Skip to content

No Comments

Did the CTA Set up the Lincoln and 31st Street Bus Reboots to Fail?

IMG_6885

Waiting for the #11 Lincoln bus in Lincoln Square. Photo: John Greenfield

[The Chicago Reader recently launched a new weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. This partnership allows Streetsblog to extend the reach of our livable streets advocacy. We syndicate a portion of the column on the day it comes out online; you can read the remainder on the Reader’s website or in print. The paper hits the streets on Thursdays.]

Community activists who lobbied for years for the restoration of the Lincoln Avenue and 31st Street bus routes rejoiced last November after CTA president Dorval Carter Jr. made a surprise announcement that the routes would be coming back on a trial basis in 2016. The CTA board voted earlier this month to relaunch each of the bus routes as a six-month-long test to determine whether there’s enough ridership to bring back the lines permanently. But transit advocates say the way the agency devised the program’s bus schedules ensures the pilots will fail.

While the restored #11 Lincoln line will debut on June 20, the #31 bus won’t return until September. South-side activists say that will undermine the pilot because summer ridership towards 31st Street Beach won’t be counted. Worse, residents say, both bus lines will run only on weekdays between 10 AM and 7 PM, so they’ll be useless for morning rush-hour commutes. And while the Lincoln buses will run every 16 to 22 minutes, 31st Street buses will arrive only every half hour.

“It looks like it’s set up to fail,” Tom Gaulke, pastor of First Lutheran Church of the a and member of the Bridgeport Alliance, a social justice organization, told DNAinfo last week in regards to the #31 bus. “It feels like a bit of a slap in the face.” Commenters on social media were also dismissive of the limited Lincoln bus schedule. “No availability on the weekend or morning hours for commuting doesn’t appear to make this a true ‘test’ of whether there is demand for the #11 bus,” north-side resident Brendan Carter wrote on Facebook.

The CTA says, on the contrary, that the schedules were actually devised to make sure the pilots succeed.

So how did it come to this?

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Why Expensive Parking Is a Blessing

Graph: Patrick Kennedy

The more stores packed into a three-mile radius of downtown (Y-axis), the higher the price for a parking space (X-axis). Graph: Patrick Kennedy

Patrick Kennedy at Dallas Magazine’s Street Smart blog says that when parking gets expensive, the conventional wisdom he hears is that more parking should be built. But what high parking prices really signify, he writes, is simply a strong concentration of businesses and/or housing — the parking isn’t even necessary.

To illustrate the point, Kennedy mashed up parking costs compiled by real estate services firm Colliers International with City Observatory’s new “Storefront Index” that maps customer-serving businesses in cities. He explains:

The high cost of parking, to paraphrase the godfather, suggests (at least to the conventional wisdom) that there “isn’t enough parking.” That is incorrect. There is just the right amount of parking, give or take. That parking is substituted by nearby housing and jobs. People are nearby and therefore, those people create demand for services. Thus, storefronts people can walk to.

As you can see, retail density as represented by storefront density rises precipitously as parking costs rise. The best parking spot in service of retail is a nearby bedroom. Ideally, many of them. Like, thousands of them within walking distance, which ensures a measure of stability to those businesses, repeat business, and some protection against cannibalization from the ‘new’…

Space for parking is unproductive real estate. It is space wasted in service of other productive real estate. As it serves other real estate land uses, the conventional wisdom always suggests, “give us parking, so we can get X, Y, or Z land use.” However, that provision of parking is often at the expense of those same X, Y, and Z land uses as well as the stability and predictability of success for those land uses.

