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Lakeview’s Car-Free Sunday Events Are Returning, In a More Intimate Setting

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One of last year’s Sunday Play Streets events. Photo: Lakeview Chamber of Commerce.

The popular car-free happenings that pedestrianized a Lakeview street on several Sundays last year are returning this month, albeit in a somewhat scaled-down format. But the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce hopes that moving the events from a one-block stretch of Lincoln Avenue to a half-block, narrower stretch of Paulina Street will make these celebrations of art, music and play more intimate, as well as more vibrant.

Sunday Play Spots debuted last year on Lincoln between School and Roscoe streets, an underperforming retail strip. The chamber hoped the mix of musical performances, fitness classes, craft demonstrations, a pop-up seating plaza, art installations, and more would energize the district and help foster a sense of community. The events did bring plenty of people to the street, with up to a thousand people turning out on each of the four Sundays, according to Dillon Goodson, who manages the local Special Service Area program for the chamber.


The logo for this years events emphasizes that car space will be transformed into people space.

This year, the series is returning as Sunday Spots, on Paulina between Roscoe and Henderson Street, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., on three weekends in October. According to Goodson, the word  “Play” has been dropped from the name because each of the three events will focus on a different area: Art on 4th, Music on the 11th, and Play on the 18th. Last year’s events mostly drew families with children, so the name change may also help attract a wider demographic.

There is one less event this year because the fourth Sunday of October is the Chamber’s Trick or Treat on Southport event, which also pedestrianizes that nearby business district, according to Goodson. The $10,000 cost of Sunday Spots is being funded by SSA money plus sponsorship from Whole Foods.

Unlike the retail-rich stretch of Lincoln, the segment of Paulina only borders a handful of storefronts, but Goodson argued that it’s a plus that the event will connect residential and business areas. He said that pushback from merchants against the street closure and temporary conversion of car parking doesn’t seem to have been a major factor in the decision to move the event. “All the business owners seem to be really supportive.”

He added that the shorter, narrower car-free space will consolidate the action and provide a sense of containment, while last year’s events on broad Lincoln Avenue felt a bit spread out. “Lincoln is such a beast, so this will provide a nice sense of scale by comparison.”

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How Shared-Mobility Companies Learned From Their Mistakes


Reps from Zipcar, B-Cycle, car2go, Lyft, Getaround, and Motivate with moderator Clayton Lane. Photo: SUMC

This week, civic leaders, entrepreneurs, and academics from around the country gathered in Chicago for the “Move Together” conference, hosted by the locally based think tank the Shared-Use Mobility Center. The organization was launched one year ago to brainstorm ways that bike-share, car-share, ride-share, and other new mobility tools can become a major force for increasing transportation access, fighting congestion, and improving air quality. On Monday, SUMC announced a new goal of taking one million cars off the road in the U.S. by scaling up shared mobility and transit in 15 regions, including ours.

“Chicago has historically been a hub for transportation innovation,” director Sharon Feigon told me. “We wanted to showcase the great things happening here and bring in innovators from across the country so they could see the potential of expanding here, too. At the same time, we also wanted to bring attention to the major issues that Chicago still faces regarding inequality in many of our communities, the difficulty of accessing jobs and how shared mobility can help meet these challenges.”

Feigon added that although Chicago has an extensive fixed-route transit system, travel patterns have changed over the years and there are service gaps to fill. “Shared mobility can help address these issues, reduce transportation costs and make it possible to live well without owning a car.”

During the panel “From the Trenches: What It Takes to Move Up,” reps from six different shared-mobility companies discussed how they were able to expand their business models to many different cities. Clayton Lane, board chair for SUMC moderated. One of the most interesting parts of the discussion was when Lane asked the panelists to talk about mistakes that their companies made that others could learn from.

