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Spruced-Up California Station Reopens After Six-Week Closure


CTA Chairman Terry Peterson, State Senator Iris Martinez, Emanuel, Borggren, Durbin, and Claypool. Photo: Lisa Phillips.

The freshly renovated California station on the Blue Line’s O’Hare branch reopened today after being closed for six weeks, an interminable wait for locals who rely on the train stop. Originally opened in 1895, the station recently received both structural and cosmetic improvements. These include a larger building footprint, refurbished walls, stairs, and platforms, new lights and signs, and more bike racks.

California is one of 13 stations on the O’Hare Branch, from Grand to Cumberland, that are being rehabbed as part of the CTA’s $492 million “Your New Blue” initiative, which also includes repairs to aging signals, power systems, and tracks. Launched nine months ago, the project is the largest investment in the Blue Line since it was extended to the airport in 1984. The branch currently carries about 80,000 riders each weekday.

Speaking at the California stop’s ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning, CTA President Forrest Claypool boasted that the station rehab was completed on time and on budget. He added that the Blue Line work will “not only make the [riding] experience more comfortable, but also ultimately take ten minutes off the commute to O’Hare Airport from downtown and back.” Claypool noted that the faster travel times will be a boon for local commuters, as well as tourists coming into the city from O’Hare.

“All of this is part of an unprecedented $5 billion CTA modernization plan launched by Mayor Emanuel in 2011, and supported staunchly and consistently by Governor Quinn and Senator Durbin,” Claypool added. “It’s been a true partnership from the very beginning between the state and city… demonstrating that modern, effective mass transit is worth the investment — because of the jobs, and because of the [improvement to] quality of life in neighborhoods like Logan Square.”

Erica Borggren, acting secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation, speaking on behalf of Governor Pat Quinn, argued that investing in transit helps the city and state stay globally competitive. She promised that the current work is a harbinger of more such investments to come during a third term for Quinn, who hopes to be reelected on November 4.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Emanuel Says He May Refund Tickets From 2.9 Second Yellow Lights (Tribune)
  • CTA Making Second Attempt to Bid Out 846 Series 7000 Rail Cars (Tribune)
  • Transit Systems Will Test Out Ventra Mobile App in February (Sun-Times, Red-Eye)
  • NJ Company Claims CTA & Metra Infringed on Its Smart Card Reader Patent (Sun-Times)
  • Oak Lawn Man Charged for Several Sexual Abuse Cases Aboard CTA Trains in 2012 (Tribune)
  • Customers: If Metra Did a Better Job of Checking Tickets, They Wouldn’t Have to Raise Fares (Tribune)
  • Tattler: CTA Should Raise Fares to Fund Capital Improvements
  • Moreno Voices Support for Affordable Housing Development by the Bloomingdale Trail (DNA)
  • Van Driver Badly Damages the Night Ministry’s New Bus in Wicker Park Crash (DNA)
  • Active Trans Responds to the Trib’s “Ban Bikes for a Day” Op-Ed
  • Chicago Contractors Should Be Using Skid-Resistant Road Plates (Kevenides)
  • Why Does Bus Bunching Happen? (WBEZ)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

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Here’s Why No One Shoots Engagement Photos in the Suburbs

Nathaniel Hood shot some gag engagement photos in a suburban environment to make a point. Photo:

Ah, the romance of the subdivision. Photo:

Nothing says unbridled passion like a treeless cul-de-sac, right? That’s what Nathaniel Hood, who writes for and Strong Towns, and his new bride-to-be were thinking when they shot these engagement photos as a gag.

Hood said on his website:

Engagement photos are either urban or rural. They are either a former factory or a leafy meadow, the brick wall of a forgotten factory or an empty beach. Never the subdivision. Never the cul-de-sac.

We wanted to capture the ambiance of the American subdivision.

Did they ever!


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Talking Headways Podcast: Zero Deaths, Zero Cars, Zero Tundra Voles

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Special guest Damien Newton of Streetsblog LA joins Jeff and me on this episode to tell us all about the Los Angeles DOT’s new strategic plan, which includes a Vision Zero goal: zero traffic deaths by 2025, a vision all of our cities should get behind. He walks us through the oddities of LA politics and the pitfalls that may await the plan, as well as one really good reason it could succeed. (Her name is Seleta Reynolds.)

Then Jeff and I move on to Helsinki, Finland, and its even more ambitious goal: Zero private cars by 2025. They have a plan to do it, which includes many elements that American cities are experimenting with on a tiny scale. We talk about what Helsinki has in store that could get them to their goal.

And then we research Finnish fauna.