Read more…

15 Comments

Today’s Headlines for Wednesday, May 25

  • Amtrak Is Seeking a Master Developer for Union Station (Crain’s)
  • Bridgeporters Fear I-55 Noise Walls Will Spoil Views of Skyline, Sox Fireworks (DNA)
  • Hated Meter Concessionaire Raked in $156M in Parking Cash Last Year (Sun-Times)
  • Fines Doubled for Drivers Who Try to Cross Metra Tracks When Gates Are Down
  • Kids Ride Free on Metra Summer Long (Time Out)
  • Public Meeting Wednesday on Plan for Bikeways That Will Take You to Bucktown (DNA)
  • Want to Provide Input to Improve Lake County Trails? There’s an App for That (Tribune)
  • Local Bike Shop Staffer Offer Tips on Shopping for a Cycle (Tribune)
  • Now Arriving: RedEye’s Transit Diaries Podcast
  • Moss Design Proposes Building a Kayak Park on the River — See Designs at CAF Exhibit

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

7 more days left to help us win a $25K challenge grant.

donate button

thermometer (32)

The Donate-O-Meter

Streetsblog Chicago is currently in the thick of raising funds for our next year of publication. Once again, The Chicago Community Trust, a charitable foundation that was one of the early funders of SBC, has very generously offered us a challenge grant. If Streetsblog reaches $50K in donations and sponsorships by the end of May, the Trust will provide the last $25K needed to keep the site running into 2017 and beyond.

If you haven’t already done so, please consider donating to Streetsblog Chicago today today. SBC is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, so donations are tax deductible.

If you’ve already contributed, thanks so much for helping us win the challenge grant. As an added incentive to first-time donors, as well as those who’d like to make an additional contribution, anyone who donates $100 or more from this point on will get a copy of John’s book “Bars Across America.

Donate $200 or more and we’ll also throw in a copy of the anthology “On Bicycles,” to which John contributed a chapter about Chicago’s West Town Bikes, while supplies last.

Please feel free to spread the word about the challenge grant to potential donors, or contact me at 312-560-3966 or greenfieldjohn[at]hotmail.com with leads on other possible funding sources. To keep you apprised on our progress, we’ll be updating the above Donate-O-Meter along with Today’s Headlines each morning.

Thanks again for your continuing support.

10 Comments

More Thoughts on the TOD Debate as the Boom Moves Into Its Next Phase

13227292_10209519315440154_4356655193948973640_o

Somos Logan Square helped organize a protest against upscale development and evictions last Saturday, drawing an estimated 200 people.  Photo: Bob Simpson

One thing’s for sure: As the current transit-oriented development boom unfolds along Milwaukee Avenue it’s bringing major changes to the affected neighborhoods. Many people agree that adding dense, low-parking development near Blue Line stations is a good strategy for reducing car dependency. But there’s been debate about whether the new wave of high-end TOD buildings is fueling the displacement of working-class residents in these areas, especially Logan Square, or if the increase in housing supply will take pressure off the existing rental market.

A recent article in Curbed provided a snapshot of the changes that are taking place as thousands of new apartments, virtually all of them in TOD buildings, are being built along the Blue Line. It noted that as Wicker Park continues to gentrify, small businesses along Milwaukee are being replaced by chain stores than can afford higher rent.

Meanwhile, hundreds of units are being built in Logan Square with rents ranging from $1,400 for a studio in the Twin Towers to $3,900 for a upper-floor three-bedroom in the “L” building. Ten percent of the apartment in these building will be affordable units, according to the city’s standards.

But Curbed noted that, despite the fact that many Chicagoans would never be willing or able to spend thousands of dollars a month on rent, well-heeled folks seem to be lining up to sign leases. A 40-unit TOD at 1515-1517 West Haddon in Wicker Park is over 70 percent leased, two and a half months before it opens, according to developer Mark Sutherland of Wicker Park Apartments.

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 12.57.16 AM

Rendering of the TOD at 1515-1517 West Haddon.

The building, located a block from the Division Blue Line station, will have 41 apartments (none of which are affordable units) and 21 parking spaces, and rents are similar to the Logan Square TODs. And like the Logan buildings, the Haddon building will include plenty of upscale amenities and perks, partially justifying the high rents, including 45 bike parking spaces and a CTA Transit Tracker screen in the lobby.

