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Toolkit Will Help Cities Bring Shared Mobility to Low-Income Neighborhoods

SUMC Mapping Chicago 07.26.16

A screenshot from SUMC’s new mapping tool showing the locations of car-share (blue dots) and Divvy locations downtown, and on the West and Near South sides. The map also shows high (purple) and medium (orange) opportunity areas for shared mobility.

The Chicago-based Shared-Use Mobility Center hopes their new interactive toolkit, released last week, will help cities expand the use of car-sharing, bike-sharing, and other forms of shared mobility, especially in low-income communities with limited transportation options. The toolkit includes a Shared Mobility Benefits Calculator, a Shared Mobility Policy Database, and an Interactive shared Mobility Mapping and Opportunity Analysis Tool.

SUMC executive director Sharon Feigon says the toolkit was developed in partnership with 27 North American cities through the Urban Sustainability Director’s Network. “They wanted to better understand and manage shared-mobility as new technologies emerge,” she said. “We’re hopeful that our toolkit will shed some light on how these technologies are working and shine some light on best practices.” To supplement the toolkit, they’ve also produced a report with an overview of each tool, plus policy recommendations, trends by city, size, and type, and shared mobility growth scenarios for each of the cities.

“Our interest is to really encourage the use of transit along with shared mobility to decrease the use of private cars,” Feigon added. “Our vision sees public transportation as the backbone and shared mobility as something that can enhance the transit system.” For example, services like bike-sharing and one-way car-sharing can facilitate “last mile” trips to and from rapid transit in locations where its difficult to access a station by walking or a fixed-route bus.

One-way car-sharing services like Car2Go, which allow customers to pick up a small car, drive it a short distance and leave it at any number of designated parking spots around town, have been popular in cities like New York, Washington, D.C., and Seattle. But Feigon said the mode hasn’t come to Chicago yet because of the complications caused by our city’s much-reviled parking contract. Mayor Emanuel’s office is currently looking into whether it could be implemented here, she said.

The benefits calculator allows cities to see the potential benefits of adding shared mobility nodes such as car-share and bike-share vehicles. For example, the calculator projects that – based on June 1, 2016 figures — Chicago could eliminate ten percent of private vehicle trips by adding 37,373 transit commuters, 8457 car-share vehicles, 6,908 bike-share cycles, and 18,313 ride-sharers or car-poolers. The result would be 11,167,065,800 fewer vehicle miles traveled, 418,800 fewer metric tons of emissions from personal vehicles, and $411,444,500 saved in personal vehicle transportation costs.

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Due to Limited Rapid Transit the Far South Side is Dependent on Bus Service

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A #87 bus at the 87th Street Red Line station. Photo: John Greenfield

[Last fall the Chicago Reader launched a new weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. This partnership allows Streetsblog to extend the reach of our livable streets advocacy. We syndicate 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.]

Chicago’s ‘L’ system, with its iconic train cars, relatively fast speeds, and occasionally breathtaking views, is the sexier side of the CTA. But the city’s grid of 130 bus routes is really the meat and potatoes of our transit network, with 274.3 million boardings in 2015 compared to the train system’s 241.7 million trips.

Bus service is especially important on the far south side, where access to other forms of public transportation is limited; although the city extends as far south as 138th Street, the Red Line terminates at 95th, and the Divvy bike-share coverage area currently stops at 79th.

To get a sense of what it’s like riding buses on the far south side—and whether residents are satisfied with the level of service or feel that improvements are needed—last week I rode the entire route of the 87th Street bus, the southernmost bus line to cover a continuous east-west path across the entire width of the city.

The #87 runs ten miles, from Cicero Avenue in the quaintly named southwest suburb Hometown (near Oak Lawn) east to Buffalo Avenue in the hardscrabble South Chicago neighborhood. On the return trip the route dips south on Buffalo to 91st Street, heads west to Commercial Avenue, then back up to 87th. The route connects with the Red Line as well as Metra’s Rock Island and Electric District lines, which contributes to the route’s popularity—an average of nearly 13,000 people ride the 87th Street bus each weekday, according to the CTA. Except for Hometown, which is 97 percent white according to the U.S. Census, and South Chicago, which is about one-fifth Latino, just about all of the communities served by the bus line are solidly African-American.

