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What’s Going on With Alderman Reilly and the Kinzie Protected Bike Lane

Kinzie from the Orleans overpass - 2011

This part of the Kinzie Street protected bike lane, from the River east to Dearborn, is supposed to be removed during Wolf Point construction. Photo: masMiguel.

Alderman Brendan Reilly submitted an order to city council on Wednesday that would compel Chicago Department of Transportation Rebekah Scheinfeld to remove the Kinzie Street protected bike lane between Dearborn and the Chicago River because he says it conflicts with Wolf Point construction truck traffic.

In 2013, under former commissioner Gabe Klein, CDOT agreed to a development plan [PDF], which was approved by the Chicago Plan Commission and codified into law. The plan called for Hines, the Wolf Point developer, to pay for installing temporary protected bike lanes on Grand Avenue, Illinois Street, and Wells Street, before the temporary removal of the Kinzie Street bike lanes to facilitate the construction project.

In the long term, it makes sense for there to be bike lanes on both Grand Avenue – already identified as a “Crosstown Bike Route” in the Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 – and Kinzie Street. In a petition asking other aldermen to oppose Reilly’s order, the Active Transportation Alliance wrote, “Ald. Reilly has proposed installing a new bike lane on Grand Avenue as an alternative, but the reality is people will continue to bike on Kinzie because it is less stressful than Grand Avenue with fewer cars and no buses, not to mention it provides the most logical and direct connection to the central business district.”

CDOT appears to have changed its position about the development plan. Spokesman Mike Claffey stressed the importance of the Kinzie bike lane in a statement to Streetsblog:

“CDOT has safety concerns about removing the protected bike lane on Kinzie, which is the second most popular street for bicycling in Chicago. The protected bike lane is in place to reduce conflicts and the risk of accidents between bicyclists, motor vehicles, and pedestrians. We have been in discussions with the Alderman about these concerns and will continue to work with him on this issue.”

Specifically, the development plan, identified as Planned Development 98, calls for:

  • Temporary removal of the protected bike lanes on Kinzie from Dearborn to Milwaukee
  • Eastbound and westbound PBLs on Grand from Milwaukee to Wells
  • Westbound PBL on Grand from Dearborn to Wells
  • Eastbound PBL on Illinois from Wells to Dearborn
  • “An improved bicycle accommodation on Wells Street for cyclists traveling, between Grand Avenue and Illinois Street”

The Kinzie bike lane is indeed important, but it’s unclear why Scheinfeld is now pushing back against the plan. Reilly told City Council that Scheinfeld cited an internal study that supported keeping the bike lane on Kinzie. We asked for a copy of this report but Claffey said he didn’t have a copy. The development plan also says that all of the developer’s designs for these temporary bicycle accommodations are subject to Scheinfeld’s departmental review.

Another oddity in this tussle is that Reilly’s order calls for removing too much of the Kinzie bike lane, from Dearborn Street west to the Chicago River, some of which would have little truck traffic because it’s in the central business district. The protected bike lane continues west of the Chicago River to Milwaukee Avenue and Desplaines Street, which the development plan would remove, but not Reilly’s order.

CDOT could propose maintaining bike access on Kinzie Street through the construction project, which started over a year ago. If that’s not feasible, and the bike lane must come out, they should bring back their support for the original plan that temporarily removes the Kinzie bike lane to Grand. There’s emphasis on “temporary” because Kinzie is a direct and necessary route between the popular bike lane on Milwaukee and bike lanes on Desplaines, Canal, Dearborn, and Wells.

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Bike2Campus Week Encourages Students to Explore Chicago on Two Wheels

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Stan Treger biked to class on the DePaul campus last month. Photo: John Greenfield

[This piece ran in Checkerboard City, John’s transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets on Wednesday evenings.]

I kind of hate the phrase “bike season.” Thousands of Chicagoans get around on two wheels all year ‘round. Even in January, there’s still something of a bike rush hour on the Lakefront Trail and Milwaukee Avenue. And all you really need to keep cycling through the Chicago winter is a bike with fenders and lights, and more-or-less the same clothing you’d wear to stay warm while waiting for the bus.

That said, it’s been fun to observe how, following another cold, gray, snowy winter, how the recent sunshine and relatively balmy temperatures have inspired countless people to drag their dusty steeds out of basements. Like rivers swelling from the vernal thaw, the city’s bike lanes have filled up with riders once again.

As part of this spring awakening, a dozen different higher learning institutions will be challenging their students, faculty, and staff to try bicycling to school. The second annual Bike2Campus Week takes next week from Monday to Friday, highlighting cycling as a green, cheap, healthy and fun way to get around.

Participating institutions include City Colleges of Chicago, Columbia College Chicago, Dominican University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Loyola University Chicago, Roosevelt University, Northeastern Illinois University, Northwestern University, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Triton College, University of Chicago, and University of Illinois at Chicago.

