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CTA Adds Rail Service To Accommodate Rising Ridership

CTA L service from 2008 to 2015

CTA rail service was cut 10 percent in 2010, but has slowly rebounded since. Ridership has increased nearly 20 percent since 2008. Data from CTA, compiled by Metropolitan Planning Council.

The Chicago Transit Authority expects that more people will ride the ‘L’ next year, especially in north side neighborhoods. To accommodate this increased demand, it added six new rush-hour trips on the Brown, Red, and Purple lines at the end of September, and will add even more frequency to the Brown Line and Orange Line this weekend. Additionally, its 2015 budget will add two more rush hour trains to both the Blue and Orange Lines.

CTA projects that this year’s rail ridership will be 2.5 percent greater than last year, and they predict rail ridership will grow another 1.1 percent from 2014 to 2015 — adding up to a 20 percent increase since 2008, despite the steep recession. The CTA expects ridership to continue growing as Illinois’ unemployment rate continues to fall, and the cost of parking downtown continues to rise.

CTA will add a lot of new service to the Brown Line starting on Sunday. The CTA will add five more evening trains on weekdays. On Sundays, service patterns will now nearly match weekdays and Saturdays. Instead of running the Brown Line as a shuttle between Belmont and Kimball, trains will go all the way to the Loop on Sundays starting at 5 a.m. (instead of 6:30 a.m.) until 1 a.m. (instead of 11:50 p.m.). This eliminates the transfer at Belmont, resulting in a one-seat ride for Albany Park residents going to and from the Loop. Now, the only times when the Brown Line will operate as a Belmont shuttle is between 1-2 a.m. from Tuesday through Sunday (i.e., the weekday and Saturday schedules).

The new all-Loop Sunday service on the Brown Line means that stations in River North, Lincoln Park, and Lakeview – including Merchandise Mart, Chicago, Armitage, and Wellington – will open earlier and close later on Sundays. Substantial population growth on the Near North Side may be contributing to weekend ridership growth.

These additional Brown Line trains will benefit in the coming years from construction to repair the Ravenswood Connector slow zones between Armitage and the Merchandise Mart. CTA started working on the structure last year, and moved into track work this year.

Not all expanded service is going to the north side. The CTA will add 12 more runs on the Orange Line on Saturdays, responding to a five-year trend of increasing ridership. Saturday ridership has increased 22 percent since 2009, said CTA spokesperson Tammy Chase, and just this year (January to August) is up five percent over last year. The new Saturday service should reduce crowded rider conditions on what Chase called the most packed off-peak trains in the network, with standing-room-only conditions throughout the day.

“Service levels [on the Orange Line],” Chase said in an email, “have stayed near 2010 levels… until now, when we’re able to add service to meet demand.”

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Eyes on the Street: Loyola University’s New Kenmore Avenue Path

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A new crosswalk spans Sheridan Road, leading from the new Kenmore pedestrian mall to the center of Loyola’s campus. Photo: Melissa Manak

Loyola University Chicago recently expanded its Lake Shore campus south into the neighborhood, and took a different approach to connect the new buildings to its main campus across busy Sheridan Road. The university closed to car travel the entire 6300 block of North Kenmore Avenue, between Rosemont Avenue and Sheridan Road, and replaced the avenue with a wide brick shared-use path — one of the first pedestrian-only streets on the far north side. The idea behind the new path was to allow a safer, car-free route between the southern portion of the school, which includes several dormitories and the new Institute of Environmental Sustainability building, and the main campus.

As Streetsblog reported earlier, some residents in the area were frustrated with the plan for two reasons, both closely associated with auto access. One issue was that several parking spaces would be eliminated in an area with a high demand for free parking, and another issue was that barring cars from Kenmore eliminated a short cut for far north-siders to take when Sheridan Road is congested.

Construction on this project started in 2013 when streets in the immediate area were closed entirely, and continued for over a year. In the meantime, cyclists and pedestrians alike had to take alternative routes using alleys or by biking the wrong way on parallel Winthrop Avenue. (The only other parallel street is the four-lane Sheridan Road speedway, where the city’s ban on sidewalk cycling is strictly enforced.) The university bought Kenmore from the city for over $300,000, and spent over $3.5 million dollars to renovate the property. This pathway now includes a permeable brick surface, green space, and flower gardens to fill what a space that once was rows of parked cars.

I frequently travel through the area and was curious to see what others in the community thought of this project. After two different days of visiting the site, it seems that other residents and students agree that it’s enhanced the area and created a safer way for them to reach the university.

