So Long for Now, But Hopefully Not for Long

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Last night, Steven and John celebrated the achievements of the last two years with a dinner at La Zacatecana, where we hatched the plan for our original blog Grid Chicago back in 2011.

Over the past two years, Steven Vance and I had the privilege and pleasure of bringing you the latest in sustainable transportation and livable streets news via Streetsblog Chicago. It’s been fascinating to track the exciting developments taking place in our region during that time, from bus rapid transit, to Divvy bike-share, to the Bloomingdale Trail. It’s also been satisfying to serve as advocates and watchdogs, whether it’s alerting the Chicago Department of Transportation about faulty crosswalk signage, or raising awareness of the folly of the $1 billion-plus Illiana Tollway boondoggle.

We’re thankful to editor-in-chief Ben Fried and the rest of the Streetsblog staff for mentorship that has helped Steven and me hone our journalist skills. We’ve appreciated the contributions of talented freelancers, including Anne Alt, Lorena Cupcake, Justin Haugens, Eboni Hawkins, Daniel Hertz, Shaun Jacobsen, Melissa Manak, Papanek, Lisa Phillips, James Porter, Oboi Reed, and Daniel Ronan. We’ve especially enjoyed getting to know you, our readers, through your thoughtful comments on the site, and at several meet-ups at drinking establishments around town.

While Streetsblog Chicago will be going on hiatus after today, I will be working hard in the coming weeks to raise funds to resurrect the site. We’ve already gotten feedback from local transportation and planning leaders who want to see the site return. I know that thousands of readers value Streetsblog’s unique perspective on walking, biking, and transit issues, which you can’t get from any other local news source.

As Ben wrote earlier today, the Streetsblog Los Angeles model proves that it’s possibly to have a thriving, locally funded transportation news website — I’m sure LA editor Damien Newton’s advice will be invaluable as I take steps to revive the Chicago site. I’m optimistic that grant money will be available to help resume Windy City publication.


However, Streetsblog Chicago is also going to need support from readers to pull this off. If you’ve come to depend on the site to stay informed about the latest efforts to make our city a better place to walk, bike, and ride transit, please consider making a contribution to the Streetsblog Chicago Resurrection Fund. Donations are not tax-deductible at this point, but all donors will get a receipt stating that their money will be returned if daily publication has not resumed by April 8, three months from now.

Please feel free to contact me at greenfieldjohn[at]hotmail.com or 312-560-3966 for more info about how your donation will be used, or to discuss ideas for other possible funding sources. Stay tuned for updates on the fundraising effort via the Streetsblog Chicago Facebook and Twitter accounts, and occasional posts on the website.

While the site is on hiatus, Steven will be writing about transportation and urban planning on his longtime blog Steven Can Plan. Be sure to check out his many other online projects, including Chicago Cityscape, the Chicago Bike Guide, Lakefront Trail Conditions, the Chicago Crash Browser, and Close Calls. I’ll continue to write Newcity magazine’s Checkerboard City transportation column, and will likely freelance for various local and national publications, while Streetsblog Chicago is dormant.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support. Until Streetsblog Chicago rides again, may your trains and buses always run on time, may your bicycle keep its rubber side down, and may your shoe soles remain free of holes.

– John

  • jackbwheeler

    Sad to hear this. Your writings are instrumental in making Chicago a people-centric city.

  • hello

    Make sure you donate then! I will right now.

  • grifter1910

    In the meantime, what are John and Steven’s Twitter handles so we can follow their work directly?

  • grifter1910

    Found them: @stevevance & @greenfieldjohn

  • Frankie_Machine

    Nooooooooooooo

  • I’m sure this is a depressing/terrifying/exciting time. Best of luck and you know how to find me. Can’t wait to see how you guys make this work out for the best.

  • Thanks! Also feel free to email me if you want to help revive the site: greenfieldjohn[at]hotmail.com.

  • Thanks Damien! Looking forward to picking your brains on how to run a successful, locally funded site.

  • Thanks guys!

  • grifter1910

    Already donated, my good man. Now go forth and make sure the city gets the plows out in time to erase all the bike lanes.

