Today’s Headlines

  • Logan Megamall Sold; Developer Plans Complex With Apartments & Grocery Store (DNA)
  • Driver Who Killed Girl After “Huffing” Cleaning Product Gets 5 Years (Sun-Times)
  • Lawsuit Alleges Celia Sauseda Had Exited Bus and Was Crossing Street When Struck (Tribune)
  • Why Has CTA Bus Ridership Continued to Drop? (RedEye)
  • Help Document the Need for Bike Facilities — Volunteer to Do CDOT Bike Counts (Active Trans)
  • Bike Shop on Lakefront Trail Burglarized by Thieves Wearing Reflective Bike Gear (CBS)
  • Playwright Holds a Reading of “RIDE” at Historic Oscar Wastyn Cycles (Active Trans)
  • What’s Up With That Fire Hydrant in the Middle of Lakewood Avenue? (DNA)
  • Hoosier Trip Advisor? IN Residents Get the Most Out-of-State Parking Tickets in Chicago (DNA)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • BlueFairlane

    Here’s a random question that has nothing to do with today’s headlines.

    Say I wanted to find the estimated population within a certain radius (say, 15 miles) of a particular point. That seems like the kind of thing people in the streetsblog universe would know how to do. Does anybody out there know of a free online tool that will do that?

  • Anne A

    In the last few months, I’ve used CTA buses much more than usual out of necessity (injury/limited mobility) – to get from Metra to office, office to other downtown destinations, etc. The only bus that makes a direct connection from LaSalle St. Station to my office is the #36 Broadway. It’s been mostly reliable in the mornings.

    Evening rush hour is a totally different story. I would get to the nearest State St. bus stop just after 5:00. Bus tracker might say that a 36 bus would arrive in 5 minutes, then it stretched out to 8 or 10, then that run disappeared from bus tracker and the bus never arrived. At other times, the bus would show up when expected. There were many days when bus tracker was inaccurate and wait times were 20-30+ minutes – at the peak of rush hour – forcing me to take a cab or hobble further on crutches to use a combination of CTA services where one bus should have done the job.

    My experiences have made me grateful that I don’t need to rely on the #36 for the long term. It’s made me wish that taking a pedicab from State St. to Metra wasn’t banned.

  • cjlane

    The CRE community has lots of resources for that, but afaik, it’s based on proprietary databases and/or it’s merely estimated based on assumptions about what portion of a census tract’s population is within the radius.

  • BlueFairlane

    Thanks for the info. I’ll poke around there and see what I can find and if I can make it work for what I need.

  • R.A. Stewart

    Yep. Build it and they will come. Build it, limit its hours, and make it so slow, unreliable, and poorly coordinated that they can’t make practical use of it, and they’ll go away. Who can’t understand that? CTA planners, apparently.

  • skyrefuge
  • BlueFairlane

    Ah! That does exactly what I need. Thanks both to you and to Chicagio!

  • Anne A

    In contrast, I’ve seen an improvement in CTA service on 95th St. in the last couple of years, thanks to better coordination with Pace. West of Halsted, there is parallel CTA and Pace service as far as Western. A while back, the bus stop locations at 95th Red line station were rearranged a bit so that the 381 Pace bus (serving 95th) and 95W CTA bus now depart from the same location instead of being on the opposite sides of the Dan Ryan. They make the same stops until the 95W terminates at Western, and runs are better coordinated so the area gets more reliable service. My only complaint is that I wish I had a bus tracker app that could give me arrival times for BOTH buses.

    I know one of the Pace planners and made a point to thank her and let her know that the change was noticed and appreciated. It’s nice when something actually gets better and makes our lives easier.

