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Posts from the "Transportation" Category

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Car-Free Cappleman Touts Wilson Station Rehab as a Catalyst for TOD

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Rendering of the new station, including the restored Gerber building.

At a community meeting Wednesday on the upcoming reconstruction of the Red Line’s Wilson stop, 46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman argued that one of the best things about the new station is that it will encourage walkable, transit-friendly development.

“One of the things I’ve pushed for as alderman is transit-oriented development, [which is a] good, sound urban planning practice,” he told residents during the hearing at Truman College. “We want to create more density closest to the ‘L’ stop.”

Cappleman noted that 45 percent of ward residents don’t own cars. “I am one of those people,” he said. “We also found that that 50 percent of the disposable income that you spend is spent outside the ward. So if we are going to make this a livable, walkable community, we need to make sure you can do your shopping here. “

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Rendering of the new main entrance on the south side of Wilson.

He added that the ward has been working with the mayor’s office and various city departments on strategies to fill empty storefronts near the station. “From my discussions with many developers, they are banging on the doors wanting to do something, so you’re going to see some exciting things, and it’s because of this Wilson ‘L’ stop,” Cappleman said. “The trick is making sure that, while we do that, we keep [the ward] as diverse as possible.”

At the meeting, officials updated residents on construction plans for the $203 million project, a massive overhaul of a station that RedEye readers have thrice voted Chicago’s grungiest. Originally built in 1923, the station has badly deteriorated over the last century, and it is not ADA accessible.

The new station will function as an additional transfer point between the Red and Purple lines, which means Uptown residents will be able to catch the Evanston Express for a fast ride downtown during rush hours. To accommodate Purple Line service, there will be two different “island” platforms, with canopies to shelter riders from the elements.

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CMAP Board Members Will Try to Boot Illiana Boondoggle From Regional Plan

illiana traffic projections

Driving in northeastern Illinois is dropping 0.49 percent annually in recent years and increased at an annual rate of just 0.42 percent in the decade prior, but IDOT projects that driving will increase 0.92 percent annually. Chart: U.S. PIRG

After appointees loyal to Governor Pat Quinn muscled the Illiana tollway onto the project list for Chicagoland’s regional plan, it looked like nothing could stop this risky highway boondoggle from getting funded and built. The Illiana may still happen, but not without a fight.

Last week, the board of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning discussed how to kick the Illiana Tollway out of the regional plan. The CMAP Board and the CMAP MPO Policy committee will hold a joint meeting on October 8 to approve the update to the GO TO 2040 plan that includes the Illiana. CMAP must list any big transportation on the plan before any agency can build it.

Board chair Gerald Bennett, mayor of Palos Hills, asked whether board members could make a motion to excise the Illiana from the plan update before it’s approved. CMAP Executive Director Randy Blankenhorn assured them they can do so.

Erica Dodt of the Sierra Club told Streetsblog that Bennett plans to ask for this motion next month. There are many good reasons CMAP should leave the Illiana perpetually on the drawing board.

According to a CMAP staff analysis released last year, the Illiana Tollway will need an enormous, $250 million startup subsidy from taxpayers. Agency staff also said the project is contrary to GO TO 2040′s focus of making infrastructure investments in already developed areas.

Yet the same flaws in CMAP governance that let the Illiana corrupt the regional plan in the first place could crop up again. CMAP’s MPO Policy committee voted to include the Illiana last year, in a 11-8 vote where Pace and Metra representatives cast decisive votes, going against the interests of their own riders. Right now there’s a lawsuit challenging this decision, alleging that the policy committee didn’t follow state law. According to the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the policy committee cannot vote on what the CMAP board has not approved.

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Woman Fatally Struck by CTA Bus Driver in Brighton Park


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47th and Western from the bus driver’s perspective.

Last Saturday, Celia Sauseda, 54, was killed after a CTA bus driver struck her at 47th Street and Western Avenue in the Brighton Park neighborhood.

Sauseda, of the 4800 block of South Damen, was struck by a westbound #47 bus at about 6:20 a.m., according to Officer José Estrada from Police News Affairs. “It appears the pedestrian may have fainted alongside the bus,” Estrada said.

Sauseda was pronounced dead at the scene at 6:54 a.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. An autopsy was conducted last Sunday. “There was nothing to indicate a [preexisting] medical condition,” said Cook County spokesman Frank Shuftan.

The bus driver has not been cited. Major Accidents and the CTA are investigating the crash.

