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Uptown Developer Finds New Bikes Enticing New Tenants

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The new Heritage Outpost under construction at 1325 W. Wilson Ave. Photo by John Greenfield.

Visitors staying overnight at some Chicago hotels have long been able to borrow bikes during their stays, but now one apartment building owner has upped the ante and is giving away bikes for rather longer-term stays.

Cedar Street Companies is offering free custom bicycles as an incentive for new tenants to sign two-year leases before year’s end at its FLATS Chicago apartment buildings. The bikes will be built to order by Heritage Bicycles, a Lakeview-based bicycle and coffee shop. Heritage will also bring “outposts,” serving up food but not bikes, within two FLATS buildings in Uptown, at 1325 W. Wilson Avenue and at the former Lawrence House Hotel.

“It seemed to make a lot of sense to work with Heritage, who’s in our building now,” said Daly Donnellan of FLATS, which began the promotion a few weeks ago. “We’ve already gotten a handful of people signed up to get a free bike.” New residents can secure their bikes in bike rooms within each building, since FLATS apartments are known to be on the small side. Donnellan says that demand for bike parking has been healthy enough that the company has “look[ed] for other places to add additional storage… so far, it’s worked out.”

Newly bike-equipped residents can also easily go out for a ride with friends, thanks to a bike-share program that lets residents check out additional bikes from the front desk. FLATS has also requested bike corrals from the city to provide ample on-street parking for two-wheeled visitors to the buildings or their Heritage Outposts. None of the buildings offer car parking on site.

FLATS is currently leasing four buildings in Uptown, Edgewater, and Ravenswood, with two more under renovation and others on the way. Some neighbors, especially in Uptown, aren’t entirely happy with how Cedar Street has raised rents in the vintage buildings it has rebranded as FLATS, and recently helped to win city approval of an ordinance aimed at making such conversions more difficult.

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Talking Headways Podcast: Here I Am, Stuck in Seattle With You

podcast icon logoStuck in Seattle or Stuck in Sherman Oaks. There are so many places to get stuck these days and so many clowns and jokers making it worse.

First, poor Bertha, stuck 100 feet under Seattle. All the tunnel boring machine wanted to do was drill a 1.7-mile tunnel for a highway that won’t even access downtown and is projected to cause more congestion at a higher price than a parallel surface/transit option — and it got stuck just 1,000 feet in. Last December. Now the rescue plan is making downtown sink. It’s not going well. And to be honest, it was always destined to not go well. It was a crappy plan to begin with. Luckily, there is a rescue plan for the rescue plan, if anyone cares to carry it out. It starts with some accountability and ends — spoiler alert! — with pulling the damn plug.

But if the new tunnel to replace Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct is likely to cause traffic tie-ups, it’s nothing compared to the perennial jam on LA’s I-405. The popular navigation app Waze has started directing drivers off the freeway and into the residential neighborhood of Sherman Oaks, infuriating the people who live there. Their solution: Try to convince Waze there are traffic jams in Sherman Oaks too. Our solution: Build a better transportation system.

And that’s it! This is our last podcast until the New Year. You can catch up on anything you missed on iTunes or Stitcher, and if you follow our RSS feed (or our Twitter feeds) you’ll be the first to know when a new episode is out.

Happy Holidays, and Happy Trails!

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Today’s Headlines

  • Tribune: New Study Proves Red Light Cams Don’t Improve Safety. Actually, They Do.
  • Emanuel Wants to Introduce His Own Ordinance to Codify Privatization Process (Sun-Times)
  • Broadway Named One of USA’s Best PBLs of 2014 (RedEyeChicagoist)
  • City Debuts an Online Map of Residential Parking Zones (DNA)
  • Emanuel Halts Rent-Free Use of City Land by United Center Parking Companies (Sun-Times)
  • Ice on the Ohio Feeder Ramp Leads to Crashes (CBS)
  • Service Disruptions on the Green Line This Wekend for Cermak Station Construction (DNA)
  • MPC Celebrates Its 80th Birthday
  • A Look at Chicago’s “Crash and Grab” Burglary Epidemic (ABC)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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The Importance of Driving to the U.S. Economy Started Waning in the 70s

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Americans drive much less per unit of economic output than we did a generation ago.

Earlier this year, following a slight uptick in U.S. traffic volumes, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a press release, “More people driving means our economy is picking up speed.” He’s not the only person to equate traffic with economic growth. Even former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg once said, “We like traffic, it means economic activity,” before his administration embraced ideas like congestion pricing, bus lanes, and protected bikeways.

