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Join Us For Our Fifth Monthly Reader Meetup Next Wednesday, May 4

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Jaks has a great selection of libations and eats, and they offer *free* ketchup and mustard with any sandwich purchase. Photo: John Greenfield

We’re hosting our fifth monthly Streetsblog Chicago meetup and happy hour next Wednesday at Jaks Tap in the West Loop/UIC. Our meetups are a great opportunity to hang out and network with folks who are passionate about sustainable transportation and livable streets. Here’s the skinny:

Streetsblog Reader Meetup
Wednesday, May 4, 5:30-9 p.m.
Jaks Tap
901 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago

It’s a block or so north of the Blue Line’s UIC-Halsted Station and there’s a Divvy station right in front of the bar. We’ll be in the “Brewery Room”.

Meet Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield (deputy editor Steven Vance is researching transportation in the Netherlands for a few months) and fellow readers — you know each other from the comments and social media.

We’ll have a few pints and talk about hot transportation and public space issues, be it Loop Link lane scofflaws, transit-oriented development equity issues, or whether or not the Soldier Field parking lot should be replaced by the Lucas Museum (no fist fights over that last topic, please).

We’ll be hanging out all evening, so come and go as you please. Hope to see you there!

Streetsblog USA
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After Big Push From Mayors, TIGER in Line For Slight Funding Boost

There’s good news out of the Senate committee responsible for doling out transportation funds.

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail was funded in part with a TIGER grant. Photo: Walk Indianapolis

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee okayed a small increase in TIGER funding, according to Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America. TIGER is the program that allows local governments to compete directly for transportation funds, circumventing state DOTs, and helps get a lot of walking, biking, and transit projects off the ground. It must be renewed every year, so its prospects are always in doubt.

If approved by the full Senate and House, the committee’s proposal would set TIGER funding at $525 million, a $25 million increase over the previous year’s budget.

Elected officials and civic leaders across the U.S. campaigned for funding TIGER. A letter signed by 25 mayors — including the mayors of Tallahassee, Kansas City, and Anchorage, Alaska — urge lawmakers to continue the program [PDF], noting that applications for TIGER grants have typically exceeded available funds by a factor of 10.

T4A’s Davis said the bill could be brought to a floor vote sometime this week. The same bill would also authorize $2.3 billion for New Starts, the grant program that funds major transit expansion projects, and $1.4 billion for passenger rail. Those funding levels are in line with what was laid out in the most recent federal transportation law.

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No, Cappleman Is Not Against the Right-Turn Ban at Halsted/Broadway

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Looking west at the slip lane that was closed by the addition of “No Right Turn” and “Do Not Enter” signs. Photo: John Greenfield

Yesterday 46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman sent out a bulletin to constituents that included an update on the recently implemented right-turn ban from northbound Halsted to southbound Broadway in Lakeview. The Chicago Department of Transportation installed “Do Not Enter” and “No Right Turn” signs there in order to eliminate a slip lane and improve safety for pedestrians. The alderman wrote:

A number of residents and business owners have sent in letters to the 46th Ward office to protest CDOT’s plan to close this lane. Ald. Cappleman supports the request of the neighbors [emphasis added] and has forwarded their complaints to CDOT. CDOT is continuing to research this area and will provide more detailed findings regarding the use and safety of this intersection within the next 2 months. Ald. Cappleman will keep residents updated on this.

From reading the message one might assume Cappleman agrees with the complainants that the slip lane should be reopened, but Matt Trewartha, the ward’s director of field services, tells me that’s not the case. “We don’t have an opinion about it per se,” he said. He said the bulletin was meant to convey the fact that Cappleman has listened to the neighbors’ complaints, adding that there have been several meetings with stakeholders to discuss the issue.

Trewartha says the office has been flooded with feedback about the change, most of it in opposition to the turn ban, some of it in support. “If CDOT can demonstrate that there’s a safety concern at that location, than the slip lane should probably remain closed. If not, and more people keep clamoring to reverse it, it may be reversed,” he said.

CDOT traffic counts conducted last fall, prior to the turn ban, found that, even during rush hours, no more than 14 drivers made the turn per hour. That was less than five percent of all northbound motorists.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Are Millennials Racing to Buy Cars Again? Nope

Crossposted from City Observatory.