Car2go, a one-way, point-to-point car rental service that exclusively uses two-seater Smart cars, was represented by business development manager Walter Rosenkranz. “With all start-ups, you go through growing pains and learn lessons,” he said. “Since we’re talking about scale, with a point-to-point system, you can’t really tiptoe into a market. You have to be able to provide services where people are and where they want to go.” He added that it’s necessary to offer enough vehicles within that area to make it convenient for customers to find them.

B-Cycle, a bike-share company partly owned by Trek, with systems in 29 U.S. cities and Santiago, Chile, was represented by company president Robert Burns. He said over the years he’s learned that strong support from politicians is key for setting up successful bike-share networks. “You need the mayor to say to the city workers, ‘This is coming, and I’m putting in, so give them the permits [for the stations].

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Take a Free Ride: No Charge for Divvy on Three Days in September


Every Divvy kiosk now has a sticker advertising the free ride days. Photo: CDOT

Back in July, the Chicago Department of Transportation launched the “Divvy for Everyone” equity program, offering $5 bike-share memberships to low-income Chicagoans. Now they’re trying a social experiment that will answer the question, what if Divvy was, almost literally, for everyone?

Thanks to sponsorship from T-Mobile, Divvy will be offering free rides for 24-periods on three Saturdays in September: the 5th, 12th, and 19th, available to anyone 16 or older with a credit card. Taking advantage of the promotion works just like buying a regular day pass, which usually costs $9.95.

One those days, residents and visitors will be able to simply walk up to a Divvy kiosk, swipe a credit card, go through the sign-process, and check out a bike – minus the normal fee. They can take as many 30-minute rides as they like during the 24-hour period. The usual late fees will apply.

A similar concept has already been tried in New York City, where the Divvy concessionaire Motivate also operates the Citi Bike system. On Thursday, May 14, free Citi bike rides were bankrolled by, curiously, Switzerland Tourism. Motivate talked with T-Mobile about doing a Chicago sponsorship and put them in touch with CDOT.

As part of the deal, the telecommunications company will pay an undisclosed sum, which should cover the projected cost of the three days of complimentary Divvy use, as well as the expenses for beefed-up Divvy valet parking services – more on that later. “We expect we’ll wind up with some additional funds that will help subsidize operations of the system, over and above the three days,” said CDOT Assistant Commissioner Sean Wiedel.

Wiedel is confident that, weather permitting, ridership on each of these free days will shatter the previous Divvy record set last July 4, when about 25,000 trips were taken. On a typical summer Saturday, between 16,000 and 18,000 rides are taken. “This is a grand experiment, so we’re not really sure how many rides we’ll get,” he said.

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Bronzeville Bikes Rolls on With Its Mission to Encourage South Side Cycling

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This year, the Bronzeville Bike Box got a rain canopy and flower boxes. Photo: Bronzeville Bikes

It’s been another productive summer for Bronzeville Bikes, an organization that promotes cycling in the historic South Side neighborhood also known as “The Black Metropolis.” The group hosts neighborhood rides and repair sessions, and runs the Bronzeville Bike Box, a small nonprofit bike shop housed in a recycled shipping container. This summer, they also launched the Sister Cycles program, with courses that teach maintenance and repair to women and women-identifiers.

Founded in 2013 by the Urban Juncture Foundation, Bronzeville Bikes is part of a grander vision for the intersection of 51st Street and Calumet Street as a hub of sustainability in the neighborhood. Located just east of a Green Line stop, the location is also home to the Bronzeville Community Garden. Urban Juncture president Bernard Loyd is currently establishing Bronzeville Cookin’, a food-themed complex that will feature restaurants, a rooftop garden, and a produce store. The first eatery, a Jamaican-style chicken place called the Jerk Shack, recently passed its health inspection and should be opening in mid-September. Last year, the Bike Box opened across the street from the garden.

