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Bad Planning and Bad Transit Put Jobs Out of Reach for Milwaukeeans

Milwaukee is the poster child for the special kind of economic oppression that results from a combination of residential segregation, bad transit options, and job sprawl. This is a problem to some extent in almost every city in the country, but it’s worse in formerly industrial cities where big employers have decamped for the suburbs. And in Wisconsin, where the governor and state DOT are determined to spend billions on highway expansions while starving transit, the situation is especially desperate.

Low-income workers who lack cars in Milwaukee face major structural obstacles to employment. Photo: Urban Milwaukee

As Milwaukee bus service shrinks, low-income workers who don’t own cars face even greater structural obstacles to employment. Photo: Urban Milwaukee

Matthew Wisla recently wrote a great synopsis of the problem for the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, which Network blog Urban Milwaukee reposted. Here’s his report:

It has been decades since the city was an engine for regional job growth. “Most of the job growth in recent years is either at the outer parts of the county or outside of the county,” said Kristi Luzar, deputy director of programs, Urban Economic Development Association of Wisconsin. “The biggest problem facing many people in the city is getting connections to jobs.”

Employment in Washington, Ozaukee and Waukesha Counties increased by 56,271 from 1994 to 2009, while the city lost 27,858 jobs, according to a report published earlier this year by the Center for Economic Development at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Reaching suburban employment centers can be challenging for city residents. About 13 percent of city households don’t have access to a car, according to the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

State budget cuts that began in 2001 forced MCTS to eliminate routes and now the bus system reaches about 1,300 fewer employers than it would have before the cuts began. Approximately 30,900 workers are employed by those businesses in an average year, according to the Center for Economic Development.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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10 Tips for Cities Ready to Replace Car Parking With Safe Space for Biking

Former parking spaces in Boulevard de Maissonneuve, Montreal. Photo: JasonParis

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

A curbside parking spot is just 182 square feet of urban space. But for advocates of better American bike infrastructure, few obstacles loom larger.

Right now in San Diego, a long-brewing plan to add better pedestrian crossings and a continuous protected bike lane to the deadliest corridor in the city is fighting for its life in large part because some merchants on four commercial blocks don’t want to risk removing any auto parking.

Before and after plans for University Avenue in San Diego.

The merchants aren’t wrong that private parking spaces have commercial value to nearby properties. But bike lanes, street trees and better sidewalks would have commercial value too — and creating San Diego’s first comfortable crosstown bike network would also bring value to the entire city, not to mention lessen retailers’ dependence on car parking.

For cities everywhere, converting on-street parking spaces into anything else is one of the greatest challenges in urban planning.

Though it’s probably never been done without a fight, many cities have succeeded. Here are the best approaches we’ve seen from North America and beyond.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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New Organization Sets Out to Raise the Standard for “Vision Zero” Cities

Leah Shahum, former head of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, will head up the Vision Zero Network. Image courtesy of Leah Shahum.

Leah Shahum, former director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, will head up the Vision Zero Network. Photo: Melissa Balmer

Vision Zero — the idea that we should no longer accept traffic deaths and serious injuries — is gaining momentum as a framework for thinking about city streets and transportation, as more American cities adopt the goal of ending traffic fatalities.

But what actually constitutes a Vision Zero policy? What are the best strategies to dramatically reduce traffic violence? Which cities are doing it right, and which are talking the talk without walking the walk?

A new organization, the Vision Zero Network, seeks to help American cities adopt the most effective street safety policies. The organization launched today under the leadership of Leah Shahum, former director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, with support from Kaiser Permanente.

The purpose of the Vision Zero Network will be two-fold, says Shahum. First, the group aims to connect officials in leading Vision Zero cities to facilitate the sharing of best practices. Second, it will establish benchmarks to determine whether cities are backing up the rhetoric with real policy action.

“We really want to make sure that there’s a meaningful standard to being a Vision Zero city,” said Shahum. “And that’s not the reality so far. Because this concept is so new.”

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Is the Lord For or Against a Texas County Road Bond? Opinions Mixed

Things are really getting heated in Montgomery County, Texas, just outside Houston, over a proposal to issue $350 million in bonds to maintain and expand roads. Like fire-and-brimstone heated.

Earlier this week, at a county commissioners meeting, volunteer Mary Hammer Menzel referred to road bond opponents as “tools of satan” in her opening prayer, reports the Montgomery County Courier.

