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Get Your Camera Ready for Empty #BlackFridayParking Lots

If you’re out shopping on Black Friday, keep your cell phone camera close at hand. Strong Towns is continuing its annual tradition of #BlackFridayParking — capturing photos of half-empty parking lots on America’s high holy day for retail.

The exercise illustrates how ridiculous and wasteful our parking policies are. Many communities require retailers to construct and maintain parking lots large enough to house every shopper on the busiest shopping day of the year. And then even on a day like Black Friday (technically the second-busiest day of the year), many spaces remain unfilled.

Imagine if this space could be repurposed for something more productive.


El Morro, the Merrier — Join Us for a Party With Moxie on December 3

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El Morro Lounge in Humboldt Park. Image: Google Street View

Join us next Thursday for the second in our series of monthly meet-ups for Streetsblog readers. This one is a festive holiday gathering with our friends from Moxie, a meet-up group for LGBT urban planning and public policy professionals. Here’s the skinny:

Moxie and Streetsblog Chicago Holiday Party
Thursday, December 3, 6-8 p.m.
El Morro Lounge
4247 West Armitage
$10 suggested donation

El Morro is a cozy, LGBT-friendly pub in the heart of the Hermosa community. Naturally, people of all orientations are encouraged to attend this party in support of smart urban planning, as long as you’re not hopelessly auto-erotic.

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Photo: El Morro

The $10 suggested donation will be split between Moxie and Streetsblog. Our share will go towards our effort to raise $80,000 by next April in order to fund our next year of hard-hitting livable streets coverage. Food and beverages will be available for purchase.

We’ll also be holding a raffle featuring items from Armitage Avenue business, as well as great prizes donated by local bike stores and copies of former transportation commissioner Gabe Klein’s new book “Start-Up City.” Raffle tickets will be available for sale for $5 each or four for $15.

Joining us to promote commerce on the Armitage corridor will be 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, who will be making remarks at 7:15. If you live in the ward, this will be a great opportunity to share your thoughts about sustainable transportation with the alderman.

And, since car-centric streets are a drag, the party will conclude with a fun performance by two of El Moro’s talented female impersonators. Steven Vance and I will be hanging out at the bar after the party until at least 9 p.m.

We hope to see you at what promises to be a fabulous soiree. RSVPs are greatly appreciated. Thanks for helping us get a head start on funding next year’s Streetsblog Chicago coverage!



Today’s Headlines for Tuesday, November 24

  • City Announces Lyft May Service Airports, McCormick Place; No Word on Uber Yet (Sun-Times)
  • Carter: Springfield Paying Its Normal Share of CTA Funding Wouldn’t Be a “Bailout” (Tribune)
  • 2 “Traffic Experts” Say Chicago’s Speed Cam Program Is Bogus, a “Supporter” Says It Isn’t (Tribune)
  • Pawar Thanks the Dozens of People Who Successfully Advocated for Restored #31 & #11 Bus Service
  • 47th Ward Residents Can Conduct Block Audits to Support Requests for Menu Funds (DNA)
  • SUV Driver Who Crashed Into Ambulance in Streamwood Has Died (Tribune)
  • Lawsuit Alleges Officer Ran Red Without Using Lights or Sirens, Causing Fatal Crash (Tribune)
  • How Many Fares Does It Take for Local Buses to Break Even? (WBEZ)
  • Even During the Ribbon Cutting for the Clybourn PBLs, People Were Parking in Them (DNA)
  • The U. of C. Maroon Digs Into Hyde Park Divvy Data
  • What to Do About Shoveling Scofflaws (Active Trans)
  • Good News for XC Skiers: Only a Portion of The 606 Will be Plowed This Winter (DNA)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

Streetsblog USA
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Planning for Less Driving, Not More, Would Lead to Big Savings


Chart: MassPIRG

What if, instead of basing policy around the presumption that people will drive more every year, transportation agencies started making decisions to reduce the volume of driving? And what if they succeed?

A new report from the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group quantifies what would happen in that state if driving rates come in one percentage point lower than the state DOT’s current annual projections. For instance, in a year that the DOT forecasts 0.49 percent growth in driving, MassPIRG hypothesizes a 0.51 percent decrease. MassPIRG estimates that the statewide effect from now until 2030 would add up to about $20 billion in savings and 23 million metric tons of carbon emissions avoided.

