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6 Principles to Make Self-Driving Cars Work for Cities, Not Against Them

Self-driving cars are coming, and maybe sooner than we think. But the question of how they will shape cities is still wide open. Could they lead to less traffic and parking as people stop owning cars and start sharing them? More sprawl as car travel becomes less of a hassle? More freedom to walk and bike on city streets, or less?

How will self-driving cars impact cities? Hopefully federal regulators won't ignore this question. Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

The answers depend in no small part on how federal and local policy makers respond to the new technologies. The National Association of City Transportation Officials wants to get out ahead of these changes with a statement of policy recommendations to guide the deployment of autonomous cars in cities [PDF].

Here is what NACTO proposes.

1. Cars should be fully autonomous, not partly

If cars have some automated features but still require human drivers to occasionally take control, safety could suffer. NACTO cites research that shows semi-automated vehicles actually increase driver distraction, lulling motorists into thinking they can pay less attention to the road. But fully automated vehicles should be able to achieve much better safety outcomes than human drivers.

2. Maximum speeds on city streets should not exceed 25 miles per hour

Self-driving cars should be programmed not to exceed 25 mph in urban areas. Controlling speed is one way self-driving cars could yield enormous safety benefits. But it will require regulators — with support from the public — to insist on putting safety above speed, which, historically, America has failed to do.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Talking Headways Podcast: Color Your City Outside the Lines

This week I’m joined by cartographer Gretchen Peterson to talk about mapmaking and her new book, City Maps: A Coloring Book for Adults. We discuss why she made the book and why she chose the 40 city maps she included in it.

Listen in and hear from Gretchen about the art of cartography, including the importance of color, fonts, good data, and whether you have to be a designer to make maps. We also get into why maps are important in reports, maps we might regret, as well as tips for future cartographers. Enjoy.

Streetsblog USA
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Massive Highway Expansion Threatens to Destroy Tampa Neighborhoods

Grassroots advocates have waged a dogged campaign against Tampa's plan to add $6 billion in highway lanes. Now they're starting to gain key political support. Photo: Sunshine Citizens

Grassroots advocates have picked up key political support in their campaign against Florida DOT’s $6 billion plan to widen 90 miles of highways around Tampa. Photo: Sunshine Citizens

Most people still think of Tampa as a sprawling, car-centric town, but that is starting to change. In 2014, Smart Growth America [PDF] found that Tampa is shifting toward a more walkable development pattern. The city is starting to build out a bicycle network, and its Riverwalk project is bringing people out to stroll downtown.

Tampa’s recent progress could be overwhelmed, however, by Florida DOT’s $6 billion Tampa Bay Express project, a 90-mile road widening scheme that will chew up city neighborhoods to add toll lanes to three interstates. Information about the project’s finances is hazy, and Florida DOT has proven that its traffic projections for toll road projects are worthless. Neverthless, regional decision makers are set to take up the plan this week.

On Wednesday, the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization will vote on Tampa Bay Express.

Tampa's centrally located Seminole Heights historic neighborhood, a former streetcar community filled with charming bungalows, has begun to see reinvestment after decades of decline, but a $6 billion highway plan could deliver another blog. Photo: Wikpedia

Tampa’s Seminole Heights neighborhood is threatened by FDOT’s $6 billion highway widening plan. Photo: Wikipedia

If the highway widenings are built, Governor Rick Scott’s state DOT will seize properties to ram through the new lanes. Of the residents who’ll be uprooted, 80 percent are black or Latino, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Sprawling development is sure to follow. “You would see a weakening of the trend toward the revitalization of in-town neighborhoods and instead new housing stock farther and farther from the urban core,” said Thomas Hawkins of the smart growth advocacy group 1000 Friends of Florida.

But there’s a chance the highway plan will be defeated, thanks to a grassroots coalition known as Sunshine Citizens that has pushed back against Florida DOT’s agenda.

“For $6 billion we could have a truly multimodal, comprehensive transportation system,” said Michelle Cookson, a leader of Sunshine Citizens who lives in Seminole Heights, one of the neighborhoods that will be affected by the widening. “We know this is the absolute worst choice for us.”

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See You at Our Reader Appreciation Party This Wednesday at RevBrew


The Kedzie Avenue taproom. Photo: Revolution Brewing

It’s about three weeks since loyal Streetsblog Chicago Readers came out of the woodwork to help us raise $50,000 to win a the $25,000 challenge grant from The Chicago Community Trust. As a thank-you to all of you who pitched in, we’re holding a reader appreciation party this Wednesday evening at Revolution Brewing’s Kedzie Avenue taproom (not to be confused with their Milwaukee Avenue brewpub).

