To The Editor:
Well the final results are in regarding Hyde Park’s support for a trolley on 53rd Street, and now I have to remind myself of the purpose of the trolley in the first place. Exactly what problem is this nifty trolley supposed to solve?
If I think back over many, many months, I vaguely remember that the trolley idea was floated as a solution to alleviate our ever-increasing parking problem during a community meeting concerning Vue 53. Back then, Mesa (the developers of the 13-story behemoth to occupy the McMobile site) needed some type of solution to the obvious parking and traffic congestion their project would no doubt add to that area. Instead of adding three or four hundred hundred parking spots to the gargantuan project, as most Hyde Parkers familiar with their plans suggested, the community brainstormed on possible alternatives. The brainstorming session was wide open, and many alternatives were discussed. Alternative solutions included; a shorter building, a smaller building, a building with fewer floors, and even a building with fewer residents. My favorite solution I think I remember was that the new building could maintain a collection of really strong weather balloons that might lift cars up from the curb and float them out of the way, high above the street. Ultimately, Mesa and their well-connected supporters decided to entertain the trolley idea.
Aside from the novelty aspect of free trolleys shuttling merry residents back and forth along the four to eight block stretch of 53rd street, as parking solutions go the trolley idea has quite a few shortcomings. 1). People park 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Not just the peak times on the weekends when the trolley would operate. 2). The trolley would remove pedestrians who travel on the sidewalk and place them in a vehicle on 53rd Street thereby adding to traffic congestion. 3a). If the trolley has the limited range of only a few blocks along 53rd Street, only those already within walking proximity to 53rd Street would benefit from using it. 3b). Most people within walking distance to 53rd Street either have their cars parked at their homes nearby or they drove to the area and parked their cars nearby. (Obviously, this second category of trolley rider would actually make the area parking problem worse by riding the trolley.). 4). Since, as reported in this weekly, “almost nobody is willing to wait 15 minutes” for these trolleys, it is likely that two trolleys would likely be needed to operate along the route. And by “two trolleys”, I mean two large vehicles, blocking traffic in the middle of the street every time they let people on and off, at every corner, in both directions along 53rd Street, all weekend long. And, by the way, how valuable is this trolley convenience if “almost nobody” is willing to wait 15 minutes for it. My young kids, with an attention spans measured in nanoseconds, would wait 15 minutes for a cartoon sticker before leaving the doctors office. 5). Lastly, these two road blocks would also share the thoroughfare with the U. of C. shuttles that currently operate along 53rd Street. What a nightmare!
Is a trolley actually the best idea there is to alleviate parking and traffic congestion? We’re home to some of the greatest minds in the world; Nobel Laureates, Guggenheim Fellows, Pulitzer Prize winners, and the current President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world! C’mon Hyde Parkers, we can do better than a trolley shuttle. How about a parking lot? There’s a great site for a parking lot right where the Mobile station used to be. If not a parking lot, then I’d rather vote for the weather balloon idea. It makes more sense than a fleet of trolleys.
Lawrence A. White