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Posts from the Transportation Category


The Lockbox Amendment Would Hinder the State Government

Metra over traffic

A proposed constitutional amendment on election ballots right now may go too far in restricting state transportation funding because its language doesn’t address multimodal needs.

Note: Streetsblog Chicago’s Steven Vance and John Greenfield have different opinions about the lockbox amendment. Read John’s take here.

On every ballot in Illinois right now – early voting and mail-in voting has begun – there’s a question asking if the Illinois constitution should be amended to ensure that money that comes from gas taxes, vehicle licensing fees, and similar transportation taxes and fees, goes only to pay for transportation infrastructure and projects. The purpose of the so-called “Safe Roads Amendment” is to prevent lawmakers from using the state’s various transportation funds to pay for other state needs.

Adopting the amendment will create a new problem of inflexibility while failing to resolve the state’s actual problems. There is insufficient funding in Illinois for all of the transportation projects communities and legislators want completed, and too often car-centric initiatives are prioritized while projects that would reduce car dependency are back-burnered. The amendment doesn’t address that problem.

The Safe Roads Amendment is being pushed by the Transportation for Illinois Coalition, made up of highway construction industry and labor lobbying groups, as well as nonprofits like the Metropolitan Planning Council. The coalition has run ads suggesting that roads and bridges in Illinois are in danger of falling apart and causing injuries and fatalities because transportation funding has been diverted to non-transportation uses due to Springfield’s waste and mismanagement. That’s misleading.

The coalition is claiming that $6.8 billion was diverted from transportation projects, but that number is inaccurate. That money paid for various state needs, which often included, depending on how the diversions are tabulated, actual transportation-related payments. Also, the state’s structurally-deficient bridges are being monitored and repaired as needed using money that the Illinois Department of Transportation budgets each year.

The Civic Federation, a watchdog organization, reviewed which monies have been transferred out of the various transportation funds since 2002. They wrote, “which spending counts as a transportation diversion has been a thorny issue for many years.” For example, it’s debatable whether it’s counts as a transportation diversion when money from the funds goes to pay for pensions and health insurance for Illinois Department of Transportation employees.

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Lack of Concrete Protection for Rebuilt Kinzie Lanes Is a Missed Opportunity


Murmurs that Kinzie would be rebuilt with concrete protection turned out to be merely fables of the reconstruction. Note that, since bollards and “P” markings haven’t been installed yet, cars are parked in the bike lane. Photo: Jean Khut

With apologies to The Who, “Meet the new lanes / The same as the old lanes.”

Chicago cyclists have experienced a lot of highs and lows with the Kinzie protected bike lanes. Unfortunately, there’s a new setback. The city has announced the current reconstruction of the lanes won’t involve adding concrete protection, which represents a major missed opportunity to upgrade one of the city’s most popular bikeways. Here’s some history.

In 2011, not long after Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office, the Chicago Department of Transportation installed the lanes, the first protected bikeway in the city, and Kinzie soon became an indispensible bike route, attracting some 4,000 cyclists per day, according to CDOT. It’s the second-busiest biking street in Chicago after Milwaukee Avenue.

In 2013, CDOT agreed to a development plan that called for the developer to pay for installing PBLs on Grand Avenue, Illinois Street, and Wells Street, before the temporary removal of the Kinzie lanes to ease construction of a new high-rise at Wolf Point. However, by early 2015, the new lanes still hadn’t gone in and the transportation department seemed to be unwilling to remove the old ones. That April, Reilly introduced an ordinance to City Council that would have required CDOT to take out the Kinzie lanes, arguing that they conflicted with the Wolf Point construction truck traffic.

In response to Reilly’s move, the Active Transportation Alliance launched a petition asking the other alderman to oppose the ordinance, which garnered more than 1,400 signatures. They also got almost 50 businesses to sign a letter to Reilly asking for the Kinzie lanes to be left in place but improved.

In late 2015, after the pavement, bike lane markings, and flexible posts on Kinzie had deteriorated to the point where the PBLs barely function as such, CDOT crews patched some of the potholes, restriped the marking and reinstalled the bollards. In September the department revealed that they’d struck a deal with Reilly to save the bikeway. “We’ve agreed that the temporary removal of the bike lanes is not necessary at this point in the Wolf Point development, but should be evaluated with future phases of development as part of the traffic study process that is required of the developer,” said spokesman Mike Claffey at the time.


