Wednesday, August 31, 2016

"Super TIF" Proposed to Fund Red Line Modernization Project

Areas in white would be included in the proposed Super TIF area to rebuild the Red and Purple Lines

As we've been posting for years, the CTA has big plans to modernize the North Side's Red and Purple Lines. After more than a century of use, the tracks and stations are "approaching the end of their useful life" and are 40 years past their expected lifespan. In addition to being the most heavily traveled train lines in the CTA system, they also have the fastest-growing ridership numbers. CTA plans to completely rebuild the viaducts, tracks, stations, and embankments by 2040.

map of the entire proposed Super TIF
area. Click to enlarge.
This will directly affect Uptown in a couple of ways:
  • Phase 1 will rebuild four stations/tracks (Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr) and create a Red-Purple bypass to improve service.
  • The cost of Phase 1 is a staggering $2.3 billion. The federal government has earmarked a cool billion for the project, but there's a catch (isn't there always?) To get that money, CTA must come up with matching funds. And that leads to the possibility of a "Super TIF" -- which the state legislators authorized last June in a rare bipartisan vote. (See the Tribune for more details on the funding.)
TIFs have been hot topics in Uptown for years. In a TIF district, property taxes remain the same, but instead of going for the usual things that property taxes go for, a certain percentage goes toward a particular project -- in this case, the rebuilding of the CTA Red Line and other CTA projects. Uptown already has four existing TIF Districts: Wilson Yard, Clark/Montrose, Montrose/Clarendon, and Lawrence/Broadway.

So what makes the proposed CTA Super TIF so "super"?
  • The life of the TIF would extend for up to 35 years, not the usual 23 years.
  • It would not take money away from Chicago Public Schools, as TIFs usually do. The schools would receive exactly the same amount from your property taxes that they would if the TIF were not in place.
  • And here's the biggie. The proposed Super TIF would include in its area all properties within a half mile on either side of the Red Line tracks, between Devon and Division. That means that virtually all of Uptown would be part of this TIF. (Of course, properties that are already in one of Uptown's four existing TIF Districts would not be included.) Check out the map for details.
There will be a public hearing where you can learn more about the Super TIF and what it would mean for the CTA's Red Line and you. It will be held on Tuesday, September 13th, at 6pm at the DePaul Sullivan Center, located at 2323 N Sheffield. They are also looking for organizations and companies who are willing to provide letters of support for the project. You can contact for more information.

The CTA has a lot of information on its website about the Red Purple Modernization project. Check it out here and here.

This is the mailing the CTA sent out to affected residents.


  1. If the money isn't isn't coming from CPS allocated funds, where is the money coming from?

  2. As long as it wouldn't take any funding away from public safety initiatives (surveillance, law enforcement, etc)...

    Secondly, should we assume that they would CLOSE these stations during some, or ALL, of these improvements? (I don't have time to read the full breakdown on the CTA site...)

    This could be BRUTAL for small businesses (especially bars/clubs) as well as working commuters near the stops...

    1. Two non-consecutive stations would close at a time.

      And I disagree with how brutal this shutdown would be considering the relative wealth of transit options in this part of the city and how close together these stations are and how many other transit options there are in the area.

    2. While I drive to work and fulfill a corporate desk job, I could not imagine being a small bar or restaurant owner near the Red Line stations in this situation.

      Not everybody wants the inconvenience, or can afford the extra cost, of using a cab for interstitial transportation if they plan on drinking.

      Secondly, not everybody who enjoys going out owns a car.

      Also, buses don't run all night for the large majority of routes. And, during the 18-24 month period of construction ("Stage B"), it would appear that the Lawrence and Argyle stations would be closed, which ARE consecutive stops that happen to cover a pretty large commuter area.

  3. Also, all of those stations still seem "passable"...While Uptown and Edgewater need general improvements way more than Lakeview, the Sheridan station, by far, is in the worst condition.

    But, if speaking specifically of the tracks only, maybe not...What I do know is that these improvements would make things even more attractive for the commuter criminals coming from Washington Park, Englewood, etc...

    1. Hmmm . . . I don't think criminals chose their location by which neighborhood has the best CTA station.

    2. No, but they seem to choose stations that are densely populated and/or ones that exit into a densely populated area.

      Logic would suggest that when a station is renovated, its ridership would increase dramatically.

  4. I'm trying to wrap my mind around the finances of this project:

    1. What does it mean that the "life of the TIF" would extend to 35 years? Does that mean that for 35 years, the natural increase in taxes from our property value will go straight to the TIF? Is there a CAP to how much money will go to the TIF?

    2. If the TIF will be taking our property tax money, what is NOT getting funded? I see that CPS will continue to be funded, but what about the City Colleges, libraries, streets and sanitation? It seems like TIF is reserving our money for the CTA, BUT that means that some other department won't have access to that money. What are those departments?

    3. What IF the property value in the TIF areas DON'T increase? What happens, then, to the TIF agreement and the overall project?

    4. Why exactly are we funding a public transit project this way? Why exactly is the responsibility to provide matching funds placed on several neighborhoods, instead of on the city as a whole? If the TIF isn't supposed to be an "additional tax," then why do we need these TIF districts at all? Doesn't all of the money from our collective property taxes go into a pot of money, and then why can't we take money out of the pot to match the federal funds? Why do we need an agreement to promise matching funds coming from certain neighborhoods? There's something a bit suspicious about all of this...

    Why doesn't the city promise to match the funds? Why do we need certain neighborhoods to promise to send their property taxes over to this program?

    Also, what mechanisms are in place to estimate the base property tax are fair mechanisms that wouldn't undervalue property in the interest of leading to larger margins up to be taxed for the TIF?

    1. Luckily, there is a meeting Tuesday night at which you can ask your questions. If you can't make the meeting, there is an email address above that you can write for answers to your questions.