Case Study

Public Safety

Chicago’s 606: Abandoned Rail to Crime Reducing Trail


Luftwerk’s TransLIT exhibit for the opening of the elevated 606 trail.

Credit: Journal of the American Institute of Architects

An abandoned railway was transformed into a greenway for citizens in Chicago, and unexpectedly led to a drastic drop in crime rates.

Chicago, IL

Hot and humid summers, cold and snowy winters, mild spring and fall


Non-Hispanic White 44%; Black 32%; Hispanic 28%; Asian 5%
Below poverty rate 13.3%.

The 606, a flourishing urban greenway that spans 2.7 miles across Chicago’s neighborhoods, used to be part of an elevated rail corridor that supported the city’s industrial growth. In the 1990s, train traffic ceased altogether and the tracks were abandoned. Gradually, trees and other plants began to take over the rail corridor, and residents even created bike trails throughout, giving the City of Chicago and the Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail the idea to transform the corridor into a greenway.

Reminiscent of the Promenade Plantée in Paris or the High Line in New York City, the elevated Bloomingdale Trail contains walking and biking paths lined with trees, flowers, and other vegetation. This center piece of the 606 connects six ground-level neighborhood parks, an event plaza, and an observatory. Members of the community, and even tourists, use and visit the 606, whether they are walking to one of the parks, riding their bike, or cross country skiing in the snow.

The 606: Before and AfterSchool of the Art Institute of Chicago

The original purpose of the 606 was to add at least 99 more acres of open space to the neighborhood of Logan Park so it would comply with the city’s standards. After the 606’s completion in 2015, people began to realize that crime rates were dropping in the area. One study conducted by researchers from Clemson and North Carolina State University compared crime rates in the neighborhoods along the 606 from 2011, before the greenway opened, and 2015, to find that the crime rates had fallen faster along the 606 than in similar neighborhoods nearby.

The increase in foot traffic as people go out to enjoy the greenway is theorized to have generated the rapid drop in crime, thereby improving the neighborhoods. Together, the City of Chicago and the residents of surrounding neighborhoods have found a way to improve their community indirectly through urban greening.

  • City of Chicago
  • Chicago Park District
  • The Trust for Public Land
  • Friends of Bloomingdale Trail
Lessons Learned
  • Programming, such as the 606 Moves, a dance workshop in the parks along the trail, keeps people active and prevents criminals from being in the nearby neighborhoods.
  • Increased lighting and security cameras on the trail are also believed to have led to the drastic decrease in crime
Related Resources