The Bike Box scaled back its operations a bit this year, from three days a week to two. It’s currently open on Saturdays from 12 – 6 p.m. and Sundays from 2 – 6 p.m., which overlaps with the group’s regular Sunday “Celebrate Bronzeville” ride series. “We’ve become an express shop, doing on-the-spot repairs with low-cost pricing,” Bronzeville Bikes intern Cassie Halls explained. “We want to have quick turnover and make sure that a lot of bikes are getting fixed, since we don’t have much capacity to hold bikes overnight.” Simple repairs, such as flat fixes and brake adjustments, run between $5 and $15.

The Celebrate Bronzeville rides take place three times a month. The tour on the first Sunday of each week focuses on art in the neighborhood, the second Sunday spotlights local sustainability efforts, and the fourth highlights history and architecture. The August rides included a Bronzeville gallery tour, a look at small-scale urban agriculture, and a celebration of the 50-year-old jazz collective the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicisians. Another notable ride last month was the Glow Bike Spectacular, in which riders decked out their bikes with glow sticks for a cruise to the Bronzeville Summer Nights 47th Street Takeover, a festival featuring art, music, dance, and poetry.

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Orange Dots and Balloons Jazz Up the Sunnyside Pedestrian Mall


Photo: John Greenfield

First built in 1975, the Sunnyside Pedestrian Mall is a leafy, car-free walkway that runs for two blocks between Beacon Street and Magnolia Avenue in Uptown’s Sheridan Park section. With its benches, plantings, and mosaic-covered pillars, it should be a popular place for all kinds of positive activity, along the lines of Lincoln Square’s Kempf Plaza.

However, the Uptown space functions largely as a place to pass through while traveling to other places, according to neighbor Ginny Sykes, a restaurant owner and artist who’s a member of the Sunnyside Mall Committee. “What I observe is a lot of people walking through here on their way to and from the Red Line,” said Sykes, who has lived near the mall for almost 28 years. “They walk their dogs, they bring their kids out to throw balls and maybe play a little bit. They sit on the benches and have conversations. Children walk use it to walk to school.”


Photo: John Greenfield

While she feels the space already works fairly well, Sykes would like to see more programming at the mall, such as the art fair and the movie night that recently took place. “The more positive energy that goes into the space and the more people that get involved, the better it will be,” she said.

In order to come up with a long-term vision for the plaza, the Sunnyside Mall Committee is inviting community members to show up for a community input meeting in the plaza on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. It will be a chance to brainstorm ideas for a master plan that can be implemented over time.

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Pace Pulse Express Bus Service Will Help Improve Traffic Circulation


The Pulse stops will feature heated shelters with vertical markers.

If you’re a fan of faster bus service with handy amenities, here’s some news to get your pulse racing. Pace Suburban Bus Service is planning Pace Pulse, a new network of express bus routes along major roads throughout Chicagoland. The agency has proposed establishing the service, which they refer to as arterial bus rapid transit (ART), on several busy arterials, including Milwaukee Avenue, Dempster Street, Harlem Avenue, Cermak Road, Halsted Street, 95th Street, and Roosevelt Road.

Pulse, slated to launch on Milwaukee Avenue in 2017, will include roughly three-quarter of a mile stop spacing, transit signal priority, buses with WiFi and USB charging ports, plus stations with real-time arrival information signs and – best of all – overhead heat during the winter. However, it’s worth noting that the service can’t be classified as true bus rapid transit, because it will lack features like prepaid boarding and car-free bus lanes, which are necessary for bringing buses up to train-like speeds on congested streets.


The #270 local bus route

The flagship Pulse route on Milwaukee Avenue will run between the Jefferson Park Transit Center on Chicago’s Northwest Side and the Golf Mill Shopping Center in northwest-suburban Niles. Pace currently operates the #270 Milwaukee Avenue bus daily between Jefferson Park and Golf Mill. During select hours, the route is extended to Glenbrook Hospital in Glenview and the Allstate Insurance corporate headquarters in Northbrook.