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Eyes on the Street: The Randolph Protected Bike Lane Starts to Take Shape

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Looking south at the Dutch-inspired intersection at Randolph and Canal. Photo: CDOT

The Loop Link bus rapid transit corridor on Washington Street includes a concrete-protected bike lane between the island bus stations and the curb. But the construction of the raised, curbside bus platforms and dedicated bus lanes on Madison Street involved the removal an existing bike lane.

The Chicago Department of Transportation plans to replace the Madison bike lane with a new protected lane on Randolph Street. But long after the Madison lane – the Loop’s only westbound bikeway – was removed, the Randolph lane still isn’t open. As a result, westbound cyclists are riding in the red bus-only lane on Madison. While that’s not an ideal situation, it doesn’t seem to be significantly slowing down CTA buses.

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A panoramic photo (hence the curving effect) of the Randolph/Canal treatment shot from the south by M.P. Hurley.

The good news is that the protected infrastructure on Randolph is finally starting to materialize, although the bike lane probably won’t be open for a few months. CDOT recently completed a Dutch-inspired intersection treatment at the northeast corner of Randolph and Canal Street, with concrete refuge islands to help protect cyclists and pedestrians from motorized traffic.

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Meeting to Discuss Manor Greenway Amidst Opposition Set for Thursday

CDOT showed this rendering of how the traffic diverter. Previous versions used concrete to physically prevent going straight. Image: CDOT

This street view rendering shows how bumpouts and signs would add “filtered permeability” on Manor Avenue, by allowing only bicyclists and pedestrians to continue north and south past Wilson Avenue. Image: CDOT

The 33rd Ward is holding the monthly meeting of its Transportation Action Committee on Thursday to discuss the Manor Greenway, a proposal from the Chicago Department of Transportation to connect two multi-use park paths via an on-street route on Manor Greenway. Jeff Sobczyk, assistant to Alder Deb Mell, said in the meeting announcement that the time would be used to improve understanding of the project’s goals. Neighborhood greenways are intended to make it safer and more convenient to cycle on Chicago’s side streets.

Soon after I first wrote about the proposal in June, opposition to it came online. Local resident Lawrence Brown started a petition in June calling for CDOT to scrap their plan to install a traffic diverter there for three months in the fall, but the petition is overlooking what actually makes the plan to increase bicycling safety and convenience work. The petition currently has 23 signatures.

The Manor Greenway would include the most robust traffic calming treatments of any neighborhood greenway CDOT has installed to date. The plan calls for installing a physical barrier at the intersection of Manor Avenue and Wilson Avenue to prevent motorists from continuing on Manor. This would reduce the amount of cars on the street, improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.

At the north and south ends of the greenway, which are are also the north and south boundaries of Ravenswood Manor, CDOT would install raised crosswalks to slow incoming motorists and send the message that this street is for slower, residential car traffic, reminding drivers to watch out for vulnerable road users.

The petition says, “We can make a bike path and greenway through Ravenswood Manor without diverting the traffic flow.” That’s pretty much what happened with the Berteau Greenway in Lakeview, Ravenswood, and North Center. That plan originally included traffic diverters, but these were scrapped due to similar opposition from residents.

The watered-down treatment on Berteau, which involved contraflow bike lanes, curb bumpouts, and a traffic circle, made the street somewhat better for cycling than it was before. But due to the lack of traffic diverters, the street still gets plenty of cut-through car-traffic, which means it’s still not an “8-to-80” facility for biking, and it’s not as safe or pleasant a street for walking as it would have been with diverters. The lack of good infrastructure changes ensures that only the fittest and boldest will cycle.

The petition also says, “This planned diversion of traffic will force frustrated drivers onto streets that have far more homes than Manor Ave., thus creating an unsafe environment for the many families that reside on these adjacent blocks.” CDOT’s analysis of predicted traffic flows after the diverter is installed indeed show that other streets will likely see some additional cars, but the analysis was limited because it assumed all drivers diverted from Manor would use Sacramento and Francisco Avenues. Read more…

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Atlanta Looks for Options Where Bidirectional Protected Bike Lanes Intersect

pfb logo 100x22Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities connect high-comfort biking networks.

