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Emanuel’s Proposed Ordinance Would Dramatically Enlarge TOD Districts

The proposed mixed-use residential building at 3400 N Lincoln Avenue would have 31 to 48 units and nine car parking spaces. Rendering: Centrum Partners

Rendering of a mixed-used TOD building currently under construction by the Paulina Brown Line stop.

Last week, the Metropolitan Planning Council launched the “Grow Chicago” campaign to promoted transit-oriented development. The city’s current TOD ordinance, passed in 2013, reduces the minimum parking requirement and allows additional density for new and renovated buildings located within 600 feet of a rapid transit stop, 1,200 on a designated Pedestrian Street. Among other recommendations, the Grow Chicago report calls for revising the ordinance to include all buildings within 1,200 feet of a station, dropping the parking minimums altogether within these zones, and streamlining the approval process for TOD projects.

Today, Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed a new TOD reform ordinance that would essentially grant all of these wishes by expanding the TOD zones and abolishing the parking minimums. The new law would also create new incentives for including on-site affordable housing in TOD projects. The ordinance will be introduced at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, and the council will likely vote on the legislation in September, the two-year anniversary of the original law.

“From day one of my Administration, we have invested in our public transportation system to create jobs and revitalize commercial corridors across Chicago,” said Emanuel in a statement. “This ordinance will build on those investments, spurring economic development in our neighborhoods, which will benefit residents and small business owners alike.”

Although the new ordinance is closely aligned with MPC’s goals, and the nonprofit was given a sneak peek at the bill in order to provide an initial analysis of the new law, the group wasn’t directly involved in drafting the legislation, according to MPC spokeswoman Mandy Burrell Booth. “We’ve been having conversations with the city over the past several months, and this came out of those talks,” she said.

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Map of North Side TOD districts under the proposed ordinance. View larger versions of the North and South Side maps in MPC’s report on the ordinance.

The 2013 ordinance has facilitated eight projects worth more than $132 million, creating almost 1,000 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs, according to the mayor’s office. “Groups like MPC and developers have seen how successful the 2013 ordinance has been in spurring development near transit, so this was a natural next step to capitalize on that success,” Burrell Booth said.

The new law would more than double the reach of the 2013 ordinance. Currently, new residential buildings within 600 feet of a Metra or ‘L’ stop (1,200 feet on designated Pedestrian Streets) are required to provide at least a 1:2 ratio of parking spots to units, instead of the usual 1:1 ratio. The parking requirement for commercial uses, or the commercial portion of a mixed-use development, is waived.

Under the reform ordinance, land zoned for business (B), commercial (C), downtown (D) or industrial (M) uses within 1,320 feet of a station would be freed from the minimum parking requirements altogether, including for residential uses. On Pedestrian Streets, the zone would be expanded to 2,640 feet.

Note that the elimination of parking minimums does not mean that all TOD developments would have zero parking spaces. Rather, it leaves the decision about how many spots should be provided up to the developer and the community, instead of having the zoning ordinance dictate that number. Since off-street parking spots cost at least $20,000 each, dropping the requirement for unneeded spaces will help reduce housing costs.

The legislation would also increase the density allowance for parcels within these new TOD districts that are zoned B, C, or D, with a floor area ratio of 3 (roughly equivalent to three stories), if the developer provides on-site affordable housing. Buildings in which 2.5 percent of the housing units are affordable would receive an upzone to a FAR of 3.5. Those with five percent affordable units would qualify for a FAR of 3.75, and those with 10 percent affordable units would be eligible for a FAR of 4. This would help make it easier for working people to access jobs via transit. Read more…

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Talking Headways Podcast: The Freeway That Never Was

This week we’re talking with Brendan Wittstruck about St. Louis’s never built freeway, I-755, which he recently wrote about at Streetsblog member NextSTL.

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Brendan discusses the history of the project and how drawing lines on maps can be seductive to planners, who always have to be careful about trying to “fix” cities. He also talks about the racial politics of freeway construction in St. Louis, and how that legacy still shapes the city today. Finally, we chat about what the I-755 story means for freeway teardown movements today in terms of data collection and why this freeway never saw the light of day.

