May 15, 2023 - Transit

Kennedy construction fuels new traffic patterns and habits in Chicago

Photo of expressway traffic

Traffic grinds to a halt on the Kennedy downtown. Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

Chicagoans are switching to side streets, trains and bikes to avoid Kennedy Expressway and DuSable Lake Shore Drive construction.

Driving the news: The Chicago Transit Authority has released new data showing a bounce in weekday morning ridership on the Blue Line by about 7,000 rides per week since Kennedy construction began in March.

  • CTA ridership from O'Hare is also up by about 1,450 rides a week, suggesting that some are skipping cabs and rideshares.
  • That's probably wise. Our editor's recent Lyft ride from O'Hare to Lincoln Park took so long that the app reached out to her asking if everything was OK.

Between the lines: "Though the construction work is not the sole reason behind the ridership increase, there are strong indications there is a corollary to increased CTA ridership," CTA spokesperson Maddie Kilgannon tells Axios.

What's more: This week brings yet another lane closing on the Kennedy near the Diversey exit.

What they're saying: Readers told us about some new strategies to avoid the construction traffic.

  • Reader Maggie B. has "started taking Pulaski, Cicero, or Sacramento straight north to stay moving," while Audrey W. "[sucks] up the smell and [enjoys] the Blue Line."
  • "It took one attempt at driving to Streeterville from my house in Edgebrook for me to say, 'never again,'" Dan H. wrote to us in an email. "Now I enjoy a peaceful Metra train ride and a beautiful walk along the river from Union Station. In fact, I’m relaxing on the train as I write this."

Yes, but: Many say new efficient routes are too good to share.

  • "I probably wouldn't share a really great route with friends or family," Christian L. said. "Why would I give everyone a chance to ruin something that works?"

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Chicago stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more