The Kinzie lanes were patched and restriped last year.

Active Trans applauded the news and called for further improvements, including completely repaving the street, better lighting under the viaducts, and replacing the virtually disposable plastic posts with concrete curbs, or some other type of permanent infrastructure.

Last April, Emanuel cut the ribbon on curb-protected bike lanes on 31st Street by the Illinois Institute of Technology and announced that the city would be shifting its focus to building permanent concrete bike lane infrastructure wherever possible. “CDOT will install curb-protected bike lanes, such as those on 31st Street, where it is practical to do so,” read a statement from the department. “Curb-protected bike lanes provide better separation between people riding bikes and people driving, reduce illegal parking and driving in the bike lane, and improve the aesthetics of the roadway.”

This past year Kinzie gradually became a moonscape again largely due to utility line work. At the same time, important biking streets like Dearborn and Randolph became badly degraded by construction projects. CDOT is currently rebuilding portions of the Dearborn protected bike lane, as well as constructing a new protected lane on Randolph.

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Details on the Bike Crash That Took the Life of Fire Lieutenant Danny Carbol


Lt. Danny Carbol

There were at least four media-reported bike fatalities and three serious injury crashes in the Chicago area during the 12-day stretch from September 19-30. During that same period, on September 20, Chicago Fire Department lieutenant Danny Carbol, 56, sustained serious brain damage in a bike-SUV crash in suburban Evergreen Park.

Carbol died from his injuries last Monday night. “Despite the best efforts to save him, the brain damage was irreversible,” Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford told NBC Chicago.

Carbol’s coworker and friend Lt. Joe Hughes told DNAinfo that Carbol was a health-conscious person who often biked to work from his home in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood to the firehouse at 8026 South Kedzie. Hughes, who also lived in Mount Greenwood, sometimes rode with him. Carbol had finished up a night shift at the station and was biking home on a Tuesday morning when the crash occurred.

According to the crash report from the Evergreen Park police department, at 8:22 a.m. Carbol was biking south in the southbound lane at the intersection of 93rd Street and Central Park Avenue in Evergreen Park. The firefighter lived on the 10500 block of south Central Park, so on his route between the firehouse and his home, he passed through the suburb, which is generally bordered by Ashburn north of 87th Street and Mt. Greenwood south of 103rd Street.

At the time of the crash, Tatiana Camarena, 37, of the 4800 block of North Albany Avenue in Albany Park, was driving east on 93rd in a 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV, according to the report. A responding officer said that when he arrived at the scene, the SUV was stopped in the intersection and Carbol lay on the ground to the north of the vehicle, unresponsive and bleeding from his nose and ears. There was a large dent in the front left fender of the SUV but the bike was undamaged. Carbol was transported to nearby Advocate Christ Medical Center, where he died almost three weeks later.

The 93rd/Central Park intersection has stop signs in all directions. A female witness reported to the responding officer that she was driving eastbound behind Camarena and saw the SUV driver stop at her stop sign and then proceed through the intersection.

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Slow Roll’s Jamal Julien Discusses the Ups and Downs of the 2016 Season


A Slow Roll Chicago ride last May. Photo: Slow Roll Chicago

Illinois Bicycle Lawyers - Mike Keating logo

In Slow Roll Chicago‘s third year of operations, the bike equity group faced some challenges, as cofounder Oboi Reed, who previously had been the driving force behind the organization, was largely out of the picture due to health-related issues. But it speaks well of the group’s resilience that other members were able to keep operations going in 2016, hosting dozens of community rides and encouraging scores of residents to sign up for low-cost Divvy for Everyone (D4E) bike-share memberships.

“I think we did a pretty good job of sustaining our momentum, although we didn’t see the growth we would have like to have seen,” said Slow Roll cofounder Jamal Julien, a friend of Reed’s since childhood.

One project Slow Roll hoped to get off the ground this year that didn’t pan out was their idea of a bicycle lending library with bikes provided by Trek, a Slow Roll sponsor. The library would allow residents to check out bikes for two or three weeks at a time, just like a library book, and it would be targeted towards neighborhoods that don’t yet have Divvy stations.

Slow Roll, along with transportation advocacy group Go Bronzeville, is contracted by the city to do outreach about the D4E program on rides and at community events. This year Dan Black served as Slow Roll’s Divvy outreach manager. “The outreach is working, and we’ve got some ideas about how we can work more efficiently and effectively to get the word out,” said Julien. More than 1,400 people have signed up for D4E so far.

