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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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“Trick Out Your Trip” With ioby and TransitCenter

tricked out

Photo: ioby

How would you improve your transit experience? OK, maybe not with a Persian rug and a harpist. But shelter and a place to sit couldn’t hurt, right? And how about some better lighting and safer pedestrian features along your way to the stop?

Those small, inexpensive improvements are the target of a new campaign by TransitCenter and the crowdfunding platform ioby. TransitCenter will be offering match funds to support “at least 10 ioby projects” aiming to improve the transit experience. That means you need to crowdfund support for your idea on ioby, and then TransitCenter will match it — up to $4,000. Projects shouldn’t exceed a $10,000 total budget.

Unlike grants to transit agencies — marked by cumbersome red tape and big money for big equipment — this process is led by the transit user. TransitCenter and ioby are out to “put riders at the center of creating, funding, implementing and stewarding amenities, entertainment, convenience and comfort in transit hubs,” according to ioby co-founder Erin Barnes.

The organizations call the matching fund campaign “Trick Out My Trip,” and they’re hoping to find cheap and easy ways to make the commuter experience “faster, more reliable, more comfortable (in terms of lighting, sounds, temperature and smell), safer, with more opportunities to get home faster (with pedestrian friendly paths, carpooling or bike sharing) and to take care of other errands as part of the commute (to go to the post office, library or grocery), and to make it easy on the people who need better transit options most, like families, the very young and the very old.”

Bike-share, ride-share, and pedestrian improvements are also fair game. TransitCenter and ioby are up for funding improvements to any mode of “clean transportation.”

“While we always support better service overall, we hope small-scale projects will inspire institutions and governments and other communities to consider non-capital improvements for their customers, the riders of public transportation,” says Shin-pei Tsay of TransitCenter.

You have until October 6 to let them know you’re interested. Visit ioby for details.

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CBS 2 Presents the Windshield Perspective on Loop BRT

Construction work to build the $32 million Central Loop Bus Rapid Transit project has been postponed until next year, but workers are already out replacing utility lines on downtown streets to prepare for the project. CBS 2 anchor Rob Johnson responded with a faux exposé that trots out tired clichés about the city’s purported war on cars.

“We noticed crews digging up Loop street after street with no seeming plan,” he intones. “Then we started digging and found a city plan to radically alter the heart of the Loop.” Quite the scoop, except that the BRT project, announced back in February of 2013, has been in the news for a year and a half.

The system will run between Union Station and Michigan, including dedicated bus lanes on Canal, Clinton, Washington and Madison, as well as a new transit center next to the train station. The city has said time-saving features will cut 7.5 minutes off a roundtrip across the Loop. As part of the project, workers will build a protected bike lane between the bus lane and the curb on Washington.

“If you commute to downtown Chicago for work, your life is about to change,” Johnson warns before setting off to interview people in automobiles. “City planners have decided to move buses and bikes ahead of cars.”

“I hate it,” says one motorist. “It’s crazy. Guess I’ll be on that bus.” CBS apparently couldn’t be troubled to interview an actual bus rider who would appreciate the faster ride.

Read more…

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City Colleges Students Have New, Faster Transportation Option

CCC shuttle south route

The City Colleges of Chicago south route will be several minutes faster than taking CTA.

On Monday, the City Colleges of Chicago will launch four hourly shuttle bus routes to connect its many campuses to one another and to transit facilities. Students can sign up to ride the buses for free, and free onboard wifi will allow students to finish those last-minute homework assignments.

The inter-campus shuttles, according to a board of trustees ordinance [PDF], will “remove a barrier to cross-registration” and “potentially reduce the use of personal vehicles.” SCR Medical Transportation, which also operates paratransit vehicles for Pace, will run the shuttles through mid-2016 for up to $3 million. Students must sign up ahead of time to use the shuttle, and then can use their contactless ID cards to board the bus.

