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Posts tagged "Janet Attarian"

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City Writing New Rules of the Road to Allow Shared Space on Argyle Street

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A rendering of the new street configuration on Argyle.

The Chicago Department of Transportation is currently hashing out an ordinance to regulate how motorists will behave on the Argyle “shared street” [PDF], a pedestrian-priority zone slated for construction next year. The streetscape project — the first of its kind in Chicago — will create a plaza-like feel along Argyle from Broadway to Sheridan, by raising the street level and eliminating curbs. Slow motorized traffic and car parking will still be permitted on the street, but pedestrians will rule the space.

In late August, 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman released the final designs for the street, which will be lined with pavers from building line to building line. Two or three different colors of pavers, as well as trees and other street furniture, will be used to differentiate between travel lanes, parking lanes, and a pedestrian-only zone.

The speed limit will be lowered to 10 mph, which will allow pedestrians to safely cross the street throughout the block — not just at crosswalks — and make it make it comfortable for cyclists to ride in the center of the travel lanes. Other features will include wider pedestrian-only spaces to make room for outdoor cafes, plus permeable pavers, and bioswales. A colorful pillar, emblazoned with the word “Argyle,” will stand in a median at the Broadway intersection, complementing the strip’s existing “Asia on Argyle” sign.

Work to replace gas and water lines on Argyle will take place in January and February, respectively, according to Osterman’s assistant Sara Dinges. The streetscape construction is scheduled to begin in April and wrap up by the end of 2015. “We want to emphasize that Argyle businesses will be open during the construction, so we want people to continue to support them,” she said.

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The border between the pedestrian-only area and parking will undulate, creating a gentle chicane.

The merchants will likely be rewarded for their patience during construction with a boost in sales after the work is finished. Studies from London found that economic activity increased on streets after shared spaces were built. Meanwhile, traffic injuries and deaths decreased by 43 percent, and drivers became 14 percent more likely to stop for pedestrians.

At a Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council meeting last month, CDOT Complete Streets Director Janet Attarian noted that Chicago’s municipal code currently doesn’t allow for speed limits to be reduced below 20 mph. The code also only gives pedestrians the right-of-way within designated crosswalks on roadways.

Therefore, the department is working on an ordinance to define shared streets, designating them as locations where a lower speed limit is permissible and where drivers must stop for pedestrians anywhere along the corridor, Attarian said. Once the ordinance is drafted, Osterman will introduce it to City Council, according to Dinges.

Cambridge, Massachusetts [PDF] has built successful shared streets on Winthrop and Palmer streets, two narrow streets around historic Harvard Square. In conjunction with this, the city added language to its vehicular code mandating that that all vehicle operators, including cyclists, must yield to pedestrians on shared streets. The ordinance also states that operators must travel at a speed that ensures pedestrian safety, and that speeds over 10 mph on shared streets are “considered hazardous.”

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Don’t Knock Woodard: Chicago’s Next Great Little Public Space

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Woodard Plaza under construction. Photo: John Greenfield

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

Surrounded by chainlink fence and blanketed with snow, a new plaza under construction at the northwest corner of Milwaukee/Diversey/Kimball in Avondale, an intersection that appears several times in the movie “Wayne’s World,” currently looks pretty bleak. However, once it opens to the public later this year, the triangular slab of land is likely to become one of Chicago’s most vibrant public spaces.

Formerly a drab concrete traffic island occupied by a couple of trees, a bus shelter and a shabby newsstand, the wedge is being transformed into Woodard Plaza, named after the roadway that previously formed its northern boundary. The Chicago Department of Transportation has closed a short stretch of Woodard to connect the island to the mainland, creating a larger space that will house a small amphitheater, a raised performance space with power outlets, and a plethora of new greenery.

The project is part of CDOT’s Make Way for People initiative, which seeks to enhance the public way by creating more and better places for people to relax, socialize and maybe take in some culture. So far the program has led to six People Spot mini parks being built in parking spaces, and the creation of the Gateway seating area at State and Wacker. There have also been projects to enliven several existing plazas in Woodlawn, Little Village, East Garfield Park and Old Town with public art and music performances. The department currently has a request for proposals out for a partner to activate forty-nine underused plazas across the city with new amenities and programming.

