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Pedestrianizing Southport for Trick-or-Treaters Is a Frightfully Good Idea

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This year, cars won’t be draggin’ down the Halloween fun on Southport. Photo: Tag Buzzard via Flickr

Tired of cars gobblin’ up all the right-of-way when there should be more space for pedestrians? Take your little witches and werewolves down to the annual Trick or Treat on Southport, organized by the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce.

This free, annual community event takes place this Sunday, October 26, from 1-4 p.m. on Southport, from Belmont to Irving Park. Big turnouts in recent years had crowds overflowing the sidewalks. In response, this year’s candy-fest will include a few blocks of street closures, create a safer environment for the throngs of costumed kids.

For the last few years, the chamber has pedestrianized a block of Southport between Grace and Byron to hold a Pumpkin Party during the trick or treating event, with a bouncy house and other activities. “It was a place where kids could go after trick or treating to run off the sugar,” explained Heather Way Kitzes, director of the chamber.

This year, the car-free area will be expanded to include sections of Southport from Roscoe to Addison, and from Waveland to Grace. That’s three out of the four blocks between the Southport Brown Line station and Grace. “The number-one comment we’ve gotten year after year is that the sidewalk congestion was creating an unsafe condition for pedestrians, so we decided to try this out,” Kitzes said. She expects that between 3,000 and 5,000 families will participate.

The permits and barricades for pedestrianizing the street will cost the chamber $3,000. However, the city is sending police officers to direct traffic at no additional charge, and is not requiring the chamber to pay for traffic aides. While a few merchants have grumbled about these blocks being made car-free, Kitzes said the vast majority of businesses supported the idea. The change will affect deliveries to a bakery, and a car wash will close for the afternoon.

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Across the U.S., Poor Job Access Compels Even People Without Cars to Drive

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Metropolitan share of zero-vehicle commuters driving to work, 2013. Source: Brookings analysis of American Community Survey data

Cross-posted from Brookings’ The Avenue blog. This article is the second in a short series examining new Census data on transportation trends.

While more Americans are relying on alternative modes to get to work every day, cars still define most of our commutes. Over time, these high driving rates not only reflect a built environment that continues to promote vehicle usage — despite recent shifts toward city living and job clustering — but also call into question how well our transportation networks offer access to economic opportunity for all workers.

This is especially important for those workers without cars.

The most recent 2013 Census numbers shed light on the commuting habits of the 6.3 million workers who don’t have a private vehicle at home. That’s about 4.5 percent of all workers, up from 4.2 percent in 2007.

Zero-vehicle workers still do quite a bit of driving. Over 20 percent drive alone to work — meaning they find a private car to borrow — and another 12 percent commute via carpool. Both rates jumped between 2007 and 2013, defying national trends toward less driving. This paints a discouraging picture about transportation access across the country for a segment of commuters who must expend extra effort to get to work.

Metropolitan data underscores the breadth of this problem. Transit-rich metros like New York, San Francisco, and Chicago have the most zero-vehicle workers, and they drive less frequently. However, in other large metro areas like Dallas, Detroit, and Riverside, over half the zero-vehicle workers find a car to drive to work. Driving rates jump to over 70 percent in metros like Birmingham, AL; Jackson, MS; and Provo, UT. Across 77 of the 100 largest metro areas, at least 40 percent of zero-vehicle commuters drive to work.

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Proposed River West Towers Would Be Better With Even Less Parking

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Proposed development at 1001 W. Chicago Ave. Rendering by FitzGerald Associates.

Security Properties from Seattle recently received Plan Commission approval to build 14- and 15-story buildings on the site of the Gonnella bakery at 1001 W. Chicago Avenue, near the busy intersection with Milwaukee and Ogden avenues and the Blue Line’s Chicago stop. 363 apartments and 35,000 square feet of retail would fill the two towers, helping to meet the burgeoning demand to live near transit and downtown and potentially bringing a grocery store to the neighborhood. The alley between the towers would become a shared space plaza, fronted by a bike repair room for residents. Less fortunately, though, the buildings will also include 318 car parking spaces.

The city’s transit oriented development (TOD) ordinance allows developers to build 50 percent fewer car parking spaces than normally required for buildings whose main entrances are within 600 feet of a train station. The proposed zoning for this development would require only 182 car parking spaces for the residences and none for the retail space — but instead of a 50 percent reduction, Security has only requested 12 percent fewer spaces than the usual requirement.

This many new parking spaces would add even more cars to the six-way junction out front. The long queues of cars here slow buses along the Chicago Transit Authority’s 56-Milwaukee and 66-Chicago bus routes, and also make it difficult for bicyclists to navigate the hazardous intersection.

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After 40 Years, Will Atlanta’s MARTA See a Major Suburban Expansion?