One thing that’s important to keep in mind is that the rents in these new TODs are expensive in spite of the fact that they’ve got relatively few parking spots, not because of it. Garage spots cost tens of thousands of dollars each to build so, in theory, by providing fewer spaces developers should be able to pass on the savings to their tenants.

But while we know that new construction is expensive, we don’t really have a way to judge whether the companies are charging premium rents in these buildings because they have to in order to turn a profit, or simply because they want to make as much money as possible. Developers like Rob Buono of the Twin Towers have told me that, were it not for the easing of parking mandates brought about by the city’s new TOD ordinance, they probably wouldn’t be building these projects.

Similarly, when anti-displacement activists like Somos (“We Are”) Logan Square have pushed for the percentage of onsite affordable units to be increased from 10 percent to 30 percent and the developers have argued that this would prevent them from attracting investors or making a profit, we have no way to tell if this is the case. Somos also wants the definition of “affordable” for these units to be changed so that they’re within reach of residents making 30 percent of the Chicago region’s Area Mean Income, rather than the 60 percent mandated by the city.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
View Comments

KC Conspiracy Theorists: Walkable Development Will “Devastate” Auto Giants

Now that Kansas City has its streetcar up and running, the city is taking the logical step of updating its zoning code to allow for walkable development along the transit route. And according to some local Agenda 21 believers, anyone who works for the automotive industry should be very afraid.

Kansas City's new transit-oriented development plan calls for some common sense changes, like supporting multi-story mixed-use buildings. Image: Kansas City

First they build up to the sidewalk, then they smash the entire automotive industry. Image: Kansas City

Up for a vote this Thursday at the City Council is a transit-oriented development policy that, in very general terms, calls for compact, mixed-use growth and better walking and biking conditions. It’s not a detailed zoning plan, more like a statement of principles to encourage development that pairs well with the streetcar, instead of the low-slung buildings, surface parking, and drive-throughs that predominate now. Only areas near the stations would be affected.

You might call it a common sense step to get more out of the city’s new transit line.

Or you could call it a “dangerous” law that will destroy “our freedoms.” At least, that’s the tack that a local group calling itself “Citizens for Responsible Government” has taken. A vocal opponent of the streetcar, CRG posted a paranoid screed on its Facebook page (reprinted for preservation at TransitKC).

It begins:

This ordinance would be devastating to us all but special attention should be paid by anyone involved in the Automobile Industry in any way, this would include FORD MOTORS, GENERAL MOTORS, UAW and all Auto Workers, Auto Dealers, Mechanics, Auto Leasing Companies, Auto Transport Companies, etc., etc., etc.,

Got it. Encouraging walkable development around Kansas City’s two-mile streetcar is the straw that will break the back of General Motors.

Moving on, there’s nothing like caps-lock to hammer home the sinister concepts at work here. Someone has studied Glenn Beck’s “keyword list” well:

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Growth in the Houston Region Shifts to the City

In the past few years, a greater share of the population growth in and around Houston happened in the city itself, compared to the first decade of the millennium. The trend is pretty clear, reports Houston Tomorrow:

The city of Houston is capturing a much greater share of new residents, compared to the suburbs, than in past decades. Map: Houston Tomorrow

The city of Houston now accounts for a greater share of residential growth in the region than in years past. Map: Houston Tomorrow

From 2010 to 2015, the City of Houston has added an average of 39,355 people every year — 28% of the 142,281 added every year on average in the 13 County Houston region.

From 2000 to 2010, the City of Houston added an average of 14,582 people every year — 12% of the 145,820 added every year on average in the 13 County Houston region.

The shift comes even though Houston’s existing development rules make it difficult to build walkable places, Houston Tomorrow’s Jay Blazek Crossley says:

We know from the Kinder Houston Area Survey that there is a massive pent up demand for walkable urban lifestyle options that traditionally has not been met in the last four decades of development. The shift in regional growth may be due to a shift in development as the City of Houston has started making urbanism legal. Walkable urban development remains illegal by City of Houston development code in most of the city, requiring a variance unless the development is within a quarter mile of a light rail station. In this small area, the Urban Corridors code is allowed as an alternative to the car dependent codes required for the entire city.

