Today’s Headlines

  • Mayoral Advisor Spielfogel Says Rahm Wouldn’t Support Car-Free Mag Mile (Sun-Times)
  • Lake County Thinking of Raising Sales Tax to Fund $2.5 Billion Highway Extension (Tribune)
  • Active Trans Starts Letter-Writing Campaign to Make Metra Better
  • Uber Driver Barred Because of Residential Burglary, Not Speeding Tickets or Suspended License (Tribune)
  • IDOT Project Manager Admits to Induced Demand at Kennedy Widening Meeting (Pioneer)
  • Amtrak Offers Free Wi-Fi on Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin Trains (ABC7)
  • Will County Driver Dies After Crossing Lanes and Crashing Into Bus (Tribune)
  • Divvy Trip Data Crunched Within Hours of Release (Reddit)
  • Should the State Step in to Help Cash-Strapped Chicago Fix Its Potholes? (FOX32)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Anne A

    One little change I’d like to see for improved Metra passenger safety is the addition of more anti-skid material on stairs, especially the tight corner stairs to the upper level. I’ve slipped on these stairs on rainy days and snowy ones, and I’ve seen it happen to others plenty of times.

    It would also be great if vestibule stairs could be swept more often in snowy weather. On some of our worst days lately, those stairs have gotten piled up with compacted snow, creating a hazard and greatly slowing the process of passengers getting on and off the trains.

    These little low tech changes could help a little to keep trains running on time and help prevent injuries.

  • It would be great, great, great if Metra could just buy train cars that don’t have stairs to get ONTO the car.

    And no stupid, tight turns to get upstairs.

    The Bombardier Bi-Level is the new normal. Get with the program Metra.

    Their stairs to the second level are covered in a gritty material, have two handrails, and nice bright edges.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesbondsv/8253106724/

  • CL

    Yes, the state should help with potholes. Residents from the suburbs drive through Chicago all the time, so they contribute to wear on the roads, plus they would benefit from better streets.

    I didn’t drive for a few weeks because of the constant snow. When I finally drove over the weekend (mostly on Western for about 10 miles) I was amazed at how many potholes there are. It’s ridiculous how torn up the streets have become. I know it’s due to winter, but we need to find the money to fix them somewhere.

  • Anne A

    Level boarding would be ideal, as would eliminating tight turns on upper level stairs. The simple fact of having stairs to enter Metra trains causes boarding delays, even in dry conditions. This is the biggest factor I see in off-peak delays because so many families with little kids and strollers, seniors and travelers with suitcases ride then.

  • Anne A

    Between suburban and non-local folks who work in or otherwise visit the city by car and Chicago residents who fail to register their cars here, there are plenty of drivers who regularly use Chicago streets but don’t contribute to their upkeep.

  • Pretty ironic that Spielfogel is the guy to break the bad news about the Mag Mile when his partner is the former head of Active Trans’ neighborhood bikeways campaign.

  • ohsweetnothing

    …but that won’t stop the complaints about cyclists not paying our fair share, hah.

  • rohmen

    Pedestrian malls always sound like a good idea to me, and I think State Street in Madison (which allows only bus traffic) is a good example of one working. That said, there is a history of these projects failing in the Chicago area. By all accounts I’ve ever seen, the State Street pedestrian mall was a complete failure. Also, Oak Park had turned Marion Street into a pedestrian mall in its downtown for years, but switched it back just a few years ago.

    Would be interesting to know why the past examples failed, and what has changed that would help the recent proposals succeed (and while state street was in the 80s, Oak Park just went through this in the past 10 years).

  • Anne A

    …or change the fact that we don’t damage pavement the way that motor vehicles do.

  • Adam Herstein

    Can we please stop referencing the failed State Street Mall? It failed not because there were no cars, but because of far more complex reasons involving white flight and the abandonment of the inner cities. Few people even lived in that area in the 80’s. This is a different time, and there are far more people living in the downtown area – thus a pedestrian mall would be far more successful today than thirty years ago.

    If we scoff at all ideas solely because they are too drastic, then nothing other than the status quo will ever reign.

  • Matt F

    Re: Lake County I-53 extension.