The #270 is one of Pace’s key north-suburban routes, with strong ridership. According to the Regional Transportation Authority which oversees Pace, the CTA, and Metra, the line’s ridership as of June 2015 is 2,995 boardings on weekdays, 1,966 on Saturdays and 1,418 on Sundays.

The Jefferson Park Transit Center is a major transportation hub on the Northwest Side of Chicago. It is served by the CTA Blue Line, Metra’s Union Pacific / Northwest Line, nine CTA bus routes and three Pace Suburban bus lines. Golf Mill is a large shopping mall located at the intersection of Milwaukee and Golf Road. It attracts shoppers from all over the surrounding area to its department stores, specialty stores, and movie theater. Many people from Chicago’s Northwest Side ride the #270 to shop and work at the mall.


The Milwaukee Pulse route.

Planning for the Milwaukee Pulse route started in 2014 and is currently in the design phase. Construction is expected to begin next year, with service debuting in 2017, according to the project schedule.

The total cost of the shelters and signage is estimated at $9.1 million, while the cost of new buses, which will be used exclusively on this route, is estimated at $4.5 million. The funding is largely provided by a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant, with a 20-percent local and regional match.

The Milwaukee ART buses will only make stops at eight locations between the mall and the transit center, including (from south to north) Central Avenue, Austin/Ardmore Avenues,Haft Street/Highland Avenue (near Devon Avenue), Touhy Avenue, Howard Street/Harlem Avenue, Oakton Street/Oak Mill Mall, Main Street, and Dempster Street. The transit signal priority feature shortens red light phases and extends greens to help prevent buses from getting stuck at intersections.

Each Pulse stop will feature a heated bus shelter with a bus tracker display with real-time arrival info, plus a vertical marker that will make it easy to spot the express stops from a distance, and bike parking racks. In addition to Wi-Fi and charging ports, the buses will feature audio/visual stop announcements.

The Milwaukee Pulse route will operate from 5 a.m. to midnight on weekdays, with buses running every ten minutes during rush hours, 15 minutes during most non-peak periods, and every 30 minutes from 10 p.m. to midnight. On weekends, it will run from 5:30 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays and 6 a.m. to midnight on Sundays, with buses every 15 minutes until 10 p.m. and every 30 minutes between 10 p.m. and midnight. The frequency of the local #270 Milwaukee buses will be reduced to every 30 minutes on weekdays and every 60 minutes on weekends. Service north of Golf Mill will remain the same.


The public meeting at the Copernicus Center. Photo: Jeff Zoline

Pace held a public meeting on the project last night at the Copernicus Center in Jefferson Park, with about 30 people in attendance. Most of the residents I talked with were in favor of the new express bus service, and said it would speed up their commutes. Garland and Heather Armstrong of Elmwood Park said Pulse will be a significant upgrade from the current #270 bus service, which they said is a lifeline for people with disabilities.

However, not everyone was a complete fan of the Pulse plan. Jacob Aronov, from the grassroots transit advocacy group Citizens Taking Action, said he’s worried about the longer headways for the local buses, and wants to make sure the local route isn’t eventually eliminated.

A majority of riders will likely opt to take the faster Pulse service, since the stops will be no more than a quarter-mile (a five-minute walk for most people) from any of the local stops. However, some seniors and people with mobility issues may prefer to continue using their closest local stop. Hopefully, riders’ concerns will be factored into the final plan.


The 6-Year Wait for Bikes on the South Shore Has Been Reduced to 9 Months

Mike Noland, general manager for the South Shore Line commuter rail, demonstrates a bike rack from SportWorks, the same company that makes bike racks for CTA and Pace buses. Photo: Carole Carlson

Mike Noland, general manager for NICTD, demonstrates a bike rack for trains from SportWorks, the same company that makes racks for CTA and Pace buses. Photo: Carole Carlson

Last week, the board of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transit District board voted to dramatically reduce the wait time for a bikes-on-board pilot for South Shore Line trains. A consultant had previously recommended delaying the trial until 2021, when new cars might be added to the system, allowing older cars to be modified to accommodate bikes. Thanks to an outcry from board members and advocates against this ridiculous foot-dragging, the board unanimously voted to move the pilot up to April of next year.

