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The Latest Plans for the O'Hare Express: Boon or Boondoggle?

Chicago Reader

On November 29, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the latest step in his grand scheme to create luxury high-speed express service between downtown and O'Hare. His office had issued what's known as a request for qualifications (RFQ) for concessionaires to plan, finance, construct, and run the route. Emanuel addressed reporters from within the empty shell of the partially completed, roughly $250 million "superstation" his predecessor Richard M. Daley built underneath Block 37, a symbol of that mayor's failure to achieve the same dream.

Emanuel said the multibillion-dollar initiative is crucial for Chicago's future, and argued that fortune favors the bold. "More than a century ago, Daniel Burnham encouraged Chicago to 'make no little plans,' " the mayor said in a statement, adding that the express "will build on Chicago's legacy of innovation and pay dividends for generations to come."

The Center for Neighborhood Technology's Scott Bernstein is doubtful that enough travelers would be willing to shell out big bucks for the premium airport service, which could include nicely upholstered chairs, work tables, and beverage service: "How much luxury do you need in 20 minutes?" But even if the express were to get sufficient use, Bernstein wonders if it would cannibalize Blue Line revenue. "Would they be raiding ridership from one part of the system to support another part?"

 
 
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