Back in the ’70s, Clayton County didn’t want to be part of MARTA, Atlanta’s regional transit service. It was one of the suburban counties that “opted out.” In fact, all of Atlanta’s metro counties opted out except DeKalb and Fulton — the two that share the city of Atlanta proper.

Suburban Clayton County wants to be the first county to join Atlanta's MARTA transit system since the 1970s. Photo: Transportation for America

Suburban Clayton County wants to be the first county to join Atlanta’s MARTA since the 1970s. Photo: Transportation for America

But times are changing. Clayton County, where the population of residents with low incomes is increasing, eliminated its bus service altogether in 2010, during a recession-era budget crisis. Now the county is seeking permission from the state to propose a tax increase to its residents that would make it the first new MARTA county in four decades.

Stephen Lee Davis at the Transportation for America blog has the story:

On Nov. 4, Clayton County voters will decide on a measure to increase the local sales tax by a percent to join MARTA, the regional transit system. Doing so would restore bus service and jumpstart planning for bus rapid transit or a rail extension in the years to come. As county commissioners debated whether or not to put the question on the ballot, they heard hefty support from residents, who turned out to meetings to urge commissioners to make a vote happen. And most of the commissioners saw the need.

Interestingly, state law already provided for Clayton to be a part of MARTA, and as one of the five core counties included in the 1970’s charter actually had a vote on the MARTA board. But Clayton and two other counties declined to pass the sales tax, and only the City of Atlanta, Dekalb and Fulton counties ponied up. In the meantime, Clayton had used its available sales tax percentage — state law caps it — for other purposes. That meant that the state had to waive that cap specifically for Clayton so they could decide on the MARTA tax. (A second piece of legislation was required to restructure the MARTA board to give Clayton County two representatives on the board starting next year.)

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Today’s Headlines

  • The New Flyover to Reduce Rail Congestion in Englewood Has a Controversial History (Tribune)
  • Editorial: Don’t Be Fooled — Most of Metra Fare Hike Would Go to Operations, Not New Trains (Tribune)
  • Rauner Argues That IDOT Patronage Scandal Is a Reason to Oust Quinn (Tribune)
  • State Republicans Wonder If Fired IDOT Employees Were Moved to Other Departments (Sun-Times)
  • Central Figure in Red Light Scandal Plans to Plead Guilty (Sun-Times)
  • Details on Rahm’s Proposal to Double the Number of Bike Cops (RedEye)
  • Work Set to Begin on Irving Park Streetscape With Wider Sidewalks, Better Crosswalks (DNA)
  • Wrigleyville Development With 493 Parking Spots Could Break Ground Next Spring (DNA)
  • Active Trans Is Developing a Bike Plan for West-Suburban Wayne Township (Herald)
  • 400 Lawsuits Have Been Filed Against Illinois Tollway Scofflaws (Tribune)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Active Trans Celebrates Cool Regional Transpo Projects at Its Yearly Gala

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Ron Burke, left, with members of Bronzeville Bikes. Photo: Steven E. Gross

The Active Transportation Alliance gave shout-outs to several groundbreaking local initiatives at its annual awards ceremony, held on Tuesday in Revolution Brewing’s taproom. The advocacy group lauded complete streets projects in Batavia and Elgin, new trails in the Cook County Forest Preserves, bike advocacy in Bronzeville, and the Divvy bike-share system.

Maybe there’s something in the Fox River’s water, but both of the riverside suburbs have recently built groundbreaking streetscapes. Last year, the City of Batavia transformed a one-block stretch of River Street, on the east bank of the Fox, into a car-lite, people-friendly zone, inspired by Dutch-style woonerfs or “living streets.” The street layout blurs the line between pedestrian and vehicle space, encouraging drivers to proceed with caution, and creating a more pleasant environment for walking, biking, shopping, and relaxing at sidewalk cafes.

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Gateway to River Street in Batavia. Photo: John Greenfield

“Most of the on-street parking has been removed, and the design invites people to wander or cross the area wherever they desire,” Active Trans director Ron Burke noted during the ceremony. “It’s very pedestrian- and bike-friendly, and it invites street closures for various activities. The absence of curbs leaves more space for planters, seating, and art.”

Elgin, another western ‘burb that the Fox River Trail runs through, opened the Riverside Drive Promenade in August. This was the last 1,500 feet of downtown riverfront to be redeveloped, stretching from the city’s main library to a riverboat casino. The $13 million walkway project included a new section of bike path, traffic calming on the adjacent street, permeable pavers, and bioswales. Canopies shaped like shuttlecocks provide shade for people relaxing on the waterfront.

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Talking Headways Podcast: Dear Bike People

podcast icon logoDo people of color and low-income people ride bikes? Not as much as they could, given all the great benefits biking offers, particularly to people without a lot of disposable cash. But yes, non-white and non-rich people ride bikes — in high numbers compared to the general population, by some measures.