Hot on the heels of claims that Millennials are buying houses come stories asserting that Millennials are suddenly big car buyers. We pointed out the flaws in the home-buying story earlier this month, and now let’s take a look at the car market.

The Chicago Tribune offered up a feature presenting “The Four Reasons Millennials are buying cars in big numbers,” assuring us that millennials just “got a late start” in car ownership, but are now getting credit cards, starting families and trooping into auto dealerships “just like previous generations.”

Similar stories have appeared elsewhere. The Portland Oregonian chimed in: “Millennials are becoming car owners after all.”

Not quite a year ago, we addressed similar claims purporting to show that Millennials were becoming just as likely to buy cars as previous generations. Actually, it turns out that on a per-person basis, Millennials are about 29 percent less likely than those in Gen X to purchase a car.

We pointed out that several of these stories rested on comparing different sized birth year cohorts (a 17-year group of so-called Gen Y with an 11-year group of so-called Gen X). After applying the highly sophisticated statistical technique known as “long division” to estimate the number of cars purchased per 1,000 persons in each generation, we showed that Gen Y was about 29 percent less likely than Gen X to purchase a car.

More generally though, we know that there’s a relationship between age and car-buying. Thirty-five-year-olds are much more likely to own and buy cars than 20-year-olds. So as Millennials age out of their teen years and age into their thirties, it’s hardly surprising that the number of Millennials who are car owners increases. But the real question—as we pointed out with housing—is whether Millennials are buying as many cars as did previous generations.

The answer is no.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Insane Comic Books Warn Phoenix Children That Biking Will Kill Them

This comic book was produced by the Phoenix Street Transportation Department to warn young children about the dangers of not wearing a helmet. Retrieved from the Arizona Republic

This comic book was produced by the Phoenix Street Transportation Department to warn young children about the dangers of not wearing a helmet. Via The Arizona Republic

Hey kids, the Phoenix Department of Street Transportation has a fun message for you: Riding your bike is likely to result in a gory horror scene. If you don’t wear your helmet, of course.

This is the cover of a comic book being distributed to third and fourth graders in Phoenix.

This is the cover of a comic book being distributed to third and fourth graders in Phoenix.

That’s the gist of an over-the-top “bike safety” comic book that has alarmed parents of third and fourth graders in Phoenix. The comic shows a cyclist with his brain exposed and blood dripping down his skull on the cover. The inside is equally horrifying, conjuring a world where kids get run over and lose the use of their legs because they pop wheelies.

The books were produced by the Phoenix Street Transportation Department with a $18,700 grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. An illustrator hired by the transportation department explained to the Arizona Republic that they were meant to scare children into wearing helmets.

Helmets can protect against head injuries in the event of a crash or fall, but the idea that helmet use is the one true answer for bike safety is cartoonishly simple.

Gory comic books about bike helmets are not the kind of thing you see in places with excellent bike safety records. It is basically an admission that public agencies have failed to create safe streets and an indictment of the prevailing safety culture.

At a time when kids are developing chronic disease at an alarming rate thanks in part to the lack of physical activity, Phoenix is sending the message that something as normal as riding a bike will cause you to resemble an extra from the Walking Dead.

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Today’s Headlines for Thursday, April 21

  • Video: Passers-By Ignored Marques Gaines as He Lay in the Street Before Being Struck (Tribune)
  • Suburban Man Charged With Hate Crime After Attacking Muslim Cab Driver (DNA)
  • Witnesses: Repeated Racist Taunts Led to Red Line Beating, Caught on Video (Sun-Times)
  • ELPC’s Lerner: Better Transit, High-Speed Rail Are Key for Keeping City Competitive (Crain’s)
  • Cottage Grove Streetscape Between 77th & 83rd Will Include Bump-Outs (City of Chicago)
  • Uber Executive David Plouffe Makes Case Against Additional Regulation to Sun-Times Board
  • Deputy Fire Commissioner Resigns After Crashing City-Issued Vehicle on the Drive (Tribune)
  • Derailment at Rail Yard Delays 3 Metra Union Pacific Lines (ABC)
  • What If Freight Trains Skirted the Suburbs Via New Rural Railroad? (Herald)
  • DNA: Lincoln Park Zoo, North Avenue Beach Highest Bike Theft Locations in City
  • Major Taylor Cycling Club of Chicago Hosts “Ride Over Violence” Saturday, May 7