  • Who was paying for SC originally and how/why did the money run out? I think that’s important to know if you’re going to ask people for money.

  • HJ

    http://www.gridchicago.com/

    I’m just saying.

  • Yes, I invite you to browse Steven’s and my old articles on Grid Chicago, and old Streetsblog Chicago posts will remain online as well. We shut down Grid Chicago, which was not financially sustainable, in order to write Streetsblog Chicago, which allowed us to make living wages while roughly doubling the writing output.

  • Carter O’Brien

    Done. You guys put an awful lot of hard work into this site, there’s a real need for it & at the very least you seem deserving of a few fundraisers at some of our fine craft breweries.

    I would suggest you consider opening up your reporting to include the POV of drivers. Not because I want to see the City backslide, but because I think the key to continued progress involves understanding why kids who love their bikes grow into adults who love their cars, because that’s where the “interception” zone is greatest. That understanding is really key to changing hearts and minds IMO.

  • Thanks a lot Carter! I would totally been down with holding a fundraiser at a brewery. Our friend Josh Deth from Revolution Brewing has already expressed interest in helping to revive the site, so that would be an obvious location — stay tuned.

    I agree, more empathy with the perspective of car drivers would be a good strategy. Some of my favorite commenters on our site are people who feel that their circumstances require them to drive, but would like to see improvements to the transportation network that would make it possible for them to drive less. I also recommend the driver advocacy blog The Expired Meter. It’s pro-car, but author Mike Brockway is also sympathetic to the concerns of pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users: http:theexpiredmeter.com

  • jeff wegerson

    Good Luck. So what did LA do? Just beat the bushes thoroughly? Basically you are going down what I think of as the public radio path. My wife gives to public radio but I don’t. I listen to it in my car ride home, but not to work.

    Their memberships don’t seem to come with any voting rights. Not sure you would want to go down the participatory membership path either. But the other thing that is hard, at least for me, is that I like more transparency rather than none. Of course budget transparency on your scale might reveal too much personal info. A living wage is an important requirement.

    Anyway I hope you get it sorted out. Hopefully you can show our donations now and at least get some matching funds.

  • Ben Fried will soon update his previous post with info about SBC’s original funding sources.

  • Thanks so much for your donation! Yep, chipped thermoplastic is a pet peeve of mine as well. Here’s hoping the city did a better job of installation this year, only striping when the temperature was 50 degrees or higher, so that all the bike lanes stay put this winter.

  • I’ll soon be getting advice from SBLA’s Damien Newton, but basically he established a 501c3 nonprofit and then worked hard to raise funds. We may establish some way for donors to keep track of the donation totals. Our current goal is to raise $60K to get the site up and running again with full-time publication. With ad revenue and current commitments, we are about 25% or the way there.

  • PatrickJBarry

    Ack! You two have done an excellent job of covering this important beat and have brought a perspective and insight that no one else in town can match. It’s always been a pleasure to visit the site and see what you’re covering.

    Creating sustainable models for important blogs like this is a critical next step in the evolution of news coverage. Thanks for the great work.

  • Thanks for the kind words and your donation Patrick!

  • Carter O’Brien

    Coolio on Josh. Maybe he could host a monthly forum at some off-peak time at Rev (Brewpub or the Brewery), with the demise of the Green Drinks there is a hole you could fill as far as combining people’s passion for healthier transportation with a regular social function. I’m on the board of the Chicago Recycling Coalition & would be happy to brainstorm on ways we could collaborate and help you spread the word about your work here.

  • LA has strong support from local foundations.

  • JaneHealy

    So a donation today could still be helpful? If yes, where do I make it?

  • Yes, helpful and crucial for reviving the site. There’s a link in the above article, plus an explanation that donations will be refunded if the site doesn’t relaunch in three months. Here’s the link: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_donations&business=greenfieldjohn@hotmail.com&lc=US&item_name=Streetsblog%20Chicago&currency_code=USD&bn=PP-DonationsBF:grid-paypal-donate.png:NonHosted

  • SarahChicago

    Bummed to read this, but you two do have a lot to celebrate in what you’ve done over the past two years. Thank you and Steven both. Wondering also what is happening with the SF and NYC sites. I will surely stay tuned and support when/how I can.