Fatality Tracker: 2014 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths

Pedestrian: 20 (6 were hit-and-run crashes)
Bicyclist: 6 (1 was a hit-and-run crash)

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”Bikelash!” The Streetfilm

Six months ago, Dr. Doug Gordon and Dr. Aaron Naparstek charmed audiences at the 2014 National Bike Summit with a great routine called “Moving Beyond the Bikelash,” sharing what they’ve learned from the pushback to New York City’s bike network expansion.

So last week, while at the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Pro-Place conference, I thought it would be interesting to ask advocates from across the country about the state of bikelash in their cities and how they combat it. Here’s what they told me.

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Exploring New Bikeways on Marquette Road

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Biking the new buffered lanes in the Marquette Park neighborhood. Photo: John Greenfield

Yesterday, I navigated a couple of Chicago’s newest bikeways on Marquette Road, named for Father Jacques Marquette, one of the first Europeans to map out the northern Mississippi River. The Chicago Department of Transportation recently striped buffered lanes on Marquette (generally 6700 South) between Stony Island (1600 East) and Cottage Grove (800 East), and between Damen (2000 West) and California (2800 West).

Marquette, a relatively low-traffic, two-lane street, has the potential to become a bike-friendly east-west route, running about nine miles from the city’s western boundary at Cicero (4800 West) all the way to the Lakefront Trail. The upgrades to these one-mile stretches are a step in the right direction.

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This bike path paralleling Marquette Road through Jackson Park is a low-stress way to get to the lakefront. Photo: John Greenfield

At Stony Island, Marquette connects to a nicely marked, two-way off-street bike path that runs half a mile through Jackson Park to an underpass beneath Lake Shore Drive that escorts cyclists to the Lakefront Trail. Making Marquette west of Stony Island more bikeable will create a nice, low-stress route to the beaches.

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Buffered lane at Marquette and Stony Island. Photo: John Greenfield

The stretch of Marquette from Stony Island to Cottage Grove, in the Woodlawn community, features curbside bike lanes with a buffer striped to the left and no car parking lane. The lanes were striped on the existing pavement, which is in decent shape, rather than freshly laid asphalt. It would be a nice touch to add flexible posts to the buffers to discourage motorists from driving and parking in the lanes.

On the current Chicago Bike Map, Marquette is shown as having non-buffered bike lanes on the entire stretch between Stony Island and Central Park Avenue (3600 West). However, unlike on streets where CDOT has scraped out conventional bike lanes and replaced them with buffered lanes, there was no evidence of the old bike lanes on the Stony Island to Cottage Grove segment. This suggests that bike lanes were striped several years ago but weren’t refreshed, so they faded to black, or perhaps the street was repaved but the lanes weren’t restriped.

Immediately west of Cottage Grove, a previously striped conventional bike lane is still easy to see. But most of the roughly 3.5-mile stretch between Cottage Grove and Damen, which is supposed to have conventional lanes on its entire stretch, is hit-or-miss. There are plenty of segments where the lanes are barely visible, and others where they disappear completely. All told, I’d estimate that only about half of this stretch has usable bike lanes.

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Although there are bike lane signs on this stretch of Marquette, there really isn’t a bike lane here. Photo: John Greenfield

Chicago bike lanes are usually built using federal grants that can only be used for building new infrastructure, not for maintaining the old. This federal money can be used for upgrading existing conventional lanes to buffered or protected lanes, but when Chicago bike lanes are re-striped as-is, the work is generally funded as part of a repaving project, or bankrolled by the local ward. CDOT currently has no dedicated funding for bike lane restriping, which is why so many of our older lanes are in such bad shape. City Hall really needs to allocate dedicated funding for bikeway maintenance.

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Lagging Left Turns Would Improve Crosswalk Safety at Complex Intersections

Useful location for lagging left turn signal

People have already started crossing Halsted on a green light, even though a late left-turning motorist is stuck in the intersection.

When left turn signals are installed, they typically turn green at the start of a street’s green phase. However, simply reversing that order and putting left turns at the end of the green phase could reduce conflicts between turning cars and people walking in the same direction. As left turn signals have been installed at more Chicago intersections, motorists often are caught completing their left turns just as through traffic – and pedestrians – get a green light. The resulting conflict isn’t safe for anyone.

It’s standard engineering practice to have a “leading left turn phase,” in which the green-arrow light for protected left turns goes first, before through traffic gets a green light. However, Chicago drivers often make left turns at the end of the green phase, after opposing traffic has cleared the intersection.