NICTD has been way behind the curve on this issue. Even Metra, which is far from a cutting-edge commuter rail system, has had a Bikes on Trains program for over a decade. The South Shore Line management has been looking into accommodating bikes since 2013, around the time I launched a petition for bike access on the South Shore, which 731 people signed.

After the absurd 2021 pilot date was proposed at a NICTD board meeting in uune, board members Michael Repay from Lake County, Indiana, and Mark Catanzarite of St. Joseph County said they weren’t willing to wait that long. They asked for an immediate bikes-on-board option to be presented at the next meeting.

At a July open house on the subject hosted by NICTD, citizens voiced support for getting bikes access sooner than later. The Save the Dunes Council and the National Parks Conservation Association lobbied for an earlier pilot. And the Active Transportation Alliance sarcastically gave the South Shore a Broken Spoke Award as “the least bike-friendly commuter rail service in the nation,” since all other systems allow bikes.

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Pro- and Anti-Moreno Factions Square Off Over TOD Development Issue

First Ward Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno has been one of Chicago’s leading proponents of transit-oriented development. He sponsored the city’s 2013 TOD ordinance, and he’s been a strong supporter of dense, parking-lite developments near ‘L’ stops in his district. He’s also one of a handful of aldermen who don’t approve zoning changes for new housing developments unless ten percent of the units are affordable, rather than letting the developer opt out by paying into the city’s affordable housing fund.

Several upscale TOD developments are in the works near the California Blue Line stop in Logan Square. In all of the proposals, about ten percent of the housing units would be affordable. These projects take advantage of the current TOD ordinance (Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently proposed a more robust ordinance) by including only one or fewer parking spaces for every two units. The proximity to transit and lack of excess parking spaces would make it easy for new residents to live car-free, and would discourage them from bringing more cars into the neighborhood. Here’s a chart of the new developments by Streetsblog’s Steven Vance:

Address Phase Units Aff. Units Spaces Ratio
2211 N Milwaukee Ave Under construction 120 12 60 0.50
2293 N Milwaukee Ave Alderman must approve 213 21 68 0.32
2328 N California Ave Approved but new proposal 135 14 48 0.36
2841-45 W Belden Ave Proposed 95 10 44 0.46
2240 N Milwaukee Ave Proposed 40 ? 31 0.78

As in many neighborhoods where TOD has been proposed, there’s been stiff opposition from neighbors who fear that dense housing with limited car spaces would lead to traffic and parking headaches. In Logan Square, these opponents have been joined by community activists who have argued that adding large amounts of high-end housing will fuel gentrification in the neighborhood by raising property values, property taxes, and rents.

It’s true that these new developments will make it easier for new residents to find homes in Logan Square and, since the rents for market-rate units in these new-construction buildings will be relatively high, these newcomers will be relatively affluent. That will likely lead to more amenities in the neighborhood, like upscale retail, that will encourage other middle- and upper-income people to settle in Logan.

On the other hand, the neighborhood is already gentrifying rapidly and, arguably, building new units will take some pressure off the housing market. This could reduce the incentive for landlords to raise rents in existing buildings, forcing out lower-income residents. It’s hard to predict how much the gentrifying effects of these new buildings would be mitigated by the phenomenon of an increased housing supply reducing demand.

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City Launches “Divvy for Everyone” Bike-Share Equity Program


Emanuel discusses the Divvy for Everyone program at this morning’s presser. Photo: John Greenfield

About a month ago, the Better Bike Share Partnership announced a $75,000 grant to the city of Chicago to launch the “Divvy for Everyone” campaign, a strategy to increase bike-share access and ridership among low-income residents. At the time, Chicago Department of Transportation officials declined to discuss the details of the program, but BBSP’s grant program manager provided info about the plan from CDOT’s grant proposal, and I shared it with Streetsblog readers.