“While we truly appreciate our relationship with Divvy and what they’ve done, they’re still not in every neighborhood and we can help fill that void in the short term with the bike library,” Julien added. The library would be geared towards local people who aren’t ready to commit to buying a bike, but residents would also be able to use it to borrow cycles for visiting family and friends. “Hopefully after this year’s ride season ends we’ll be able to pick up that conversation with Trek.”

Weather was also a challenge this year. Although Slow Roll moved the start of their weekly ride season back from early April to early May this year, there were still a number of rides that took place in May and June on rainy days, and a few were rained out. However, turnout continued to grow in the second half of the season.

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CTA and Pace Brainstorm Ways to Improve North Shore Transit Service


A Pace bus. Photo: Wikipedia

Two transit agencies working toward a common goal is unfortunately a rare phenomenon in our country. Thankfully this has not stopped the CTA and Pace from joining forces to brainstorm ways to improve public transportation in the Chicago region.

The two agencies, with assistance from Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, are currently working on the North Shore Transit Coordination Plan, a comprehensive study of the northern edge of the city and the near-north suburbs primarily focused on improving the bus service of both agencies. The goal of the study is to develop a list of recommendations and a plan for the agencies to execute in the near future. Last week CTA and Pace held an open house in Rogers Park to show area residents what they’ve been working on. The results of the study are both expected and surprising.

During the event, I first took a quick trip around the room looking at all the information boards they had up. The first board featured a very promising Project Purpose stating, “The purpose of this plan is to improve the coordination of CTA and PACE services by better understanding existing travel demands and transit markets while leveraging changes in communities and transit investments since the last major service revision in that area.” The board also included a project timeline and study area, including territory in Rogers Park, West Ridge, Lincolnwood, Skokie, Evanston, Wilmette, and Kenilworth, showcasing the many towns, bus routes, and rail lines included in the study itself.

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Staff and residents at Tuesday’s open house at the Rogers Park library. Photo: Charles Papanek.

The next board was an overview of current bus service with stop-level ridership and a zoomed in version of the main RTA map showing the area in context with the surrounding landscape along with several performance indicating charts. Unsurprisingly, terminals like Old Orchard Mall, the Davis Street CTA and Metra stations, and the CTA’s Howard stop dominated the stop-level ridership, with between 2,000 and 5,000-plus boardings.

The third board was on demographics and travel patterns. It featured surprising info about the number of people moving into the study area instead of out of it. By an almost two-to-one ratio, more users entered the zone than left it for places like downtown Chicago. This is extremely important to highlight as it emphasizes the need for more investment in outlying urban and nearby suburban bus service.

The next two boards reiterated the CTA/PACE ridership survey and a study-specific drilldown on occasional riders. Several facts stood out. For example, 50 percent of riders are between 18 and 40 years old, rith a disproportionate number of riders aged 18-24. However, in the “occasional rider” breakdown, there are a disproportionate number of adults aged 65 and over.  Evanston was also singled out as the primary destination that people are going to and from with even downtown Chicago taking a back seat. The final interesting fact was that frequency was considered the most important factor in increasing ridership while additional destinations beat out both on-time performance and extending service hours.

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Streetsblog USA
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Sprawl Is a Global Problem


Even in the places with the best transit systems, there’s a steep drop in transit access once you venture outside the central city. Graphic: ITDP

Sprawl isn’t just a problem in car-centric America. Even cities with the world’s best transit systems are surrounded by suburbs with poor transit access, according to a new report by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. As billions of people migrate from rural to metropolitan areas in the next few decades, these growth patterns threaten to maroon people without good access to employment while overwhelming the climate with increased greenhouse gas emissions.

For 26 global cities, ITDP looked at the share of residents with access to frequent, high-capacity rail or bus service quality, rapid transit within 1 kilometer of their homes, or roughly a 10- to 15-minute walk. Then ITDP looked at the same ratio for the region as a whole. The results suggest that coordinating transit and development will be a major challenge in the fight against global warming.

In Paris, for instance, fully 100 percent of residents have access to good transit. But the city of Paris is home to only 2 million people in a region of 12 million. And looking at the region as a whole, only 50 percent of residents live within walking distance of good transit. That still manages to beat most other regions ITDP examined.