Join us and hear about the teardown that never had to happen, and the freeway that was never built.

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Major MARTA Expansion Could Transform the Atlanta Region

MARTA hopes to expand its rail service in Fulton and DeKalb Counties. Image: ##http://wabe.org/post/8b-marta-rail-expansion-proposal-explained##ItsMARTA via WABE##

MARTA hopes to expand its rail service in Fulton and DeKalb Counties. Map: ItsMARTA via WABE

Transit planners in the Atlanta area are getting serious about the largest expansion in MARTA’s history. MARTA officials have proposed new, high-capacity service into North Fulton County and east into DeKalb County that could link important job centers by rail for the first time. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says it could “change the face of Atlanta.”

The new rail service would finally connect residential areas to the rapidly growing area encompassing Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control, just east of the city limits. It would also extend all the way north to Alpharetta, a booming business center 25 miles north of Atlanta in Fulton County.

Officials from Cobb County, just west of Fulton, have long resisted and even ridiculed the idea of bringing transit access there, and Gwinnett County to the east is too low-slung and suburban to consider rail service at this point. But Fulton’s charge ahead into a more urban future could cause its neighbors to reconsider their ways.

MARTA Board Chair Robbie Ashe says the transit expansion could propel a new model of growth in the region. “Corporations are increasingly demanding immediate proximity to transit stations,” Ashe told the AJC. “State Farm did it when they came here. Mercedes did it. Worldpay did it when it relocated. Kaiser is going to be located two blocks from here because of the Arts Center Station.”

Best of all, according to Darin Givens who blogs at ATL Urbanist, these new stations, even the ones far out in the suburbs, are likely to be surrounded by transit-oriented development rather than park-n-rides.

“MARTA has now accepted that it’s time to undo its park-n-rides,” Givens said. “They’re trying to turn all these park-n-ride lots around MARTA stations — around a lot of them — into transit-oriented development.”

Read more…

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After Another Cyclist Dies, David Cameron Considers Truck Ban in UK Cities

Following the death of 26-year-old cyclist Ying Tao, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would look into a truck ban for city centers throughout the UK.

Prime Minister David Cameron, leader of Britain’s Conservative Party. Photo via Thinking About Cycling

In a meeting with the British equivalent of the Congressional Bike Caucus, Cameron promised to ask Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to come up with recommendations for improving cycling safety in the country. He suggested that that list could include a ban on trucks in city centers, improved intersection design, and staggered traffic light phasing. Cameron also said he would ask officials to look into greater enforcement of rules mandating that trucks feature certain safety features.

More than half of London cyclist deaths involve trucks. Six of the seven cyclists killed in London so far this year were women hit by construction trucks.

Parliamentarian Ben Bradshaw, the cycling group’s leader, noted that Britain’s major cities “have a lamentable record both for levels of cycling and for cycle safety compared to those of our European neighbours, and it would take very little public investment to make a big improvement in the climate for cycling.”

The government is currently drafting a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy. Currently, about 2 percent of trips in Britain are made by bike, but less than 1 percent of transportation funding goes to cycling.

Several European cities prohibit the entrance of heavy vehicles into downtown areas during peak hours, including Paris, Dublin, and Prague.

Earlier this year, London mandated that trucks over 3.5 tons need to have side guards to protect cyclists from being dragged under the wheels and extra mirrors to eliminate blind spots.

While the city maintains a peak-hour ban on the largest trucks (over 40,000 pounds) on specified city streets, Mayor Boris Johnson has rejected calls for more comprehensive regulations, like extending the ban to cover the type of truck involved in the killing of Ying Tao.

Streetsblog USA
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New Jersey Squanders Transit By Surrounding Stations With Sprawl

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Too many transit stations in New Jersey, like Princeton Junction, are surrounding by parking and single-family housing, reports NJ Future. Image: Google Maps (h/t @traininthedistance)

New Jersey is the most population-dense state in the country, and many residents get to work via one of its several transit systems. But too many of New Jersey’s transit stations are surrounded by single-family housing, severely limiting the number of people — especially low-income people — with convenient, walkable access to transit. Some entire transit lines are out of reach for people of modest means.