Today, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office officially announced the initiative, and it’s almost exactly what I outlined a few weeks ago. To recap: Divvy for Everyone will offer a one-time annual membership to low-income residents for $5 – a deep discount from the normal $75 fee. To make the system accessible to unbanked individuals, the usual requirement of a credit card as collateral will be waived. Instead, the program funding will help cover the replacement costs for any lost or stolen cycles.

The D4E program (CDOT’s abbreviation) is available to Chicagoans with a maximum combined household income of 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For example, a family of four with an income of under $72,750 would be eligible.

Applicants must show up in person at one of five Financial Opportunity Centers operated by the Local Initiatives Support Coalition in Englewood, Bronzeville, East Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, and Ravenswood, and provide proof of income and residency. After paying the $5 charge, they’ll be given an activated Divvy key and will be immediately able to check out a bike.

One advantage of the person-to-person approach is that it makes signing up for bike-share a more user-friendly experience. Instead of navigating the potentially confusing sign-up process solo at a Divvy kiosk or a computer in the library, residents will be assisted by a staff member. As an added perk, the first 250 applicants will receive a free bike helmet from Divvy sponsor Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, which is providing matching funds for the grant.

After the first year, D4E members will have to pay the full annual fee, but the city is looking into strategies to make it easier for low-income people to budget accordingly if they choose to renew their memberships. These include payment plans, cash payment options, and a financial literacy program offered by LISC, where participants learn strategies for saving money and building credit.

At a press conference this morning at The Cara Program, Quad Communities Center for Working Families, the Bronzeville headquarters for the D4E campaign, Mayor Emanuel heralded the program as a major step toward bridging Divvy’s economic gap. “This is a great day for the city of Chicago, a day in which we move forward, literally, as one city.”

CDOT commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld told me the equity program compliments this spring’s expansion from 300 to 476 Divvy stations, which brought physical access to the system to many new neighborhoods, including a number of low-income communities. “It’s about providing more options for people to get to the jobs they’re seeking, to get to recreation in other parts of the city, to run errands and more.”

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Gettin’ Quigley With It: The Congressman Talks Transportation Funding


Mike Quigley discusses transportation funding at a Transit Future event. Photo: John Greenfield

[This piece originally ran in Checkerboard City, John’s transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets on Wednesday evenings.]

If you’re not a transportation geek like myself, you may be most familiar with Congressman Mike Quigley (D-IL 5th) from his hilarious segment on “The Colbert Report.” His North Side district includes Boystown, and he’s known as a strong ally of the LGBT community. Therefore, Stephen Colbert, in his persona as a conservative blowhard, baited Quigley by insisting that homosexuality is a choice:

Quigley: I don’t think you choose. It’s from birth. You’re gay, and it’s the rest of your life.

Colbert: Gay babies? I find that offensive, the idea that there are gay babies out there and they’re looking at me, and they’re sexually interested in me, as a man.

Quigley: You have a point. It’s not a good point, but it’s a point.

However, Quigley, a blue-collar dude, built like a fireplug, is something of a rock star when it comes to bringing home transportation funding to the Chicago region. He’s the only Illinois member on the House Appropriations Committee and its subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development, with the memorable acronym THUD. He helped secure funding for the federal Core Capacity transit grant program, which will help bankroll the CTA’s rehab of the North Red and Purple Lines, and the TIGER program, which funds various sustainable transportation projects in cities.

Quigley recently kicked off a lecture series to promote Transit Future, a campaign by the Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Active Transportation Alliance to create a dedicated revenue stream at the Cook County level for public transportation. Transit Future was inspired by a successful campaign in Los Angeles, where voters approved a half-cent sales tax to raise money for several new subway lines. If we don’t do something similar in Chicago, we may get left in the dust by historically car-centric L.A.

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