Bidirectional protected bike lanes, which put both directions of bike traffic on the same side of a street, aren’t ideal. But they can be useful in a pinch.

Like all protected bike lanes, well-designed bidirectionals are more comfortable to more riders than having no bike lanes on busy streets.

This month in downtown Atlanta, something interesting is happening for the first time in the United States: two bidirectional protected bike lanes are crossing each other at a four-way intersection.

Fortunately, both of them are on the “left” side of signalized one-way streets. This is generally the best way to use a bidirectional protected bike lane, in part because it prevents total chaos in situations like this one.

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Dates Announced for CDOT’s Bike Classes, Suitable for Absolute Beginners

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Bike ambassadors (in red) in the parking lot of the Garfield Workforce Center, where the West Side classes will be taught. Photo: CDOT

Today the Chicago Department of Transportation announced the dates and locations for its free adult bike-handling classes on the South and West sides, part of the department’s strategy to encourage more use of the Divvy bike-share system in low-to-moderate-income communities of color. Here’s the info:

Garfield Workforce Center 
10 S. Kedzie Avenue

  • July 25-29, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • August 8-12, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Kennedy King College
 710 W. 65th Street

  • August 15-19 , 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • August 22-29, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
  • August 29 – September 2, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

These one-time classes, suitable for people who never learned to ride a bike, as well as those who wish to brush up rusty cycling skills, will be taught by CDOT’s Bicycling Ambassadors outreach team. Divvy bikes will be provided as loaners, so participants won’t need to bring their own cycles. Attendees will also get free helmets, funded by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, the Divvy sponsor. Slow Roll Chicago and other community organizations are helping to promote the classes.

An RSVP is required to attend a class to make sure there are enough instructors available. To RSVP any time before the class, call 312-744-8147.

The seminars are geared towards adults, but they’re also open to children if space is available. However, kids under 16 need to bring their own bikes, since the Divvy system is only available to riders 16 and older.

Participants will start out by riding on a Divvy bike with the pedals removed to get the hang of coasting, steering, and braking, until they can coast for at least 20 seconds without putting a foot down. Next the instructor will add one pedal so that the students can try starting the bike with the pedal. Once they’ve mastered that, the second pedal will be installed.

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Naomi Doerner on How Street Safety Advocates Can Support Racial Justice

When a police officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, shot and killed Philando Castile earlier this month, the encounter began with a traffic stop. The stop fit a pattern: Castile had been pulled over many times before — 46 times in 13 years — but few of those citations were for dangerous driving. More prevalent were stops for minor issues like vehicle defects or misplaced license plates — the type of justifications that police are more likely to use when stopping black and Latino drivers throughout the country.

Naomi Doerner is a consultant who helps biking and walking organizations development social equity and racial justice plans. Photo: Bike Easy

Naomi Doerner helps biking and walking organizations development social equity and racial justice plans. Photo: Bike Easy

Street safety advocates often call on police to reform traffic enforcement practices in order to reduce dangerous driving that jeopardizes people walking and biking. Given the pervasiveness of racially discriminatory police work and the prevalence of police brutality in many communities, how should biking and walking advocates shape their strategies and messages?

Naomi Doerner, the former executive director of New Orleans’ advocacy organization Bike Easy, is a consultant who specializes in helping biking and walking advocates develop racial justice and social equity plans. She says advocates should be grappling with structural racism and considering how their own choices can entrench or dismantle it.

Here is a lightly edited transcript of our interview.

What’s a mistake some biking or walking organizations are making with regards to diversity?

I think that one of the things I see is hiring of people of color and then making them sort of the voice for diversity and equity, which are not the same thing.

It is great to hire the folks, to have the folks who do potentially have better understanding. Even if you had a staff that was diverse, if there’s not a co-created understanding of equity within your organization and how you’re contributing to it, it won’t succeed.

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What’s Up With Evanston’s Unusual Divvy Station Location Pattern?

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A Divvy station at Church and Dodge in Evanston, at the intersection of two protected bikeways. Photo: Steven Vance

As I pointed out back in early June when the new Divvy expansion map was released, which included the system’s first suburban docking stations in Evanston and Oak Park, the locations of the ten Evanston stations seemed a little odd.