Four routes will offer full service on weekdays and limited service on Saturdays. They will run from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, with breaks between 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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Local Architects Envision “Meeting Place” At Empty Logan Square Plaza

Nushu's orange chairs at the Logan Square Blue Line station

Sitting and staying, exactly as Nushu architects intended.

This past Sunday, the usually forlorn bus transfer plaza above the Logan Square Blue Line station suddenly looked very different. Architects Krista Petkovsek and Kara Boyd had scrounged nearby alleys, rounded up a couple dozen used chairs, painted them orange, and scattered them around the plaza to spark a conversation about how to enliven the empty space, which is surrounded by an ever-increasing number of shops and restaurants.

Petkovsek and Boyd placed the chairs in two axes spanning the plaza last weekend, spurred by the Metropolitan Planning Council’s Old Place, New Tricks placemaking contest. The duo, co-founders of Nushu Studio, found out about the contest from Katherine Darnstadt. Her firm, Latent Design, won last year’s MPC placemaking contest for Union Station with its Blah Blah Blob! entry.

The two picked the Logan Square Blue Line station plaza as a prime example of the contest’s call to “choose a space in the city that needed a little attention,” Petkovsek said, and “to make some suggestions about what could happen in this space in the future.” A splash of color and a place to sit, she explained, could be a “starting point to grab people’s attention.”

Not coincidentally, MPC will host three meetings in September about the plaza, part of a long-term Corridor Development Initiative that MPC is managing in Logan Square. The meetings, according to Petkovsek, are where people can tell the city “what they’d like to see happen here.” The chairs are a good way to draw some attention to the plaza and advertise the upcoming meetings, “because not everybody sees social media,” she said.

In preparing for the event, Petkovsek discovered that 7,000 people pass the plaza each day: 5,625 enter the Blue Line subway there every day, 300 get on or off the 56-Milwaukee bus on the northbound side, scores of people use the Divvy station there, hundreds board and alight the 76-Diversey bus, and plenty of people just walk through.

Petkovsek and Boyd wanted to create a focal point for all that motion and activity precisely “because it’s such a transit hub.” Petkovsek cited the Akita dog statue at Tokyo’s Shibuya rail station: ”There’s a whole story behind it, and everyone uses it as their meeting place. It’s really cool.” Read more…

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Trading Cars for Transit Passes “in the Middle of the Corn and Soybeans”

The Champaign-Urbana managed to boost walking, biking and transit rates. Photo: Wikipedia

The Champaign-Urbana region managed to boost walking, biking, and transit rates. Photo: Wikipedia

This post is part of a series featuring stories and research that will be presented at the Pro-Walk/Pro-Bike/Pro-Place conference September 8-11 in Pittsburgh.

If Champaign-Urbana can make it easier to leave your car at home, any place can. That’s what local planner Cynthia Hoyle tells people about the progress her region has made over the last few years.

With great intention and years of work, this region of about 200,000 has reversed the growth of driving and helped get more people biking and taking transit. Since 2000, Champaign-Urbana has seen a 15 percent increase in transit ridership and a 2 percent decrease in vehicle miles traveled. The percentage of the population biking to work is up, and the percentage driving alone is down. Champaign-Urbana tracks its progress toward these goals on a publicly available report card.

“What I tell people is that if you can do it out here in the middle of the corn and soybeans, you can do it too,” said Hoyle, a planner with Alta Planning + Design who helped lead the process. “Everyone thinks this kind of stuff just happened in places like Portland.”

Hoyle outlined a few key steps along the region’s path toward more sustainable transportation:

1. Coordinate between government agencies to create walkable development standards

Champaign-Urbana’s sustainable mobility push began with the adoption of a long-range plan in 2004. The plan was part of a collaborative effort by local municipalities, the regional planning agency, and the local transit authority.

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City Hopes to Beef Up Transit Service in Streeterville, River North

Surveys

Boarding a bus on the Magnificent Mile. Photo: CDOT

The city is slowly moving forward with building the Central Loop Bus Rapid Transit project, which will speed bus service between Union Station and Michigan Avenue . Meanwhile, the Chicago Department of Transportation is looking at other ways to improve transit connections between the West Loop train stations and the neighborhoods just north of the Loop with the River North-Streeterville Transit Study.

