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Logan Square Transit-Oriented Development: Less Parking, More Walkability

The two proposed towers will be within 450 feet, as the crow flies, of the California Blue Line station. Image: AJ LaTrace/Curbed Chicago

The two proposed towers will be within 450 feet of the California Blue Line station. Image: AJ LaTrace/Curbed Chicago

A pioneering developer of car-free apartments is looking to continue building car-lite residences. Curbed Chicago reports that Rob Buono, who was behind constructing 1611 W Division in Wicker Park, is proposing two mid-rise residential towers in Logan Square along Milwaukee Avenue near the California Blue Line station. The two towers, one 14 stories and the other 10 stories, would have 231 units and 7,100 square feet of retail but only 72 car parking spaces.

The relatively low amount of car parking is possible because Buono can take advantage of the 2013 transit-oriented development ordinance, which cuts parking minimums in half for residential developments near train stations.

Chicago’s zoning code would normally require at least 239 car parking spaces for this development — eight for the retail space, and one for each household. That mandate would have harmed this thriving part of Logan Square by adding more automobile traffic, getting in the way of people, buses and bicycles.

Last year, when Adam Hebert was struggling against parking requirements so he could open a restaurant and bar, he told Streetsblog, “In the Logan Square community, everybody bikes everywhere. It doesn’t make sense to put in parking where people bike. I’d rather put in bike racks.”

The TOD ordinance allows Buono to completely get out of the mandate to build eight parking spaces for retail, but the requirement for 231 residential parking spaces can only be cut down to 116. To get down to the 72 surface parking spaces Buono is proposing, he will probably have to change the property’s zoning.

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Advocates: Vast Majority of Palmer Square Residents Want Raised Crosswalks

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Rudy Keller and his daughter Sequoia use a crosswalk on the north side of Palmer Square. Photo: John Greenfield

Palmer Square neighbors who want to see the city install raised raised crosswalks by the park appear to greatly outnumber opponents, judging from numbers provided by both sides.

Earlier this month, Streetsblog Chicago detailed how neighbors have been campaigning to convert the two marked, mid-block crosswalks on the north side of the park to raised crosswalks. Contrary to what was reported in an earlier DNAinfo article, the speed tables would be a relatively inexpensive $20,000 each, and the Chicago Department of Transportation supports the proposal. According to local alderman Scott Waguespack’s chief of staff Paul Sajovec, Waguespack also has no problem with the proposal – except that a few residents have repeatedly contacted him to oppose the idea.

Andrea Keller, whose young family lives near one of the mid-block crosswalks, recently launched an online petition calling for the raised crosswalks as a strategy to improve access to the park and calm traffic on the three-lane roadway. Using a speed gun during for three 15-minute observations during a recent evening rush, Streetsblog writer Steven Vance and contributor Justin Haugens found that 75 percent of motorists were speeding. So far 60 people have signed the online petition.

Keller’s husband Rudy wrote me to thank Streetsblog for drawing attention to the issue, and for clearing up misconceptions about the proposal. However, he argued that we actually underrepresented the support for the safety improvements. Andrea and other organizers also collected over 100 signatures on a written petition they circulated in the summer of 2013, he said.

“The ratio of people signing the petition, versus people rejecting it, was overwhelmingly in favor of implementing the raised crosswalks,” Rudy wrote. He claimed that a small, vocal minority of people on the block “have been very aggressive in their opposition, and have been able to use their influence with Alderman Waguespack to stop (for now, at least) this worthwhile proposal.”

Rudy Keller added that, at a February 2014 meeting of the Homeowners Association of Palmer Square, only two attendees opposed the speed tables. Earlier this month, roughly 30 people at a meeting of Logan Square Preservation voted unanimously to endorse the raised crosswalk proposal, according to president Andrew Schneider.

One of the leaders of the opposition is Corinne Bradley, who told me she dropped off paper surveys at every household on the north side of the park, and that most of the responses she received were against the speed tables. She declined to say exactly how many people voiced opposition to the raised crosswalks via the surveys and how many voiced support, but confirmed that there were less than 20 opponents. Rudy Keller and his neighbor Steve Hier, who has also been advocating for the speed tables, both told me independently that the total number of opponents is six or fewer.

