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Free Trolley Could Roll Down 53rd Street If Hyde Parkers Want It

By Sam Cholke | August 5, 2014 7:48am
 Free trolleys are being considered for 53rd Street.
Free trolleys are being considered for 53rd Street.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

HYDE PARK — Major streets in Hyde Park could get free trolley service if interest is high enough.

The commissioners of the Special Service Area No. 61 are currently taking a survey to see if spending money on a trolley for 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue would be money well spent.

“The SSA commissioners felt it would be helpful to understand when people might use the trolley, for what purposes, and how often — or if they wouldn't use it, for that matter, or if they would need assistance in using it,” Rumsey said in an appeal for neighbors to take the five-minute survey.

The SSA is funded through a tax levy on businesses and property owners within its boundaries on 53rd Street from Woodlawn Avenue to South Hyde Park Boulevard and Lake Park Avenue from East Hyde Park Boulevard to 55th Street.

The trolley proposal comes on the heels of a traffic study that showed a quarter of trips in Hyde Park are by public transportation, but that number drops dramatically for the stores along 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue.

The study by T.Y. Lin International shows that more people choose to drive down Lake Park Avenue, but choose to get out and walk along 53rd Street, where there are currently no public transportation options.

“Almost as many people travel the [53rd Street] corridor by foot as compared to by automobile,” the traffic study says. “Fifty-third Street provides a model example of an urban street that has the design characteristics to classify it a great American place.”

The study says that one of the contributing factors may be the difficulty getting into one of the neighborhood’s bountiful parking spots.

“While there is a surplus of parking, it is often not available to the benefit of the community,” the study says.

According to the report, 60 percent of parking spots in Hyde Park are private off-street spaces only available if you are visiting the business or institution that owns the spot. Traffic counts found these spots are occupied about 50 percent of the time on weekdays and Saturdays, while free and metered spots on the street are occupied about 70 percent of the time.

The report recommends removing surface parking lots that break up the line of pedestrian-friendly businesses along 53rd Street.

The SSA is soliciting feedback through the online survey found here.