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Man Fatally Struck After Falling Into Street During Altercation in River North

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The 400 block of North State Street. Image: Google Street View

A 32-year old man died Sunday after he fell into the street during an altercation and was struck and killed by a cab driver. At about 4:20 a.m., Marques Gaines was involved in an altercation near Hubbard and State in River North, according to the Chicago Police. After a man punched him in the head, he fell into the roadway.

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Marques Gaines

The driver of a Ford taxi then ran over Gaines, police said. He was transported to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and was pronounced dead at 8:14 a.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

The cab driver stayed at the crash site and was not cited, police said. The person who punched Gaines fled the scene and has not been apprehended, according to police.

Although the medical examiner’s office reported Gaines’ residence as being on the 1400 block of West Chicago Avenue, friends told Loop North News he actually lived in Lakeview.

Friends also disputed the police department’s characterization of the altercation between Gaines, who worked at a nearby hotel, and the other man as a “fight.” They told the website it was more likely the victim “intervened on behalf of someone who was being treated unfairly but it led to tragedy.”

Fatality Tracker: 2016 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths
Pedestrian: 4 (none were hit-and-run crashes)

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Experts and Advocates Weigh in on Rauner’s Proposal to Widen the Stevenson

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The Stevenson, just west of the Dan Ryan. Photo: Eric Allix Rogers

On Thursday, Governor Bruce Rauner announced a new proposal to address congestion on the Stevenson Expressway, aka I-55, by adding lanes. The construction would be financed via a public-private partnership, and the new lanes would be tolled. Revenue would go to the concessionaire, allowing them to recoup their investment.

The so-called “managed lanes” would be an option for drivers who are willing to pay a premium to bypass traffic, while the existing lanes would not be tolled. Some local transportation experts and advocates lauded the plan as a creative way to address congestion woes. But others argued that our region’s focus should be on providing better alternatives to single-occupant vehicle commutes, rather than simply building more capacity for them.

The proposed lanes would cover a 25-mile stretch of the Stevenson between the Dan Ryan Expressway and the Veteran’s Memorial Tollway, a segment that carries about 170,000 vehicles a day. The plan calls for adding at least one lane in each direction, at an estimated cost of $425 million. The P3 model would need to be approved by a majority of state lawmakers.

The new lanes would feature “congestion pricing” – the toll price would vary according to the number of cars in the managed lanes, as well as the rest of the expressway. Rauner said it’s possible that drivers with one or more passengers might be allowed to use the new lanes without paying a toll. The state hopes to finalize a design by this spring and start construction by late 2017.

The Metropolitan Planning Council pushed for several years in Springfield for legislation to enable this kind of public-private partnership, which passed in 2011. MPC executive vice president Peter Skosey said his organization applauds Rauner’s proposal, adding that adding capacity to I-55 is listed as a priority in the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s GO TO 2040 regional plan.

“Experience shows that simply adding another regular lane will not ease congestion in the long term: once that capacity is there, it will just fill up,” Skosey said. “Putting a variable-priced toll on that lane lets you manage demand and keep it free-flowing. If you’re really in a time crunch, you have the choice to take that lane.”

Skosey argued that the new lane would also make taking the bus a more attractive choice. “[Pace’s] current Bus-on-Shoulder service has been incredibly successful, but it isn’t able to use the shoulder for the whole corridor and it’s limited to 35 mph. This lane would give it a continuous path and let it go as fast as 55 mph, improving reliability and opening the door to more frequent service.”

Steve Schlickmann, the former head of UIC’s Urban Transportation Center, agreed that the governor’s plan makes sense. “The combination of high congestion in regular travel lanes and insufficient growth in federal and state funding to maintain Illinois roads and transit, makes I-55 managed toll lanes a reasonable approach to address congestion and to help pay for I-55’s on-going maintenance needs,” he said.

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CNT Study of D.C. Parking Could Pave the Way for Better Chicago Policies

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A screen shot from Park Right DC development tool, which Chicago’s Center for Neighborhood Technology helped create.

Chicago’s City Council recently passed a beefed-up transit-oriented development ordinance that eliminates parking minimums for new residential buildings near transit. However, new development outside of the TOD zones still are still generally required to provide a parking space for every unit.

A report co-authored by Chicago’s Center for Neighborhood Technology provides more evidence that this kind of arbitrary parking mandate is inappropriate. It makes an argument that instead of parking minimums, evidence-based projections should be used to determine how many – if any – spaces should be built. The study, which focused on Washington, D.C., was honored last week as the best transportation and land use paper of 2016 by the Transportation Research Board.