Bradley, who lives near the northeast corner of the park, wrote a letter to Waguespack arguing that raised crosswalks would delay first responders, form an obstacle to bicyclists, and create constant noise as motor vehicles pass over them. Sajovec told me he suspected that some of the neighbors don’t understand the difference between speed humps and speed tables. While the former are commonplace on Chicago side streets and are several inches tall, speed tables are only two or three inches high, with a very shallow trapezoidal cross-section that has a minimal impact on emergency vehicles, cyclists, and noise levels.

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New Grocery’s City-Mandated Car Parking, Not Buses, Will Congest Broadway

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The proposed development, viewed from the north. Image: Antunovich Associates

Some East Lakeview neighbors are unhappy with a proposed retail complex along Broadway, just north of Wellington, that would house a large Mariano’s supermarket on its lower floors and an Xsport Fitness on its upper floors. The five-story building will have retail space with a large driveway and loading area on the ground floor, the supermarket mostly on the second floor, two levels of parking, and the fitness center on the top floor.

Many of the neighbors’ criticisms center on the building’s bulk, and the number of parking spaces — both of which largely result from the city’s zoning ordinance, which requires plentiful parking even in car-light neighborhoods like East Lakeview. Over half of the building’s area will be devoted to storing and moving cars and trucks, but the 279 car parking spaces proposed are just five percent more than zoning requires for a commercial development of this size.

A traffic analysis [PDF], performed by local firm KLOA, predicts that many people would drive to the development (which seems natural if they know that they can easily park there), and that slightly longer delays at intersections would result. KLOA does note in its analysis that trips to the development will be lower than average, because people will combine trips – going to work out, and then going grocery shopping afterwards – and because many local residents will arrive on bike, foot, or by transit. Today, this stretch of Broadway sees fairly light car traffic: Even at rush hour yesterday, it was easy to cross the street mid-block.

Project architect Joe Antunovich says that the solution for increased traffic is not to reduce parking — but rather to stripe more space for cars on the street (squeezing out room that bikes currently use to maneuver), and to add a new stoplight just 210 feet away from an existing one at Wellington. Antunovich further said that the 36-Broadway bus route causes traffic congestion when people are trying to board. He placed more blame on the bus, which carries dozens of passengers, than the single-occupancy vehicles driving down Broadway — many of whom block traffic on Broadway by making left turns from the center lane.

Alderman Tom Tunney is going along with the proposal. Although he says that the city, as a whole, is moving away from auto-centric development, he says that bike lanes elsewhere are counter-balanced by adding car traffic in this part of Lakeview, a place where half of households don’t own a car.

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CDOT Proposes Chicago’s First Curb-Separated Bike Lane On Clybourn

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A Streetmix graphic showing the protected bike lane that would run from Halsted to Division, or in a secondary proposal, a shorter segment from Halsted to Larrabee. Image: CDOT

The Chicago Department of Transportation presented a proposal last night to build curb-separated bike lanes on each side of Clybourn, from Halsted to Division Streets, and to reconfigure the oversized intersection where Clybourn meets Division, Sedgwick, and Orleans in front of Seward Park.

CDOT bikeways engineer and project manager Nate Roseberry explained that Clybourn is part of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s ongoing protected bike lanes feasibility study, which will test many elements of the design. Its goals, he said, are to reduce crashes, increase options for how people get around, and evaluate new design features. Those features include two infrastructure features new to Chicago: a curb separating the bike lanes from the auto travel lanes, which at three feet wide will also provide an opportunity for rain gardens; and a bus stop island, where bicyclists will go up and behind the bus stop.

Roseberry said that the proposal “was by no means complete,” and that he wanted to listen to feedback from a group of keen and curious neighbors. Many people who bike through the area also gave their input.

27th Ward Alderman Burnett kicked off the meeting by saying the “state is allowing the city to propose” the first protected bike lane on a state route. In 2011, IDOT banned protected bike lanes on state routes, preventing CDOT from extending the Jackson protected bike lane where the street comes under state jurisdiction, east of Ogden Avenue.

Burnett said the proposal is intended to “stop the danger of bikes and cars from running into each other.” He recalled that the death of 26-year-old Bobby Cann, who was bicycling on Clybourn at Larrabee, “enhanced the conversation” about safety on the street. Read more…

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Central Loop BRT Will Skimp On Key “Rapid” Features

Station platforms would have level boarding, a feature that helps to decrease dwell time. Image: CDOT

Station platforms would have level boarding, a feature that helps to speed bus boarding. Image: CDOT/CTA

The Central Loop Bus Rapid Transit project will launch without key features that distinguish BRT from conventional bus service. The busways, which the Chicago Department of Transportation will begin building later this year, will include most of BRT’s concrete features, like high-level bus-boarding platforms and dedicated lanes. These features will undoubtedly speed up six Chicago Transit Authority bus routes as they traverse the Loop.