The concept is similar to the Active Transportation Alliance’s Bike Commuter Challenge, in which different companies and organizations compete with each other to record the most cycling trips and win prizes and bragging rights. There are a number of ways Bike2Campus participants can get credit toward earning schwag. They can log their bike trips for the week at Bike2Campus.com, pass the League of Illinois Bicyclists’ online safety quiz, share photos from their commute on social media via the hashtag #chibike2campus, or participate in cycling events on their campus.

“We had ten schools participating last year, and the Art Institute of Chicago was the top dog,” says John Wawrzaszek, sustainability manager at Columbia (and a Newcity contributor), who’s helping to organize the program as part of the Chicagoland Bike 2 Campus Coalition. Divvy provided the trophy, made from a front basket from a decommissioned bike-share vehicle affixed to a wooden pedestal. “We’re trying to do a Stanley Cup thing this year, where the winner will move the trophy around the city,” Wawrzaszek says.

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
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The Beginning of the End for Dallas’s Trinity Toll Road?

Dallas City Council is endorsing and alternative to the Trinity Toll Road, without formally withdrawing support for the larger highway plan. Image: Trinity Parkway Design Charette

The “dream team” alternative to the Trinity Toll Road in Dallas would build a smaller four-lane road, but it leaves the door open for wide highway later on. Image: Trinity Parkway Design Charette [PDF]

It seems like the Trinity Toll Road — a proposal to build a wide, high-speed road right next to the Trinity River in Dallas — is losing momentum. But the politics of road-building in Texas are tricky, and the highway isn’t dead yet.

Earlier this week, a “dream team” of advisers selected by Mayor Mike Rawlings, who supports the project, came out and said they didn’t think the $1.5 billion highway was necessary, and that it would ultimately undermine efforts to establish a nice park by the river. However, their proposal for a smaller, four-lane road would leave open the option of building a wider highway later on.

In the City Council, legislators are still looking to build the full highway, but now they won’t come out and say it directly. At least, that seems to be the takeaway from the latest intrigue, according to Dallas Morning News’ Transportation Blog reporter Brandon Formby:

In a last-minute amendment, the City Council voted unanimously not to affirm its support of the larger version of Trinity Parkway that’s planned to be built. But it didn’t technically say it doesn’t support it. In a way, it reaffirmed its support for the current large plan in a subsequent 10-4 vote to look at how to incorporate the dream team’s recommendations into the existing, already FHWA-approved plan for the larger road.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines for April 17

  • Konkol: Ald. Reilly “Tired” of Arguing With Transportation Commissioner Over Kinzie Bike Lane
  • Active Trans Starts Petition to Prevent Removal of Kinzie Bike Lane
  • Ald. Reilly Defends His Proposal to Remove Kinzie Bike Lane at Wolf Point on Twitter
  • Feds Require Metra to Start Safety Whistleblower Program After Serious Incidents in 2014 (Tribune)
  • Simplified Zoning Map Shows Only Single-Family Homes Allowed Near CTA Stations (City Notes)
  • Chicagoans Just Need to Learn to Deal With People Riding Bikes (Tribune)
  • Only Injuries in Garfield Park Crash That Flipped Over Police Car (Sun-Times)
  • Divvy Visualization Winner Shaun Jacobsen Highlights Where Divvy is Faster than Transit

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Loop Alliance Credits Activate Alley Parties With Spurring $400K in Sales

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“FLOW/Im Fluss,” a light and water installation by Luftwerk at last September’s Activate event. Photo: Jennifer Catherine

Once again, the Chicago Loop Alliance is rolling out a full slate of placemaking initiatives in an effort to boost downtown retail and promote the arts. The centerpiece of the campaign is Activate, a series of pop-up art parties held in alleys, which the downtown chamber of commerce says led to hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional sales at local businesses. This year’s happenings will take place on May 15, June 12, July 30, August 27, September 18, and October 16 from 5-10 p.m., with specific locations announced the month before on the Activate website.

“We’re really pleased with how happy people are when they come to the Activate events,” said CLA director Michael Edwards. “They’re experiencing an urban environment in a different way, and they find a joy in that. And, of course, we love the fact that they’re spending money at local businesses.”

The alliance held six Activate parties last year at various loop alleys, centered around themes like fashion, surrealism, art installations featuring water and light, the street life of Manila, and other themes. In addition to visual art, the events featured DJs, live music, dance, performance art, and attendees who RSVPed in advance received a free drink. The budget for the series was about $105,000, mostly bankrolled via special service area funds, along with corporate donations and additional drink sales.

About 14,000 people attended the 2014 series. A CLA survey found that half of those who showed up were ages 25 to 34, with another 18 percent in the 35 to 44 bracket, and most of them live in Uptown, Lakeview, Logan Square, Wicker Park, Pilsen and, of course, downtown. Survey respondents said they spent an average of $35 each during their visits, mostly on post-event food and drinks, so the CLA calculates that the series pumped about $400,000 into the downtown economy.

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Like TOD Ordinance, Less Restrictive Zoning Can Help Lakeview Businesses

Brown Line stations with decreasing housing units

The number of housing units near the Paulina and Southport Brown Line stations has decreased from 2000 to 2011. Image: CNT, SSA 27

The Lakeview Chamber of Commerce is concerned that restrictive zoning, car parking requirements, and changing household types may hinder growth in the high-demand neighborhood and negatively affect local businesses. The chamber, along with Special Service Area #27 (map), published a report this week [PDF] that shows that not only is Lakeview’s housing supply failing to keep up with population growth, it’s actually decreasing.

The North Side neighborhood is attractive because there are diverse amenities within walking distance and it’s possible to meet all your needs without leaving the neighborhood, according to SSA director Lee Crandell. The eight CTA ‘L’ stations and multiple east-west bus routes are a major asset. “We’re highly dependent on transit and it’s one of our greatest strengths,” Crandell said.

The number of households in Lakeview decreased by one percent between 2000 to 2011, but the population increased 11 percent, with most of the growth attributed to an increase in families with children. Having more families in Lakeview is a good thing, Crandell said. “It means we’re the kind of neighborhood where people want to have and raise kids.”

However, as a result of the increase in families, and the resulting conversion multi-unit buildings to single-family homes, the neighborhood is losing housing that’s suitable for single people, couples, and renters. “We’re trading one type of population for another instead of accommodating all,” Crandell said.

The SSA is worried that the change in household types in Lakeview, from renters to owners, and singles and couples to families, means there could be reduced consumer spending at local businesses. “That shift has a big impact on how much extra money people have to spend in the neighborhood,” Crandell said. “People with disposable income have been significant to businesses [here].”

“We have heard anecdotally from some businesses, particularly hospitality – bars and restaurants – that they’ve noticed a shift in demographics in the neighborhood,” Crandell added. “Their target base isn’t as present in the neighborhood as it used to be.”

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Streetsblog.net
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Bad Planning and Bad Transit Put Jobs Out of Reach for Milwaukeeans

Milwaukee is the poster child for the special kind of economic oppression that results from a combination of residential segregation, bad transit options, and job sprawl. This is a problem to some extent in almost every city in the country, but it’s worse in formerly industrial cities where big employers have decamped for the suburbs. And in Wisconsin, where the governor and state DOT are determined to spend billions on highway expansions while starving transit, the situation is especially desperate.

Low-income workers who lack cars in Milwaukee face major structural obstacles to employment. Photo: Urban Milwaukee

As Milwaukee bus service shrinks, low-income workers who don’t own cars face even greater structural obstacles to employment. Photo: Urban Milwaukee

Matthew Wisla recently wrote a great synopsis of the problem for the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, which Network blog Urban Milwaukee reposted. Here’s his report:

It has been decades since the city was an engine for regional job growth. “Most of the job growth in recent years is either at the outer parts of the county or outside of the county,” said Kristi Luzar, deputy director of programs, Urban Economic Development Association of Wisconsin. “The biggest problem facing many people in the city is getting connections to jobs.”

Employment in Washington, Ozaukee and Waukesha Counties increased by 56,271 from 1994 to 2009, while the city lost 27,858 jobs, according to a report published earlier this year by the Center for Economic Development at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Reaching suburban employment centers can be challenging for city residents. About 13 percent of city households don’t have access to a car, according to the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

State budget cuts that began in 2001 forced MCTS to eliminate routes and now the bus system reaches about 1,300 fewer employers than it would have before the cuts began. Approximately 30,900 workers are employed by those businesses in an average year, according to the Center for Economic Development.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines for April 16

  • CDOT Has Already Started Installing Red Pavement for Loop Link BRT (DNA)
  • Divvy Starts Expansion, Opens Attractions at Airports, Announces Data Challenge Winners (Curbed)
  • Ald. Reilly Introduces Ordinance to Force CDOT to Move Kinzie PBL to Grand (Sun-Times)
  • Why Are Twin Cities Growing So Much Faster Than CHI? Transit & TOD Are Factors (Chicago)
  • Driver Dies After Crashing Van Into House in Hegewisch (Tribune)
  • 1 Dead After Truck-Car Crash in SW Suburban Elwood (Tribune)
  • Motorist Who Intentionally Struck 2 Men on NW Side Charged With Aggravated Battery (Tribune)
  • IDOT’s “The Driving Dead” Web Miniseries Promotes Safety With Zombies (Tribune)
  • Safety-Conscious Cabbie Asks Customers to Buckle Up (DNA)
  • Ex-CDOT Clerk Pleads Guilty to Embezzling Nearly $750K in Permit Fees (Tribune)
  • Developer Plans to Replace Parking Lot by Morgan Stop With 81 Apartments (Curbed)
  • U of C Students Propose Turning Failed Block 37 Superstation Into a Data Center (Crain’s)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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More Steps Emanuel Should Take to Reform Chicago’s Traffic Cam Program