    I constantly see people saying that cyclists should pay their share for roads and bike lanes in Chicago (i.e. licences, registration, etc)

    Finance through a sales tax increase makes this a perfect example of cyclists (well, non-drivers to be more specific) paying more than their share for something they can’t even use.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Most of the pavement damage is due to melting and freezing over the course of time or the result of bad patching after utility and sewer/water main projects. Whether you have autos or bikes only, you will have bad pavement in areas. If you ban autos because of damage, where will you get the $$$s to fix the streets?

    By the way, Milwaukee Ave is awful for every user. Hope that is 1st on the list for repavement this spring.

  • Adam Herstein

    Those trains looks really nice – but don’t hold your breath. I believe we are stuck with Nippon Sharyo for a while, since they just opened up a plant in Rochelle. Also, I think that law that a portion of transit vehicles need to be American Made would apply here. Are these trainsets manufactured in Canada or New York, like the CTA 5000 cars?

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    It took nearly 17 years to undo the State Street Mall. Funny how it regenerated after the mall was taken out.

    I read the reviews of the Denver 16th Street Mall on Yelp. Yeeew! Full of bars and drunks.

    People here forget there are four major hospitals east of Michigan Avenue and there needs to be access to these facilities.

    I honestly believe there will be some of these “people areas” built in neighborhoods in Chicago, as they should be. But they won’t be vast. No way will the businesses on Clark Street support taking out four blocks or more of Clark Street. More likely than not, a one block area between Clark and Ashland will be selected. They already do that once a week in the summer for a farmers market.

    Also, if for appearances all these parklets are built in comfy northside neighborhoods, there may be a time when people who live south of Roosevelt Rd may question why the city is spending so much money to cush out the more wealthy neighborhoods.

  • rohmen

    It was open to 96, actually. And I don’t think you can blame the failure solely on white flight. Also, Oak Park’s conversion back to letting traffic through on Marion happened just a few years ago–and it had been a pedestrian mall from the 70s until after 2007.

    I actually support trying pedestrian malls, but past examples show it’s not as easy as “if you build it, the will come.” There are definitely lessons to be learned as to why the past examples did not work–and simply saying “the City is different now” doesn’t take those concerns into account at all.

  • Adam Herstein

    It took nearly 17 years to undo the State Street Mall. Funny how it regenerated after the mall was taken out.

    What do you mean by this? That it look 17 years after the pedestrian mall was removed for the neighborhood to recover?

    Also, if for appearances all these parklets are built in comfy northside neighborhoods, there may be a time when people who live south of Roosevelt Rd may question why the city is spending so much money to cush out the more wealthy neighborhoods.

    There were two parklets on the south side last year in Bronzeville, and more planned for this year. Pilsen is on the list, if I remember correctly.

  • Alex_H

    “Brronzeville.” Only for another month or so! :)

  • Adam Herstein

    Haha, must have been a Freudian slip! Corrected.

  • Another reason to hate on Nippon Sharyo: they stole Chicagoland’s best izakaya (Japanese pub) chef! http://chi.streetsblog.org/2013/07/23/izakaya-express-japanese-restaurant-caters-to-railcar-factory-employees/

  • Guest

    Agreed, but so many people dwell on the fact that one pedestrian mall failed, so all further attempts will also fail. There are certainly lessons to be learned from it, but I don’t think a pedestrian mall would fail today, as it did thirty years ago. For one, we have the population of people living in the area to actually fill the street with foot traffic. Based solely on empirical evidence, anyone can see how crowded the sidewalks on Michigan get on a summer day.

    There are numerous examples of streets being closed to car traffic and the surrounding area actually improving business and property values – NYC’s Times Square is a great example.

    Many times than not, traffic concerns are overblown. The street grid can absorb the redirected traffic, and more people may choose not to drive at all. Many people on Michigan are just driving though, not stopping at local businesses, Those people can use nearby La Salle or Lake Shore Drive.

  • Adam Herstein

    Agreed, but so many people dwell on the fact that one pedestrian mall failed, so all further attempts will also fail. There are certainly lessons to be learned from it, but I don’t think a pedestrian mall would fail today, as it did thirty years ago. For one, we have the population of people living in the area to actually fill the street with foot traffic. Based solely on empirical evidence, anyone can see how crowded the sidewalks on Michigan get on a summer day.