However, key service improvements, which have been proven to speed up buses elsewhere, will only be “tested” in 2015, and their eventual adoption is far from certain. The initial absence of these features, namely off-board fare collection and signal priority, will knock Central Loop BRT down to a mere “basic” BRT system, using the methodology behind a new international standard meant to encourage effective, quality BRT.

At a May event, sources said that CDOT and CTA will “test” off-board fare collection at only one of the system’s eight on-street stations. At all other stations, riders will pay on the bus, one at a time, just like they now do on all CTA buses. CDOT would not comment on what the test will entail, how long the test will run, or how it will be evaluated. A test involving just one station, out of hundreds of bus stops along the routes, could confuse customers even more than a test at all eight BRT stations — and will offer only minimal travel time savings.

Collecting fares at the stations, before passengers board the bus, has been proven in several other cities to substantially reduce “dwell time,” or how long a bus waits at stops. In New York City, BRT features were added one at a time along the M34 route across Midtown Manhattan, which runs past the Empire State Building and Macy’s. When just prepaid boarding was added, total travel time for the entire route fell 10 percent. On Manhattan’s first BRT route, off-board fare collection alone reduced dwell times on New York City’s M15 Select Bus Service route by 36 percent.

Even though San Francisco hasn’t yet implemented any form of BRT, the city’s transit agency recently adopted “all-door boarding” — allowing passengers who’ve already paid (and have a valid transfer slip) or who will pay with a Clipper card (a contactless fare card, like a Ventra card or ticket) to enter buses through the rear door. As a result, dwell times fell by four seconds per stop, on average.

Another key technology that keeps BRT routes moving through heavily congested areas like the Loop is transit signal priority. Signal priority takes many forms, but the most far-reaching forms won’t be part of Central Loop BRT. Last year, CDOT spokesperson Pete Scales said that full transit signal priority, which re-programs the signaling system to better accommodate buses, won’t be included in Central Loop BRT. The J14 Jeffery Jump has signal priority as it travels through the South Shore neighborhood, but Scales said this technology is more appropriate for neighborhoods’ bus stop spacing than in the “dense grid of the Loop.” Sources also say that signal pre-emption, which allows buses to override normal signals, also won’t be used in Central Loop BRT.

Central Loop BRT will, however, include queue jumps — bus-only signals that turn green a few seconds before the other signals, and give buses a head start on other traffic where there’s no bus lane ahead. These work somewhat like leading pedestrian intervals, which have been added to many intersections around Chicago and give pedestrians a slight head start before turning drivers get a green light.

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“People Street” to Pop Up, Activate Andersonville’s North End on Friday

This block of Olive St between Clark and Ashland will be transformed into a pop-up park. Photo: Google Street View.

Even though Chicago may not be getting any Open Streets this year, we don’t have to worry about any shortage of opportunities to enjoy car-free streets full of live music, local food, and beautiful summer weather. Chicagoans can instead turn to the city’s scores of summertime street festivals, including a new concept in Andersonville: two “Pop-Up Park & Market” events this summer.

During the event, one short block of Olive Street, between Ashland and Clark, will transform into “the neighborhood’s newest public park” — complete with trees, seating, and plenty of activities.

Brian Bonanno of the Andersonville Development Corporation said Olive was selected because it’s in the northern, less-trafficked part of Andersonville. The southern end of Andersonville, near Foster and Berwyn, has plenty of foot and bike traffic and dozens of shops hugging the sidewalks. That intense foot traffic wanes around Catalpa Avenue, where the large Jewel-Osco supermarket breaks up the parade of storefront windows with two blocks of parking lot and blank wall. The pop-up park will hopefully entice more people to wander past the Jewel-Osco, north of Bryn Mawr, and patronize the local coffee shops, restaurants, and home furnishing stores at Clark’s northern tip.

A large Jewel-Osco parking lot breaks up the cozy, storefront feel of Andersonville – but there’s more to see further north, too. Photo: Google Street View.

Olive was also selected for the project in the hopes that it will introduce local residents to the positive benefits of having more lasting public space in their neighborhood. Bonanno hopes that the pop-up park in Andersonville warms people to the idea, after local residents expressed skepticism last year about turning one block into a park or public plaza.