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Photo: John Greenfield

Even if you voted for Chuy García, if you know how effective automated enforcement has been for preventing serious crashes in other cities, you may be relieved he didn’t get a chance to shut down all of Chicago’s traffic cameras. However, García and the other challengers did residents a service by drawing attention to ways that the Emanuel administration has mismanaged the program, which forced the mayor to take steps to reform it.

In early March, a few days after García said he would abolish the cams, Emanuel announced he would remove 50 red light cameras at 25 intersections that saw one or fewer right-angle crashes in 2013. He also promised to install pedestrian countdown signals at the 42 out of the city’s 174 red-light camera intersections that don’t currently have them, by June 1.

Emanuel proposed giving drivers a “Mulligan” on their first red light violation by allowing them to take an online safety course instead of paying the $100 fine. And he promised that community meetings will be held before red light cameras are installed, moved, or removed. Here are some more steps the mayor should take to make automated enforcement more effective, transparent, and fair.

Monitor cameras more carefully to make sure they are working properly. While the Chicago Tribune has delivered consistently biased coverage of the program, the paper deserves credit for exposing irregularities in enforcement, such as unexplained spikes in ticketing. For example, one North Side camera issued only a dozen tickets for rolling right turns over six months, and then put out 560 tickets for rolling rights within 12 days. The city needs to be vigilant about ticket spikes in the future and immediately address problems that emerge.

Remove cameras from other low-crash locations. It was definitely a step in the right direction to remove cameras from those first 25 low-crash intersections. When cams are installed at locations that don’t have a significant crash problem, it suggests that these sites were chosen with revenue — rather than safety — in mind. According to a Tribune study, there are 61 other intersections that had three or fewer injury crashes before cameras were installed. The mayor should shut down those cams as well.

Don’t include ticket revenue as a projected funding source in the city budget. If the red light and speed cams are doing their jobs to reduce violations, the number of tickets issued should drop within a few months of installation, which has been the case in Chicago. As a result, revenue from the cams has been lower than projected. Fines should be treated as a way to deter lawbreaking, not as an end in themselves, so the city should not count on them to balance the budget.

Be transparent about changes to the program. It’s a common misconception that the Emanuel shortened yellow light times in order to increase ticket revenue. That wasn’t the case, but the city did quietly change its policy to allow tickets to be issued after yellow phases that were a fraction of a second shorter than 3.0 seconds, to allow for minute electrical fluctuations. That move was legal under state law, and the motorists who ran reds after minutely shorter yellows deserved tickets. However, it was politically foolish to make the change without announcing it in advance, because it was only a matter of time before people noticed, which fueled mistrust for the program.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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FHWA Will Help Cities Get Serious About Measuring Biking and Walking

This bike counter in San Francisco gives planners reliable, up-to-date data about biking rates. Photo: via The Fast Lane Blog

This counter in San Francisco gives planners reliable, up-to-date data about bike trips on Market Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick/Streetsblog SF

The lack of good data on walking and biking is a big problem. Advocates say current metrics yield a spotty and incomplete picture of how much, where, and why Americans walk and bike. The U.S. Census only tells us about commuting — a fairly small share of total trips. The more detailed National Household Transportation Survey comes with its own drawbacks: It’s conducted infrequently and doesn’t provide useful data at a local scale.

Without a good sense of people’s active transportation habits, it’s hard to draw confident conclusions not only about walking and biking rates, but also about safety and other critical indicators that can guide successful policy at the local level. A new program from the Federal Highway Administration aims to help fill the gap.

U.S. DOT announced today that FHWA will help local transportation planners gather more sophisticated data on walking and biking. The agency has selected metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) in 10 regions — Providence, Buffalo, Richmond, Puerto Rico, Palm Beach, Fresno, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Memphis — to lead its new “Bicycle-Pedestrian Count Technology Pilot Program.”

FHWA says the program will provide funding for equipment to measure biking and walking trips. Writing on U.S. DOT’s Fast Lane blog, FHWA Deputy Administrator Gregory Nadeau adds that “each MPO will receive technical assistance in the process of setting up the counters; uploading, downloading and analyzing the data; and –most importantly– using the data to improve the planning process in their community.”

The first counts will be available in December. Following the initial pilot, a second round of regions may be chosen to participate, Nadeau writes.

This would be an enormous improvement over what they do in Cleveland, where I live, as well as many other regions: recruit volunteers to stand at intersections with clipboards once a year and count cyclists by hand.