    There are numerous examples of streets being closed to car traffic and the surrounding area actually improving business and property values – NYC’s Times Square is a great example.

    Many times than not, traffic concerns are overblown. The street grid can absorb the redirected traffic, and more people may choose not to drive at all. Many people on Michigan are just driving though, not stopping at local businesses, Those people can use nearby La Salle or Lake Shore Drive.

  • rohmen

    I found a NY Times article talking about the shut down, and one of the things that strikes me as interesting is the discussion regarding what makes a city street successful in the first place. Here’s an interesting quote:

    “”The mall took the excitement out of State Street,” said Elizabeth Hollander, who was Chicago’s planning commissioner in the 1980’s and is now director of a center for urban affairs at DePaul University. “Planners are rethinking these kinds of urban malls. They’ve learned that cities are different than suburbs. And cities ought to do what cities do best, which is crowd a lot of people together.”

    Point being, the reason why a street like Michigan Ave flourishes may be due in part to how crowded and dense it feels–especially with regards to attracting tourists.

    Again, not saying I’m against ped. malls, but these are interesting things to think about.

    The article does go on to identify several other causes for failure, including the fact that State was in pretty bad shape economy-wise for decades prior:

    http://www.nytimes.com/1996/02/01/us/chicago-gives-a-pedestrian-mall-the-boot.html

  • ohsweetnothing

    Where did you get banning autos as an idea floated from these comments?
    This is about who should help pay for the damaged roads.
    Anyway, it’s true that extreme weather will damage the road no matter who the user. But as for everyday wear and tear, cars cause far more than bikes. Just like how heavy trucks cause more damage than cars. I don’t think there’s anything controversial about that statement, right?

  • They’re built in Canada, but I’m sure they could be persuaded. They provide equipment to Caltrain in the SF Bay Area and Sounder in Seattle. And I think others.

  • Adam Herstein

    The article does go on to identify several other causes for failure, including the fact that State was in pretty bad shape economy-wise for decades prior:

    Agreed. The State Street mall was pegged as a way to save a declining area. No one today would argue that Michigan Ave is failing, business-wise. This time around, it would be for safety and comfort – having a pleasant car-free area to shop, dine, and relax.

    I don’t think that having six lanes of honking cars contributes positively to the crowded and dense feel of the area.

  • People who bike are already paying more for the maintenance of the road than the damage they inflict. This is done through sales taxes on goods that people who typically bike buy, gas taxes they pay when they drive on roads that gas taxes do not fully pay for, income taxes, and various other sources.

    You can read more information about this here:
    http://grist.org/article/2010-09-27-why-an-additional-road-tax-for-bicyclists-would-be-unfair/

    Another thing: cars inflict damage to the roadway at a rate proportional to the fourth power of the car’s weight. “Since an SUV [owner in Chicago in 2008] pays $120 a year for a city sticker, that means that a fair price for my [bike’s] city sticker would be… $0.00005. Yup, one penny every 200 years. After 1,600 years, my payments would be worth the paper they’re printed on!”
    http://westnorth.com/2008/02/07/hello-criminal/

  • The Chicago Department of Transportation has finally begun doing, in 2013, what the suburbs have done for a very long time: sealing cracks in the road to prevent water seepage that eventually turns into expanding ice that breaks the asphalt.

  • Mishellie

    Oh this is beautiful. Saving this.

  • oooBooo

    Wear and tear due to vehicle weight is more complex than that. The short story is that everyone using vehicles roughly 6,000 lbs and under is subsidizing heavy trucks. Basically the stresses caused by even the largest consumer SUVs are such a small percentage of those from heavy trucks that the wear and near is negligible or zero. I am no fan of widespread use of passenger trucks, but they are yet another unintended consequence of government meddling.

    In the present collection system a fair bicycling tax would be less than the cost of collection. However, by reserving road space politically, that means the present collection system is becoming no longer valid. The present system assumes a shared roadway, not one with space reserved for particular vehicle types. At some point the amount of reserved roadway will exceed a threshold where a tax would need to be implemented in a fair system.