CNT did similar research in the Seattle metro area about five years ago when King County Metro, the region’s transit agency, hired the nonprofit to look at parking use at multiunit buildings in the area, according to CNT’s chief research scientist Peter Haas. A subcontractor did parking counts at about 230 buildings in downtown Seattle, the neighborhoods, and suburban areas, tallying the number of cars parked late at night on weekdays, to get a sense of the total number of automobiles owned by residents.

The King County study also took into account the building size, income levels of the residents, transit access, and the density of people and employment in the surrounding areas. “We found that just about everybody had built too much parking,” Haas said. “Only about 60 percent of the spaces were being used.”

Using that data, the researchers developed the King County Right Size Parking Calculator, which provides estimated projections of the number of parking spaces per unit that are likely to be used at multiunit developments in different parts of the county. Seattle has since changed its zoning to allow for zero off-street parking in new buildings on transit corridors.

Leaders in Washington, D.C. who wanted to make an argument for reducing parking minimums heard about the King County study. The D.C. transportation and planning departments contracted CNT and other consultants to do the same thing within the city limits.

This time, the researchers looked at about 120 buildings and did a statistical regression for factors like transit access, job access (with a breakdown for retail jobs), and walkability. Once again, they found that parking was overbuilt by about 40 percent. “That seemed odd, but when we brought it up with the people in D.C., they said that’s what they had estimated anecdotally,” Haas said.

The consultants used the data to create Park Right DC, a similar tool as the King County calculator. The DC version lets you zoom in on a neighborhood, click on one or more parcels, and predict how many parking spaces would be needed for various kinds of developments on the site. The DC projections range from 0.3 to 0.9 parking spaces per unit.

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Senior Fatally Struck on Near North Side by Truck Driver Who Failed to Yield

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The intersection of Division and LaSalle, looking west. Image: Google Street View.

Charges are pending against a truck driver who fatally struck a 74-year-old woman on Tuesday near Division and LaSalle streets.

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Georgiana Henley. Photo: Facebook

At about 11:55 a.m., Georgiana Henley was walking on the 100 block of West Division, according to Officer Anna Pacheco from Police News Affairs. The trucker attempted to make a turn and failed to yield, striking Henley, Pacheco said.

Henley, who lived nearby on the 300 block of West Hill Street, was transported to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Pacheco said. The senior was pronounced dead at 2:05 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

The driver is currently in custody, awaiting charges, according to Pacheco. Major Accidents is investigating the case.

In 2012, Northwestern University law student Jesse Bradley, 32, was fatally struck by an intoxicated driver at the the same location.

Fatality Tracker: 2016 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths
Pedestrian: 2 (neither were hit-and-run crashes)

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Slow Roll Chicago Mourns the Loss of Member Marian Hayes to a Traffic Crash

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Marian Hayes. Photo: Slow Roll Chicago

Slow Roll Chicago member Marian Hayes, an artist, educator, gallery curator, poet, and jazz DJ, died last Sunday, two days after being struck by a driver while walking in the Ashburn neighborhood.

On Friday, January 8, at around 5 p.m., Hayes, 61, was walking near the intersection of 87th Street and Kedzie Avenue, according to Officer José Estrada from Police News Affairs. Darrell Surles, 55, was driving westbound on the 3200 block of West 87th when he heard what sounded like an impact, Estrada said. After walking eastbound on 87th, Surles discovered he had struck Hayes.

Hayes, who lived on the 500 block of East 89th Street, was transported in critical condition to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, according to Estrada. She died on Sunday at 3:16 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. It appears that she was the first Chicago pedestrian fatality of 2016.

Surles, who lives in Evergreen Park, was charged with a misdemeanor count of driving on a suspended license, and was also cited for failure to exercise due care for a pedestrian in the roadway, and failure to reduce speed to avoid a crash, Estrada said. He is scheduled to appear in court at the Daley Center on March 10.

Hayes is remembered as a prolific artist who worked with several different mediums, including photography, fiber, quilting, and found objects. According to her LinkedIn profile, she taught young children how to make art inspired by cultures from around the world as part of the Global Explorer Kids program at Marquette Elementary School in Chicago Lawn. She was also the founder and curator of Gallery Sous Terrain, a community art gallery at Tuley Park Cultural Center.

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The New Climate Villain Is Cheap Oil

Long-term climate prospects brightened somewhat in 2015. Pope Francis put climate care on the moral and political agenda. President Obama rejected the Keystone XL dirty-oil pipeline. Denialist heads of state were routed in Canada and Australia, and their brethren in the U.S. faced growing ridicule. To cap it off, nearly 200 nations signed the UN Paris accord, committing to cutting emissions. Meanwhile, U.S. coal use took another double-digit plunge. And U.S. electricity generation from zero-carbon photovoltaic solar cells continued to soar and has now grown 20-fold in just five years.