One example of an intersection where the leading left turn poses a problem for pedestrians is across Halsted Street at Grand and Milwaukee Avenues. During the weekday afternoon rush hour, and at peak times on weekends, motorists end up finishing their turns after through traffic has gotten a green — and end up driving into a crowd of pedestrians. This has happened ever since October, when the Chicago Department of Transportation installed a left-turn signal on Grand Avenue.

To eliminate this conflict, the turn signal here could be shifted to a “lagging left turn,” which puts left turns at the end of the phase, instead of at the beginning. Moving the left turn to the end of the Grand green light would allow pedestrians to cross once the light turns green, then allow any drivers waiting to make a left to finish their turns within a protected left-turn cycle.

Useful location for lagging left turn signal

The leading left turn signal cuts short the pedestrian crossing time across Grand, and split left-turning traffic. This photo shows four motorists turning, and thus blocking people from crossing the street during their green phase.

Lagging left turns are highlighted by the Chicago Pedestrian Plan as a “tool for safer streets.” The plan even mentions that, by reducing conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles, the lagging left turn can even improve car traffic “operations,” and can be done inexpensively since it’s merely reprogramming existing infrastructure. However, CDOT will only install lagging lefts where they “will not negatively affect the operations of the intersection” – engineer-speak for slowing down drivers.

The Pedestrian Plan specifically recommends lagging left turns at intersections with any of the following characteristics:

  • A left turn phase with high-pedestrian volumes. At Milwaukee/Grand/Halsted? Yes
  • Three or more crashes in three years between left turn vehicles and pedestrians. This is most likely the case
  • People crossing during the left turn phase. Maybe
  • The intersection gives pedestrians a head start with a leading pedestrian interval. Not at this intersection

CDOT points to a successful lagging left at Huron Street and Fairbanks Court in Streeterville, near Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Previously, drivers were “unable to turn left” because people were walking across during the entire green phase. After installing a lagging left turn, “pedestrians crossed safely with their signal and the issues with vehicles queueing disappeared.”

Based on those qualifications, the Milwaukee/Grand/Halsted intersection seems like a sure bet for a lagging left turn. Where else in Chicago would a lagging left turn improve pedestrian and vehicle safety?

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Lincoln Avenue Goes Car-Free and Comes to Life

Kids dance to the music of "Little Miss Ann" Torrlba at a Sunday Play Spot event.

The 3300 block of North Lincoln Avenue during a Sunday Play Spot event. Photos: John Greenfield

Last week, I wrote about the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce’s Sunday Play Spot program, which is pedestrianizing a block of Lincoln Avenue between School and Roscoe streets every Sunday afternoon this month to make room for car-free recreation. Last Sunday, I stopped to check it out myself and found the event to be just as lively as the the chamber staffers said it was.

The vibe was similar to some of the more successful Open Streets ciclovía events on State Street and Milwaukee Avenue, with active games, crafts, a seating area, an art installation, children riding bikes and scooters, and live performances. However, the fact that all these happenings were packed into a single block made the Play Spot that much more vibrant. To give you a sense of how different Lincoln feels when it’s empty of cars and full of people, we’ve created the above GIF of children dancing to the music of “Little Miss Ann” Torralba.

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The 3300 block of North Lincoln Avenue on a typical day. Image: Google Street View

The success of the Play Spot program suggests that this segment of Lincoln might benefit from some form of partial pedestrianization. Not every retail strip works well as a 24/7 car-free street, but pedestrianizing this block on all summer evenings and/or weekends could be a hit.

There are two more Play Spot events this month. If you’re looking for something fun to do with your kids, be sure to stop by the block between noon and 4 p.m. on one of the next two Sundays. Here’s the schedule of events.

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Local Residents Want More Housing at Logan Square Blue Line Station

Logan Square residents discuss the CTA station and adjacent parking lot

The first meeting of the Corridor Development Initiative meeting drew 170 people. Photo: Charles Papanek

Logan Square residents came out in droves last week for the first of three meetings about redeveloping the Logan Square Blue Line station and an adjacent city-owned parking lot. About 170 people participated, according to the Metropolitan Planning Council, and 220 attendees are expected for round two tomorrow night.

With overlapping street redesign and development projects already in the works for this area, now is an opportune moment to discuss the future of the station and its surroundings. CDOT will select a consultant in the fall to redesign the Logan Square traffic circle, and the agency intends to hold a public planning process next year to make the section of Milwaukee Avenue from Belmont to Logan Boulevard better for walking, biking, and transit. Additionally, 35th Ward Alderman Rey Colón has asked the Department of Planning and Development to look at what can be developed at the station plaza and parking lot, MPC reports [PDF].

Ideas from these public planning sessions, which MPC is hosting at the request of Colón, will be incorporated into a forthcoming request for proposals from DPD and the Chicago Transit Authority to develop the station and parking lot.

Last week, facilitators led groups of eight to ten residents in roundtable discussions about the strengths and weaknesses of the neighborhood and the station area. “This meeting isn’t like other meetings, where you can choose between red or brown brick,” said MPC project director Marisa Novara. Instead of presenting a limited menu, residents will contribute ideas together.

At the group where I sat, people liked that Logan Square is a place where you don’t need to own a car because of its walkability and that it has a good range of housing types, but they wanted more affordable housing. Our group could have also talked endlessly about the intersections around the station and the traffic circle: One person said “it takes forever to cross legally,” with the signals.

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Eyes on the Street: New Bikeways on Central Park Avenue and Lake Street

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Riding in the Lake Street protected lane. Photo: John Greenfield

As part of the Mayor Emanuel’s goal of building 100 miles of buffered and protected lanes in his first term, the Chicago Department of Transportation is chugging along building new bikeways. Last week, I checked out buffered lanes on Central Park Avenue, between Jackson and Franklin boulevards, and protected lanes on Lake Street, from Central Park to Laramie Avenue.

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Buffered lane on Central Park by Garfield Park Conservatory. Photo: John Greenfield

Let’s start with the less controversial of the two bikeways, Central Park. As has happened in many other parts of town, CDOT has upgraded existing conventional lanes here by adding additional dead space on one side of each lane.

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On this section, near the Garfield Park field house, the buffer is on the left. Photo: John Greenfield

In areas where there’s no parking lane, or a parking lane that gets little use, the buffer has been striped on the left side of the bike lane, to help keep cyclists away from car traffic. In sections where there is a heavily used parking lane, the buffer is striped on the right side of the bike lane, to encourage cyclists to ride out of the door zone. Pavement quality is decent, and workers have patched some potholes with asphalt.

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Logan Square Developer Would Rather Choose How Much Parking to Build

2211 N Milwaukee TOD

PMG’s proposed mixed-use building will provide half the normally required car parking because it’s near a CTA station. Image: PMG via Curbed

A site that’s currently a staging area for Your New Blue ‘L’ station renovation may soon be home to a transit-oriented mixed-use building. Property Markets Group has proposed a new apartment building for Logan Square that will provide half the normally required car parking, bringing needed housing with less congestion.

Parking minimums for this and most residential proposals in Chicago require one parking space per unit, plaguing neighborhoods with more traffic and developers with unsold space. However, a TOD ordinance enacted a year ago allows residential developers like Noah Gottlieb of PMG to build up to 50 percent fewer car parking spaces if the building is located near a train station.

Without a Pedestrian Street designation, developers would have to find an empty parcel within 600 feet of a train station. The PMG residence’s main entrance, though, is just over 700 feet away from the California Blue Line station, and Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno implemented a Pedestrian Street here last year. It covers multiple empty parcels and increases the distance to 1,200 feet a development can be from a train station and still be eligible for the benefits.

PMG has proposed a six-story mid-rise building at 2211 N Milwaukee Avenue, adjacent to the Chase Bank-anchored strip mall and across from the Madison Public House restaurant, which opened in the spring. The building would have 120 units with 60 car parking spaces (and seven more for the ground-floor retail). Seventy percent of the units would be studios, junior one-bedrooms, and one-bedroom apartments.

Since the TOD ordinance requires that a bike parking space replace every normally required car parking space, PMG will be doing that, and then some. Gottlieb said they’re proposing 216 bike parking spaces because PMG does all of its parking calculations “on the projected amount of people, not units.”

Gottlieb also wants to do away with parking minimums, adding that the developer should decide how much parking to build. He explained that the motivation to build less parking at this development is because it’s “in line with the marketplace.” He continued:

There’re a lot of antiquated zoning rules in regard to parking. Especially in Logan Square, very few people drive to work in the young renter demographic, they’re using public transportation, and biking and walking. We anticipate very little demand for our parking spots. 

Parking minimums are one of those antiquated rules. They were originally intended to ensure that everyone who wants to drive finds a place to park at their destination, regardless of that place’s transit accessibility, but instead they ended up encouraging more people to drive. Developers don’t need a zoning mandate to ensure their tenants or customers have a way to access their homes and shops: They’ll do that all on their own. Parking minimums also drive up the costs of construction, which are passed on to tenants when parking is bundled with rent. Read more…