  • Fred

    Off topic: Does Divvy Valet hurt more than it helps? At 7:30 this morning the *3* closest Divvy stations to my home were all empty. I had to walk 10 minutes to finally find a dock with bikes. When I got to my destination dock at Dearborn/Adams (a valet station) there were 30+ bikes in or next to docks. Sure its nice to have a guaranteed station to return a bike, but those bike were out of circulation making it hard to get a bike in the first place. If they are going to continue the valet program, they need to be far more proactive about getting the valet bikes back out to where they are needed. Having 100+ bikes out of circulation at rush hour makes the system far less usable.

  • Anne A

    It’s been a mixed bag for me. I often find the docks empty at Clark & Congress in the morning. When I do get a bike, returning it at Dearborn & Adams is easy due to the valet service. I really appreciate it when I can get that bike in the morning, because recovery from an injury makes riding less painful than walking, even for that short a distance.

  • BlueFairlane

    Depends on what you define as “hurts.” It seems to me that if you’re having difficulty finding a bike, more bikes must be in use. If you can easily find a bike, fewer bikes must be in use. So while you as an individual may be having trouble, the system as a whole is functioning closer to capacity. If this is because of the valet system, then the conclusion has to be that it helps the system, even if it hurts you.

  • Fred

    The ~100 bikes stockpiled at the valet stations are not in use. They effectively reduce total system capacity from 3000 bikes to 2900 bikes (3.33%).

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    If you want Divvy to be a commuter bike rental service, then they will have to expand their trucks and employees (possibly running split shifts or having a lot of part time employees), to haul bikes back and forth at rush hour times.

    Make an imaginary bell curve in your mind. If peak usage in the a.m. is say between 7:45 and 8:15 am, they can’t replace bikes 2 miles away with anything being used in that period, and anything before that may be so few that it does not fill enough trucks to make replacing bikes upstream worthwhile considering the most used stations may be further apart and the time unloading and positioning bikes takes time.

    So, make more stations. But if the bikes/stations are only used during peak commuting times and the bikes are sitting around unused for the rest of the day, maybe that doesn’t make economic sense.

    So, have upstream trucks with bikes stationed to refill bike stations. Well, that’s good, except depending upon how many bikes fill a truck and how long it takes to unload and position may benefit some, but not everyone.

    So if you want Divvy as a primary bike for your commute, you may need to get out there earlier or go to a different station.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    I think the fare card debacle confused people. Additionally when the Dan Ryan road work was in process, people used CTA, rather than car or train. Also as the economy as risen, more people may choose their own car over the bus.

  • BlueFairlane

    They are not in use when you’re looking for a bike to head to work, but they were in use just a short time earlier by people who leave before you do. You’re wanting these bikes to have not been used that morning so that they’ll be available for you, when the fact is they were already used by other people.

  • JasonMath

    Of course, there is also the matter of stop spacing. I went to Montrose Beach recently and took the #146 bus from State/Lake (the #78 was not serving the beach). The ride was fine up until Belmont, and then the bus stopped. Every. Half. Of. A. Block. The stops were mostly spaced two to a block from Belmont to Montrose, and people kept pulling the cord.

    IMHO, bus stops should be no less than 1 block apart, and closer to 2 blocks on the major arterials (i.e. Ashland, Western, Irving Park, Cicero) to match up with the traffic signals that occur every two blocks. To accommodate riders with disabilities, courtesy stops could be made by those people by mentioning their stop in advance to the bus driver.

    Also, the stops should be relocated whenever possible to the far side of the intersection to aid with bus priority signals. This would help eliminate the all too common occurrence of the signal changing from green to red when passengers are boarding/exiting the bus.

    Finally, parking should be eliminated on the major 4-5 lane arterials (if ADTs are above 20,000 – 25,000 per day), with the space being designated for busses. The replacement parking (if needed) could be used by metering spaces on side streets. Not only would this make the busses run significantly faster, but drivers would have a slightly smoother ride as well.

  • Wewilliewinkleman

    And people kept pulling the cord… how entirely rude.