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Halloween: A Lot Less Scary If Drivers and Roads Were Safer

Halloween is fun because we get to be afraid of things that we know aren’t really scary. But for little trick or treaters in the United States, the danger posed by reckless drivers and unsafe roads is real.

A 2012 study by insurance company State Farm found that motorists kill more children on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Reported LoHud:

From 1990 to 2010, 115 pedestrians under the age of 18 were killed by motor vehicles on Oct. 31, an average of 5.5 fatalities a year during that period.  There are an average of 2.6 child pedestrian deaths other days of the year, the report found.

Above is a tweet from the Maryland State Highway Administration, which is loaning reflective vests for kids to wear tonight. The agency has a tip sheet for pedestrians and motorists, but holiday-themed PR campaigns are not a substitute for streets that are safe for walking 365 days a year.

Yet that doesn’t stop us from victim-blaming. ”Crowds of trick-or-treaters traveling the streets contribute to the increased risk,” wrote LoHud.

The State Farm study also noted that more than 70 percent of crashes that kill kids on Halloween “occurred away from an intersection or crosswalk,” implying that unsafe pedestrian behavior, rather than lack of pedestrian infrastructure, is the issue. State Farm advises parents and kids to “stick to neighborhoods with sidewalks.” While this advice is easy to follow in some major cities, complete streets are not the norm in most of the country.

Suggesting pedestrians wear reflective tape and asking motorists to not kill people isn’t getting the job done. To keep kids safe every day, we need streets designed to accommodate them.

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Portland Suburb: To Fight Climate Change, Expand Highways!

Is more of this the way to beat congestion in the Portland region? Photo: Bike Portland

Is more of this the way to reduce carbon emissions in the Portland region? Photo: Bike Portland

Clackamas County, outside of Portland, has some opinions about the region’s plan to address climate change. According to Michael Andersen at Bike Portland, county commissioners have drafted a letter to regional planners saying the right way to control carbon emissions is to build more highways.

Scratching your head? Well, the misguided belief that building more roads reduces congestion, and thus emissions, is still deeply entrenched in American transportation bureaucracies.

Clackamas County wants more roads to be included in the climate plan from Metro, Portland’s regional planning agency. But get this — Metro’s plan already has a lot of road work in the name of reducing emissions, Andersen reports:

Metro’s draft version of that plan (PDF) calls for the region to dedicate 58 percent of related funding over the next 20 years — about $20 billion — to roads, even though the report says that “adding lane miles to relieve congestion … will not solve congestion on its own.”

Metro’s draft plan calls for $12.4 billion to be spent on transit, which it rates as enough to achieve a 16 to 20 percent cut in per-capita carbon emissions. The plan calls for $2 billion to go to improving biking and walking, which it rates as enough for a 3 to 6 percent reduction.

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Today’s Headlines

  • #1 Traffic Tip Tonight: Drive Slower Than the Speed Limit (Expired Meter)
  • Apartments Near Loop ‘L’ Stations Cost the Same as in Wicker Park (DNA)
  • MPC Says CTA Living “Within Its Means” But is Expanding Less than Nationwide Peers (Crain’s)
  • DNA Info Steps Inside Historic Damen ‘L’ Station Construction
  • Green Line Service Suspended This Weekend Again for Cermak Station Construction (Sun-Times)
  • Lakeview Ballots to Have Advisory Question on CTA’s Brown Line Flyover (DNA)
  • Infamous Block 37 Starts Construction of 690 Apartments Atop Mall, CTA Station (Curbed)
  • The Wabash Lights Design Project Will Add 4,000 LEDs to Under ‘L’ Tracks on Wabash (Curbed)
  • BRT Inventor Jaime Lerner Says Cities Need “Pinpricks” More Than Megaprojects (MPC)
  • Reader Lists its “Best Of” in Transportation, Including Ventra Responses and Smiling CTA Employee

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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CDOT Tells Council Improved Red Light Cameras Might Mean More Tickets

Rate of fatal crashes due to red light running has dropped more than rate of fatal crashes due to all other causes between the period Chicago didn't have and did have red light cameras.

In 12 of 14 cities surveyed, fatal crashes due to red light running dropped relative to all fatal crashes after red light camera enforcement began. Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Chicago Department of Transportation commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld told the City Council’s Committee on Pedestrian & Traffic Safety that equipment problems that have plagued the city’s red light camera enforcement program have mostly been resolved. Although some aldermen were there to pounce upon the media ruckus around the cameras, other aldermen understood that red light cameras can play a role in keeping Chicago’s streets safer.