In fact, the amount Americans drive is an increasingly poor reflection of the nation’s economic output. A forthcoming analysis from Michael Sivak at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (sorry, no link available yet) finds that by some measures, driving has been “decoupling” from U.S. economic growth for a generation.

Sivak looked at two measures of driving activity in relation to economic growth: mileage per unit of gross domestic product and fuel consumed per unit of GDP. On both of those metrics, when GDP is adjusted for inflation, the amount of driving relative to economic output peaked in the 1970s.

Distance driven relative to economic output was highest in 1977. After that, it more or less plateaued until the 1990s, when it began to decline sharply, Sivak reports. Today it stands at about where it did in the 1940s.

Read more…

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Kentucky Threatens 17 Louisville Street Trees, Citing Safety [Updated]

The Kentucky Department of Transportation objects to street trees on this stroad. Image: Google Maps

The Kentucky Department of Transportation says trees make this road dangerous. Image: Google Maps

Here’s a classic story of traffic engineering myopia. Officials at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet are threatening to remove 17 newly planted street trees in a Louisville suburb.

As reported by Next City and Louisville’s Courier-Journal, the trees had been selected and planted in part to ameliorate the area’s growing urban heat island problem. Louisville has lost 9 percent of its tree cover over roughly the last decade.

But Kentucky officials say the trees are a hazard to motorists along Brownsboro Road in Rolling Hills.

“We are not anti-tree at the Transportation Cabinet,” state highway engineer Matt Bullock told the Courier-Journal. “We are pro-safety.”

The state has given the city until Christmas to remove the trees. Local officials have accused the state of “selective enforcement” and even “harassment.”

Charles Marohn, the civil engineer who founded Strong Towns, said Kentucky is looking at the problem in the wrong way. ”Street trees are dangerous,” he said, but only if “you have fast moving traffic.”

“They’re focused on the street trees and not the speed. Street trees are not a problem at reasonable speeds.”

Read more…

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We Need Your Support to Produce Great Livable Streets Reporting in 2015

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This beautiful PUBLIC bike could be yours if you donate to Streetsblog by December 31.

Gabe Klein may be gone, but Chicago remains committed to remaking streets that prioritize transit, biking, and walking. Which means there’s a ton at stake in the year ahead. You can help make the most of these opportunities: Streetsblog Chicago needs your support to continue producing high-impact reporting that makes the case for streets where people come first.

This year Streetsblog Chicago cranked out more coverage hammering the potential backdoor subsidies for the Illiana Tollway boondoggle, which governor-elect Bruce Rauner can put a stop to in 2015. We defended the construction of parking-lite housing near ‘L’ stations from NIMBY attacks. We amplified the advocates pressing for a redesign of Lake Shore Drive that would add dedicated space for transit and better walking and biking access to the lakefront. We called out opponents of automated traffic enforcement who want to undo the progress that’s been made on reducing dangerous driving.

Streetsblog Chicago is an essential media watchdog that keeps public officials on their toes. We connect people who care about building a safe, healthy, productive transportation system to the news and analysis they need to be informed citizens and effective advocates. If you value the work we do, please help keep the site going by making a tax-free donation. You can earmark your gift so that it goes directly toward Streetsblog Chicago coverage.

Next year is going to be especially important for the future of Chicago streets. With the bike network poised to expand and major BRT projects on tap for the Loop and beyond, it’s crucial to get elected representatives on the record. As the municipal elections approach, Streetsblog Chicago will bring transit and street safety to the forefront by getting candidates to weigh in on these issues.

We can’t do it without your support. Please keep us going strong in 2015 and make a donation to Streetsblog Chicago today.

As an added incentive, the good folks at PUBLIC Bikes have donated a sleek new R16 road bike, which we’ll be raffling off to readers who give to Streetsblog by the end of the year.

Thanks for your support and, as always, thanks for reading Streetsblog Chicago.

- John

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Pima County Holds Better Sidewalks Hostage to Get a Road Expansion

Pima County is insisting on widening Broadway Avenue, whether Tucson wants it or not. Photo: Jude Ignacio and Gerardine Vargas via ##http://blog.preservationleadershipforum.org/2014/02/11/sunshine-mile/#.VIi7kWTF9Ns##Preservation Leadership Forum##

Pima County insists on widening Broadway Boulevard, whether Tucson wants it or not. Photo: Jude Ignacio and Gerardine Vargas via Preservation Leadership Forum

West of downtown Tucson, Arizona, the city runs up against the interstate first and then the mountains, cutting off development. But east of downtown, the city sprawls on for miles. The Sunshine Mile, a shopping and dining corridor centered on Broadway Boulevard, stretches two miles just east of downtown, between Euclid Avenue and Country Club Road.