New Jersey Future, a smart growth advocacy group, examined the neighborhoods around all 244 of the state’s rail transit stations, commuter ferry docks, and major bus terminals to get a sense of whether transit access is equitably distributed among residents.

In a new report, “Off Track? An Assessment of Mixed-Income Housing Around New Jersey’s Transit Stations,” NJ Future Research Director Tim Evans finds that transit access could be far more equitably distributed if New Jersey weren’t squandering the land near stations.

In 109 of the 244 station areas he studied, Evans found a higher percentage of single-family detached housing than the statewide average. In 54 of them, single-family detached homes make up more than 70 percent of the housing stock. That kind of land use severely limits the number of people who can have convenient access to high-quality transit.

As it stands, New Jersey’s transit abundance is going to waste, with nearly half its stations surrounded by spread-out housing. “The way you maximize the number of people who have transit as an option is by putting as many people within walking distance of transit as you can,” said Evans. “And the way you do that is by increasing housing density, not by building a lot of single-family detached housing.”

Read more…

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Talking Headways Podcast: Building Relationships to Build a Better City

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This week’s guest is Janne Flisrand, an independent consultant and writer at Streets.mn. In her work as a “network weaver,” Janne thinks about how to elevate different voices and make sure everyone in a movement has a place to share their expertise and opinions.

In this episode we talk about the importance of relationships in cities — between neighbors and between elected officials and citizens. Janne shares her thoughts about why people feel a bit powerless to engage in city issues, even if it’s on their own street, and the numerous community meetings on so many different issues that make it hard for even the most dedicated people to participate.

You can find the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

Streetsblog USA
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HUD Tells Cleveland: Don’t Let Opportunity Corridor Go “Horribly Wrong”

It was a sad day in Washington, DC, last year when Harriet Tregoning left the DC Office of Planning. But it’s becoming clear that she’s a great addition at HUD.

In her capacity as the agency’s principal deputy assistant secretary for community development, Tregoning issued a stern warning to the city of Cleveland and Ohio DOT last week not to mess up the road project known as the “Opportunity Corridor.” Clearly she fears they will do just that.

“You could either get it gloriously right or horribly wrong,” Tregoning said during a visit to Cleveland, according to the Plain Dealer.

In its quest to cut a faster path for drivers from the freeway to University Circle, a major employment center, Ohio DOT plans to spend more than $100 million a mile and destroy 76 homes to build a five-lane, 35-mph road. If you want to build a project like that in 2015, it clearly helps to cloak it under the guise of “opportunity.”

But Tregoning recognizes the project for what it is: suburban-style road-building in an already-depressed area of a city that desperately needs a different kind of growth. Talking to the City Club, a civic engagement organization, she urged local leaders to see the corridor as an opportunity for development and employment, not just a road for commuters to get to work fast. And that would require changes to the road design itself.

“I love my friends at the state DOTs, but they often overbuild things,” she said. “They build for a traffic projection that is very unlikely to happen.” Indeed, traffic in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County rose just 0.02 percent a year between 2000 and 2013. There’s no justification for building such a wide and fast road inside the city limits where walkable development is called for.

Tregoning warned that building a five-lane, high-speed road through the city’s most depressed neighborhoods flies in the face of a regional plan, funded by HUD through its Partnership for Sustainable Communities with U.S. DOT and the EPA. The plan, called Vibrant NEO, seeks to make Northeast Ohio greener and more economically competitive by reversing the cycle of sprawl and investing in established communities.

Construction is already underway on the Opportunity Corridor, and ODOT says it’s too late to make any changes. The project is scheduled for completion in 2019. Something drastic will have to change for Cleveland to heed Tregoning’s words and get it “gloriously right” after all. Otherwise, she said, it would be “as if Vibrant NEO never existed.”

Streetsblog USA
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19’s Plenty: Toronto Drops Speed Limit to 19 MPH on Residential Streets

“There is no war on the car,” said Toronto City Councillor Paula Fletcher. “There’s basically been this continued war on people who don’t have a car.”

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The new speed limit is 30 kph, or 18.6 mph.