Even though they’re biking the streets, people of color and those with low incomes are largely missing from the bicycle advocacy world. The League of American Bicyclists, along with many other advocacy organizations around the country, are out to change that. We covered the League’s report on equity in the bicycling movement last week — but there was still lots more to talk about.

So Jeff and I called up Adonia Lugo, who manages the equity initiative at the League. We talked about what local advocacy groups can do if they want to reach out to new constituencies, whether infrastructure design really needs a multicultural perspective, and how the movement can start “seeing” bicyclists that don’t fit the prevailing stereotype.

We know you have strong feelings about these issues. Tell us all about ‘em in the comments — after you listen.

And find us on iTunes, Stitcher, and the RSS feed.

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Fact Checking the Florida Department of Transportation

Quadrille Boulevard in West Palm Beach. Photo: Walkable WPB

The Florida Department of Transportation says its rules prevent a road diet on Quadrille Boulevard in West Palm Beach. Advocates looked up the rules and found the agency was wrong. Photo: Walkable WPB

Quadrille Boulevard in West Palm Beach is what Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns would call a “stroad.” It’s a poorly designed, high-speed chute for cars that is completely hostile to its urban surroundings.

That’s why residents of West Palm Beach were so disappointed to learn that the Florida Department of Transportation plans to resurface the road and put everything back the way it is. When local advocates suggested that Quadrille Boulevard doesn’t need lanes to be 15 feet wide and can go on a road diet, the agency shot them down, saying its rules wouldn’t allow it.

Network blog Walkable West Palm Beach decided to fact check the agency, and it turns out FDOT needs to get a better grip on its own rules:

Frankly, FDOT is wrong in their response to the citizen stating that 10-foot lanes aren’t allowed on state highways. FDOT’s primary design manual is the Plans Preparation Manual (PPM). The PPM contains a very interesting chapter titled Transportation Design for Livable Communities (TDLC). The TDLC chapter is tucked away at the end of the manual far and away from the geometric requirements for highways and stroads. As shown in the following table from the TDLC chapter there is a footnote that allows thru lanes to be reduced from 11 feet to 10 feet in width in highly restricted areas with design speeds less than or equal to 35 MPH, having little or no truck traffic.

Quadrille fits the bill. Look at what 10-foot lanes would make possible for this street:

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Today’s Headlines

  • After Patronage Scandal, Judge Grants Request for a Monitor to Oversee IDOT Hiring (Sun-Times)
  • Arena Questions Whether Speed Cam Program Is in Compliance With State Law (Tribune)
  • Man Attempted to Run Over Officers With Car in East Garfield Park (DNA)
  • Cyclist Receives Settlement After Being Left-Hooked in Downers Grove (Keating)
  • Kevenides Discusses How GoPro Cameras Can Help Bikers Win Legal Battles (HuffPo)
  • The Demographics of Community Planning Meetings Need to Be Addressed (City Notes)
  • Poll Finds Evanstonians Want More Buses, Longer Express Train Hours (Northwestern)
  • UIC-Halsted Station Overhaul Slated for Completion in Late May (RedEye)
  • Daley Park’s Skating Ribbon, Downtown BMX Park Scheduled to Open Later This Year (RedEye)
  • Yelpers Sound Off About the CTA Stations They Love to Hate (RedEye)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Driver in Bobby Cann Case Hires High-Paid Celebrity Lawyer

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Ryne San Hamel

Ryne San Hamel, the driver accused of fatally striking bicyclist Bobby Cann while drunk and speeding, has retained attorney Sam Adam Jr., whose previous clients include ex-governor Rod Blagojevich and R&B star R. Kelly. Adam also served on the defense team for Carnell Fitzpatrick, the driver who intentionally ran over and killed Chicago cyclist Thomas McBride in 1999.

On the evening of May 29, 2013, Cann, 26, was biking from work when San Hamel, 28, struck him at the intersection of Clybourn and Larabee in Old Town. San Hamel was charged with reckless homicide, aggravated DUI, misdemeanor DUI, reckless driving, and failure to stay in the lane.

The Chicago Reader reported that San Hamel comes from a politically connected family from the affluent northwest suburb of Park Ridge. His father William was politically active in the 1970s and ‘80s, managing the successful campaign of Cook County assessor Thomas Tulley, as well as Ted Kennedy’s Illinois campaign in the 1980 presidential race.

In 1985, William San Hamel secured a low-interest loan and bond financing from the state of Illinois to launch the Center for Robotic Technology in Edison Park, the Reader reported. After the school defaulted on the loan, attorney Ron Neville defended him against a state lawsuit to recover the money. In the wake of allegations of insufficient training resources and skeleton staffing at the school, the Illinois Board of Education revoked its license.

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