Transit, walking, biking, and green space improvements may also be facilitating the shift.

Read more…

8 Comments

Today’s Headlines for Tuesday, May 24

  • Authorities: Expressway Shootings Are on the Rise (Tribune)
  • Survey Asks 47th Ward Residents if They’d Support Pedestrianizing Belle Plaine (DNA)
  • Thanks to Mild Winter, CDOT Has Less Pothole Repair to Do, Is Starting Earlier (DNA)
  • Taxi Driver Idol: City Announces Contest to Find Chicago’s Top Cabbie (YouTube)
  • Active Trans Is Encouraging the Use of Adaptive Cycles at Bike the Drive
  • Feline Federation: The 50+ Cut Cats Food Couriers Sign a Fiscal Operating Agreement (DNA)
  • 100s of Bike Riders Kick Off Peak Cycling Season at Bike Brookfield (City of Brookfield)
  • Someone Ganked Alderman Burnett’s Bicycle From His Office (DNA)
  • Life Move Pretty Fast: 30 Years After “Buehler” Parade Scene Recreated in Daley Plaza (ABC)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

8 more days left to help us win a $25K challenge grant.

donate button

thermometer (31)

The Donate-O-Meter

Streetsblog Chicago is currently in the thick of raising funds for our next year of publication. Once again, The Chicago Community Trust, a charitable foundation that was one of the early funders of SBC, has very generously offered us a challenge grant. If Streetsblog reaches $50K in donations and sponsorships by the end of May, the Trust will provide the last $25K needed to keep the site running into 2017 and beyond.

If you haven’t already done so, please consider donating to Streetsblog Chicago today today. SBC is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, so donations are tax deductible.

If you’ve already contributed, thanks so much for helping us win the challenge grant. As an added incentive to first-time donors, as well as those who’d like to make an additional contribution, anyone who donates $100 or more from this point on will get a copy of John’s book “Bars Across America.

Donate $200 or more and we’ll also throw in a copy of the anthology “On Bicycles,” to which John contributed a chapter about Chicago’s West Town Bikes, while supplies last.

Please feel free to spread the word about the challenge grant to potential donors, or contact me at 312-560-3966 or greenfieldjohn[at]hotmail.com with leads on other possible funding sources. To keep you apprised on our progress, we’ll be updating the above Donate-O-Meter along with Today’s Headlines each morning.

Thanks again for your continuing support.

5 Comments

Coalition for a Modern Metra Electric Wants More Service, Fare Integration

IMG_6868

The Coalition for a Modern Metra Election, including Walt Kindred (3rd from left), Andrea Reed (4th from left), and Linda Thisted (center) in front of the Metra offices at 547 West Jackson. Photo: John Greenfield

Transportation advocacy organizations and community groups have joined forces as the Coalition for a Modern Metra Electric, pushing for improvements to the commuter rail line that could lead to better job access and more economic development on the South Side. They want to see rapid transit-style train frequency, fare and schedule integration with the CTA and Pace, and – eventually – the extension of the line all the way to O’Hare.

Right now Metra generally runs trains only once an hour on the Metra Electric District line, which goes about 30 miles from Millennium Station to south suburban University Park, with a few more trains running during the morning and evening rush hours. As such, it’s not nearly as useful as an ‘L’ line for general travel, and it’s not a great option for non-standard work commutes.

However, it wasn’t always that way. The MED started its life as a rapid transit line with dedicated tracks and closed stations. The Coalition for a Modern Metra Electric wants to go back to the future, so to speak, by bringing back frequent service, with trains every 10-15 minutes, all day long.