To remedy that situation, Fletcher, along with all of her colleagues on the Toronto and East York community council, voted last week to reduce speed limits to 30 kph (or 18.6 mph) on 240 miles of residential streets in the central districts of the city.

The lower speed limits are expected to encourage more people to bike and walk, and to improve air quality and noise conditions in the affected neighborhoods.

Toronto Mayor John Tory opposes the plan, preferring a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach. Previous Mayor Rob Ford was (not surprisingly) more blunt, called the idea “nuts, nuts, nuts.” But on this issue, the mayor doesn’t get a vote.

Opponents of the plan argued that it will backfire since some streets are designed for faster speeds. It’s true that lowering the posted speed limit is no substitute for street designs that slow motorists. That’s why 20 mph zones that have saved lives in London include engineering changes as well. But it’s also true that blanket speed limit reductions, with no additional interventions, have a track record of success.

The lower speed limits in Toronto will make difference, and hopefully will serve as an impetus to redesign streets for safer driving speeds too.

Streetsblog USA
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Newark Clears Bike Lane of Cars, Solves Parking Problem With Meters Instead

walk bike jersey good lane

Newark’s stopgap solution to a parking crunch was to allow parking in the bike lane (see upper right). Since then it’s found a more sensible option: meters. Photo: WalkBikeJersey

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

Three months after Newark drew national attention for considering removal of New Jersey’s only protected bike lane in order to allow illegal double-parking, the city has found a different solution.

Instead of designing the Mt. Prospect Avenue commercial strip around letting people park their cars two rows deep along the curb, the district is installing parking meters.

“Simply by adding parking meters and limiting parking to two hours, legal parking spots are now freed up for shoppers, rather than being occupied for hours or days at a time by residents and shop owners,” reports the New Jersey Bike and Walk Coalition. “As a result, bike riders regained access to New Jersey’s first parking-protected bike lane, and newly-enacted street parking regulations will ensure that there is an ample supply of parking for customers of businesses along Mt. Prospect Avenue.”

Read more…

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America Could Have Been Building Protected Bike Lanes for the Last 40 Years

intersectiondesigns

The latest in bikeway design? Nope, these intersection treatments are from early American bikeway planning documents. Sources: Fisher, 1972; City of Davis, 1972; Smith, Jr. 1974

[This article was written by guest contributor Marc Caswell.]

Salt Lake City is on track to implement the nation’s first “protected intersection” — a Dutch-inspired design to minimize conflicts between cyclists and drivers at crossings. For American cities, this treatment feels like the cutting edge, but a look back at the history of bike planning in the United States reveals that even here, this idea is far from new. In fact, the protected intersection concept appeared in every foundational document for bike planning in the early 1970s. But no American city ever installed one until now — here’s why.

First, some background. The first modern on-street bike lanes in the United States were installed in Davis, California, in the fall of 1967. Of these three bike lanes, one was a parking-protected bikeway on Sycamore Drive. That’s right: The first on-street bike lane in the United States was a parking-protected bikeway.

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A woman rides on Sycamore Lane in Davis, CA.

As word of the Davis bike lanes spread across the country, cities all over the United States began improvising their own designs. In response, the Federal Highway Administration funded the publication of four key planning documents between 1972 and 1976 that provided diagrams and guidelines to help cities (and ultimately the FHWA) create a uniform design for bikeways. There are many similarities in all of these documents, but it is clear that with each subsequent report, the design of on-street bike lanes slowly drifted toward designs that treated the cyclist more like a motor vehicle than a human.

Just as the bikeways movement was gaining steam and formalization was taking shape, physically separated bikeways were challenged by a new movement of vehicular cycling advocates — many of whom still challenge bikeways today. Throughout the 1970s, these fit men who self-identified as “cyclists” attended meeting after meeting to decry the designs that engineers were supposedly building for them. Quibbles in the wording of laws or details of a design became arguments and headaches for city staff. Anyone who was not already riding a bicycle on busy car-dominated streets was drowned out by the vehicular cyclists who claimed to speak for all bicycle riders.

Of course, surveys of riders showed these individuals to be in the minority — with 72 percent of riders saying separated bikeways provided good protection and 59 percent saying “signed routes” offered poor protection:

Read more…