Alderman Deborah Graham (29th) recounted her experience with a motorist who ran a red light caused a car crash two years ago. “I was going through an intersection at Lake and Sacramento, and a woman trying to beat the traffic light cut me off, and I struck the CTA support beam,” she told the committee at their regular meeting on Tuesday. “I had to have a major surgery,” she said, adding, “So I have a real concern when we’re approaching intersections and dealing with the (red light) cameras.”

Graham was asking Scheinfeld about how CDOT plans to keep equipment in “top-notch” form since the city changed vendors from Redflex, which used unreliable induction loop detectors, to Xerox, which uses a more accurate radar system that can easily be checked remotely.

Alderman Deb Mell (33rd) expressed her confidence in the changes that CDOT had made in response to the IG’s investigation. “I think people drive way too fast in this city,” she said, adding, “I’m really happy that we had this [hearing], and kind of air it out, and going forward, [red light cameras will] do their job.”

Scheinfeld described changes CDOT has made to their agreement with Xerox, which include financial penalties if Xerox flags too many “false positives.” (Violations are sent to IBM for a second review.) CDOT also reduced the allowable rate of “close calls” from 15 percent in Redflex’s contract to 10 percent in Xerox’s contract. The new contract has already had results: CDOT has already fined Xerox $28,867 for “failure to meet specified performance metrics.”

She said these new “business rules” will be posted on the CDOT website, along with the violation data that’s already been posted to the city’s open data portal. If there are “spikes” in the future, an “early warning system” will alert Xerox staff, who will be required to consult with CDOT staff. Scheinfeld said that CDOT’s own staff will also be monitoring violations data themselves, watching for anomalies.

Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson was also at the meeting to answer questions about his report [PDF], which detailed Redflex’s poor record keeping and CDOT’s lax management. Since the report was issued, he said, “CDOT has been extremely responsive to all of our suggestions.”

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Slow Roll Chicago’s Founders: “Potential Is Endless” To Connect Communities

e_espoz (pigolincolorado)

In October, Slow Roll Chicago visited Pullman’s former railcar factory and the Pullman Porter museum. Photo by E. Espoz.

Slow Roll Chicago is a new addition to our city’s already impressive roster of community-based bicycling organizations. Inspired by a global bicycle movement that started in Detroit, the local chapter works to strengthen neighborhoods, connect diverse citizens, and transform communities through bicycling.

Last weekend, I met with co-founders Olatunji Oboi Reed and Jamal Julien to discuss how Slow Roll provides south and west side communities with a venue to explore their vibrant, beautiful streets.

Lorena Cupcake: How did you two get involved with Slow Roll?

Oboi Reed: Slow Roll is a global bicycling movement. It was founded as a movement in Detroit by Jason Hall and Mike MacKool in 2010. It started out small, with a few people riding on a weekly basis, and over the years it grew to several hundred, and eventually it grew to several thousand, and just earlier this year, it kind of caught fire in Detroit. Right now, to this day, the Slow Roll average in Detroit is three to four thousand people every Monday night.

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Families joined Slow Roll’s ride to the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum.

Jamal and I, maybe about six months ago, found out about Slow Roll in Detroit via Facebook. We saw some videos and we just loved this idea of all of these thousands of people rolling slow through Detroit. It’s just an incredible sight to see, even just watching a video. We kind of fell in love with the concept, but for a while we just watched from afar.

One day, Jamal and I just both had this idea: we could bring this to Chicago. We reached out to the organizers, the founders of Slow Roll Detroit, and we started a conversation with them about potentially bringing it to Chicago. It took some work, some time, but after a lot of effort we made it happen. We did our first ride here in Chicago on September 20th, and here we are.

LC: Can you tell me about the Big Marsh Ride you did this morning?

OR: Today, Jamal and I rode with two people from SRAM, a global bike component manufacturing company headquartered here in Chicago. We worked very closely with Randy Neufeld, who’s the SRAM Cycling Fund director (he runs the company’s foundation), and Dan Stefiuk, the manager of road sports marketing at SRAM. ​We also had with us two people from the management team of Slow Roll Chicago, the team we call #SquadChicago. That includes David Peterson, the executive director of the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, and our good friend Vaughn Coney Varaski, who works for the railroad and is a longtime resident of Pullman.