The effects grow as the decline compounds over time. In the first year, a one percentage point change in driving rates would save about $167 million in avoided costs of gas, road repairs, and traffic collisions. By 2030, the annual savings would rise to $2.3 billion per year.

Broken down by category, the state would save about $1.9 billion on road repairs over the 15-year period. Drivers would net $3.8 billion in savings on car repairs and another $7.7 billion on gas purchases. And auto collisions would cost $6.7 billion less to society, as people avoid medical expenses, property damage, and lost wages.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Zig Zag Road Striping Calms Traffic in Virginia

Virginia Department of Transportation installed these zig zag pavement markings to caution drivers about the potential for pedestrians and cyclists by a popular trail crossing. Photo: Virginia Department of Transportation

Virginia DOT installed these zig zag markings to caution drivers approaching the intersection of a popular walking and biking trail. Photo: Virginia DOT

At 11 points in northern Virginia, the familiar straight dashed lines on the road gives way to a series of zig zags. The unusual markings, the result of a pilot project from the Virginia Department of Transportation, are meant to alert drivers to be cautious where the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail intersects with the road — and bicyclists and pedestrians frequently cross.

After a year-long study of this striping treatment, Virginia DOT officials say the markings are effective and should become part of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices — the playbook for American street designers.

This photo shows another style of zig zag pavement marking tested in Virginia. Photo: VDOT

This photo shows another style of zig zag pavement marking tested in Virginia. Photo: VDOT

VDOT found the zig zag markings slowed average vehicle speeds, increased motorist awareness of pedestrians and cyclists, and increased the likelihood that drivers would yield. They also noted that the effects of the design change didn’t wear off once motorists became used to the it — they still slowed down a year after installation.

VDOT says the results indicate that zig zag markings are a more cost-effective solution for conflict points between trails and high-speed roads than the current treatments: flashing beacons placed above the road or off to the side.

The zig zag concept was imported from Europe. It is currently used in only two other locations in North America: Hawaii and Ottawa, Ontario. It was one of more than a dozen European traffic management techniques VDOT zeroed in on to test locally.

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Talking Headways Podcast: Gabe Klein’s Start Up City

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Gabe Klein joins us this week to talk about how to get things done and make big changes to improve city streets and transportation. Gabe has served as the transportation chief of both Chicago and Washington, DC, and prior to his stint in government was an executive with Zipcar (he is also currently on the board of OpenPlans, the organization that publishes Streetsblog USA).

Gabe is out with a new book, Start Up City, about creating change through local government. He shares his insights about the interplay of the public and private sectors, how to push people to overcome a fear of failure, and cutting across the siloes of city departments. Gabe also talks about how he got into transportation, and why Vision Zero is a powerful idea for cities.

All of this and more (including our debate over whether a hot dog is a sandwich) on Talking Headways.

Streetsblog USA
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Animation Explains How Bad Planning Makes Car Ownership Compulsory

This is a pretty great animation explaining how American cities were undermined by a slavish dedication to storing and moving cars. It’s by comedian Adam Conover from TruTV’s “Adam Ruins Everything,” who also made this great video explaining the screwed up origin of the word “jaywalking.”

The best part may be the animated version of parking guru Donald Shoup, author of “The High Cost of Free Parking.”

Television comedians preaching urbanism? We hope this is part of a trend.

Streetsblog USA
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Study: Sprawling Areas Require 3 Times as Much Pavement Per Person

How much pavement area is required to service the population of an area is pretty closely related to population density, a Smart Growth America study found.

How much pavement area is required to service the population of an area is pretty closely related to population density, a Smart Growth America study found.

One of the big downsides to sprawl is the public cost of maintaining infrastructure that is extended over wide areas. A new study of New Jersey by Smart Growth America [PDF] attempts to quantify this relationship by looking at the amount of space devoted to roads in communities of varying densities.

Turns out there’s a very strong correlation: The most sprawling parts of the Garden State require more than three times the road space per resident and employee than the most urban areas.

The study divided New Jersey into 100-acre “cells” of a uniform size, then compared the number of people that live and work in each cell — “activity density” — to the ratio of land devoted to roads.