According to CDOT Complete Streets Director Janet Attarian, community members, including arts organizations from the nearby Hairpin Arts Center, and the owners of Crown Liquors, just north of the plaza, recognized the Avondale traffic island as an underused asset. 35th Ward Alderman Rey Colón brought the idea of creating the new plaza to CDOT, Attarian says. The roughly $500,000 project is largely being bankrolled through tax-increment-financing dollars.

“I think it’s really exciting that we’re removing asphalt for cars and making a place for people,” she says. “It was really nice that a large group of people got involved with the design process.” The plaza will feature a swirling, oval-shaped seating area with seating walls made of precast concrete. The center of the amphitheater would work well for intimate performances by solo musicians, jugglers and other performers who don’t need a lot of space. Larger and louder acts can use the raised performance area at the north end of the space.

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CDOT Reveals Plans for Chicago’s First Raised Bike Lane on Roosevelt Road

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CDOT rendering of Roosevelt streetscape, looking east from Wabash.

At a community meeting Tuesday at Columbia College, Chicago Department of Transportation Project Director Janet Attarian outlined plans for the new Roosevelt Road streetscape from State Street to Columbus Drive. The project will include a groundbreaking new segment of sidewalk-level, two-way bicycle lane, part of a bike-friendly route to and from the lakefront. The info session, hosted by aldermen Pat Dowell (3rd) and Will Burns (4th), also covered CDOT’s proposal for a new protected bike lane on State Street from 18th Street to 26th Street in Bronzeville – we’ll have a report on that project soon.

The new sidewalk bikeway, which Attarian referred to as a “sidepath,” will be built on the north side of Roosevelt between Wabash Street and Indiana Avenue, connecting with multiuse paths through Grant Park. The streetscape project will also include pedestrian improvements and high-capacity bus shelters.

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Street layout from State to Wabash.

Earlier this year, CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein told Streetsblog that the department planned to install a raised lane within the next year, so it’s good to see this is coming to fruition, even if it’s only for a block-and-a-half. If this pilot is successful, it would presumably lead to longer stretches of raised lanes in the future.

As part of the streetscape, existing bike lanes on Roosevelt between State and Wabash, uncomfortably situated between bus lanes and travel lanes, will basically stay in the same configuration but will be painted green to increase visibility. At Wabash, eastbound cyclists will need to make a two-stage crossing to get to the bike lanes on the north sidewalk. CDOT would like to add special pavement markings to facilitate this move, but since Roosevelt is a state road, it may be difficult to convince the Illinois Department of Transportation to allow these, Attarian said.

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Street layout from Wabash to Michigan.

Riding east in the sidewalk lane, cyclists will cross Michigan Avenue, then continue half a block on the north sidewalk to Indiana. At that point, they will turn left and head a block north through Grant Park to the existing 11th Street bike-and-pedestrian bridge. From there they’ll continue southeast to the lakefront via a series of paths and tunnels under Columbus and Lake Shore Drive.

The entire route from Wabash to the lake, while bike-friendly, will be fairly circuitous. Attarian said continuing the sidewalk lanes east of Indiana on Roosevelt, which would have been more direct, would have required widening the sidewalk, which wasn’t considered an option due to IDOT’s car capacity requirements and structural issues with a bridge over Metra tracks west of Columbus. Rather than take the meandering new offstreet route, experienced cyclists may prefer to simply continue pedaling east in the street on Roosevelt to Columbus, where they can pick up a short path to the lakefront at the northeast corner of the intersection.

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CDOT Sets Out to Bring More Street Life to Almost 50 Plazas

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Rendering of "Game On!" installation at 62nd and Drexel in Woodlawn.

As part of the Make Way for People program, which seeks to create places where residents can relax, socialize, and maybe enjoy some culture, the Chicago Department of Transportation is seeking proposals to activate nearly 50 plazas across the city. “The concept behind the request for proposals is we believe these spaces have a lot of potential but they’re currently underutilized,” said CDOT Project Director Janet Attarian. “We’d like to see them be better maintained and enlivened with new amenities and programming. It’s really about creative ways to promote positive activity in our public spaces.”

