A ride along Chicago’s red line

Oct. 10, 2019

The Economist

Several passengers in one carriage of an “L” train, rattling south on the underground line to Chicago metro station, are unmistakably bourgeois. A grey-haired woman squints at a book of 501 French verbs. Opposite, a bespectacled man reads a study of Arctic peoples. Some seats on, an artist doodles on his pad.

Many well-heeled occupants get off the Red line—a rail service running north-south for 23 miles—at Streeterville, a district where signs of prosperity abound. As an advertising gimmick, a luxury car adorns the L-station roof. At a farmers’ market, installed beside a contemporary art museum, shoppers browse for micro-greens, organic beef and gluten-free tamales. A violinist there explains she busks to save for college. Dollar bills fill her case.

Streeterville has another distinction. Public-health researchers suggest that a baby born here can expect to live for an average of 90 years, the highest life expectancy in Chicago. That is 30 years longer than an infant born in the most blighted parts of Englewood, farther south along the Red line. No city in America has a bigger gap.

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