This morning, the five of us rode on out to Big Marsh to explore the creation of Big Marsh into an eco-recreation park. A lot of resources and time and effort are going into that piece of land, and we wanted to just experience it for ourself. [We wanted] to really think about how Slow Roll Chicago could help with community engagement on that project, to ensure that black, brown, and low- to moderate-income people in Pullman, in Roseland, and surrounding communities are engaged in the planning process from the beginning. [They'll] feel connected to that process, feel a sense of ownership in Big Marsh, and really want to engage beyond just visiting once in a while.

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Talking Headways Podcast: That Indie Flick You Were Looking For

podcast icon logoIf you’re a Netflix member, you’re part of the downfall of the brick-and-mortar video store. There are all kinds of reasons to be sad about that, but we look at its implications for urbanism and transportation. Besides, now where will you find esoteric foreign films to impress your friends? There are reasons to believe a few hardy indie-shop survivors could keep hanging on for a while (and we encourage you to bike to them).

Next, we shift gears to talk about how Vision Zero is unfolding in New York City. Streetsblog has called attention to the need to go beyond grand policy pronouncements and do the dirty work of changing the very culture that surrounds mobility. Specifically, the police need to stop forgiving deadly “errors” by drivers and start taking death by auto as seriously as other preventable deaths.

And then we called it a day because really, that was a lot.

Tell us about your favorite video store, or your least bike-friendly cop, or whatever you feel like telling us, in the comments.

And find us on iTunesStitcher, and the RSS feed.

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Ohio DOT Hosts Transit Meeting That No One Can Reach Via Transit

Ohio DOT is one of those old-school transportation agencies that’s still just a highway department. The director is a former asphalt industry lobbyist. The state — despite being fairly densely populated and urban (about 1 million people don’t have cars) — spent only $7.3 million supporting transit in 2013, far less than it devotes to mowing highway medians.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is planning to gather feedback about transit service in the Cincinnati region a location (Lebanon) that is entirely inaccessible to people who use transit. Image: Urban Cincy via Google Maps

The Ohio Department of Transportation is planning to gather feedback about transit service in the Cincinnati region at a location that is entirely inaccessible to people who rely on transit. Map: Urban Cincy via Google Maps

To its credit, however, Ohio DOT is currently hosting a series of meetings asking for feedback about public transit around the state. Unfortunately, writes Paige Malott at Urban Cincy, the meeting for the Cincinnati region will be in exurban Lebanon, essentially impossible to reach without access to a personal automobile:

By car, Lebanon is roughly a one hour drive north of Cincinnati, and a 30-minute drive south from Dayton. It’s also the city where the regional ODOT office is located; understandably why the administration would opt to hold a public involvement meeting here. What went unconsidered are the needs of people that the public meeting is focused on: citizens reliant on public transportation.

The closest Metro bus stop to Lebanon is 8.3 miles away, near Kings Island in Mason. Let’s say we’re feeling ambitious and attempt to take the bus, then bicycle the remaining journey to Lebanon. It would take 48 minutes to cycle to the meeting in addition to the 1 hour, 11 minute ride on the bus. Cincinnati Metro, the region’s bus system, only offers select service to the northern suburbs. In order to arrive on time for the 10am meeting, a person dependent on transit would have to catch the 71x at 7:45 a.m., arrive in Mason at 8:52 a.m., then continue to the meeting on bicycle.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Residents Will Contest Proposed Tower Next to Renovated California Station Tonight (Curbed)
  • CTA Debuted Electric Buses Wednesday to Test If They Can Last 100 Miles (Tribune)
  • New Edgewater Strip Mall Begins Construction Around Corner From 24-Hour Red Line Station (DNA)
  • Court Monitor Appointed to Track IDOT After Quinn’s Patronage Hiring Scheme Unraveled (Tribune)
  • Metra Board Chair: We Need Fare Hike Because We Stopped Using Capital to Cover Operations (Tribune)
  • CrossRail Is One of Several Options to Link Disconnected Metra Lines (Itinerant Urbanist)
  • Screening Your Bag for Explosives Before Entering CTA “Not Overly Inconvenient” (Sun-Times)
  • Divvy’s Valet Service – The Endless Dock – Finishes Season on Friday
  • Columbia College Animator Draws Faces of the CTA (Sun-Times)
  • Hundreds Ask for Better Bus Ride on North Lake Shore Drive (Red Eye)
  • Two-Story Building on Damen Next to Bloomingdale Trail Sold for $3.5 Million (DNA)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA