‘Top transit suburb’ or not, Morton Grove is on right track
The Morton Grove Metra station serves commuters between Union Station and Fox Lake. | Sun-Times Media file photo
Updated: September 17, 2012 11:38AM
MORTON GROVE — Neighboring Park Ridge may have earned the distinction of being the 13th “top transit suburb” of 20 in a DePaul University-based study focused on metropolitan development, but locals insist Morton Grove is no slouch when it comes to connectivity via public transportation.
Morton Grove Mayor Dan Staackmann believes the village he helps run has three things going for it: location, recreation and transportation.
That last component, particularly that which involves public transportation, he said, is integral to maintaining a high quality of life for residents.
“It is vital to stabilize the community,” he said. “It really adds to the property values.”
Staackmann calls Morton Grove’s placement outside Chicago “strategic,” as the village is nestled between two interstate highways with a commuter rail, major avenue and state road slicing through it.
The Regional Transportation Authority also has five Pace bus routes that wind up and down the streets.
“Trains are glamorous but our bus usage is very much an important component,” said John Said, the village’s community and economic development director. “It provides more convenience for people to get to jobs and homes.”
Said said employers often take the commuting of customers and workers into consideration when determining where to open up shop.
“Theoretically, if you have a train station like we do, you are close to places of employment and have more accessibility for a workforce,” he said. “It’s a more attractive place to locate if workers can come and take the train.”
The Metra Station on Lehigh Avenue serves as a transportation hub for non-village residents also, as it’s the nearest train stop for Morton Grove’s neighbors to the east and south.
Said said that potentially helps contribute to the local economy, as residents of Niles and Skokie may opt to stop by Menard’s on Oakton Street or grab a burger at Burt’s Place on Ferris Avenue in-between the train stop and home.
A direct route into downtown Chicago further expands employment opportunities. Staackmann said Morton Grove residents have the option to consider jobs with corporations and need not worry about relocating to the city.
“If you work downtown it’s very convenient,” he said.
Though a free-bus service for seniors was eliminated a few years ago, Morton Grove has partnered with other agencies to address the needs of people who are elderly or disabled to keep the village and its residents connected.
Residents who apply for the RTA’s reduced-fare program at the Senior Center may find themselves eligible for free rides on Pace buses, Metra trains, and Chicago Transit Authority buses and rapid transit. The RTA also has a paratransit service for prearranged trips.
Morton Grove provides $2.25 coupons for seniors for cab rides with American Taxi Company.
Keeping roads up to date and safe for drivers is another component in keeping the village moving.
The recent repaving of several miles of residential roads and the rebuilding of two main village arteries — Waukegan Road and Dempster Street — increases mobility, Staackmann said.
Morton Grove resident Sharon Martin said she still prefers driving to public transit though she is aware of the services for seniors.
The village’s well-connected and easily navigable streets also make commuting simple for her colleagues at the Morton Grove American Legion Auxiliary who live in Skokie or Niles, she said.
Martin said when travels into Chicago for a Cubs game, for example, she prefers to drive and park near the Skokie CTA Yellow Line stop as opposed to catching a bus off Dempster Street.
“I know my way around,” Martin said, adding that she has spent her whole life — all 69 years — in residences on Callie Avenue.