Bonanno cited Kempf Plaza in Lincoln Square as an example. Situated between busy Lawrence Avenue and quiet Leland Avenue, and perpendicular to the traffic-calmed oasis of Lincoln Avenue, the plaza was once a through street but was converted to a public plaza in 1979. At first, drivers complained that the plaza was an inconvenience, but nowadays, the city would have a very hard time convincing anyone that the popular space would be worth giving up in favor of a few parking spaces and some cut-through traffic. Like Kempf Plaza, Olive has relatively few entrances directly facing it.

The pop-up park, just around the corner from The Coffee Studio and its parklet, will feature places to sit and enjoy some grub from food trucks. Visitors will get a chance to play bocce ball and perhaps some other games, such as life-size chess. Musicians will also perform and a family friendly movie, “The March of the Penguins,” will be shown outside from 8-10 PM.

The event will take place on Friday, July 25th and Friday, August 29th, from 4-10 PM, on Olive Street between Ashland and Clark.

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Altgeld Gardens Residents Campaigning for Sidewalk on 130th Street

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Deloris Lucas and Victor Maurice Flemings Sr. at Rosebud Farm Stand on 130th Street. Photo: John Greenfield

[This article also runs in Checkerboard City, John's column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets on Wednesday evenings.]

Altgeld Gardens is really secluded,” Active Transportation Alliance community liaison Cynthia Bell recently told me. “It’s like its own city.” The area, which includes the housing project of the same name, plus the Concordia Place, Riverside Village and Golden Gate subdivisions, is located by a bend in the Calumet River on the Far South Side, surrounded by industrial land and isolated from other neighborhoods.

Bell has been assisting the local Safety Transportation Advisory Council, residents who want to improve conditions for walking, biking and transit use. “They have a lot of issues with the built environment, like missing sidewalks and crosswalks,” she said. “They’re really underserved.”

Deloris Lucas, a former Chicago Public Schools employee and longtime Golden Gate resident who’s spearheading the council, has been working hard to change that. In particular, she’s upset that 130th Street, the interstate-like roadway that walls in the community from the north, has no sidewalk. That forces people walking to Rosebud Farm Stand, the area’s only source for fresh produce and healthy groceries, from the west, to trudge along a narrow, muddy dirt trail by the side of the road. The store is located at 525 East 130th.

The path is a textbook example of a “desire line,” urban planning lingo for a trail blazed by pedestrians who want to walk somewhere, but haven’t been provided with a sidewalk that would allow them to do it in safety, comfort and dignity. To add insult to injury, drainage issues in the market’s parking lot create a permanent pond that pedestrians have to detour around.

Altgeld Gardens was built in 1945 to provide housing for African-American vets returning from World War II, and named after John Peter Altgeld, the Illinois governor who pardoned three of the Haymarket Affair defendants. “These communities were established decades ago,” Lucas told me when I met her at a local youth center last week. “It’s 2014, and you would think that the neighborhood would have been made safer by now. To me, it’s appalling that people still have to walk through the dirt to get to the store.”

To start organizing for sidewalks and other improvements, Lucas and her neighbors formed the STAC in August 2013, with the motto “Safety Is Our First Priority.” Last November, they partnered with Active Trans and the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children to do a walkability assessment in the neighborhood. The residents surveyed the area, taking inventory of unsafe walking conditions and brainstorming ways to improve transportation access.

In addition to adding a sidewalk on the south side of 130th between Indiana and Ellis avenues, the STAC members want to install “Stop for Pedestrians” signs at key intersections. They also hope to get more high-visibility crosswalks striped, especially near schools, plus speed humps, pedestrian-refuge islands and wheelchair ramps. And, in an area where many people rely on the bus in order to travel outside their neighborhood, more bus shelters are needed—right now there are only two.

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Eyes on the Street: It’s On For Once-Missing Washington/Michigan Crosswalk

Crosswalk signal finally installed two months after markings

The crosswalk signal was working as of Monday evening.

To help make it easier to walk to the second busiest tourist attraction in Chicago, the Department of Transportation recently reopened a crosswalk across the north leg of the intersection of Michigan and Washington. The crosswalk provides an essential, direct link between the Cultural Center and Millennium Park’s many attractions, like next week’s Milton Suggs Big Band concert.