CDOT already has a number of placemaking success stories. The department has helped install five “People Spots,” car parking spaces and loading zones converted into miniature parks, in Bronzeville, Lakeview and Andersonville. The Gateway seating area, the city’s first “People Plaza,” located on a median at State and Wacker, is getting 40 to 50 visitors per afternoon. This year the Little Village Chamber of Commerce entered a Make Way for People use agreement with the city to program Perez Plaza, 26th and Kolin, with activities like Sunday afternoon mariachi concerts that draw upwards of 100 people.

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People Spot at Little Black Pearl arts center in Bronzeville. Photo: CDOT

In addition, the winners of a design competition led by Architecture for Humanity Chicago are using $1,000 mini grants to activate plazas in Woodlawn, East Garfield Park and Old Town, as well as a “People Street” on Laflin between Blue Island and 21st in Pilsen. The Woodlawn People Plaza, located at 62nd and Drexel, was completed two weeks ago with an installation called “Game On!” by Meghan Funk and Kevin Pazik, a series of multicolored board game-like designs painted on the entire concrete floor of the plaza. “That was one of those spaces that didn’t have much going on before,” Attarian said. “It was just sort of closed right-of-way. The use of color and playfulness is very helpful.”

The city-owned plazas and malls that are covered by the current RFP range from 2,000 to 14,000 square feet in size and include spaces like the pedestrian mall at 63rd and Green in Englewood, Joe DiMaggio Plaza in Little Italy, and Mautene Court in Wicker Park. Potential programming could range from music nights to artists in residency programs to winter ice sculpting, plus a myriad of other possibilities, Attarian said. She expects the RFP will probably be most appealing for nonprofit organizations, but it’s not limited to them. She noted that while some plaza locations might be more appealing than others to potential contractors, when combined in one package, the high-traffic locations balance out the low-traffic ones, much like the advertising deal for Chicago’s bus shelters.

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Mix of Protected and Buffered Bike Lanes Slated for Busy Broadway

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Between Wilson and Foster, the proposal calls for buffered bike lanes.

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Between Montrose and Wilson, the proposal calls for protected bike lanes.

The Chicago Department of Transportation will redesign Broadway between Montrose and Foster, a mile-long stretch that’s currently a very car-centric four- to five-lane road. The street is so inhospitable that one resident at a public meeting Wednesday night said she doesn’t drive, walk, or bike on it.

The agency failed to make a “complete street” out of Broadway when it created a new streetscape a few years ago between Montrose and Wilson, but is correcting that mistake by adding curbside protected bike lanes with a floating parking lane on that stretch. While DNAinfo gave the impression that the proposal, still in the design phase, calls for protected bike lanes along the whole stretch, a longer part of the street, from Wilson to Foster, will only get buffered bike lanes. (DNA also reported that the loss of four parking spaces is likely to be a point of future contention, but no one at the meeting lamented this.)

The redesign calls for a “road diet” that would convert space from one motor vehicle lane in each direction to a center-median left-turn lane and bike lanes. North of Wilson, the street is 10 feet narrower, and CDOT project manager Mike Amsden said protected bike lanes could fit there if curbside parking was consolidated to one side of the street or the center turn lane was removed. But he argued that a buffered bike lane is more appropriate between Wilson and Foster because there are more driveways and vehicles turning across the bikeway than on the southern portion of the street.

Instead of crossing the street, this guy was waving all the drivers to pass in front of him

In 2010, CDOT finished a project that gave drivers generous 11-foot wide travel lanes, a center turn lane, and 8-foot wide parking lanes, leaving people to cross four to five lanes of traffic. The proposed redesign includes bike lanes and won't require people to cross more than three lanes of motor vehicle traffic.

Amsden pointed out that the proposed design will make it safer for drivers, too, saying ”we want to create roadways where people understand what to do.” The center turn lane should lead to less weaving by drivers attempting to pass other motorists waiting to turn left.

