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Task force to study transit options to Museum Campus

At least once a month, Patrick Carlson takes the Blue Line to the Loop and hops on a CTA bus to Museum Campus, home to the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum.

Sometimes he rides his bike from his Logan Square home to the Lakefront Trail to Museum Campus.

He rarely drives there, though.

"You can't get in and out of there. You can wait four or five lights to turn into the parking" garage off McFetridge Drive, said Carlson, who brought his two children to the Shedd via train and bus Sunday.

Carlson, 37, said he typically rides the No. 146-Inner Drive/Michigan Express to Museum Campus. The bus comes regularly, he said, though efficiency could be improved if there were dedicated lanes for buses so they could zoom between the campus and downtown.

Getting in and out of that area can be extra tough during Soldier Field events, Carlson said.

Transportation to and from Museum Campus will be the focus of a new task force that will evaluate how to improve access for pedestrians, CTA and tour bus users, cyclists, drivers and boaters, Mayor Emanuel announced Friday. Nearly 4 million people visit the Shedd, Adler and Field Museum annually combined.

The highly anticipated Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which will feature "Star Wars" art and memorabilia, is expected to lure even more visitors to Museum Campus when it opens on 17 acres of parking space near Soldier Field in 2018. A city spokesman could not say when the task force's findings will be presented, but public input will be solicited.

For the Field Museum, change can't come soon enough.

Richard Lariviere, Field Museum president and CEO, called public transportation to Museum Campus a "bit of a challenge." 

About a half-dozen CTA buses stop at 11th Street and Columbus Drive near the lakefront museums. The No. 146, which travels through downtown and the North Side, offers direct service to the museums.

The CTA also operates the No. 130-Museum Campus bus from Ogilvie Transportation Center during the summer and the No. 128-Soldier Field Express from Ogilvie for Bears games.

Lariviere said tourists are reluctant to take buses, though, for fear of getting lost. The Roosevelt stop on the Red, Orange and Green lines is a few blocks from Museum Campus but is "not particularly convenient in bad weather," he added. A Metra stop is closer but still requires a walk.

The addition of a few dozen Divvy bike spots on Museum Campus over the past year has been "enormously popular," Lariviere said, but there are not enough to handle the museum's attendance. Most visitors use taxis or drive to the campus, Lariviere said.

"We're going to need some radical rethinking about how we get people in and out of this huge asset for the city," Lariviere said.

The Field Museum will have a representative on the task force, which also will include representatives from the Shedd, Adler, Bears, Lucas Museum, CTA and Metra, among other groups.

The CTA plans to work closely with city departments and community groups to "look at opportunities to ensure transit service continues to be an important part of the transportation mix serving the Museum Campus," CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said in an email.

Mike Smail, of the Near West Side, takes the No. 146 daily to his Adler job. He said he appreciates the frequency of the No. 146 but an elevated rail line that travels from the Roosevelt stop to Museum Campus is on his wish list so he wouldn't have to wait in traffic.

The city currently is building a new Green Line stop at Cermak Road, south of the Museum Campus area.

The worst time to travel around Museum Campus is before or after concerts on Northerly Island and Bears games, Smail said. 

"Getting off the island when there's an event going on has become problematic," said Smail, 34. "Game days is pretty much 'suck it up and walk' to Roosevelt."

A weekly dispatch from a CTA station of note

This week: Harlem/Lake Green Line station

The station, on the shared boundary of Forest Park and Oak Park, has typical end-of-the-line amenities. It is accessible for riders with disabilities, has ample parking nearby and offers connections to various bus lines.

What sets the Harlem stop apart from other transit hubs is easy access to Metra. The Green Line stop connects to the Oak Park Metra station on the Union Pacific/West Line, which travels between Ogilvie Transportation Center and Elburn.

If only it were that easy to link up to Metra at other spots around the area.

Next up: Morgan station on the Green and Pink lines

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