All Streetsblog readers are cordially invited to this shindig, and those who have gave a Benjamin or more will receive a ticket for a free drink, courtesy of our friends at RevBrew. Here’s the skinny:

Streetsblog Reader Appreciation Party
Wednesday, June 22, 6-9 p.m.
Revolution Brewing Kedzie Taproom
3340 N. Kedzie Avenue

We’ll also have copies of my book “Bars Across America” and the anthology “On Bicycles” on hand for those of you who chipped in $100-plus or $200-plus, respectively.

Also, we’ll be raffling off the many great prizes, donated by local bike businesses, to readers who contributed to the funding effort, later this week.

As always, thanks for reading and thanks for supporting Streetsblog Chicago. See you Wednesday at RevBrew!

— John
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Beyond Fitness: The Social Benefits of Open Streets Events

Milwaukee's Ciclovia was planned in part to help bring together different groups in a Hispanic neighborhood. Urban MIlwaukee

One goal of Milwaukee’s Ciclovia is to bring neighbors together in public space. Photo: Urban Milwaukee

It’s a beautiful thing to witness just how much neighborhood streets can change when you remove car traffic. As open streets events, modeled after Bogotá’s Ciclovia, have spread across the U.S. in the past several years, they’ve brought not just opportunities for physical activity, but a joyful new way to use streets as public spaces.

In Milwaukee, this year’s Ciclovia overlapped with the city’s Pride parade. Writing at Urban Milwaukee, Dave Schlabowske of the Wisconsin Bike Federation says the combination of the two events underscored how open streets are about so much more than biking:

Our Ciclovía ended at 4 p.m. and I packed up the van with the now empty bike racks and put them back in the basement of our office. Pedaling home from our office after such a successful day, I kept reliving the smiles of all the cute kids, the infectious beat of the Zumba, and generally basking in a day that made me proud to work for the Wisconsin Bike Fed and be part of such a wonderful, healthy, community building event. It was one of those days I couldn’t imagine living anywhere but Milwaukee.

Then I got home and my wife told me the news about the mass shooting in Orlando. I was shocked. I can’t believe our event and the Pridefest Parade overlapped and yet I had no idea of the horrific attack on the LGBT community the night before. It took me awhile to write about this. At first I felt guilty for being so self-absorbed that I missed learning about the biggest mass murder in our nation’s history while busy with a “bike event.”

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Talking Headways Podcast: Ghosts of Motordom’s Past and Future

This week we’re doing something a little different with the podcast. It’s the morning plenary from last month’s Live.Ride.Share conference in Denver. You’ll hear Jill Locantore of WalkDenver introduce University of Virginia Professor Peter Norton, author of Fighting Traffic, who discusses how automobiles were sold to the public at the beginning of the motor age. Following Norton is Gabe Klein, former transportation director in Washington DC and Chicago, who talks about how cars are changing and what that means for streets and cities.

Norton starts at the 5-minute mark and Klein starts at 28:15, then questions from the audience and an open discussion come at 1:02:15.


Today’s headlines for Friday, June 17

  • More Coverage of the Blaine Klingenberg Bike Fatality Case (Tribune, DNA)
  • …And More Clueless Safety Preaching in the Mainstream Media (CBS)
  • CTA Releases Final Designs for New 95th Street Terminal (DNA)
  • Lincoln Ave. Bus Will Reboot on Monday — With Truncated Hours (DNA)
  • Manor Ave. Neighborhood Greenway May Include Traffic Diverter (DNA)
  • Green Line Arts Center Will Anchor a Transit-Oriented Arts Corridor (Curbed)
  • Park Ridge Residents Call for Better Walking & Biking Conditions (Tribune)
  • Compromise Solution May License Full-Time Ride-Share Drivers (Sun-Times)
  • Rehab Work Has Begun on the 111th Street Metra Station (Tribune)
  • CTA Will Close Addison Blue Line Stop, Alter Loop Trains This Weekend (DNA)
  • New Wolf Point Tower Will Include a 400-Foot Public Riverwalk (Loop North)
  • South Side Critical Mass #WearOrange for Gun Violence Awareness Ride Tonight at 6:30

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA


Here’s a List of (Almost) All 108 Upcoming Divvy Bike-Share Station Locations

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This station was installed at Chicago and Kedzie in East Garfield Park as part of last year’s Divvy expansion. Photo: John Greenfield

Last week the Chicago Department of Transportation released a map of the 108 upcoming Divvy bike-share station sites, but it was a little tricky to see exactly where the docking spots would be installed. We asked CDOT and Divvy for the specific locations, and they provided the following list of intersections where the big blue bikes will be deployed within the city, as well as Evanston and Oak Park.