Alas, there’s one bummer in this rosy picture, and it’s a big one: cheap gasoline.

After years of steady gains, average gas mileage of new vehicles purchased in the U.S. fell last year by nearly a mile per gallon, according to data from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.

Through September, total miles driven in the U.S. were up 3.5 percent — the biggest rise in decades.

Cheap gas is driving both trends. The average price of gas sold in the U.S. through October 2015 was 25 percent below the 2014 price — the steepest drop in at least 70 years. Americans responded precisely as predicted in Econ 101: by driving more and dumping sedans for SUV’s and pickups.

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Driver fatally Strikes Pedestrian in Auburn Gresham and Flees the Scene

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The crash site. Image: Google Street View

Police are searching for the motorist who struck and killed Linnes Walker, 55, in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood last week. In the early evening of December 28, Walker, of the 7500 block of South May, walked to nearby Colony Food & Liquors, 7555 South Racine, which he usually visited twice a day, ABC reported. When the store didn’t have the item Walker was looking for, he headed down the street to another shop, according to Colony’s manager.

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Linnes Walker

As he returned from the second store, at 6:54 p.m. the driver of a blue SUV struck him in front of a Popeye’s at 7617 South Racine, just south of Colony, police said. The crash was captured on by the shop’s security camera. Following the collision, the motorist entered the restaurant’s parking lot, then fled eastbound, according to police.

Walker was transported to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. He was pronounced dead on December 30 at 1:55 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

“Why would you hit somebody and keep going. That is a human being,” the victim’s mother Mae Walker told ABC. “You don’t know if he was dead or alive but you just drove away and left him laying there like he didn’t belong to anybody. If you have any heart, any conscience, any feeling about somebody else, please turn yourself in.”

Police are currently searching for the driver. Anyone with information about the crash is encouraged to call Major Accidents at 312-745-4521.

Fatality Tracker: 2015 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths
Pedestrian: 33 (14 were hit-and-run crashes)
Bicyclist: 7 (two were hit-and-run crashes)

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Raised Crosswalks Have Finally Come to Palmer Square

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One of the Palmer Square speed tables. Photo: Ella Revzin

Thanks to advocacy from neighbors, the wide roadway on the north side of the Palmer Square green space has been calmed. Last month, the Chicago Department of Transportation converted two marked, mid-block crosswalks to raised crosswalks, aka speed tables. As a result, drivers are hitting the brakes on street where speeding was formerly the rule, making it much safer to walk the park and play within it.

Neighbors have been calling for the safety infrastructure for years, because this quarter-mile stretch of Palmer Boulevard has three westbound travel lanes, with light traffic volumes and no stoplights or stop signs, which encourages speeding.

When Streetsblog writer Steven Vance and contributor Justin Haugens measured speeds during the evening rush with a speed gun, they found that 75 percent of motorists were breaking the posted 25 mph speed limit. About a third were driving over 30 mph, and a handful were going faster than 40 mph next to a park that gets heavy use by families with small children.

A road diet would have been a logical solution to the speeding problem. However, nearby churches use the central travel lane for Sunday parking, which isn’t technically legal but has been tolerated by aldermen for many years. Therefore removing one of the lanes might have been politically challenging.

But getting the raised crosswalks put in turned out to be surprisingly challenging as well. In 2013, Andrea Keller, who lives on the block with her young family, said she collected over 100 signatures on a written petition in favor of the speed tables in 2013. The following year, she launched an online petition, which garnered over 70 signatures. Logan Square Preservation and the Homeowner’s Association of Palmer Square eventually endorsed the idea, and 35th Ward alderman Scott Waguespack said he was open to funding the speed tables with ward money.

The only thing that was stopping Waguespack from approving the project was a handful of residents who repeatedly contacted him to oppose the idea, according to his chief of staff Paul Sajovec said. Some of this resistance was likely due to confusion between the difference between speed humps and speed tables. The latter have a longer cross-section, so they’re unlikely to cause cars to bottom out or create loud noise as vehicles pass over them.

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Allegedly Drunk Driver Kills Pregnant Woman in Lawndale, Flees the Scene

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The crash site. The collision was recorded by this security camera at a motorcycle shop. Image: Google Street View

A hit-and-run driver who fatally struck a pregnant woman has been charged with a felony count of aggravated DUI and a felony count of leaving the scene of a fatal accident.

On Christmas Eve at about 10 p.m., Karla Leanos, 26, was crossing northbound on the 4200 block of West Ogden Avenue in the Lawndale neighborhood, according to Officer Veejay Zala from Police News Affairs. Silvestre Garcia, 22, of the 2700 block of South Harding Avenue was driving southwest in a silver 2008 Chrysler sedan “at a high rate of speed” when he struck Leanos, Zala said. Garcia then fled the scene.