  • Thanks Sarah. Fortunately, no changes in SF and NYC. Check out Editor-in-Chief Ben Fried’s earlier post for an explanation of what happened with the Chicago funding. http://chi.streetsblog.org/2015/01/08/streetsblog-chicago-is-going-into-hibernation-heres-how-you-can-revive-it/

  • SarahChicago

    Found it – thank you. This is a real bummer. Wish I had a LOT of money. Any chance of partnering with other organizations? I am sure you’ve explored many options…

  • Some other local transportation advocacy groups have offered to help us with fundraising efforts. It’s great to see Chicago transpo folks coming out of the woodwork to help.

  • Eli N

    I’ve really enjoyed having the daily coverage that you’ve provided (and it seems like it’s had a real effect on policy too). I hope you’re able to find a way to keep doing this, under the Streetsblog umbrella or on your own.

  • Thanks a lot Eli.

  • John and Steven, you guys are an inspiration. I love how committed you are. You have built a great community in Chicago, and I hope and think they will carry you through this.

  • Thanks Angie. It’s been great working with you as well.

  • I’m so sad to hear this news but am hoping that this will only be a temporary hiatus. I was a fan of Grid Chicago, but the first time I ever met Steven, I said, “You and John should start up Streetsblog Chicago!” and have been an even bigger fan since that happened. This site has become the go-to daily online “meeting place” for anyone in Chicago who cares about biking, walking, public transit and livable streets, whether they work in the field professionally or just care about it as a citizen, as I do. I hope that everyone who finds your reporting to be of value will give whatever amount they are able to, so that we continue to enjoy it again very soon.

  • David Altenburg

    John and Steven, thanks for the work you’ve already, and best wishes for your future and the future of this site. My wife and I think you provide a truly valuable service to Chicago and are glad to support your hopeful return.

  • Megan B

    Thanks for all the interesting stories and helpful advocacy. Good luck with your next pursuits.

  • Thanks a lot David, much obliged.

  • Good luck guys. We are all rooting for you!

  • Thanks to you and Erich for all your support over the years, and for all your great work with Bike Walk Lincoln Park. Hopefully this will just be a brief hiatus.

  • Thanks Megan, glad you found the site to be useful.

  • Thanks Clarence. Readers, if you find yourself going through Internet withdrawal during SBC’s hiatus, be sure to peruse all the informative, inspiring videos about the livable streets movements on Streetfilms, the sister organization of Streetsblog, which Clarence runs: http://Streetfilms.org

  • neroden

    There’s something I’m not understanding here, and I’d appreciate it if you explained it. It’s obviously not about living *wages* per se, because if it were, you could produce a work output proportional to the amount of funding: $30K would get you one half-time job, etc.

    What are the fixed costs here? Is the key that you need, for example, health insurance benefits, and so you need a full-time job rather than two half-time jobs? Or that there simply aren’t half-time jobs available in Chicago to make up the other half? If it’s something like this, that makes sense, but that’s not quite the same thing as living *wages*, and the distinction matters (it raises public policy issues, in fact!).

  • The Streetsblog Network has found — and the more than 60 SBC readers who have already donated seem to agree — that the site has the most utility and impact with daily publication, including at least 5-7 original posts and the morning headline stack. Along with administrative tasks — and there will be a lot more of them once I’m running the site independently — that requires at least 40 hours of work. The vast majority of the $60K would be used to rehire myself as a full-time staffer and pay freelancers. If additional funding is available, we may be able to rehire Steven as a part-time employee as well.

  • John and Steve, We love the work you do at Streetsblog. I’ve donated to the effort to keep the site alive, and I hope the rest of the Chicago planning/architecture/urban appreciating community consider doing the same.

  • Thanks a lot for your donation Matt! I believe that by advocating for smart, sustainable transportation planning and real estate development, Streetsblog Chicago has been an important ally to forward-thinking planning and architecture firms. I plan to reach out to some of these companies soon to see if they can help reboot the site.

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