Coming Next Week: Streetsblog Chicago

After setting up transportation news sites covering New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and national policy, next Tuesday Streetsblog will be expanding for the first time in four years with the launch of Streetsblog Chicago.

The reporters producing Streetsblog Chicago are John Greenfield and Steven Vance, who have built an impressive audience for local transportation and planning news at their current site, Grid Chicago. As writers and planners, they’re both veterans of the city’s movement for livable streets. With the additional resources Streetsblog affords them, John and Steven will be creating a wide-ranging, daily news source where Chicagoans can plug in to efforts to improve walking, biking, and transit. Initial funding for Streetsblog Chicago has been provided by The Chicago Community Trust, the Rockefeller Foundation, local advertisers, and a generous anonymous donor.

Steven Vance and John Greenfield. Photo: David Lepeska

Streetsblog will be launching at a moment when expectations are high for progressive change to the city’s streets. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his transportation commissioner, Gabe Klein, have rapidly expanded the city’s bike network, installing 12.5 miles of protected bikeways and 14.5 miles of buffered lanes since coming into office less than two years ago. Advocates believe upcoming Bus Rapid Transit projects could set a national precedent, showing other American mayors they shouldn’t shy away from giving street space to BRT. The Chicago Transit Authority is working on a major rehab of the Red Line and looking into extending it. Klein has made it the city’s explicit goal to eliminate traffic deaths by 2022. With so much happening in Chicago right now, there’s no such thing as a slow news day.

Streetsblog will track these developments, informing Chicagoans about how to get involved in the upgrades to their streets. We’ll explain changes so it’s clear, for instance, why converting motor vehicle lanes into exclusive transit lanes will pay off, and why this makes the city more livable. There’s a long way to go to re-orient Chicago’s streets toward effective transit and safe walking and biking, and getting from here to there won’t be simple or quick. Streetsblog will help map the route. If a columnist in search of pageviews starts ranting about a “war on cars,” we’ll be there to set the record straight, and if it looks like the city’s decision makers are going off-course, we won’t hold back from saying so.

We’ll also be raising the profile of issues that have yet to pick up steam in City Hall or Springfield. The CTA just raised fares, and its precarious budget situation still looms over riders who make 1.8 million transit trips each weekday. While the regional planning agency, CMAP, has a smart long-term plan called GOTO2040 with no shortage of ideas for funding a healthy transit system, political traction for those solutions has been in short supply. Chicago remains burdened by parking minimums that impede walkability, and the region has yet to prove it can consistently leverage its transit system — which in addition to the CTA includes Metra commuter rail and the Pace regional bus network — to produce smart development that puts people first, not cars. Streetsblog Chicago will be looking into these issues in Chicago proper and its suburbs, which have major potential for transit-oriented growth and walkable, bikeable streets.

The Chicago region is blessed with a deep roster of livable streets advocates, whom we expect to feature regularly in our coverage. The Metropolitan Planning Council — whose executive vice president, Peter Skosey, has been indispensable in bringing Streetsblog to Chicago — advances a better transportation network for metro Chicago, from regionally significant infrastructure projects to neighborhood-scale placemaking initiatives. The Active Transportation Alliance is working neighborhood-by-neighborhood throughout the Chicagoland region to build safe, efficient, multi-modal streets. And the Center for Neighborhood Technology produces research with a national scope about housing, transportation, and community development. We’re looking forward to working with all of them to make the case for change.

Most of all we’re excited about connecting with readers who want to see Chicago and its suburbs become better places for walking, biking, and transit. If you’ve got a story you’d like John and Steven to cover, drop them a line. And keep in mind, to maintain Streetsblog Chicago going forward, we’re going to need support from our readers. So if you get in the habit of reading our Chicago coverage, we hope you’ll drop something in the tip jar when the pledge drives roll around.

For now, a little celebration may be in order — the wait is over: