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Posts from the Transportation Category


Residents and Politicians Urge CTA to Restore Lincoln, 31st Street Bus Service

They want their bus back

CTA riders have been donning yellow shirts to signify that they want the agency to restore bus routes on Lincoln Avenue and 31st Street.

During the public comment period of last night’s Chicago Transit Authority’s budget hearing, the only one the agency is holding this year, many politicians and residents urged the CTA board to restore the Lincoln Avenue and 31st Street bus routes.

The hearing opened with budget director Tom McKone providing an overview of the 2016 spending plan. It maintains virtually all current bus service and brings back the old express bus routes on Ashland Avenue and Western Avenue. As a strategy to avoid a fare hike, the budget includes layoffs for some management staff, plus eliminating some vacant positions.

When the floor was opened for comments, Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) said she was once again there to “respectfully request” that the board find a place in the budget to restore the full #11 Lincoln bus route. In 2012, as part of several bus line cuts to help fund the CTA’s “de-crowding plan” for additional train service, the agency cancelled bus service on Lincoln between the Brown Line’s Western stop and the Fullerton station. Smith said the strategy hasn’t been a success.

Smith noted that her Lincoln Park ward includes many college students, young professionals, and seniors – the most common demographics for frequent transit users, both locally and nationally, she said. Smith added new developments, including the redevelopment of the former Children’s Memorial Hospital site at Fullerton/Halsted/Lincoln, will bring over 1,000 new residences and over 150,000 square feet of retail to the Lincoln Avenue corridor.

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), who has been leading the charge to restore the #11 ever since service was cut, was more somber when he addressed the board. Pawar said he wants his ward to include affordable neighborhoods where people can age in place. He added that, despite the increased capacity on the Brown Line, the elimination of Lincoln service makes it harder for many of his constituents to get to destinations within the ward.

Alder Ameya Pawar (47th) asking the board to reinstate the 11-Lincoln Ave bus

Ald. Pawar appeared again before the CTA board asking for them to reinstate the 11-Lincoln bus.

One North Side resident testified that the Brown Line is often too crowded to be a satisfactory replacement for the Lincoln bus. Another asked that the existing #11 route be extended north from Fullerton to at least Belmont Avenue, so that she could access a nearby Jewel-Osco.

Bridgeport’s Ald. Patrick Thompson (11th), elected this year, spoke up in favor of restoring the #31 bus, which was cut in 1997. “A lot has changed in our community” since then, Thompson said, noting that there has been a new wave of development in recent years and better transit could help reduce congestion. He proposed a bus route that would serve the 31st/Ashland Orange Line station and the Sox/35th Red Line stop, ending at 31st Street beach. Read more…


Eyes on the Street: Roosevelt Raised Bike Lane Is Almost Ready to Ride

Illinois Bicycle Lawyers - Mike Keating logo

It seems like it has taken an eternity, but the Roosevelt Road raised bikeway is finally getting the green paint and bike symbols that will turn it into a functional cycling route. This Chicago Department of Transportation initiative is part of a streetscaping project that involved widening the sidewalk along Roosevelt between State Street and Michigan Avenue to make room for the two-way bike lane.

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Street layout from State to Wabash, where the bikeway will exist as on-street lanes, to the left of bus lanes.

The new lane extends a block or so past Michigan on the north sidewalk of Roosevelt, ending near the trunkless metal legs of the “Agora” installation and the Grant Park skate park. From there, cyclists can head north a block to the 11th Street bike and pedestrian bridge over Metra and South Shore tracks. From there a multi-use path leads under Columbus Drive and Lake Shore Drive to the Museum Campus.

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CDOT rendering of Roosevelt streetscape, looking east from Wabash. Note the separation between the blue crosswalks and the green “crossbikes.”

The streetscape project also includes new metal benches and decorative pavers inscribed with various words that are meant to be thought-provoking, or evoke the cultural facilities of the Museum Campus. Near the CTA ‘L’ station at Roosevelt and State, which serves the Red, Orange, and Green Lines, CDOT has installed extra-long bus shelters that will have ad panels.


A crew member applies adhesive to the lane for attaching the thermoplastic bike symbol segments. Photo: John Greenfield

Between State and Wabash Avenue, the bikeway will exist as a pair of one-way bike lanes located in the street and marked with green paint. Eastbound bicyclists will use a special “crossbike” – a crosswalk for bikes – to move to the bi-directional raised bike lane on the north side of Roosevelt east of Wabash. Westbound cyclists will be shepherded from the raised lane to the westbound on-street via a green-marked lane that will slant from the sidewalk to the bike lane.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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The Looming Transit Breakdown That Threatens America’s Economy


Categories of maintenance needs, in billions of dollars, for America’s large transit agencies. Graph: RPA

While federal transit funding stagnates, the nation’s largest rail and bus systems have been delaying critical maintenance projects. Without sustained efforts to fix infrastructure and vehicles, the effects of deteriorating service in big American cities could ripple across the national economy, according to a new report from the Regional Plan Association [PDF].

RPA focuses on ten of the nation’s largest transit agencies — in Boston, San Francisco, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York, Cleveland, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Between them, these agencies face about $102 billion in deferred maintenance costs. To bring the systems into a state of good repair will require about $13 billion in maintenance spending per year — more than twice the current rate of investment.

These regions house about one-fifth of the country’s population and produce about 27 percent of the nation’s economic output. They also carry about 60 percent of the nation’s total transit ridership, up from 55 percent 20 years ago. That’s a reflection of how transit has become increasingly important in these regions, with passenger trips growing 54 percent over the same period.

That level of ridership growth can’t be sustained if the transit systems aren’t maintained properly. RPA cites a 2012 report from San Francisco’s BART that says if the system is allowed to deteriorate…

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Witness: Officer Drove Recklessly; Judge: Cyclist Probably Had Road Rage

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 3.41.35 PM

James Liu.

According to a witness, an off-duty police officer swerved in and out of traffic while chasing cyclist James Liu, driving in a “really dangerous” manner. However, at a hearing yesterday, Judge George Berbas upheld a charge of disorderly conduct against Liu. Berbas argued it was likely that the bike rider – not the officer – was guilty of road rage.

The incident occurred on October 14, around 8:15 a.m., when Liu, 33, was bicycling downtown on Milwaukee Avenue to his job as a bankruptcy attorney. After he turned south on Desplaines Street, he says, the driver of a silver SUV started edging into the Desplaines bike lane as he tried to illegally pass other vehicles on the right. Liu says the motorist was getting too close for comfort, so he knocked twice on the door of his truck to alert him of his presence.

Unfortunately for Liu, the driver was Officer Paul Woods, from the traffic administration department, who was also on his way to work. The attorney says Woods immediately began chasing him in the bike lane, then rolled down his window and yelled, “I’m a f—ing cop.”

UIC associate professor Rachel Havrelock was driving her daughter to school at the time. “I saw the SUV driver swerving in and out of traffic and he seemed to be going after the cyclist,” Havrelock told me. After Liu changed lanes to head east on Washington Street, Havrelock says Woods swerved across two lanes of southbound Desplaines to blockade the cyclist’s path. “I was very shocked by what I saw,” she said.

Woods then handcuffed Liu, called for backup, and had the attorney transported to a police station. Liu was ultimately charged with disorderly conduct.

At yesterday’s administrative hearing, Liu reiterated that he knocked on the SUV because Woods was driving in the bike lane, DNAinfo reported. However, the officer testified that he was stopped in traffic when the attorney banged on his vehicle and was not driving in the bike lane. He added that he was taken aback by Liu’s action, and that the attorney also extended a middle finger at him.

Liu told me today that it’s possible he did flip the officer the bird at some point during the incident, although he doesn’t recall doing so. However, he repeated that the SUV was moving towards him in the bike lane when he knocked on it, not stationary.

In finding Liu guilty of disorderly conduct, Judge Berbas asserted that the cyclist probably knocked on the SUV due to road rage or “overreaction to a traffic situation,” DNA reported. “If a Chicago police officer is in uniform on his way to work, he really just wants to get to work, check in and do his job,” Berbas said. “I don’t think that while in his personal vehicle he’s going to be looking to instigate or start anything.”

Liu told me the judge’s logic is flawed. “His statement seems to imply that an attorney who is just riding his bike to work is looking to start something,” Liu added. “What’s my motivation?”

Read more…


More Bike Parking Drama at the University of Chicago


The railing from which Edwards’ bike was removed is commonly used as overflow parking when the adjacent racks are full. Photo. Elizabeth Edwards

Last year, Streetsblog reader Elizabeth Edwards alerted us that just about every sign pole, light post, fence and handrail by University of Chicago Medical Center sported stickers reading “Not a Bike Rack.” This passive-aggressive campaign to keep cycles out of the way of pedestrians was also illegal, since some of these poles were on the public right of way and Chicago’s municipal code specifies that it’s legal to lock bikes to sign posts on public sidewalks. Happily, a few days after I contacted the medical center about the issue, every single sticker was removed.

Last week, however, there was more bike parking drama within the university’s Gothic confines. Edwards reports that, for two or three weeks she had been locking her cycle to the railing of a little-used ramp that serves the emergency exit of a meeting room in a campus building.

While the railing is located next to some bike racks, they are frequently at capacity, so it has been common for cyclists to use the railing for overflow parking, according to Edwards. There was no sign warning that it can’t be used as such, so it has often been covered with bikes during nice weather, she said.

However, last week when she went to retrieve her orange Motobecane road bike for the commute home, she found a removal notice instead. It turns out that the university has a policy of removing any bike — seemingly abandoned or not — that is locked to any campus fixture that’s not a bike rack. Here’s an outline of the process from Facilities Services’ abandoned bike policy:

Abandoned bicycles and bicycles found secured to any object other than the University-maintained bicycle racks are subject to removal by Facilities Services. A tag, advising the owner of the reason for removal, is left at the site of removal; the bicycle is brought to the Young Building, 5555 S. Ellis Avenue. A record of the impounded bicycle is made and shared with the [University of Chicago Police Department] in the event that an owner reports their bicycle as stolen. Bikes are stored for 10 business days and during that time may be reclaimed by calling 773-834-1414 or by bringing the removal site tag to the Young Building reception area on the 1st floor. If the bicycle is not claimed within 10 business days it will be donated to charity.

“The process for retrieving an impounded bike is sketchy at best,” Edwards said. When she called to confirm that Facilities Services had her bike, the person she spoke to wasn’t able to give her any information. When she went to went to the Young Building, she was told to wait by a bike rack where a number of removed bikes were locked up.

“When someone arrived to help me, they unlocked the collected bikes, asked which one was mine, and sent me on my way,” Edwards said. “I wasn’t asked for the impound tag, or anything that might indicate the bike was mine. I could’ve picked a much nicer bike.”

Read more…


Eyes on the Street: New Section of Lakefront Trail at Fullerton Is Half Open


The new section of trail north of Fullerton. Photo: John Greenfield

Illinois Bicycle Lawyers - Mike Keating logo

About a year ago, the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Chicago Park District kicked off the Fullerton Revetment project, which is building 5.8 acres of new parkland along the lake. The main goal of the $31.5 million endeavor was to to replace the crumbling seawall. But it’s also making room for the partial separation of pedestrian and bike routes on a section of the Lakefront Trail that’s currently a bottleneck. Infill and revetment construction is wrapping up this fall, and landscaping should be done by next summer.

Shoreline - Fullerton Rendered Plan 2-20-14

A plan view of the project.

North of Fullerton Avenue, a section of the new path is already open, although the separate pedestrian walkway will only exist south of the avenue, west of the bike path. The soft-surface footpath will run for about 600 feet before ending at a turnaround at Fullerton. Workers have ripped out the old stretch of the trail north of Fullerton that hugged the Theater on the Lake, and walkers, joggers, and cyclists are now directed to the brand-new path segment.


The old section of the path by the Theater on the Lake is now closed. Photo: John Greenfield

The initiative includes widening the strip of parkland along the trail by as much as several hundred feet via infill, creating a brand-new hump of land that’s sure to be a hit with sunbathers. Last summer, that area resembled a milky turquoise tropical lagoon, contained by a wavy wall of corrugated steel pilings. Crews have since filled in the lagoon with rocks and dirt, and are currently covering the area with sod.

Read more…


The New Ventra App Will Make Metra Easier to Ride For Millions of People

Update Nov. 18: The Ventra app is available half a day early. Download for Android and iOS

The Ventra app will be released this month, making it more convenient to pay your Metra fare, whether you’re an occasional rider or a daily commuter. The best thing about the app is that it allows you to buy tickets and passes via your smartphone. That means no waiting in line at a ticket booth, using an ill-designed ticket vending machine, or paying a surcharge on board. That’s a big plus if you’re rushing to catch a train and don’t have time to buy a ticket at the station.

Why am I so confident that the Ventra App will be convenient to use? I’m part of the app’s beta testing group, and I recently used the app during a Metra excursion to the South Deering neighborhood for a fried fish snack at Calumet Fisheries. Aside from some visual quirks that I find very annoying, including flashing screens and unpolished buttons and dialog boxes, I found that the app performs all functions flawlessly.

You’ll be able to use the Ventra app to start, stop, and change auto-load preferences on your account, setting how much money you want drawn from your credit or debit card when it dips below $10. The Ventra app also has a built-in transit tracker. It shows the nearest Metra and ‘L’ stations, as well as bus stops, plus the predicted time the train or bus will show up or, in the case of Metra, the scheduled departure time.

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Miami’s “Underline” — The Vision for a 10-Mile Greenway Beneath the Rails

Miami's "Underline" proposes making the derelict space under Miami's Metrorail into a "10-mile linear park." Image:

The “Underline” would remake the leftover space beneath Miami’s Metrorail as a 10-mile greenway. Image: The Underline

The idea for Miami’s “Underline” came to Meg Daly after she broke both her arms in 2013.

Unable to drive, Daly, who lives in Coral Gables, started taking Miami’s Metrorail to physical therapy. When she got off at her stop, she would walk the last mile under the shade of the elevated rail platform.

“I just kind of had this moment of discovery,” she told Streetsblog. “I ended up walking beneath the train tracks. I was like, ‘There’s so much space here.'” She thought the neglected but nicely shaded area could make for great walking and biking.

Now, just a few years later, a real plan for a 10-mile linear park called the Underline is moving forward. Daly heads the nonprofit group Friends of the Underline, which is finishing up the master plan for the project. The group received $650,000 for planning and design, funded by the city of Miami, the Knight Foundation, the Miami Foundation, and others.

The Underline would run 10 miles from South Miami, through Coral Gables and on to Miami's Brickell neighborhood under the elevated Metrorail platform by U.S. 1. Map: The Underline

The Underline would run 10 miles from South Miami, through Coral Gables and on to Miami’s Brickell neighborhood under the elevated Metrorail platform by U.S. 1. Map: The Underline

The Friends of the Underline vision is to create an inviting place for active transportation running through one of the most densely populated urban areas in the American South.

Miami’s Metrorail corridor runs 10 miles between South Miami, Coral Gables, and Miami, terminating in the walkable Brickell neighborhood. The corridor roughly parallels US-1, a traffic-clogged urban highway that runs up the eastern coast of Florida.

About 100,000 people live within a 10-minute walk, Daly says. But active transportation options are limited, largely because of South Florida’s notoriously wide, dangerous roads.

Read more…


Cyclist Arrested by Allegedly Road-Raging Officer Will File Civil Rights Lawsuit


According to the police, cyclist James Liu was not actually arrested but merely cited. Photo: Ben Raines

[This piece also runs in Checkerboard City, John’s column in Newcity magazine, which hits the street in print on Wednesday evenings.]

Picture yourself bike commuting downtown on Milwaukee Avenue, the city’s busiest cycling street. After you turn south on Des Plaines Street, the driver of a silver SUV starts edging into the bike lane as he tries to illegally pass other vehicles on the right in his rush to get to work.

The motorist is getting too close for comfort, so you knock twice on the door of his truck to alert him of your presence. Unfortunately, he turns out to be an off-duty police officer, and less than a minute later you find yourself sitting in the street with your hands cuffed behind you, and your orange fixie sprawled across the asphalt.

That’s what bankruptcy attorney James Liu, 33, says happened to him on October 14 at around 8:15am, while he was trying to make his way to the office. “As soon as I tapped on his side panel, he immediately started chasing me, driving in the bike lane,” Liu says. “Around Fulton Street he rolls down his window and yells, ‘I’m a f—ing cop!’ I just look at him and shrug my shoulders, and then we continue south at a normal speed.”

Liu says that when they came to a red light at Washington Street, he changed lanes to head east. The uniformed officer then zoomed across two lanes of southbound Des Plaines and stopped his SUV at a ninety-degree angle to traffic, blocking the attorney’s path. “It was a pretty dangerous move,” Liu recalls.

The officer then got out of his SUV and demanded that the cyclist stand in front of the vehicle with his hands up, the attorney says. When he complied, the cop handcuffed him and then called for backup. “I repeatedly asked whether I was under arrest and, if so, what I was being charged with,” Liu says, adding that the officer eventually told him he was under arrest for reckless conduct.

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Rapid Transit, One of Chicago’s Key Utility Bike Shops, Is Closing its Doors.


Chris Stodder and Justyna Frank, soon after the shop opened in 1994. Photo: Rapid Transit

It’s the end of an era. After 21 years, the store that helped launch Chicago’s transportation cycling revolution is calling it a day.

Rapid Transit Cycle Shop, with locations in Wicker Park and University Village, announced yesterday that they will be closing soon. “Since 2008, we’ve been affected by the downturn in the economy, and we don’t have enough cash on hand to get us through the winter,” said Chris Stodder, who owns the shop with his wife Justyna Frank. “We made this decision after we weren’t able to reach an agreement with our landlords. It was a double-whammy of soft sales this year and an inability to access new capital through loans.”

Back in 1994, when bike commuting was relatively uncommon in Chicago, and the city had few bike lanes or parking racks, Stodder and Frank had the novel idea of opening a shop that focused on everyday cyclists, rather than Lycra-clad racers and hobbyists. From their storefront at 1900 West North in Wicker Park, they sold bicycles that were hard to find at the time, including European-style city bikes, cargo cycles, recumbents, folding bikes and more. 15 years later, they opened a satellite shop at 1344 South Halsted, near the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“Cycling is obviously exploding in Chicago, and we were doing tons of repairs this summer,” Stodder said. “But we weren’t selling enough big-ticket items to keep ahead of our overhead. Sales reps have told us that there has been a decline in wholesale business across the Midwest recently, but bike shops keep opening here, so it may be a case of more stores splitting a smaller pie.”

To cut costs, Rapid Transit reduced their staff and moved to a smaller space on Halsted last year, but Stodder says it wasn’t enough to stop the financial bleeding. They plan to close both stores within the next 60 days, after they’ve had a chance to finish all pending repairs, take care of special orders and layaways, and empty out both spaces.

I asked Stodder what accomplishments he’s most proud of from the last two decades. “It’s a weekly occurrence, but we change people’s lives,” he said. “We always encouraged people to ride no matter what their current physical shape or abilities were. We’ve turned people into cyclists when they weren’t before.”

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