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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The Donate-O-Meter

Streetsblog Chicago is currently in the thick of raising funds for our next year of publication. Once again, the Chicago Community Trust, a charitable foundation that was one of the early funders of SBC, has very generously offered us a challenge grant. If Streetsblog reaches $50K in donations and sponsorships by the end of May, the Trust will provide the last $25K needed to keep the site running into 2017 and beyond.

Thanks to the generosity of readers like you, we’ve made good progress since we announced the challenge grant. We expect a significant chunk of revenue to come in during the next few weeks in the form of ad renewals and corporate sponsorships.

However, we still have a lot of work to do in order to win the grant from the Trust, so it’s time to shift our fundraising effort into high gear. If you haven’t already done so, please consider donating to Streetsblog Chicago today today. SBC is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, so donations are tax deductible.

If you’ve already contributed, thanks so much for helping us win the challenge grant. As an added incentive to first-time donors, as well as those who’d like to make an additional contribution, anyone who donates $100 or more from this point on will get a copy of my book “Bars Across America.

Donate $200 or more and we’ll also throw in a copy of the anthology “On Bicycles,” to which I contributed a chapter about Chicago’s West Town Bikes, while supplies last.

Please feel free to spread the word about the challenge grant to potential donors, or contact me at 312-560-3966 or greenfieldjohn[at]hotmail.com with leads on other possible funding sources. To keep you apprised on our progress, I’ll be updating the above Donate-O-Meter along with Today’s Headlines each morning.

Thanks again for your continuing support.

– John

Streetsblog USA
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How Good Is the Transit Where You Live? Measure It With AllTransit

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The top ten rankings are great conversation fodder, but the real strength of AllTransit is its deep reservoir of data, enabling multifaceted analysis of transit quality at many different scales. Table via AllTransit.

Do you have the sense that transit in your city could be a lot better, and you want to show your local elected officials what needs to improve? Look no further: Chicago’s Center for Neighborhood Technology has produced a new tool called AllTransit that assesses the quality of transit down to the neighborhood level.

AllTransit lets you evaluate your local transit system in several ways. You can look up how many people in your city live within a half mile of transit service, for instance, or how many jobs are conveniently accessible via transit from your neighborhood compared to your city as a whole.

The tool combines route and schedule information from 805 American transit agencies with a wealth of Census data, making a broad spectrum of uses possible. With AllTransit, you can compare different facets of transit service across neighborhoods, cities, regions, states, or electoral districts.

To help people summarize complex comparisons, AllTransit offers an overall “performance score” incorporating several factors, including the extent of frequent service and how well transit connects people’s homes to jobs and other destinations.

The emphasis on frequency is unprecedented, said Linda Young, director of research for CNT. “Frequency is so important because it’s really the determinant of how people are going to use transit,” she said.

Here are a few ways you can use the tool, with Madison, Wisconsin serving as an example. Keep in mind that this is by no means a comprehensive list. Below are the city’s performance score and top-level stats — click to enlarge.

Read more…

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Will the Logan TODs Accelerate or Slow Displacement of Longtime Residents?

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The recent protest at the Twin Towers construction site. Photo: Aaron Cynic

[The Chicago Reader recently launched a new weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. This partnership will allow Streetsblog to extend the reach of our livable streets advocacy. We’ll be syndicating a portion of the column on the day it comes out online; you can read the remainder on the Reader’s website or in print. The paper hits the streets on Thursdays.]

Transit-oriented development is a progressive approach to building new housing. Densely packed units are clustered close to rapid transit, with relatively few parking spaces, making it easy for lots of residents to get around without a car. That means less driving in the neighborhood. And, since garage parking costs tens of thousands of dollars per stall and takes up precious floor space, fewer spots for cars means developers can build more apartments in a given footprint and pass on the savings to tenants, potentially boosting affordability.

