commuter rail system that daily leaves tens of thousands of travelers — from hardened commuters to innocent out-of-towners — a mile or more from where they want to go. The sparsely scheduled CTA buses that are supposed to whisk you to your ultimate destination, be it the Chicago Hilton or Millennium Park or Navy Pier, have to crawl across downtown streets choked as never before with idling delivery trucks, illegally parked limos, scofflaw bicyclists and even some plain old cars.
What's needed, of course, is a high-capacity, off-street circulator system — a Super Loop, if you will, that circumnavigates this mess. About 80 percent of the needed right-of-way already exists. There's the long-dormant riverbank rail corridor along the main branch of the Chicago River from Tribune Tower to the Merchandise Mart. West of the river there's room under, or behind, the Ogilvie and Union stations for the western leg of the rectangle. There's another unused east-west rail corridor at 16th Street that just happens to dead-end near the Museum Campus. And the easternmost segment, the one in the Metra electric culvert through Grant Park, is already built. The big trade shows use the hidden roadway to run express coaches from the Hyatt Regency to McCormick Place.
So what's the holdup? Money?
My hunch, after writing about this stuff for decades, is that Super Loop would not cost much more than the silly Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system the city is building in the middle of Ashland Avenue. Ashland Avenue? Who goes up and down Ashland Avenue?
Super Loop surely would cost less – a lot less – than the city's long-term, Star Wars-style plan to build an east-west circulator underneath Monroe Street. Or its interim scheme to grab lanes on Madison and Washington streets for a back-and-forth BRT – a configuration that does nothing for Navy Pier or Soldier Field.
No, there must be something else going on here.
Might it be that City Hall isn't all that concerned about making life easier for commuters who vote in the suburbs? Or that a city-controlled CTA fears a suburb-centric Regional Transportation Authority would end up running the Super Loop? After all, some might consider it an extension of Metra.
This past spring, after a blue-ribbon panel of experts recommended bringing operational control of CTA and Metra under a more powerful RTA, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called them "a lot of propeller heads."
When money is tight it is easier to grab existing traffic lanes for conversion to bus- or bicycle-only lanes. Pavement paint and plastic barriers are cheap. Inevitably this will worsen downtown gridlock, but civic groups think it "green" — whatever that means — as do young, healthy cyclists.
The rest of us can just wait for the 130 bus. It will get you, eventually, to the Lucas museum site between Soldier Field and McCormick Place. Someday it may even stop at the Barack Obama Presidential Library … if that selection committee opts for the old Michael Reese Hospital site just south of McCormick Place.
Then again, you can't really get there, either.
John McCarron teaches, consults and writes on urban affairs.