This spring, CDOT started the process of gathering data about travel markets and preferences in the RNS area, physical and traffic constraints, and other costs, benefits, and impacts of different transit alternatives. The goal is to determine a Locally Preferred Alternative for capital improvements by 2015.

These infrastructure upgrades could be relatively low-tech solutions like restriping travel lane configurations or changing traffic signal times, but the study could also lead to a major investment in grade-separated transit, such as BRT or light rail. The research will be used as supporting documentation when CDOT applies for federal funding for the selected project.

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The open house on Loyola’s downtown campus. Photo: John Greenfield

Yesterday, CDOT held an open house at Loyola University’s downtown campus to discuss transit issues and collect feedback from people who live and work in these dense, affluent neighborhoods; another public event is planned for March. “We’ve been engaged in a process of getting public input, and trying to understand the nature of transportation problems in the area,” said Jeff Sriver, the department’s director of transportation planning services.

CDOT has already done significant work to gather info on the travel habits and desires of RNS residents, employees, and visitors, according to Sriver. Surveys for locals are available online, and the department has been distributing the questionnaire on buses and in hotels, and through employers, community organizations, condo associations and other entities. “We’re trying to get feedback on how people use the transit system and the infrastructure that’s in the neighborhood today, and what are the missing pieces,” Sriver said.

A technical advisory committee, which includes representatives of the CTA, Metra, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, and the Metropolitan Planning Council, has met twice to discuss the study. A civic advisory committee, made up of members of RNS neighborhood organizations and institutions, has also held two meetings.

Read more…

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Leave Traffic Behind With These 6 Car-Free, Carefree Beach Trips

Arrival

The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, easily accessed by train. Photo: Tom Gill via Flickr.

If, like me, you optimistically view the summer as lasting until September 22, we’ve got more than five more weeks of beach season left. Still, time is running out for fun in the sun, so you should make a beeline for the shoreline as soon as possible. While people often gripe that Chicago has limited access to natural beauty, our city’s status as a rail hub actually makes it easy to reach the beach without a car.

Rainbow Beach is one of the gems of the South Side, and it’s only a stone’s throw from the Metra Electric Line’s Windsor Park station in South Shore. Named in honor of the U.S. Army’s 42nd Rainbow Division, the beach is also shaped like an upside-down rainbow, and it offers a stunning view of the skyline. A large fieldhouse features futuristic, Eggo waffle-shaped canopies. It’s a roughly half-hour ride from Millennium Station, and the fare is $3 each way. From Windsor Park, walk five minutes east on 75th to the beach; the fieldhouse is another eight minutes southeast. You can also get there via the #75 and #79 buses, plus three bus lines that run on South Shore Drive.

rainbow-beach

Aerial view of Rainbow Beach, via Google Maps.

Like Rainbow, Loyola Beach in Rogers Park is a quiet, serene place to swim because it’s located more than a mile from a Lake Shore Drive endpoint, and it’s easy to get to via transit. This nearly mile-long beach also offers great views of the Loop from a pier at its south end. Every June, community members gather during the Artists of the Wall festival to paint new images on a 600-foot mural by the shore. From the Red Line’s Morse stop, walk eight minutes east on Morse to the beach. The Loyola station is close by as well, and the beach is also accessible via the CTA’s #96, #147, and #155 buses.

Metra’s bikes-on-trains policy opens up a galaxy of options for car-free road trips, and one of the easiest is taking the Union Pacific North Line to Illinois Beach State Park in Zion. Note that bikes are prohibited this Saturday and Sunday due to the Air and Water show, the last blackout dates of the season. From the Ogilvie Center, it’s about an hour-and-a-half train ride; roundtrip fare is $7 with a weekend pass. From the Zion station, it’s a two-mile pedal (or hike, if you’re so inclined) to the park, which features a pebbly beach, camping, a lodge, and plenty of scenic hiking and biking trails.