In New York, the highest-ranked American city, 77 percent of residents live within reach of high-quality transit, but region-wide only 35 percent of residents do.

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Just in Time for Halloween: The Illiana is Becoming a “Zombie Highway”

Screencap of the Walking Dead TV show

IDOT’s own studies showed that few people would drive on the Illiana Tollway because steep toll rates would be required to cover construction costs. Image: Walking Dead/AMC

A new filing in the court case against the Illiana Tollway – a proposed 47-mile highway through farmland and nature preserves that would cause exurban sprawl and lead to Illinois jobs being lost to Indiana — indicates that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner may actually be in favor of the project. In recent years it looked like Rauner was making moves to kill the project, but now it appears the Illiana is becoming a so-called “zombie highway” project that just won’t die.

Here’s a rundown of how Rauner previously indicated that he was killing the project. In January 2015, the newly elected governor suspended spending on non-essential capital projects, including the Illiana. In the first week of June 2015, he said the Illinois Department of Transportation would remove the Illiana Tollway from its capital plan.

Two weeks later a federal judge halted the planning of the new tollway by ruling that the required Environmental Impact Statement was invalid because the study used the circular logic that the tollway would be needed because of new housing that would be developed along the corridor… due to the construction of the highway. In September 2015, the U.S. DOT dropped their appeal of the ruling, effectively pulling support for the project.

Now here’s how the state is either keeping the Illiana on life support or else trying to keep the zombie under wraps. In July 2015, Rauner authorized spending $5.5 million to “wind down” the project, and to pay for some litigation fees.

In April this year, the Indiana DOT said that they would pay for rewriting the Environmental Impact Study. However, IDOT spokesman Guy Trigdell said “the approach in Illinois has not changed” and “we are not pursuing the project.”

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Amputee and Cyclist Offers Encouragement to Recent Truck Crash Survivor


Danielle Palagi, who survived being run over by a truck driver last month, visited her brother in Japan last spring. Photo courtesy of the Palagi family

On September 23, Danielle “Dee” Palagi, 26, was biking home from her job as a special education teacher when she was struck by a northbound semi driver who turned east at the intersection of Roosevelt and Wood near the Illinois Medical Campus. Danielle survived, but her foot had to be amputated, and she also suffered a broken pelvis and fractured elbow.

Danielle’s father Larry Palagi told the Chicago Tribune that the teacher was also traveling north on Wood when the driver made a right turn without signaling or checking for bikes, knocking her over. Police News Affairs did not have immediate information as to whether the trucker has received any citations. Very similar acts of negligence by truck drivers resulted in the deaths of Chicago cyclists Virginia Murray, Lisa Kuiven, and Anastasia Kondrasheva this year.

Larry said his daughter has managed to remain optimistic despite the long road to recovery ahead, including several surgeries. “She’s very strong and positive,” Larry said. “She’s accepted what’s happened.” Relatives say the young woman is already setting recovery goals.

Danielle grew up in Naperville, and community members have come forward to offer support with a prayer service on her behalf last weekend and an upcoming fundraiser for her medical expenses at a local restaurant. A GoFundMe page set up by friends has already raised more than $24,000 to help cover expenses. Two Fridays ago, Easterseals Academy, where Danielle works, held a “Support Dee Day,” with employees and students wearing colorful headbands in reference to Danielle’s trademark headgear.

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Amputation survivor Kati Rooney, after a muddy mountain bike ride. Photo courtesy of Kati Rooney

After I told Kati Rooney, a board member with the Active Transportation Alliance, about Danielle’s case, she offered to share her own story in hopes that it would provide some encouragement for Danielle as she faces the challenges of recovering from an amputation. In October 1997, at age 35, Kati was swimming in Lake Michigan when she was struck by a tour boat operator and her foot was severed by the propeller. She has since recovered from this setback to lead a very active lifestyle, including plenty of bicycling.

Kati was doing a training swim parallel to the concrete shoreline between North Avenue and Oak Street beach when the captain of a large Seadog tour speedboat piloted his craft illegally close to the shore. She saw the boat speeding straight towards her and dove down into the water to avoid being killed.

When Kati surfaced, she didn’t immediately feel pain. But when witnesses pulled her out of the water, she realized her foot had been cut off. By a lucky coincidence, a paramedic and a doctor were present, and the doctor was able to tie off the wound with a t-shirt to stop the bleeding. At the hospital her leg was amputated six centimeters below the knee.