2016 ExpansionMap_EvOP_160526_v3

The new Divvy coverage areas are shown in Red. Click to Enlarge.

Eighty-five stations will be installed in the city, mostly within low-to-moderate-income communities of color on the West, Southwest, and South sides. Ten stations will be placed in Evanston and 13 will go to Oak Park — these suburbs lined up their own funding for their stations.

“Note that only 80 Chicago stations are listed due to a few stations that remain in flux,” Explained Divvy general manager Elliot Greenberger. “Because of this, some of the stations on the map and list are slightly different.”

This week Divvy plans to complete the West Side expansion today. Next they will get started on the Southwest expansion, followed by the South Side, Greenberger said. As of Monday evening, they had deployed the following 8 stations: 

  • Conservatory Dr & Lake St station.
  • Cicero Ave & Lake St 
  • Austin Blvd & Lake St 
  • Central Park Blvd & 5th Ave 
  • Kenton Ave & Madison St 
  • Pulaski Rd & Madison St 
  • Kostner Ave & Lake St 
  • Laramie Ave & Kinzie St 

Check out the full list of upcoming stations below, and let us know what you think of the locations in the comments section.

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Today’s Headlines for Thursday, June 9

  • Thresholds Nonprofit Does Outreach to Homeless Individuals on the CTA (RedEye)
  • Driver Who Had Been Drinking Injured 2 Lake County Deputies in Crash (Sun-Times)
  • Drunk Driver Who Killed Good Samaritan Who Tried to Stop Him Gets 16 Years (Tribune)
  • San Hamel’s Lawyer Filed Petition to Have Homicide Charge Dismissed Again (Ride on Bobby)
  • Panel: What Can Chicago Do to Put the Brakes on Population Loss? (MPC)
  • As Metra Riders Switch to Using Ventra App, Riverside Ticket Office Closes (Sun-Times)
  • CTA Bus Tracker Malfunctioned During Tuesday Evening Rush (Sun-Times)
  • Cubs Move Forward With Plaza Plan Despite Lack of Support From Tunney (Crain’s)
  • Giddings Plaza Fountain Should Be Up & Running Soon (DNA)
  • Activate” Placemaking Party Takes Place This Evening in Sullivan Alley, 16 E. Monroe
  • Active Trans Hosting “Kickstand Classic” Fun Race & Fundraiser 9/25 in Bartlett (Tribune)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA


The Quincy Loop Station is Getting a Makeover, Including ADA Accessibility


Rendering of the station with elevators. Image: CTA

This morning the CTA took a step towards making the system more accessible for people with disabilities, as the board of directors approved the construction contract for the rehab of the Quincy Loop station, including the addition of two elevators. Currently, 100 of the CTA’s 145 rail stations (69 percent) are wheelchair accessible.

The board awarded the CTA Quincy Loop Station Upgrade Project contract was to Ragnar Benson Construction, LLC. Work is slated to begin later this year.

Quincy, located on Wells Street between Jackson Boulevard and Adams Street, is one of the ‘L’ system’s oldest and best-preserved stations. It was opened in 1897, back when William McKinley was U.S. president. The $18.2 million rehab will also include stair replacement, painting, lighting improvements and other upgrades.

“The Quincy ‘L’ station has served riders for more than 100 years, providing Chicagoans with convenient access to and from Chicago’s downtown Loop,” said CTA President Carter in a statement. “These improvements will retain the station’s historic appearance while making necessary upgrades including the addition of two elevators.”

Some of the original features of the station that still exist today include pressed metal wreaths and fluted pilasters (rectangular pillars), located on the outside of the stationhouse. The current customer assistant’s booth was rebuilt in the 1980s as a replica of the original ticket agent booth.

Quincy Station

The Quincy Platform as it looks today. Photo: Serge Lubomudrov

Last renovated in 1988, the Quincy stop sees more than 2.2 million riders per year on the Orange, Pink, and Purple Lines. It also serves as a transfer point for ten bus lines, and provides access to Union Station and the LaSalle Street Metra station.

The project is part of the CTA’s Strategic Accessibility Program announced last January, which set a goal of making all ‘L’ stops accessible by 2036. However, some have argued that the agency is not being aggressive enough about adding elevators to existing stations. For example, the $492 million Your New Blue project is rehabbing 11 Blue Line stations, but only one station will be gaining wheelchair accessibility.