I know you’re listening to this podcast on your phone while you’re on on your bike or whatever, but when you get to a safe place to stop, shout at us in the comments.

And find us on  iTunesStitcher, and the RSS feed.

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Census Data Shows How Much Less Millennials and Gen-Xers Commute by Car

Change in share of Generation X Commuters (aged 25-54) driving to work, 2007 to 2013. Image: Brookings, from analysis of American Community Survey data

Change in share of Generation X Commuters (aged 25-54) driving to work, 2007 to 2013. Image: Brookings, from analysis of American Community Survey data

Cross-posted from Brookings’ The Avenue blog. This article is the second in a short series examining new Census data on transportation trends.

Nationally, most commuters are still revving up their cars to get to work every morning, but the picture is more complicated when you look across different age groups.

Based on the latest Census data from the 2013 American Community Survey, changes are underway for younger and older commuters alike, especially in the country’s largest metropolitan areas.* By and large, Millennials and Generation X are leading the charge toward a range of alternate modes, including public transportation and walking, while Baby Boomers continue to use their cars at even higher levels.

Indeed, while 82.4 percent of workers ages 16 to 24 — the youngest working Millennials — commute to work by car, that share has fallen by nearly 1.3 percentage points in large metros since 2007 and nearly 4 percentage points less than they did in 1983.

Young Millennials also represent the commuters who most frequently take public transportation (5.8 percent of them commute that way) and walk to work (6.6 percent). They’re not only ditching the car in traditional multimodal hubs like San Francisco but in several smaller metros as well. For example, Tucson ranked first nationally in its transit growth among these workers, seeing their share rise 5.5 percentage points since 2007. Meanwhile, more young workers are walking in other university-centric metros like Syracuse (+3.6 percent since 2007), New Haven (+2.4), and Austin (+1.7).

Still, driving dips aren’t limited to Millennials; Generation X commuters are shifting away from private vehicles in nearly equal numbers. Overall, workers aged 25 to 54 saw their driving rate fall by 0.9 percentage points between 2007 and 2013. That drop equates to roughly 750,000 drivers — about the total number of commuters in Milwaukee — switching to other modes. That might help explain the stalling amount of miles driven across the country.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Another Showdown on the Illiana Takes Place This Week (Tribune)
  • 3 Dead, 11 Hospitalized After 11-Vehicle Crash in Oak Lawn (Sun-Times)
  • Man Allegedly Drank 5 Martinis & Crashed Car Into Steakhouse, Killing Passenger (Tribune)
  • CTA Employees Are Completing Training to Prevent LGBT Discrimination (DNA)
  • MPC Honors Cook County, Old Place, New Tricks Contest Winners at Awards Ceremony
  • RedEye Looks at the Argyle “Shared Street” Plan
  • What Kind of Bike Lane Barriers Would You Like to See Here? (Chicago Bike Mom)
  • The Gazette Wins an Award for Their Ridiculous BRT Coverage
  • Joseph “So Low Red Line” Lane’s ‘L’ Platform Rap Video Goes Viral (Fox)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA


Experts Critique 28 Community Proposals for Logan Square ‘L’ Site

Table 16′s proposal, as illustrated by Canopy Architecture.

On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Planning Council concluded the Corridor Development Initiative, a series of three public meetings that brought area residents together to envision a new development atop the entrance to the Logan Square ‘L’ station. 35th Ward Alderman Rey Colón enthusiastically noted that this was by far the best-attended of the three meetings. The meeting, he also said, clearly demonstrated the difficult (and expensive) trade-offs necessary in the development process, and especially if this development will accommodate the many different goals that emerged during the meetings.

The two earlier meetings started with a broad discussion about community needs and then used wooden blocks to shape those ideas into three-dimensional proposals. While MPC is preparing a final report, they’ve set up an online survey to gather feedback from the public, including those who couldn’t attend any of the meetings.

The 16 small groups at the second meeting created 28 different development proposals. The average across all the proposals included four-story buildings (about the same height as surrounding structures), with 54 housing units, 9,000 square feet of retail, 40 parking spaces, and open space covering one-third of the site (i.e., about half an acre). Many of the proposals suggested housing (89 percent), retail (79 percent), affordable housing (63 percent), community space (62 percent), and fewer suggested an indoor market (41 percent) or offices (31 percent).

After that meeting, a panel of development industry professionals vetted each of the proposals for financial feasibility. They considered the different uses in each proposal, construction costs, operating costs, rental revenues, the cost of the land (estimated at $6 million), and advantageous financing sources like federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits and the city’s Tax Increment Financing. This analysis turned up a “funding gap” for every proposal, indicating that several million more dollars would have to be found in order to build the suggested structure.

