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Help Us Shame Loop Link Scofflaws With the #NotaCTABus Twitter Campaign

Bus rapid transit has the potential to be a cost-effective way to move people quickly and efficiently across Chicago, without the buses getting slowed down by congestion caused by private vehicles. However, if the bus-only lanes aren’t enforced, it hamstrings efforts to speed up the buses.

Ever since the CTA’s Loop Link system launched last December, downtown bus speeds have shown limited improvement. Things seem to have gotten better since the agency recently eliminated a preliminary rule requiring bus operators to approach the raised platform stations at a snail-like 3 mph. However, although the lanes are clearly marked “CTA Bus Only,” it’s still common to see private buses, delivery trucks, taxis, and cars in the lanes.

This isn’t just a minor annoyance. It’s a big deal because if lane enforcement continues to be a major issue and CTA bus speeds don’t get faster, that will make it less likely the city will implement dedicated bus lanes on other routes, such as the proposed Ashland Avenue BRT route.

The problem is particularly common with the charter bus lines that ferry office workers to and from Metra stations. When I talked to staff from The Free Enterprise System and Aries Charter Transportation last month, they were fairly unapologetic, arguing that their drivers don’t have much choice but to use the lanes for pick-ups and drop-offs.

The CTA and the Chicago Department of Transportation have told me the problem is on their radar. “We are aware of the issue and we are working with the city to make sure the traffic rules are enforced so that Loop Link delivers improved transit service as intended,” CTA spokesman Jeff Tolman said in April.

While other cities like New York use traffic cameras to keep other drivers out of their bus-only lanes, the Loop Link lanes aren’t camera enforced. New Illinois legislation would be needed to add traffic cams to Loop Link and, since automated enforcement is already highly controversial, that would likely be a non-starter in Springfield.

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Today’s Headlines for Monday, July 25

  • Hit-and-Run Driver Who Ran Red, Killing Another Motorist, Charged With Felony (Tribune)
  • Storms Disrupt ‘L’ Service, Knock Metal Canopy onto 3rd Rail Near Medical Center (Tribune)
  • Newly Opened Halsted Bridge by Blue Line Includes a Mid-Block Crossing (DNA)
  • Metra Koan: If a Tree Falls & No One Hears It, Does It Still Disrupt Service? (Sun-Times)
  • Congress Theater Overhaul Could Include Replacing Parking Lot With Residences (Curbed)
  • An Update on the Belmont/Western Viaduct Replacement Project (DNA)
  • Homeowner Turns Empty Englewood Lot Into a “Peace Garden” (DNA)
  • Tips For Enjoying the Lakefront Trail With Small Children (Chicago Parenting)
  • Meet the Saxman Who Has Brought Music to the Barry Underpass for Decades (Tribune)
  • John Discusses Divvy’s Expansion Into the West Side on Outside the Loop Radio
  • Next “Activate” Alley Party 8/5 in Couch Place Will Focus on Vision (Loop Alliance)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Today’s Headlines for Friday, July 22

  • Local Leaders Respond to GOP’s Anti-Transit Platform (Crain’s)
  • #BlackLivesMatter Protesters Arrested for Blocking Roadway in Lawndale (Tribune)
  • Tribune Endorses Proposal for Rapid Transit, Fare Integration on Metra Electric Line
  • Waukegan Woman Is 2nd Person Killed This Week by Driver on Sidewalk (Tribune)
  • Suspect Killed, Bike Cop Injured in Shootout by 18th St. Pedestrian Tunnel (Tribune)
  • Following Attack, Chicago’s “Walking Man” Is Out of Hospital, in Good Spirits (Tribune)
  • Neighbors Support Zoning Change to Allow 197-Unit Tower by Wilson ‘L’ (DNA)
  • Seating Plaza Added as Part of Low-Line Market by Southport ‘L’ Stop (DNA)
  • Reilly Proposes Crackdown on Party Buses (Sun-Times)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Of Course the GOP Transportation Platform Is a Catastrophe

In the past few years, Congressional Republicans tried and failed to turn the federal transportation program into a highways-only affair. Still, the GOP isn’t giving up on eliminating federal funds for transit, walking, and biking.