Menzel apparently has strong opinions about which side of the debate God is on. At the previous meeting, she also led the opening prayer, saying, “Father, I want to lift up this road bond to you and just ask you to help the people realize this county has got to have ways to get around,” according to the Montgomery County Police Reporter. Menzel appears in a television ad supporting the road bond, saying, “I am for the road bond and the Lord is too.”

Laura Fillault, a road bond opponent, did not take kindly to this week’s prayer. “I’m not a tool of satan,” she said. “I didn’t appreciate that part of the prayer… It’s a road bond it’s not a satanic ritual.”

Read more…

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Thanks to You, Streetsblog Chicago Is Back in the Saddle

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Steven and John talk with readers at last week’s fundraising party at Transit Tees. Photo: Brandon Souba

Yesterday was a heckuva day in the Windy City. Not only did we have a hard-fought mayoral and aldermanic runoff election (more on that later today) but supporters came out of the woodwork to help out Streetsblog Chicago in the last hours of our three-month reboot campaign.

Thanks to that final push, including some late-breaking large donations, we now have $57,300 in our war chest. That’s well over the $50K we needed to raise by today in order to win the $25K challenge grant from the Chicago Community Trust.

As a result, we’ve got enough funding to relaunch as a locally funded nonprofit, the Chicagoland Streets Project, and resume publication for a year. Steven Vance and I are thrilled to be returning to what we do best: bringing you the latest in sustainable transportation and safe streets news.

Back in early January, when I learned we would have to suspend publication due to a funding shortfall, I was hopeful that the thousands of Chicagoans who read Streetsblog on a daily basis wouldn’t let the site stay offline for long. You folks proved that I was right to be optimistic.

Over the last three months, more than 300 individuals who want to see better conditions for walking, transit, and bicycling in Chicago put their money where their mouth is by donating to the Streetsblog Chicago Resurrection Fund. Dozens of contributions came in on Tuesday alone.

There are too many supporters to thank you all, but we’d like to give a shout-out to the 15 people who donated $200 or more, including Kyle Heath, David and Allyson Altenberg, Andy Ross, Michael Ellis, Dennis Griffin, Peter Skosey, Jeff Judge, Maria Barnes and Tim Herlihy, Gareth Tucker, and Justin Haugens, plus a few anonymous donors. One very loyal reader gave $10,000, which – needless to say — was crucial for meeting out goal.

Out of all the organizations that have helped us out, the Chicago Community Trust obviously deserves special recognition for providing the challenge grant. Not only will it provide a large chunk of our operating budget, it was also invaluable for inspiring others to contribute. Big thanks to the trust’s Michael Davidson for making this happen.

We also received generous donations from the TransitCenter foundation ($2,315) and the Active Transportation Alliance ($1,000), which we greatly appreciate.

Corporate donors include Revolution Brewing ($2,000), Sam Schwartz Engineering ($1,000), Alta Planning + Design ($500), SRAM Corporation ($500), and Po Campo ($460). We’re thankful for your support.

We’d also like to give a shout-out to our returning and new advertising sponsors: FK Law, Keating Law Offices, Bike and Roll Chicago, Boulevard Bikes, the Bike Lane, Uptown Bikes, Roscoe Village Bikes, the Handlebar, and Transit Tees.

Steven and I are grateful to Peter Skosey, Ron Burke, and Daniel Ronan for significant help and encouragement during the funding campaign. Thanks also to Suzanne Carlson, Yonah Freemark, Cathy Haibach, Gabe Klein, and Anne Marie Thigpen for fundraising advice.

We’re excited about the new board of the Chicagoland Streets Project, which includes important players from the local sustainable transportation scene: Anne Alt, Maria Barnes, Ben Blander, Lorena Cupcake, Courtney Cobbs, Jacky Grimshaw, Garth Katner, Randy Neufeld, Lebster Pabon, and Oboi Reed. Their guidance on running the 501c3 nonprofit, as well as input on editorial content, will be key as we move forward as an independent organization.

Last but not least, we’d like to thank our peers at the Streetsblog network for assistance and moral support during the reboot effort. Ben Fried, Damien Newton, Angie Schmitt, Stephen Miller, Aaron Bialick, and Brad Aaron, we’re looking forward to working with you as full-fledged colleagues once again.