In the state’s most densely populated areas, with about 50 people per acre — places like Hoboken and Jersey City — about 130 square feet of pavement was allocated for each employee and resident. However, in some of the more sprawling areas — places with five residents per acre — the amount of pavement per person was more than three times higher: 423 square feet.

SGA stresses the relationship was not linear. As municipalities became increasingly urban, the efficiency benefits from increasing density became less and less dramatic. The biggest efficiency gains were found when comparing sprawling areas to other sprawling areas that were slightly more dense, the study found.

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Today’s Headlines for Wednesday, November 11

  • North & South Side Bus Riders Will Join Forces to Call for Return of #31 & #11 Buses (DNA)
  • IL House Passes Legislation to Send Overdue Gas Tax Money to Communities (Herald)
  • Man, 62, Dies Three Weeks After a Driver Struck Him in Blue Island (Sun-Times)
  • Hearings Coming Up in the Bobby Cann (11/16) and Hector Avalos (11/17) Cases (Chainlink)
  • Chicago Ticket Amnesty Program Start Next Week, Runs Until 12/31 (Tribune)
  • Angered by Eviction of Homeless From Viaducts, Activists March to Cappleman’s Home (CBS)
  • Are Food Cart Bans About Ped Safety or Eliminating “Culinary Competition”? (Next City)
  • Arlington Heights Tax Hike Would Largely Go Towards Fixing Roads (Herald)
  • Uber “Brand Ambassadors” Buy Rides From Lyft Drivers, Try to Persuade Them to Switch (Reader)
  • Concerned Citizen Warns that Arty Roosevelt Crosswalks Are a Deathtrap (CBS)
  • Trail Porn: Gorgeous (and Heavily Color-Filtered) Photos of Autumn on The 606 (Chicagoist)
  • Young Professionals in Transportation Red Line Pub Crawl This Saturday

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA


Cardenas Is More Interested in Votes Than Reducing Crashes and Fatalities

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Cardenas at today’s protest. Photo: 12th Ward

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. About a year ago, Citzens to Abolish Red Light Cameras collaborated with 12th Ward aldermanic challenger Pete DeMay on a protest against new speed cams on the 3200 block of South Archer in McKinley Park neighborhood, near the Mulberry Park green space. The demonstration was partly targeted at incumbent alderman George Cardenas, who voted in favor of Chicago’s speed camera ordinance. Cardenas won reelection last winter, and this morning he joined forces with CARLC to hold a second protest against the Mulberry cams.

In Chicago, speed cameras don’t require drivers to go anywhere near the speed limit. The city currently only issues tickets for violations of 10 mph or more over the posted limit, which is usually 30 mph. Studies show that while pedestrians struck at 30 mph usually survive, those stuck at 40 mph or higher almost always die.

Therefore, it would actually make sense to lower the 10 mph threshold but, due to pushback on the cams, it’s unlikely the city will do that anytime soon. Still, many local drivers have bristled at the notion that they should have to pay more attention to their speedometers.

The Mulberry speed cams are particularly controversial because the park is a relatively small green space that’s visible, but not conspicuous, from Archer. Therefore, CARLC has argued that the city installed the cameras in an effort to raise revenue, not improve safety.


Last year’s protest included supporters of Cardenas’ opponent, Pete DeMay. Photo: John Greenfield

However, since state law dictates that speed cams can only be installed within an eighth-mile of parks and schools and parks, it’s likely that the city’s main motivation for installing these cams was to address crashes on Archer and nearby Ashland Avenue. Mulberry Park’s safety zone, the one-eighth-mile buffer around a park or school, was in the top ten percent of Chicago safety zones for crashes, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation. Between 2009 and 2012, there were 214 crashes near the park, including six causing serious injury or death. In 68 of these collisions, speeding was a factor, and 47 of the crashes involved children.

While he was being targeted by the anti-cam crowd, Cardenas launched his own assault against Mulberry cams. He put up an online survey asking constituents whether the cameras should be relocated or removed. Unsurprisingly, since many of the the respondents were likely drivers who had been caught speeding, 65 percent said the cams should be eliminated. Emboldened, Cardenas proposed the novel idea of bulldozing the park, so that CDOT would be legally required to take down the cams.

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