  • R.A. Stewart

    Those are probably factors also. And in practice it’s difficult to separate the different things that influence people’s decisions. If bus service were faster and more reliable, would more people stick with it rather than choosing their car as the economy improves? I expect some would.

  • R.A. Stewart

    That’s gratifying to hear about. I’ve lived in Chicago for over 40 years, and to be fair, during that time I’ve seen some systemwide improvements in bus operations: a few stops have been moved to the far side of intersections, the buses seem to break down less often than they used to, and over the last few summers I’ve boarded several buses with working air conditioning. But this, I think, may be the first I’ve heard in all these years of actual improvements in service on a particular route.

    Maybe it’s a tiny harbinger of the faint beginnings of a slight change of approach in a few outposts of the region’s transit network. Now if you’ll excuse me, this giddy optimism is making me lightheaded, and I’d better lie down for a while.

  • Fred

    So they are expected to be one rush hour use only? Why shouldn’t they be rebalanced back to empty stations to be used again?

  • BlueFairlane

    First, you weren’t suggesting there be more rebalancing. You were suggesting there be fewer places to leave a bike in the part of town people are most likely to go, so that fewer people use a bike during the rush. I can only guess your reasoning was that if fewer people use bikes, more people can use bikes. Circular reasoning is circular.

    Second, I think it’s a little unreasonable to expect a significant rebalancing in the relatively short period that covers the rush. I have no idea how many bikes come downtown during the morning rush hour, but I would say that it’s at least a thousand and probably many more. The bulk of these bikes probably moves between 7 and 8. I also don’t know how long it takes to move a thousand bikes when the streets are clogged with rush hour traffic (though the valet service would at least allow the collection to happen faster). I can’t imagine it’s possible to make a significant dent in that before 10 or 11.But then what happens in the afternoon, when all the people who rode bikes downtown are looking for bikes to ride home?

    So yes, Divvy bikes are only reasonably going to make the morning rush once.

  • Fred

    “If they are going to continue the valet program, they need to be far more proactive about getting the valet bikes back out to where they are needed” -This isn’t suggesting more rebalancing?

    It would be nice if rebalancing were more efficient. Maybe with a fleet of cargo trikes that held 3-5 bikes and weren’t subject to gridlock traffic.

    I will probably be dropping my Divvy membership when it is up in the spring. If it is only usable for commuting before 7am I don’t think I will be able to get my money’s worth out of it.

  • BlueFairlane

    It would be nice if rebalancing were more efficient. Maybe with a fleet
    of cargo trikes that held 3-5 bikes and weren’t subject to gridlock
    traffic.

    It would be nice, wouldn’t it, but do this math. A cargo trike hauling five very heavy Divvy bikes to, say, Wicker Park isn’t going to move very fast, even if it isn’t caught in traffic (though I’d like to see such a contraption try moving up Milwaukee beyond Elston without getting caught in traffic). It’s probably going to take a half hour, at least, and that’s if you have some hard riders. So you’re going to have to run a lot of these guys for there to be even a noticeable effect. Run 20 of them starting at 7, and you might have a hundred bikes available by 7:30, spread out all over Divvy’s outer territory. Have them come back downtown for new loads, and you’ll have another hundred bikes by 8:30. Meanwhile, you’ve spent whatever it would cost to get a cargo contraption to haul these things, and you’ve paid 20 guys to move a hundred bikes an hour.

    It’s just not going to be an efficient process. Unfortunately, trying to share a city with 3 million other people often means things aren’t going to be convenient to your specific preferences.

  • Fred

    I imagine they wouldn’t be any wider than a pedicab, and 5 Divvy bikes weigh less than 2 humans. Anywhere a pedicab could go a Divvy rebalancer could go. All the bikes ending up in the Loop are presumably only coming from less than 30 minutes away, so they would not have to make it to “Divvy’s outer territory” only a few mile circle from the valet stations.

    “convenient to your specific preferences.” – You mean “useful”? How is this any different than complaining about poor train schedules?