Apologies to anyone we’ve left out — so many people have stepped forward to help over the last three months that we’re probably forgetting some of you. But the fact that we’ve received so much help from hundreds of different people during the campaign is truly a testament to the vibrancy of Chicago’s transportation advocacy community.

As we move forward, you’ll notice that our publishing schedule is a bit lighter than before the hiatus. I am resuming my role as a full-time staffer. However, Steven, who has been busy doing freelance website and database programming for urban planning-related projects, will be writing somewhat fewer posts than before. We continue to seek funding opportunities that would allow us publish more frequently.

This year, I will be writing more grant applications to fund the following year of operations. Having a few large revenue sources, rather than a zillion smaller ones, will help make Streetsblog Chicago a sustainable project. However, support from readers will continue to be key.

2015 promises to be another big year for transportation news. The completion of the Loop Link bus rapid transit system, the Bloomingdale Trail, the Chicago Riverwalk extension, and the 100th mile of buffered and protected bike lanes are all on the horizon. Major battles over the Rauner transit funding cuts, traffic cameras, and transit-oriented development projects also loom before us.

We can’t wait to roll up our sleeves and get to work reporting on these stories. Now we can, thanks to the amazing support we’ve received from readers like you.

– John

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Jubilation! We’ve Reached Our $50K Goal and Will Reboot Tomorrow

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This is how we feel right now. Photo: John Greenfield

I’ve got some excellent news for folks who are passionate about building a Chicago where everyone can get around safely, efficiently, and enjoyably. Thanks to generous contributions from readers like you, ad sponsorships, and a couple of large, last-minute donations from a foundation and a nonprofit, we are now well past out $50K fundraising goal. That means we will win the $25K grant from the Chicago Community Trust that will allow us to resume publication bright-and-early tomorrow!

We’ll have more details, including the grand tally for our three-month fundraising campaign, as well as shout-outs to key supporters, in a full post tomorrow morning. If you haven’t had a chance to contribute yet but would still like to help out, we’re still accepting donations to the Streetsblog Chicago Resurrection Fund. Revenue received over our basic $75K annual budget will be used to make SBC’s sustainable transportation reporting as effective as possible.

Thanks to all of our readers for your support and encouragement as we’ve hustled to relaunch the site over the last three months. We couldn’t have done it without you!

– John

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A Look at Two Big Chicagoland Trail Projects: The Bloomingdale and Cal-Sag

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Beth White on the Bloomingdale Trail’s bridge over Humboldt Boulevard. Photo: John Greenfield

The Trust for Public Land’s Beth White is a petite woman with a light southern accent, despite the fact that she’s lived much of her life in here in Chicago. She hands me an oversized white hardhat and an orange safety vest, and we walk a couple of blocks from a construction office through the December gloom to the worksite for the Bloomingdale Trail, also known as The 606. This 2.7-mile elevated trail and linear park is slated to open in June. When it does, it’s certain to become one of the Windy City’s signature public spaces.

The Bloomingdale, which is being built on the old rail embankment of the same name, will stretch across four economically and culturally diverse neighborhoods on Chicago’s Northwest Side, providing a gorgeous space for strolling, running, biking, and relaxing. Meanwhile, in the city’s near south suburbs, the Cal-Sag Trail — a 26-mile multiuse path that will run almost entirely along the banks of the Cal-Sag Channel and the Calumet River — is partly completed and should be finished by 2018. Both greenways are great examples of how grassroots advocacy, efforts by municipalities and national nonprofits, and federal funding can combine to create projects with big economic, environmental, and health benefits.

White leads me up the embankment at a trailheads in Julia de Burgos Park, named after the late Puerto Rican nationalist and feminist poet who is a hero to many residents of Humboldt Park, the largely Latino community to the south. The railroad right-of-way runs about 16 feet above street level, and it averages only about 30 feet wide, but it will soon be home to colorful plantings and art installations. There’s already a 14-foot-wide ribbon of concrete that will become the multiuse path. “The story of the 606 is a unique combination of passion and perseverance,” White says. “Those things don’t often go together.”

Read the rest of the story at Rails to Trails Magazine.