Four of the 28 proposals, including the two pictured here, were studied in greater detail by the professionals and illustrated by architects. (All of the proposals were described and illustrated in materials handed out at the meeting and available at MPC’s website.) MPC presented these four scenarios, along the constructive suggestions that would make the scenario financially feasible. In the scenario illustrated above, for example, the financial analysis found that the proposal would need an additional $5.6 million to be buildable. Those funds, the panel suggested that one-fourth of the proposal’s open space be replaced with retail or residential buildings — but, when asked, the meeting attendees rejected that idea.

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Today’s Headlines

  • Tribune: City to Refund 126 Tickets From Red Light Spike, Upholding Thousand of Others
  • Cardenas’ Solution For Safety Zone He Doesn’t Like: Get Rid of the Park (DNA)
  • Protest of Archer Speed Cam Planned for This Evening at 5:30 (Expired Meter)
  • Emanuel Says He Has No Plans to Raise Taxi Fares (Sun-Times)
  • Platforms at Downers Grove Metra Station Have Reopened, More Work Needed (Tribune)
  • Potholed Lincoln Avenue to Get New Asphalt, Short Stretch of Buffered Lanes (BWLP)
  • It’s Not Always Easy to Cancel Your Ventra Card When You Move (RedEye)
  • Greenline Coffee Has Activated a Former “Retail Desert” in West Woodlawn (City Notes)
  • Video: The Second City Pokes Fun at Bike Cops (Tribune)

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA


Evanston City Council Advances Key Projects From Bike Plan

On Monday night, Evanston’s City Council held a special meeting solely to address four bike infrastructure or policy measures, all of which will implement pieces of the city’s recently adopted Bike Plan. The council advanced new protected bike lanes along Sheridan Road and along Dodge Avenue, in spite of considerable opposition over the latter, while deferring a vote on two connecting paths.

Streetmix illustration of the sidepath proposed for the east side of Sheridan Road, from Chicago to Foster. Courtesy City of Evanston.

The Sheridan Road and Chicago Avenue Improvement Project (PDF) will build a two-way protected bike lane on the east side of Sheridan Road. Although this item had already cleared the City Council, Sat Nagar, Evanston’s Assistant Director of Engineering and Infrastructure, said that the city could save money by deferring resurfacing, streetscape and bike improvements until after required water main construction is complete. Deferring the improvements would push streetscape design to 2015-2016, construction on the two-way protected by lane to spring 2017, and completion to August 28, 2017. Alderman Donald Wilson motioned to proceed with the new timetable, the council approved it unanimously. Alderwoman Judy Fiske also asked the city staff to consider maintaining use of the existing roadway at Sheridan and Northwestern Place versus expanding it.

The Dodge Avenue Biking Improvements (PDF) proved to be the most contentious issue of the evening. The city staff was requesting approval to submit revised improvements along this corridor to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the Illinois Department of Transportation. Dodge Avenue offers a north-south route connecting the south end of Evanston with downtown and Evanston Township High School. Currently, Dodge has aged and worn-out conventional bike lanes.

Prior to the meeting, protected bike lanes had been approved by the council, CMAP, and IDOT, but public feedback regarding parking led city staff to revise their proposal to use buffered bike lanes instead. The stretch of Dodge to be improved currently has 532 parking spaces. Protected bike lanes would remove 103 spaces, while buffered bike lanes would remove 32.

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Transit Can Cut Car Traffic Much More Than Ridership Alone Suggests

Portland's Max Blue Line Light Rail helped reduce driving far more than its ridership numbers would suggest, a new study finds. Photo: TriNet

Portland’s MAX Blue light rail line helped reduce driving far more than you would expect based on ridership alone. Photo: TriMet

How much traffic does a transit line keep off the streets? Looking at ridership alone only tells part of the story, according a new study published in the Journal of the American Planning Association. The full impact of a transit line on motor vehicle traffic can far exceed the direct effect of substituting rail or bus trips for car trips.

Using data from the Portland region, University of Utah researchers Reid Ewing and Shima Hamidi compared self-reported travel in an area where a light rail line was built to an area that saw no transit investment.

The team collected data on changes in travel behavior in the area served by the MAX Blue light rail line and in the area around SW Pacific Highway. They compared stats from 1994 — before light rail was built — and 2011 — 13 years after it launched. They opted to use the 2011 data in order to show the full impact of denser, transit-oriented development around the stations.

Ewing and Hamidi found that light rail led to an average of 0.6 additional transit trips per day among each household in the surrounding community. By itself that would have cut total driving mileage by about a half mile per household per day — not a huge impact.

But the effect on driving among households living near light rail was much greater than that.

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