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Car-free camping at Illinois Beach State Park. Photo: John Greenfield

For a bike-and-train trip to a coastline of a different sort, take Metra’s Milwaukee District North Line to Chain O’ Lakes State Park. From Union Station, it takes roughly an hour and forty minutes to get to the town of Fox Lake; from there, it’s a 6.7-mile pedal to the park offices. Located just south of the Cheddar Curtain, the Chain O’ Lakes region features a number of good-sized glacial lakes, popular for fishing and boating. The park has a pleasant campground and an extensive trails network, and you can rent a canoe to paddle out to Blarney Island, a floating Parrothead bar in the middle of Grass Lake, or use the bar’s boat-taxi service.

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Successful Pilot Means New “Bus on Shoulders” Routes For Pace

Governor Quinn Expands Green Transportation Program on Illinois’ Highways

Governor Quinn speaks to the cameras. Photo: Pace, via IDOT

For the past three years, Pace has run two express bus routes down the Stevenson Expressway (I-55) from Bolingbrook and Plainfield to downtown Chicago and the Illinois Medical District, and used the expressway’s shoulders to bypass traffic jams. Creating these dedicated transit lanes has resulted in better reliability — on-time performance jumped from 68 to 93 percent — and faster service, which when combined with comfortable (and wi-fi equipped) buses, has led ridership to jump 226 percent.

Governor Pat Quinn hosted a press conference yesterday at UIC to sign a new law that makes the pilot project permanent, and expands the program. The legislation, sponsored by Representative Robert Rita (D-Blue Island) and State Senator Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago), gives the Illinois Department of Transportation full authority to allow buses on any “specially designated” shoulder in the state.

Before the pilot, IDOT spent $9.5 million to rebuild the shoulders on the Stevenson so that the heavy coaches could ride on them, and plans to spend another $363,000 so that the buses get three more miles of smooth sailing. A press release from Quinn’s office said that this fall, IDOT will outline improvements that would be needed to run buses on shoulders along the Edens Expressway (I-94) between Foster Avenue and Lake-Cook Road, through Northbrook, Glenview, and Skokie.

The Illinois Tollway will be including beefed-up shoulders as part of its reconstruction and widening of I-90 from the Kennedy in Chicago to Barrington Road in Hoffman Estates. The tollway and Pace will also construct park-and-ride lots at the Randall Road and Route 25 interchanges in Elgin, and at Barrington Road [PDF]. The press release said that the Tollway is also building the Elgin-O’Hare Western Access Road to accommodate bus on shoulder operations. 

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Turning a Suburban Retail Bus Stop Into a Place People Want to Go

Pittsburgh's new super-stop on opening day. Photo courtesy of Lynn Manion, ACTA

Pittsburgh’s new “super-stop” on opening day. Photo courtesy of Lynn Manion, ACTA

This post is part of a series featuring stories and research that will be presented at the Pro-Walk/Pro-Bike/Pro-Place conference September 8-11 in Pittsburgh.

Last week, Pittsburgh got its first suburban bus stop makeover. And the results were beautiful.

The new IKEA “super-stop” is technically inside the city limits, but it’s along an interstate highway, surrounded by surface parking, between a TGI Fridays and an Office Max. It has a Walk Score of 37: “car-dependent.”

This is what the IKEA bus stop used to look like:

The "before" picture. Photo: ACTA

The “before” picture. Photo: ACTA

But then the Airport Corridor Transportation Association set out to rethink the stop. “We wanted to make the stop inviting enough that people who weren’t riding a bus would still want to come and use the bus stop,” said Lynn Manion of ACTA. They wanted tables and benches, shelter from the elements, and a big enough setback from the curb to make people feel that they weren’t right in the middle of the roadway.

ACTA and its partner, the architecture firm Maynes Associates, realized that in order to encourage ridership, they’d have to change perceptions about the bus stop. They needed to focus on placemaking in order to make that bus stop more appealing — and to make riders feel less isolated.

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