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CDOT Reorganizes With an Increased Focus on Complete Streets

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CDOT Project Manager Mike Amsden and Deputy Commissioner Scott Kubly. Photo: Steven Vance

For weeks, rumors have been circulating that there has been a re-shuffling of job responsibilities at the Chicago Department of Transportation, but the agency hadn’t made an official announcement about the changes. Most notably, word on the street was that Ben Gomberg, Chicago’s bicycle program coordinator since 1996, was no longer managing the day-to-day operations of the bike program but was instead focusing his efforts on the city’s new bike-share system. After we contacted the department for more info, Deputy Commissioner Scott Kubly offered to provide details on the reorganization, which has actually been in effect since late January.

A new “complete streets group” is combining most of the functions of CDOT’s bike, pedestrian and streetscaping sections. “Fifteen years ago you might have had a bike coordinator and a pedestrian coordinator and someone working on transit projects, but now the transportation field is recognizing the need for complete streets and multimodal planning.” Kubly said. “So the organization should reflect the reflect the policy we’re promoting. We’ve created a new complete streets implementation group, recognizing that all road projects we work on should be complete streets. That’s exciting because it institutionalizes the policy.”

As part of the re-org, traffic engineering responsibilities have been divided into three groups. The “traffic engineering group” is now responsible for “bread-and-butter” signal timing, Kubly said. The “safety engineering group” is handling automated red light and speed camera enforcement, as well as safety zones around schools and parks. And the “traffic technology group” is responsible for the city’s traffic management center and creating traffic signal priority for bus rapid transit.

The Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development has divided the city into six regions for planning purposes, and CDOT’s new “citywide planning group” is a parallel transportation planning section, Kubly said. A new “traffic studies group” also divides the city into six sections to do traffic analysis. Cross-agency coordination in each of these six areas should help increase efficiency and cut costs.

The new “citywide services group,” headed by Sean Wiedel, formerly with Chicago’s now-defunct Department of Environment, is responsible for several environmental and sustainable transportation initiatives. Greencorps, the Chicago Conservation Corps, and the Sustainable Backyards program foster the growth of green jobs and environmentally friendly household practices. The group will arrange the installation of fueling stations for electric cars and vehicles that run on compressed natural gas.

The citywide services group is also responsible for a new “travel training” transportation demand management program launching this year that will educate Chicagoans about how to get around the city efficiently and economically. The city’s Bicycle Ambassadors and Safe Routes Ambassadors programs, both managed by Charlie Short, are also now housed in this section. And bike sharing is also part of the group.

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CDOT Targets 50 Sites Near Parks and Schools for Ped Safety Fixes in 2013

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One of the safety zone stencils that CDOT installed last year at 12 sites near schools and parks.

The Chicago Department of Transportation plans to implement pedestrian safety measures at 50 high-priority sites near schools and parks this year, the agency revealed at last week’s meeting of the Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council. The changes will include the addition of speeding enforcement cameras, high-visibility crosswalks, and signs to show drivers how fast they’re traveling.

Last year CDOT installed dozens of high-visibility crosswalks, more than 100 “safety zone” pavement stencils, and a handful of more intensive changes like median islands and in-street pedestrian stops at 12 sites, according to David Pulsipher, the agency’s safety zones project manager.

Pulsipher also shed some light on how CDOT will choose which of the city’s 1,500 safety zones (areas surrounding parks or schools) will receive speed cameras. The factors include the number of collisions within each safety zone, the number of speed-related crashes, involvement of drivers under 18, and fatalities and serious injuries. After identifying a location, CDOT staff visit the site to note if the camera would have a good view of the roadway, and to see if there’s electrical utility access.

CDOT feeds this information into a data model that recommends “in a non-subjective way good places for speed cameras,” said transportation commissioner Gabe Klein, adding that “we have to base our decisions on science and data.”

There’s a different model, using somewhat different criteria, for determining where to site engineering improvements. The other model was used to determine the 12 areas that got safety improvements last year.

Here are more highlights from last week’s meeting…

Mapping the implementation of “tools for safer streets”

CDOT has released a document [PDF] explaining the 16 “tools for safer streets” identified in the Chicago Pedestrian Plan and showing where these improvements have been implemented so far. Metropolitan Planning Council vice president and MPAC co-chair Peter Skosey suggested that this information should also be available as interactive online maps.

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