    Eventually the reserved road space will result in a political backlash and taxation IMO.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    I don’t think you can make a true comparison between Times Square and the Michigan Avenue. Here’s where I see the difference.

    1) Times Square is an entertainment district. Theaters, Hotels, restaurants and other Disney-like venues. Michigan Avenue is partially high end-residential (on the north end) Offices and Shopping venues. I would compare Michigan Avenue more to the likes of 5th Avenue.

    2) Two major transit hubs nearby are Grand Central and Pennsylvania Stations as compared to Chicago and Grand Avenue Red line stations. And accessing Grand Avenue you have to take a very long set of stairs down to street level. (They both have bus services so I won’t make a comparison), but one can easily walk from either of the NY stations to Times Square as compared to the Chicago rail which is all west loop.

    3) There is a certain trashy glitz to Times Square (especially at night) that draws crowds in and of itself.
    Times Square has street food vendors and 7-Eleven selling Slurppies. It’s more of a carnival atmosphere. (Lest we forget the world famous “naked cowboy” and his guitar. If you want to turn Michigan Avenue into that sort of thing, you may lose as many people as you gain.

    4) Mid-town Manhattan has a pretty good street grid. The north/south Avenues like 7th are much more able to take additional road traffic. Aren’t these streets 3 or 4 lanes wide and one way? Wabash and State are already narrow and congested and probably do not have the ability to absorb the amount of traffic load it would get by removing traffic from Michigan Avenue. Accessing Columbus Drive is possible, but the side streets are often blocked with delivery vehicles, cabs and service vehicles (like plumbers). (Remember if you want to buy or eat something downtown, somebody has to deliver it and not all deliveries can be conveniently scheduled and if your heating and air go out, it needs to be fixed pronto.)

    5) “Many people are just driving thru”, However a certain amount of people do stop. Are there any parking garages directly off of Michigan Avenue? I don’t think so. Most are accessed from side streets, so maybe the people you think are just “driving thru” are actually are parking.

    You can make a zillion comparisons to pedestrian malls that have worked or not worked. I think most the time it’s a crap shoot. If your goal is to remove cars from Michigan Avenue you have to make a better case than — “hmmm, maybe this will work out this time”

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    Here’s another thing to consider. Even if you do not drive an auto, you have use of the street. If you buy anything, someone delivers it to your house or neighborhood store. Someone delivers your beer and wine. Your cable guy doesn’t fly in. Your plumber or other household repair person usually comes in a van or a truck. You have access to police, fire and ambulance. We all pay at some point for the cost of the road. For those that are avid bikers, you still cause wear and tear if not directly, indirectly by the purchase of goods or the use of services. So to grab an attitude that you are not responsible for wear and tear on the roads is just a tad too much.

  • That – and cars don’t contribute to State St, period. They do not park along the side of it and pop into shops. It is a thoroughfare to go somewhere else. I think the only danger would be that there’s nothing in the center of the street. And that’s why you do infill. You open up other things in the middle so there’s more to do.

  • Anne A

    Where holes have gotten started, how much of an effect does a bike have on those holes vs. a 3000 or 4000 or 6000 lb vehicle? Yes, bad pavement *will* happen due to freezing/thawing and cutting/patching, but it gets worse faster if it’s getting pounded by vehicle traffic than by bikes alone. How many potholes do you see on the lakefront path or other paths? And when they start, how many seasons does it take for them to get bad?

  • Anne A

    That’s a LONG overdue and welcome change.

  • oooBooo

    The most local of roads (residential streets) are paid via various mixed general funds. These are everything from property taxes to traffic tickets. The funds are not segregated in any form or fashion nor are the costs. It is simply impossible to track who paid what for what.

    A bicyclist certainly pays enough to use the roadways with that vehicle one way or another. There simply isn’t much burden placed on the road by a bicycle. The problem comes in when roadway is reserved for specific bicycle use.

    As to non-direct uses, every commercial vehicle owner pays various road going taxes, fees, etc. These costs are covered in what he charges for goods and services.

  • FG

    Agreed, I think had the city NOT done the mall it would have gotten worse than it became and would not have “come back” (frankly, the biggest generator of foot traffic has been the new Target, there’s been a dramatic increase in traffic since it opened).

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