Although Kati was out of the hospital within four days and her recovery went fairly smoothly, she was emotionally devastated by the loss of her limb. “A month after I was injured, I was at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, feeling really miserable,” she said. “My therapist took me by the arm and marched me to the office of the coach for a team of swimmers with disabilities.”

Kati began swimming five mornings a week with the team, including people with more severe disabilities than her own, which she says helped her get perspective on her loss. As she struggled issues like PTSD and phantom pain, support from her teammates served as a kind of group therapy, which was crucial for her emotional recovery.

“Being around people who were doing stuff, who were feeling the joy of movement was really good for me,” Kati said. She also had to focus on raising two small children with her husband Jim and running her video production business, which helped her keep her mind off her worries. (A few years later, I appeared in a bike messenger safety video Kati produced.)

A couple months after she was injured, Kati took up biking again using a prosthetic leg, which she actually found easier than learning to walk again. She grew up in the small town of Sycamore, Illinois, where she biked everywhere as a child, partly due to having a German-born mother who didn’t believe in chauffeuring her kids everywhere, and she had never given up the habit as an adult.

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A “Dutch Junction” With Glow-in-the-Dark Bike Lanes Now Exists — in Texas

Officials from the Texas Transportation Institute built this "Dutch-style" unsignalized intersection with solar power-generating bike lanes in College Station, Texas. Photo: TTI

The Texas Transportation Institute built this Dutch Junction on the Texas A&M campus in College Station. Photo: TTI

It’s America’s first unsignalized “Dutch Junction” — a type of intersection with protected space for cycling. It even has solar luminescent bike lanes. And here’s the kicker — it’s in the heart of Texas.

The Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M led the design and installation at a campus intersection in College Station. The Dutch Junction is designed to keep bicyclists out of the blind spots of turning motorists, preventing right-hook collisions.

The bike lanes use a special solar material that emits light at night. Photo: TTI

The bike lanes are marked with a special material that emits light at night. Photo: TTI

The concept is similar to the “protected intersections” that have been installed in Davis, California, and Salt Lake City. But this intersection is controlled by signs, not traffic signals, which makes it unique in the United States, according to TTI.

The bike lanes are also coated with a material that absorbs solar energy during the day and transmits it into light at night to keep the path visible.

The intersection gets a lot of bike and pedestrian traffic, writes TTI. Students in the college’s engineering and design programs will study the effects of the new design as part of their coursework.

Here's another view of the intersection. Photo: TTI

Here’s another view of the intersection. Photo: TTI


Is $2 Billion Red Line Extension Best Way to Provide Transit in Far South Side?

Architect's rendering of a proposed CTA Red Line station at 103rd Street and Eggleston Avenue. The Union Pacific railroad tracks are left of the station.

Architect’s rendering of a proposed CTA Red Line station at 103rd Street and Eggleston Avenue. The Union Pacific railroad tracks are left of the station.

The Chicago Transit Authority released a major study today, the next step in the developing project to extend the Red Line southward from the 95th Street terminal to 130th Street in the Altgeld Gardens neighborhood. The Environmental Impact Study is required by the federal government before the CTA can ask for funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The CTA has been studying the Red Line extension for decades. Former mayor Richard J. Daley promised it to residents of Roseland and Pullman when the Red Line’s Dan Ryan branch opened in 1969. In 2009 the CTA finished a required “Alternatives Analysis” wherein they studied different routes and modes to provide transit service in the area that the extension would serve.

The CTA determined it would be in their and residents’ best interest to extend the Red Line, using the same kinds of tracks and vehicles as the existing rail service, from 95th Street, west to Eggleston Avenue (400 West), and then south along an existing Union Pacific-owned freight railroad right of way.

Four new stations would be built at 103rd Street, 111th Street, Michigan Ave at 116th Street, and on 130th Street, at approximately 950 East.

The CTA said the project would cost about $2.3 billion. The Chicago Tribune reported last week that the extension could be up and running in ten years, with construction starting in 2022. That’s an optimistic timeline, and it presumes that funding can be secured from many sources, primarily the federal government. Required matching local funds could be provided by an existing TIF district and, in theory, the state of Illinois, although it’s been a long time since state lawmakers have been able to pass a budget.

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