Crosswalk but no signal at Michigan/Washington

A man, ignoring the now-removed signs, waits for car traffic to clear before he crosses Michigan.

Earlier, Streetsblog reported that the crosswalk markings – which are quite narrow, at about five feet – were installed two months ago. However, the pedestrian signals were only activated this week. In the meantime, many pedestrians walked around the “sidewalk closed” signs and crossed there anyways because, well, people will go wherever it’s convenient. Since pedestrians may or may not have had the right of way during that interim period, there’s no telling who might have been at fault if a crash had happened. Next time, the city should consider installing the signals first — which, admittedly, is more complicated — and better coordinate their activation with the relatively simple task of painting the crosswalks.

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Cost Isn’t the Issue With Palmer Square Speed Tables, NIMBYs Are

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Midblock crosswalk on the north side of Palmer Square. Photo: John Greenfield

Last month, a DNAinfo.com article drew attention to a new campaign to improve pedestrian safety at Palmer Square by installing raised crosswalks, also known as speed tables. Unfortunately, factual errors in the piece left the impression that raised crosswalks would be an expensive solution that doesn’t have the Chicago Department of Transportation’s approval. It turns out that speed tables would be quite affordable, and CDOT first proposed adding them years ago. Other changes to the roadway could further discourage speeding and enhance the park – if only the park’s neighbors would allow them.

Ever since Palmer Square got new playground equipment and a soft-surface track in 2009, the green space has become increasingly popular with families and other Logan Square residents seeking recreation and relaxation. However, the current street layout encourages fast driving, which endangers people crossing to the park, as well as cyclists on Palmer Boulevard.

The eastbound portion of the boulevard runs south of the oval-shaped park, with two travel lanes plus a bike lane. Stop signs at the three-way intersections of Palmer and Albany Avenue, as well as Palmer and Whipple Street, help to calm motorized traffic.

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On the south side of the park, stop signs at Albany and Whipple help slow down cars. Photo: John Greenfield

However, on the north side of the green space, there are three westbound travel lanes, plus a bike lane. Albany and Whipple don’t continue north of the park, so there are no intersections or stop signs on the quarter-mile stretch between Sacramento and Kedzie boulevards, which makes it easy for drivers to pick up speed.

While there are marked, midblock crosswalks on the north side of Palmer Square where Albany and Whipple would be, the three travel lanes create long crossing distances and the so-called “multiple threat” scenario. Even if one driver obeys the law by stopping for pedestrians in the crosswalk, there’s no guarantee that the motorist in the next lane will do so.

Two churches near the square encourage their parishioners to park in the central lane on the north side of the green space during services and special events. That’s technically illegal, but has been condoned by the local aldermen in the past. This practice further endangers pedestrians, because it makes it more difficult for westbound drivers to see people crossing the street.

As DNAinfo reported, residents have launched an online petition calling for installing raised crosswalks on the northern portion of the boulevard at Albany and Whipple. “A park designed for and frequented by very small children, residential homes and a church borders this portion of the street,” the petition reads. “A school also borders the park and school children often utilize the park for physical education and after school programs. The speeding traffic on the street creates a grave safety hazard.”

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Eyes on the Street: Crew Responds To Bike Lane Sewer Collapse

Fixing two Logan Square sewer collapses

Progress as of Monday early afternoon.

A Chicago Department of Water Management crew was on Logan Boulevard today fixing a sewer collapse in the bike lane. We alerted the Chicago Department of Transportation and 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack last week about the hazard, just outside Xsport Fitness.

Streetsblog reader Patrick Lynch sent us some photos he took on Monday night. We forwarded them to CDOT staff on Tuesday morning, who acknowledged the issue a few hours later.

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The sewer collapse one week ago. Photo: Patrick Lynch

It turns out, though, that Alderman Waguespack submitted the issue himself via SeeClickFix 11 days ago.

The way the city initially addressed the situation (since Waguespack’s initial reporting) was problematic. Instead of placing barricades ahead of the road hazard, a barricade was placed within it.

It was a situation like this that led to the paralyzing crash of Brian Baker, while he was bicycling on Wabansia Avenue in 2009. The city settled the case this year for $1.2 million. When bike lanes are affected by full-width road hazards, bicyclists require more advance warning than motorists do, because they need more time to merge out of the bike lane and into faster moving traffic.

Waguespack also reported a sewer collapse around the corner on Elston Avenue, in front of Panera. The crews today were adding more barricades to prevent people from riding or driving into this hole.