Nowadays, if you need to ride downtown from the south suburbs or Southeast Side via the Metra Electric and continue on to a workplace on another side of the city, you need to pay the Metra fare, which is higher than the $2.25 charge for an ‘L’ ride, and then pay full fare for another train ride. Unlike riding on the CTA with a Ventra card, you don’t get a free transfer. As a result, some South Side residents choose to take a CTA bus to an ‘L’ line for their commute because it’s cheaper, even if the MED would be quicker.

8271371_orig

Using a tap-on/tap off system on the MED would allow for fare integration on the CTA and Pace, which would save riders money. Image: CMME

The coalition wants to fix that problem by piloting tap-on and tap-off use of Ventra on the MED. This would allow customers to tap their Ventra card on a sensor before and after their ride, with the appropriate fare deducted according to the distance traveled. It would make it possible to provide a transfer discount for customers switch to the CTA or Pace.

In the long run, the coalition wants to see the MED connected to O’Hare Airport using Metra right-of-way, with stops at McCormick Place and Union Station, a scenario the Midwest High Speed Rail Association has proposed as part of its CrossRail plan to build a regional network of fast trains.

Mayor Emanuel wants to establish an express train between O’Hare and the Loop, so the MED solution would be a way to do this while creating better transportation access for residents of low-to-moderate-income communities on the South Side. That way the O’Hare Express wouldn’t just be a train for elites, and there would be the added benefit of direct access from the airport to conventions at McCormick Place for business travelers.

The idea of rapid transit on the Metra Electric has been around for decades. In the Nineties, rail advocate Mike Payne proposed having the CTA take over the MED, a scheme he called the Gray Line. In the 2000s, residents proposed a similar idea dubbed the Gold Line to provide frequent transit service to the Southeast Side as part of Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
View Comments

The Tragic History of Highways Demolishing Cities — It’s Not Over Yet

This video from Vox provides an excellent overview of how the Interstate Highway System wiped out whole city neighborhoods in the post-war era.

It’s hard to believe that federal and local officials ever thought it was a good idea to uproot urban residents to clear paths for highways, but what’s even crazier is that we’re still doing the same thing today.

Streetsblog.net
View Comments

Anthony Foxx Envisions a “Gradual Shift” Away From Car Dependence

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx criss-crossed the country last week on a tour of the seven finalists for U.S. DOT’s $50 million “Smart City Challenge” grant.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is taking a "measured" tone about changing transportation in the U.S. Photo: Bike Portland

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. Photo: Bike Portland

When Foxx was in Portland, Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland got a chance to ask him how he plans to change the transportation “paradigm” so walking, biking, and transit become the norm. Six years after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood climbed on a table at the National Bike Summit and announced “the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized,” Maus notes, federal policy still tilts heavily in favor of car-based infrastructure.

Here’s what Foxx said:

I think we’re going to need cars. We’re going to need a mix of transportation options. I think we have a supply-side mentality right now at the federal level where we presume that 80 cents on the dollar should go to the automobile within the Highway Trust Fund. And I actually think over the longer term we’re going to need to look at a more performance-based system where we look at things like: How it congestion best reduced? How do we increase safety? How do we move significant numbers of people most efficiently and effectively and cleanly. And I think that’s going to push us into a different mix of transportation choices.

But I think it’s a slow, gradual process. Look around the world and no country has created a multimodal system overnight; but I think that’s ultimately where we’re headed. We have to have a mix of transportation choices. It includes the automobile, but it’s not exclusive to the automobile.

Foxx’s power to set transportation policy pales in comparison to Congress and the White House, but he could be doing more to speed up a shift of priorities at the federal level. U.S. could, for instance, reform the way states measure congestion, so people riding the bus count as much as solo drivers. But so far Foxx’s agency has been reluctant to do that.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Transport Providence considers how insight from conservatives could improve transit projects. The Transportationist explains how the “modernist” vision for transportation undervalued places and diverged from thousands of years of human experience. And City Block considers the advantages and drawbacks of Denver’s new airport train.