Donald Trump may have made his name building on the most transit-rich real estate in the nation, but he hasn’t changed the party’s stance on transportation at all. The transportation plank in the newly updated GOP platform [PDF] is as extreme and hostile to cities as ever.

Here are some of the lowlights:

1. Eliminating federal funding for transit, walking, and biking

The Republican Party platform calls for cutting all federal funding for transit, walking, and biking.

The loss of federal funding would cause chaos for transit agencies and transit riders, disrupting and diminishing capacity to operate, maintain, and expand transit systems. The reason this proposal goes nowhere in Congress is that even a sizable share of Republicans realize it would be disastrous to kneecap transit in the nation’s urban centers, where so much economic activity is concentrated.

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Today’s Headlines for Thursday, July 21

  • Driver Who Killed Dr. Gary Toback Cited, Family & Colleagues Mourn Toback (ABC)
  • Man Charged in Hit-and-Run Crash That Killed Firefighter in Rogers Park (WGN)
  • Chicago Woman Charged in Minivan Crash, Home Invasion in Wilmette (Tribune)
  • Tribune: Heatwave May Slow Metra Commutes, Make Walking & Biking “Miserable”
  • Money From Sale of Skyway Will Be Used for Property Tax Rebates (Sun-Times)
  • Street Closures Planned for Construction of Massive “Vista” Tower on E. Wacker (DNA)
  • App Would Allow Residents to Buy Parking Permits for Visitors Via Smartphone (DNA)
  • Pokemon Go Is Encouraging People to Walk Around Chicago (Curbed)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Eyes on the Street: The Argyle Shared Street Project Is Nearing Completion

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Paving is completed on the eastern half of the business district, which brought the street up to sidewalk level. Photo: John Greenfield

It’s official: Argyle Street in Uptown is now a thoroughfare that prioritizes walking. Today City Council passed an ordinance that designates the three-block-long stretch of Argyle between Broadway and Sheridan Road a “Shared Street,” where the line between space for vehicles and pedestrians is blurred.

People on foot are permitted to cross the street wherever they choose, not just at intersections. A streetscaping project on this stretch is nearing completion, creating a plaza-like environment that will likely make this bustling strip of Southeast Asian-owned restaurants and shops even more vibrant.

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New branded bike racks have been installed. Photo: John Greenfield

The Chicago Department of Transportation has been spearheading the project, which involves raising the level of the street, eliminating curbs, and adding decorative pavers with a design that encourages shopper to freely travel across the street. The ordinance states that pedestrians have the right of way over all other traffic on the street. The roadway will also become fully wheelchair accessible.

As part of the project, the sidewalks have been widened, making it possible for the restaurants to offer outdoor café seating.

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Vox Pulls Back the Curtain on “Scam” to Save Lives With Red Light Cameras

You can usually count on Vox for accurate, research-based explainers of public policy issues. That’s why the new Vox video on red light cameras is so monumentally disappointing.

Researchers have established that red light cameras make streets safer by reducing potentially fatal T-bone collisions, though they do lead to more rear-end crashes, which tend not to be very serious. But motorists upset about receiving fines for dangerous driving mobilize tenaciously against automated enforcement. The use of red light cameras in Colorado, for instance, is consistently under siege in the state legislature. They are currently outlawed in more than a dozen states.

Campaigns against automated enforcement could hardly ask for better propaganda than this Vox video. Here’s a look at what’s so wrong with it.

1. Red light cameras save lives — but who cares?

Once you get past the click-bait title, “Why Red Light Cameras Are a Scam,” the piece starts out well. There are more than 30,000 traffic deaths every year in the USA, we’re told, and “23 percent are intersection related.” Vox also notes that the cameras reduce T-bone collisions and that they “really can and do save lives” — but for some reason this is immediately overshadowed in the video by the increase in less deadly rear-end fender-benders.