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Karla Leonas

Leanos, who lived on the 3000 block of South Keeler Avenue, was seven months pregnant, according to friends, who added that she was married and had three other young children, ABC reported. She was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where she was later pronounced dead, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. However, doctors were able to deliver her baby boy, who is in stable condition and is expected to survive, according to police.

The crash was videotaped by multiple security cameras, according to ABC. Footage shows that Leanos saw Garcia driving towards her, but she was unable to get out of the way. Garcia struck her so hard, she was knocked out of her boots.

On Sunday, Garcia was charged with the two felonies, plus two misdemeanor DUI counts. He was also cited for misdemeanor counts of driving with an open container and a faulty windshield. Bond was set at $750,000.

“She was a good woman, a good mother,” a friend of Leanos told ABC. “She was an amazing friend.”

Fatality Tracker: 2015 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths
Pedestrian: 32 (13 were hit-and-run crashes)
Bicyclist: 7 (two were hit-and-run crashes)

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Why the North LSD Rehab Should Swap Mixed-Traffic Lanes for Transit Lanes

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Buses and cars on Lake Shore Drive during the evening rush. Photo: John Greenfield

[The Chicago Reader recently launched a new weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. This partnership will allow Streetsblog to extend the reach of our livable streets advocacy. We’ll be syndicating 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.]

Earlier this month at a hearing on the North Lake Shore Drive reconstruction study—dubbed “Redefine the Drive”—officials assured the public that all options for rebuilding Chicago’s coastal highway are still on the table. But the Illinois Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over the drive, isn’t seriously considering the simplest way to help more people travel more efficiently: trading existing mixed-traffic lanes for bus-only lanes.

Immortalized in the eponymous song by local rock group Aliotta-Haynes-Jeremiah (R.I.P. bassist Mitch Aliotta, who passed away in July), the northern portion of Lake Shore Drive is 60 to 80 years old, and way overdue for a rehab. IDOT and the Chicago Department of Transportation are collaborating on the plan to rebuild the seven-mile section between Grand and Hollywood.

They expect to get approval for the design from the feds by 2018, with construction starting as early as 2019, pending available funding. The project could cost more than $1 billion and will take years to finish.

Starting in July 2013, the city and state transportation departments hosted a series of community meetings, where residents shared their ideas for the overhaul. In October 2014, the planners released a list of the 20 most popular ideas for the rehab, based on more than 1,600 comments from 330-plus attendees. “Improve transit service” came in second, after “Separate bike/pedestrian users on the Lakefront Trail.” Maintaining or improving driving conditions didn’t make the list.

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A vision of North Lake Shore Drive with rapid transit corridors and separated walking and biking paths published by 15 local civic organizations in July 2013. Image: Thom Greene

During the recent hearing at the Chicago History Museum, planners from IDOT noted that North Lake Shore Drive sees 70,000 transit trips a day on nine routes, accounting for one-fifth of all passenger trips on the drive.

IDOT projects that the population of the study area, bounded by Touhy, the Kennedy/Dan Ryan, and the Stevenson, will grow 15 to 20 percent by 2040, based on a state analysis of Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning data. The department predicts the number of transit trips on the drive will increase by the same amount during this period. However, they project the increase in car trips will be negligible, because new Chicagoans will mostly commute by transit, and some current residents will switch from cars to other modes.

To meet the growing demand for transit, the LSD project team is considering options for the drive like bus-on-shoulder (which already exists on some Pace lines) and bus-only lanes, possibly with rapid transit-style stations along the route. Light rail is even in the mix, although it would likely be cost-prohibitive.

Liberating transit riders from car-generated congestion via dedicated lanes is a no-brainer, since buses are exponentially more space-efficient than automobiles. The planners said cars on the drive carry an average of 1.2 people. Meanwhile, a 60-foot articulated CTA bus seats about 50 people (not counting standees) and takes up less room on the highway than two average-size cars, when you factor in the necessary distances between vehicles.

During the hearing, planners stressed they haven’t yet ruled out any options for reconfiguring the drive. But afterward, IDOT project and environmental studies section chief John Baczek told a different story to Charles Papanek, who reported on the meeting for Streetsblog .

Baczek said it’s unlikely any of the drive’s existing travel lanes will be converted to transit-only use, because this would reduce capacity for drivers, and the number of car trips isn’t expected to decrease. Therefore, he implied, adding dedicated bus lanes would probably require widening the highway.

Read the rest of the article on the Chicago Reader website.