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U.S. Cellular Field, the home of the Chicago White Sox,
doesn’t present near the congestion challenges as does Wrigley Field, its
venerable neighbor to the north. There are a few reasons for this; the White
Sox offer more parking, they don’t draw as well as the Cubs, and there isn’t
much else in the area drawing crowds, at least not at the moment.
But this isn’t to say that you won’t run into your own set
of difficulties on the South Side. The Dan Ryan Expressway (I-90/94) in Chicago
was recently called one of the worst bottlenecks in America by some Highway
Commission; the Red Line gets packed before games–and people often complain of
the odor of urine, although I don’t remember it; and the neighborhood, while
improved, is not a place where many folks remain after the game, and there isn’t
much in the way of watering holes to wait out the train crowds.
But as of 2011 the nice folks at Metra Rail, one of the
public transportation arms of Chicago, have introduced a new remedy to all of
this, and I expect it will take quite well.
Metra is the commuter rail service serving the metropolitan
Chicago area. Train lines run from towns as remote as Kenosha, Wisconsin and
Manhattan, Illinois. Trains run frequently during rush hours but about an
hourly basis at other times. It is a highly regarded service for commuters,
with quiet and efficient trains. It could be used for getting to Sox or Cubs
games, but it involves a transfer to the Red Line downtown, and sometimes that
includes a walk of a few blocks.
In 2010 Metra has been feverishly working on a station located
at 35th and Lasalle Streets, a very short walk from U.S. Cellular
Field. The new station is called the “Lou Jones/Bronzeville Station” named
after Lou Jones, a state majority leader who passed in 2006.
The new station will be part of the Rock Island Line, which
has its suburban terminus about 40 miles southwest of Chicago in Joliet. Along
the way are several park-and-ride stations. The daily fee for parking is
usually $1.50, and it’s free to park on weekends–a much better deal than you’ll
get anywhere close to the ballpark. Depending on how far away you start, the
fare for the train one way can be between $2.25 and $6.00. By yourself or with
maybe one other person, it’s probably cheaper than gas and parking, not to mention
the saved aggravation of driving in downtown Chicago, never a picnic but
especially irritating for a Sox game.
I don’t know if the Lou Jones Bronzeville Station is
operational yet; the target date was December 2010, but I haven’t yet seen an
announcement on Metra’s website. Nor do I know what the service will be like
after games and whether extra trains will run at night. But once it does open, the
Rock Island Metra Line will definitely be an option worth considering for
getting to a White Sox game.
Especially when you can enjoy a beer on the train.