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Join Us Tonight at the “Forward Mobility” Party at Transit Tees

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John will be modeling one of these groovy neckties at tonight’s event. Photo: John Greenfield

Thanks so much to all of you who supported the Streetsblog Chicago reboot effort by purchasing bags earlier this week from our friends at Po Campo, who generously gave us 50 percent of the sales. We sold a dozen bag — interestingly, half of them were Bike Share Bags. SBC’s take is $460, which means we only need to raise $3,480 more to return to publication by our April 8 deadline, although we’ve only got six days left to do it.

Here’s another fun way you can help us meet our fundraising goal. Join Steven and me this evening from 6-9 p.m. at the free “Forward Mobility” party at Transit Tees, 1371 North Milwaukee. We’ll be doing a short Q & A about recent hot transportation topics, and staffers from the Transit Future campaign and Norsman Architects will also be talking about their projects.

If you’ve given $100 or more to our reboot effort, be sure to stop by the Streetsblog table to pick up your complimentary copy of my book “Bars Across America.” And if all the money you’re saving thanks to free Revolution Brewing beer and Antique Tacos is weighing you down, we’d be delighted if you dropped some cash in our elegant, glass donation vase.

Sustainable transportation fans will definitely want to browse Transit Tees cool selection of bike-, bus-, and train-themed clothing and housewares. I plan on wearing my cherished CTA map necktie, which I purchased this very boutique.

If you can’t make it to the shindig and haven’t already done so, please donate to the Streetsblog Chicago Resurrection Fund today. It’s only fitting, since Easter is right around the corner. So is Passover, and if you value SBC’s hard-hitting transportation coverage, I’m sure you won’t want to pass over this opportunity to help out.

Thanks again for your support!

– John

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Last Day of Po Campo Fundraiser, Party Tomorrow at Transit Tees

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Gentlemen, why lug around that old Jandd briefcase when you could look as dapper as this dude *and* support SBC?

The countdown to relaunching continues here at Streetsblog Chicago. With a couple of new donations just in from generous readers, we currently have $46,010 in our Resurrection Fund, so we need a mere $3,990 more to win the $25K challenge grant from the Chicago Community Trust that will allow us to resume publication. Unlike this morning’s headline about Steven taking a job at the National Motorists Association, that’s no April Fool’s joke.

However, we’ve now only got one week to raise that money before our Wednesday, April 8, reboot deadline. Here are two fun ways you can help us cross the finish line. Today’s the last day you can buy one of four classy bike bags from our friends at Po Campo and have 50 percent of the sale go towards the Streetsblog revival effort. Use the code “StreetsblogCHI” and they’ll give you 10 percent off on your purchase.

You can also join Steven and me tomorrow evening from 6-9 p.m. at the free “Forward Mobility” party at Transit Tees, 1371 North Milwaukee. We’ll be doing a short Q & A about recent transportation issues, and reps from the Transit Future campaign and Norsman Architects will also be talking about their work.

If you’ve donated $100 or more to the Resurrection Fund, be sure to stop by the Streetsblog table for your free copy of my book “Bars Across America.” And if all the money you’re saving thanks to complimentary beer from Revolution Brewing and snacks from Antique Taco is burning a hole in your pocket, we certainly wouldn’t be upset if you dropped a few bucks in our donation jar. Thanks for your support — hope to see you there!

– John

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Upgrade Your Bike Bag and Help Us Cross Our Funding Finish Line

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Po Campo’s stylish Logan Bike Trunk Bag.

Here at Streetsblog Chicago, we’re currently in a race against time. At this moment, we have $45,750 in our Resurrection Fund, but we need to hit $50K by April 8 in order to win the $25K challenge from the Chicago Community Trust that will allow us to resume publication. There are only eight days left to come up with the $4,250 we need.

You can help us reel in those last dollars and up your style quotient at the same time. Today and Wednesday, when you buy one of four select bike bags from our friends at Po Campo, Chicago’s homegrown bike bag company, they’ll donate 50 percent of sales to our revival effort. Use the coupon code “StreetsblogCHI” and you’ll get 10 percent off your purchase.

Click here to see Po Campo’s “StreetsblogCHI Collection.” The four bags, mostly named after Chicago neighborhoods, include the Loop Pannier, the Pilsen Crossbody Bag, the Logan Bike Trunk Bag, and the Bike Share Bag — a must for frequent Divvy users.

If you’re not in the market for bike gear, please consider making a cash donation to the Resurrection Fund. Remember: If Streetsblog Chicago doesn’t relaunch, John Kass wins.