So why did about 20 left-leaning activists blockade the worksite for the Twin Towers TOD project at 2293 N. Milwaukee on Saturday, April 9? They formed a human chain across the street and locked to each other via PVC tubes and concrete-filled buckets, chanting “How high’s the rent? Too damn high.” Dozens more demonstrators cheered from the sidewalks, holding signs that read “Logan Square is not for sale.”

The protest, led by Somos (“We Are”) Logan Square and Lifted Voices, made the argument that the upscale ten- and 11-story rental towers, along with a high-end six-story transit-oriented apartment building down the street, will accelerate the already rapid pace of gentrification in the neighborhood. They say the transit-friendly aspects of the buildings, both located a few minutes walk from the Blue Line’s California station, are little more than greenwashing.

“The [transit-oriented development] concept is being perverted and used as justification to allow developers to run rampant with huge luxury buildings,” says Somos spokeswoman Justine Bayod Espoz. “These developments will ultimately push the families that most rely on public transportation further and further away from the transit hubs.”

But First Ward alderman Proco Joe Moreno and others argue that, in addition to being a smart strategy for reducing car dependency, these developments will actually help longtime residents stay in the neighborhood. Ten percent of the new apartments will be affordable. And by increasing Logan Square’s housing supply, they say, the buildings will actually take pressure off the local rental market.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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U.S. DOT Wants States to Disclose Climate Impact of Transportation Projects

The Obama administration wants state DOTs to report on the climate impact of their transportation policies, reports Michael Grunwald at Politico, and the road lobby is dead set against it.

Dallas' "High Five" Interchange. Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

As part of the implementation of the MAP-21 federal transportation bill, U.S. DOT officials are preparing a new rule that would require states to set goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and report their progress, according to Grunwald.

It’s the same idea behind similar rules requiring states to track progress on traffic congestion and walk/bike safety. No penalty would apply to states that fail to attain their goals, but the rule would increase transparency and enable advocates to hold transportation agencies accountable for their climate performance.

The road building lobby appears to hate the idea. From Grunwald’s piece:

Nick Goldstein, vice president for regulatory affairs with the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, warned that a mandate for agencies to set climate targets could be used as a pretext to discourage highway construction at a time when America desperately needs better infrastructure. He suggested the Obama administration has embraced an anti-asphalt mentality.

The draft rule has yet to be released by U.S. DOT. Once that happens, it will be subject to a period of public comment, and that feedback could shape the final form of the rule.

The climate rule is definitely one to keep an eye on. We’ll post more details as they become available.

Streetsblog.net
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Louisville’s New Goal: Reduce Driving

Image: Move Louisville via Broken Sidewalk

Louisville isn’t known as a transit-rich, bikeable city, but it is drafting a blueprint to change that. Move Louisville, the region’s new long-term transportation plan, envisions a future with less driving and more active transportation.

Currently, 82 percent of the region’s residents drive to work, higher than the national average of 76 percent, and higher than peer cities like Cincinnati (72 percent). Branden Klayko at Broken Sidewalk reports that regional policy makers have coalesced around a step-by-step plan to reduce Louisville’s dependence on driving:

“Move Louisville takes a holistic approach to our transportation system,” Mayor Fischer said at the plan’s unveiling. He said the city’s existing transportation system is valued at $5 billion, making it an asset worth maintaining—one of the city’s main talking points. “We have two top priorities,” the Mayor continued. “The first we call ‘Fix it First.’ That is fixing our existing infrastructure so we can maintain what works best. The second is reducing the number of miles that Louisvillians drive. We’ll do that by increasing the number of mobility options.”

And the mayor plans to reduce the vehicle miles travelled (VMT) in Louisville by a significant number. In Jefferson County in 2014, motorists travelled over 7 billion miles—that’s enough miles to travel to the moon and back 15,211 times. The equals out to more than 19,178,082 miles each day (42 trips to the moon and back). Move Louisville suggests a reduction in VMT by roughly one trip to the moon and back—500,000 miles—or 2.6 percent or the daily miles driven in Louisville. But over a year those miles add up: a daily 500,000 mile reduction equates to 182,500,000 miles (397 trips to the moon and back). That’s not pocket change.

Read more…