When Chicago originally launched the bike-share system in 2013, a high number of stations were concentrated downtown and in dense, relatively affluent Near-North Lakefront areas, with roughly quarter-mile spacing between stations, in an effort to make the system financially sustainable. The rest of the coverage area generally got less convenient half-mile spacing, using a fairly consistent grid pattern. This half-mile grid pattern was also used for Chicago’s 2015 and 2016 expansions.

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The 2016 Divvy expansion areas are show in red on this service area map. Click for a larger image.

One notable exception in Chicago this year is Rogers Park, where there’s a dense cluster of new stations near Howard Street, the Evanston border. “There are a number of logistical and practical factors which have to be balanced when siting stations and it’s really more of an art than a science,” Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Michael Claffey stated when I asked for an explanation of the Rogers Park layout. “These include availability of off-street right of way, parking restrictions and aldermanic support, among other issues.”

Oak Park has distributed its 13 stations using a fairly consistent half-mile grid pattern, similar to what’s been done in much of Chicago.

However, the Evanston locations seem scattershot by comparison. There’s no grid pattern, most of the stations are located in the northeast portion of the suburb, and there are almost none in the southwest quadrant, which is relatively close to Chicago.

Divvy’s Evanston webpage notes that eight of the ten Evanston stations were purchased via a state grant, with matching funds from the suburb. These station locations were chosen based on data from a survey conducted during Evanston’s bike plan update, a Northwestern University industrial engineering research project, a community meeting, an online survey with over a thousand participants, and paper surveys distributed at a senior center and the suburb’s main libraries. This data was used to identify trip generators and destination points.

The other two stations were paid for by Northwestern, so their locations were chosen to provide access between the other eight stations and the campus, according to the Divvy website.

Evanston’s transportation and mobility coordinator Katherine Knapp provided some additional info on the thought processes behind the location choices. “It’s important to note that we not only have to take into account the street grid, which [isn’t as consistent] in Evanston, but also land use, the distribution of employment centers, and where community resources are located.”

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The Evanston Divvy locations, plus trip generators like transit stations, schools, and workplaces. Click for a larger image. Map: City of Evanston

Knapp noted that Oak Park had 13 stations to spread over a suburb with an area of 4.7 square miles and a population of about 52,000. Meanwhile, Evanston’s ten stations had to serve a city of 7.8 square miles and about 75,000 people, which made it especially important to be strategic about locations. Why did Evanston buy fewer stations? “We were trying to strike a balance of community needs with the size of the grant,” she said.

There’s a strong correlation between the Evanston station locations and transit, Knapp said. She also noted that stations were placed along Dodge Avenue (the same longitude as Chicago’s California Avenue), where a protected bike lane was recently installed.

Weight was also given to the parts of town with the lowest rates of car ownership, based on U.S. Census data. This includes northeast Evanston, which features plenty of high-rise housing and “a surprising mix of students and young professionals,” according to Knapp. She noted that the area around the Davis CTA and Metra stops is especially dense with residents and retail.

“When you step back and look at the [Evanston Divvy location] map, it’s been called ‘zany,’” Knapp said. “But when you drill down and look at the demand and what the travel patterns tell us, it makes sense.” The city of Evanston’s Divvy webpage includes detailed information about the destinations served by each of the ten stations.

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U. of C. Doctor Gary Toback Fatally Struck While Jogging by Jackson Park

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Gary Toback.

University of Chicago doctor and professor Gary Toback, 74, was struck and killed by an SUV driver while running in the South Shore neighborhood this morning, authorities said.

At around 6:40 a.m., Toback, a kidney specialist, was jogging near the intersection of 67th Street and South Bennett Avenue on the south side of Jackson Park, according to authorities. Toback lived nearby on the 6800 block of South Bennett, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. Neighbors described him as a running enthusiast, ABC reported.

According to police, a 40-year-old woman lost control of the Jeep SUV she was driving and rolled the vehicle, striking Toback. The vehicle landed near 67th and South Jeffery Avenue, several hundred feet east of the location where Toback was struck, police said.

Toback was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police. The driver and a two-year-old girl who was riding in the vehicle were taken to Comer Hospital in unkown condition, according to Officer Laura Amezaga from Police News Affairs.