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AASHTO’s Draft Bikeway Guide Includes Protected Bike Lanes and More

Bike guide contractor Jennifer Toole speaks last month at the annual meeting of the AASHTO Subcommittee on Design.

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities connect high-comfort biking networks.

As the most influential U.S. transportation engineering organization rewrites its bike guide, there seems to be general agreement that protected bike lanes should be included for the first time.

A review panel appointed by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials will meet July 25 to start reviewing drafts of the new guide, including eight new chapters highlighted here in blue:

If the panel likes what they see and the relevant committees sign off, AASHTO members could vote on possible approval next year.

When AASHTO’s design subcommittee held its annual meeting in Baltimore last month, members who focus on bicycling facilities said they often need the sort of engineering-level detail and guidance about physically separated bike lanes that AASHTO guides are known for providing.

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“Investigatory” Traffic Stops Need to End

School cafeteria worker Philando Castile was shot to death yesterday in the Minneapolis area after being pulled over for a broken taillight. Photo: Facebook via Hollywood Life

A police officer shot Philando Castile to death after pulling him over for a broken taillight.

The images are excruciating — Philando Castile, bleeding to death as his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter look on. A cafeteria supervisor in the St. Paul School District, Castile was pulled over by officer Jeronimo Yanez in the neighboring town of Falcon Heights for having a broken taillight. Yanez fatally shot Castile after he informed the officer that he was carrying a licensed firearm then reached for his driver’s license and registration, according to Castile’s partner, Diamond Reynolds.

One thread that Castile’s death shares with many other cases where police officers have used deadly force against black Americans is that the officer initiated the encounter with a traffic stop, notes David Levinson at the Transportist:

Cars (and their drivers) kill 30000-40000 people a year in the US (and are way up this past year) and 1.25 Million globally. This is terrible. It is the highest rate among high-income countries. It justifies many things, including engineering safer roads, educating better drivers at the training stage, designing better vehicles and especially driverless cars, ongoing education programs, reduction in drunk driving, and yes enforcement.

But does that enforcement, which should be aimed at making our roads safer, require armed police officers pulling over men of color at a disproportionate rate because one tail light is out, and shooting them? Is this “enforcement” really about traffic safety? Or rather, is this just another way for municipalities to raise money in fines for minor violations, as was done in Ferguson, Missouri, or discourage people “who don’t belong” from traveling on the quiet streets of someone else’s neighborhood.

In their book Pulled Over, researchers Charles Epp and Steven Maynard-Moody refer to the widespread practice of “investigatory stops,” in which law enforcement agencies use stops for minor transgressions as pretenses to sweep up and search large numbers of people of color, a tactic derived from the “broken windows” theory of policing. The result is policing that is both discriminatory and ineffective in reducing traffic violence.

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Sprawl and the Cost of Living

Cross-posted from City Observatory

Over the past three weeks, we’ve introduced the “sprawl tax”—showing how much more Americans pay in time and money because of sprawling urban development patterns. We’ve also shown how much higher the sprawl tax is in the US than in other economically prosperous countries, and how sprawl and long commutes impose a psychological, as well as an economic burden. Today, we’ll take a close look at how ignoring the sprawl tax distorts our view of the cost of living in different regions and neighborhoods.

As one old saying goes, an economist is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. It’s often claimed that some places, often sprawling Sunbelt cities, have a lower cost of living, based usually on observations about lower housing prices. And judged solely from the sticker price of new homes, the argument has some merit.

Phoenix. Credit: Al_HikesAZ, Flickr

Phoenix. Credit: Al_HikesAZ, Flickr

But as our aphorism about economists implies, there is a lot more to this question than just one set of prices. If you’ve followed our series on the sprawl tax, you know that living in some cities—those with cheap average housing costs, like Houston or Dallas or Birmingham—also carries with it a heavy, and largely ignored cost in the form of the “sprawl tax”: much higher transportation costs. In short, we tend to fixate on the price of something we can easily measure (housing) and simply leave out the value of something that is much less obvious (sprawl and longer commutes).

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