Pima County and its Regional Transportation Authority are pushing the city to widen Broadway for the length of the Sunshine Mile. And they’re threatening to withhold money for bringing the sidewalks into compliance with the Americans for Disabilities Act until Tucson complies.

The long and sordid story begins in the mid-1980s, when engineers predicted that traffic on Broadway would skyrocket from about 35,000 vehicles per day to 56,000 by 2005. To prepare for that veritable onslaught, planners concocted a scheme that involved widening Broadway from less than 100 feet to 150 feet.

The projections never came to pass. Traffic on Broadway has never exceeded 45,000 cars a day, according to Laura Tabili of the Broadway Coalition, which is fighting the road widening. In line with the rest of the country, traffic has actually been declining for the last 10 years. The most recent daily traffic counts on Broadway are now down below 35,000, less than in 1987, and in general the volume is only that high east of the target area.

Read more…

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Congress Trims TIGER (But Doesn’t Hack It to Pieces) in 2015 Spending Bill

Transformations like this one, in Lee County, Florida, are what TIGER is all about. Images: ##http://www.leegov.com/gov/dept/sustainability/Documents/Lee%20County%20TIGER%20v%20Grant%20Narrative.pdf##Lee County##

Transformations like this one, in Lee County, Florida, are what TIGER is all about. Image: Lee County

The drama is over; the House and Senate have both passed the “cromnibus” spending bill [PDF] that funds government operations through the end of fiscal year 2015. And the Department of Transportation’s TIGER program survived.

While small, TIGER has proven to be a significant source of funding for local transit and active transportation projects, enabling cities, regions, and transit agencies to directly access federal support without going through state DOTs.

Back in May, Republicans proposed to cut the discretionary TIGER grant program by 83 percent and to limit TIGER grants to the GOP’s own myopic view of transportation priorities: roads, bridges, ports, and freight rail. They explicitly stated that the funds should not be used for “non-essential purposes, such as street-scaping, or bike and pedestrian paths.” As Streetsblog reported in May, they also wanted to cut eligibility for a bunch of projects related to transit, sidewalks, carpooling, safety, planning, and congestion pricing.

The final outcome is better than that but worse than 2014. TIGER got trimmed from $600 million in funding this year to $500 million in 2015, while the House didn’t get the ban on funding for active transportation projects that it wanted.

Read more…

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Talking Headways: Level of Disservice

podcast icon logoIn California, whether you’re building an office tower or a new transit line, you’re going to run up against the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The law determines how much environmental analysis you need to do for new projects. But sadly, in practice it’s better at propagating car-oriented development than improving the quality of the environment.

That’s because instead of looking at a project’s effect on the environment, CEQA looks mostly at its effect on traffic. And the measures CEQA uses to determine traffic impacts focus on individual intersections, instead of the region as a whole. As a result, they end up penalizing urban infill development and transit projects while promoting sprawl and road expansion.

Here’s the good news: The core traffic metric embedded in CEQA, known as Level of Service (LOS), is set to be overhauled in California. Last year, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB743. One thing that bill does is allow the Sacramento Kings to build a new stadium. But the other thing it does is allow for the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research to come up with a new metric to replace LOS — a very hot topic on Streetsblog.

This week’s Talking Headways is a special one-hour episode all about how LOS works against sustainable development patterns and what is being done to change it.

Jeff produced this podcast for the NRDC Urban Solutions Program. Guests include Jeff Tumlin of Nelson\Nygaard, Amanda Eaken of NRDC, and Chris Ganson of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. Hope you enjoy it.

Catch us on iTunesStitcher, and the RSS feed. And we’ll see you on Twitter.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Black Chicago Cycling Advocates Request Fair Distribution of Bike Facilities (People for Bikes)
  • West Side Residents Call for Improving Pedestrian Safety on High-Crash Corridors (Active Trans)
  • UIC Proposal for Obama Library Includes Bus Rapid Transit Line on Roosevelt (Newswise)
  • Fioretti Introduces Ordinances on Potholes, $58 Million Parking Settlement (DNA)
  • Police Officer Injured in 3-Car Crash in Lakeview (Tribune)
  • Activist Trying to Catch Teens Who Slapped Senior on ‘L’, Posted Video on YouTube (CBS)
  • Chicago Loop Alliance: Alley Parties Generated $400K for Local Economy (Tribune)
  • Does Chicago Really Need City Stickers for Automobiles? (Crain’s)
  • Local Bike Builder Legacy Frameworks Makes Cycles for Practical Transportation (Tribune)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

Note to readers: Streetsblog Chicago will be publishing on an abbreviated schedule today due to an annual editorial meeting.