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The intersection of 67th and Bennett from the driver’s perspective. Image: Google Street View

Charges have not yet been filed against the driver, Amezaga said. Major Accidents is investigating the case.

Fatality Tracker: 2016 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths
Pedestrian: 14 (seven were hit-and-run crashes)
Bicyclist: 2

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New County Policy Supports Active Transportation, Lacks Specific Goals

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Cook County’s Long-Range Transportation Plan mimics existing regional plan to increase transit ridership while changing little in county governance.

Cook County’s new “Long Range Transportation Plan,” released last week, is the first such document published since 1940 and is a policy platform that will guide decisions about transportation spending for the next 24 years. To the credit of county officials, the plan voices strong support for improving walking, biking, and transit, which represents a major change for a governmental body that has focused on facilitating driving for many decades. However, I’d argue that the document, called “Connecting Cook County,” falls short of being a plan when it come to setting concrete goals for promoting sustainable transportation, and that’s a missed opportunity.

On the plus side, the language of the report acknowledges the mistakes of the past and emphasizes the benefits of active transportation. “Cook County, like the rest of the country, has long prioritized the automobile as the preferred mode of personal travel,” it states. It outlines the safety, mobility, and health benefits of better pedestrian and bike facilities and commits to improving this infrastructure across the county.

In particular, the document calls transit “the single-most important” mode for helping Cook County compete with peer urban areas around the world that offer businesses and residents “realistic, high-quality” transportation options. It argues that public transportation is also a way to shore up the county’s economic development strategies.

According to county spokesperson Becky Schlikerman, the document wasn’t intended to be a check list of goals to accomplish over the next few years, but rather a set of general policy guidelines. “The Long Range Transportation Plan is a long-term policy document that will serve as a roadmap for transportation priorities and policies for decades to come,” Schlickerman said  “This document is not a list of projects that will be completed in the short-term.”

But for the $1.4 million it cost to create the report, Cook County county taxpayers – who provided feedback in 2014 – should have gotten something more specific. Effective transportation plans set measurable goals, detail objectives on how to achieve them, and detail current statistical benchmarks against which future achievements will be measured.

Despite the fuzzy targets, the policy platform is a big move in the right direction for an a county whose transportation policies have long been stuck in a 1950s mindset. Its goals essentially match the priorities set forth in the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s comprehensive GO TO 2040 plan. That document calls on counties and municipalities in northeast Illinois to make measurable improvements over the next 24 years, with specific goals like doubling transit ridership, improving access to jobs, and reducing pollution caused by highway driving.

Admirably, Connecting Cook County states that supporting transit-oriented development – mixed-use development around transit stations – is the single most important investment the county can make to strengthen the transportation network and make the vast county a more desirable place to live. The document explains that “improvements to be supported by the department include sidewalks, facilities for bicycles, and community plazas.” Since there are over 260 CTA and Metra rail stations in the county, that strategy could indeed have widespread benefits.

The report doesn’t have a lot of specifics on the kinds of projects Cook County should implement, but it does include a few examples. It states that the county’s Department of Transportation and Highways “will assist Pace in its efforts to provide expedited bus service on arterial roads and expressways,” and coordinate traffic signals and transit signal priority for Pace’s Arterial Rapid Transit project.

Where it falls short

One issue with Connecting Cook County is that some of the statistics it uses are outdated, which may have resulted in some misinformed policies. It includes stats on county residents’ travel habits that are based on CMAP’s Travel Tracker, a detailed survey of all kinds of household trips, which supplements U.S. Census commuting figures, which only cover work commutes. The Travel Tracker survey was last conducted in 2008, but the county document argues that “the order of magnitude and character of those trips are not likely to have changed materially” since then.

However, downtown Chicago has gained tens of thousands of jobs, and thousands of new residences since 2008, CTA rail ridership has grown 20 percent while bus ridership has fallen 12 percent, and the number of people walking and biking has increased. Therefore the “character and magnitude” of urban travel has probably changed significantly over the last eight years.

Chart showing CTA ridership changes since 2008

“Connecting Cook County” was informed by data about Cook County residents’ travel patterns, but a lot about how we get around has changed since the survey was done in 2008. This chart shows how ridership on just the Chicago Transit Authority has changed. Chart: Yonah Freemark/Metropolitan Planning Council

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