Skip to content

Posts tagged "Rebekah Scheinfeld"

18 Comments

Business Owners on Elston Won’t Fight Buffered Bike Lanes

IMG_0156

Biking on Elston, just west of Ashland. Photo: John Greenfield

It’s official: business owners along the Elston industrial corridor are giving up their fight against better bike lanes on the street.

In December, when Chicago Department of Transportation staff discussed plans for buffered bike lanes on Elston between North and Webster at a meeting hosted by the North Branch Works industrial council, there was stiff resistance. Although there’s currently a protected lane on the street from Division to North, and a faded conventional lane on most of this stretch, the industrial council argued that encouraging more cycling on the street would interfere with truck movement and endanger bike riders.

In January, as an alternative to upgrading the Elston lanes, the North Branch Works lobbied CDOT to build a roundabout bicycle route proposal designed by a local architecture firm, dubbed “A New Bike Route.” However, transportation chief Rebekah Scheinfeld wrote Mike Holzer, director of economic development for the industrial council, last month pointing out that there’s already heavy bike traffic on Elston, and 26 percent of crashes resulting in injuries involve cyclists. She also noted that ANBR would add half a mile to a bike trip downtown, and the infrastructure could cost 100 times as much as the buffered lanes.

At the end of March, CDOT project manager Mike Amsden presented a slightly modified design for the buffered lanes, with the travel lanes widened from 10.5 feet to 11 feet, to North Branch Works, and now the council is grudgingly accepting the plan. The bike lanes are slated for construction in late 2014 or early 2015.

Read more…

12 Comments

CDOT Is Moving Forward With Buffered Bike Lanes on Elston

IMG_0151

Biking northwest on Elston south of Cortland this morning. Photo: John Greenfield

It’s good to see that new Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld is standing her ground on the Elston bike lane issue.

In December, when CDOT staffers discussed plans for buffered bike lanes on Elston between North and Webster at a meeting hosted by the North Branch Works industrial council, there was stiff resistance from local business owners. Although there’s currently a protected lane on the street from Division to North, and a faded conventional lane on most of this stretch, they argued that encouraging more cycling on the street would interfere with truck movement and endanger bike riders. When I spoke to Mike Holzer, director of economic development for the North Branch Works, he said cyclists should be encouraged to take Milwaukee instead, although there have recently been many dooring crashes on that street.

In January, as an alternative to upgrading the Elston lanes, the industrial council lobbied CDOT to build a bicycle route proposal designed by a local architecture firm, dubbed “A New Bike Route.” This roundabout itinerary would connect the east end of the Bloomingdale Trail with buffered lanes on Wells, but it would also add half a mile to a trip downtown, plus numerous additional turns and three unsignalized crossings of major streets. While the route has merits, it’s not a practical alternative to simple, direct Elston.

A_New_Bike_Rolute_Dossier copy

The ANBR route map.

Scheinfeld said all the right things in a March 21 memo to Holzer, also sent to local aldermen Robert Fioretti (2nd) and Scott Waguespack (35th), which explained why CDOT wants to move forward with the buffered lanes. She pointed out that bikes sometimes make up 11 percent of all traffic on Elston during rush hours. “This high level of ridership indicates that many people find Elston Avenue to be a convenient route between their origin and their destination,” she wrote. However, while 5.2 percent of the reported traffic crashes on Elston involved cyclists, 26 percent of the crashes resulting in injuries did, so it’s clear that bike safety needs to be improved on the street.

Scheinfeld went on the acknowledge the concerns about safety, congestion, parking supply, lane widths, truck turning movements at intersections, and loading dock access. She then explained how buffered lanes will have virtually no negative effect on trucking operations, but will make bike crashes less likely. “Adding buffers on both side of the existing bike lanes would increase the lateral separation between bikes and motor vehicles (including trucks), and between bikes and parked cars, thus improving safety.”

The buffered lanes will not displace any on-street parking spaces between North and Cortland, although parking will be removed on the one block stretch between Cortland and Ashland. One concession CDOT is making to the business owners is widening the mixed-traffic lanes to 11 feet – the design proposed in December had 10.5-foot lanes.

Read more…

49 Comments

City Breaks Ground on the Long-Awaited Navy Pier Flyover

redeye-navy-pier-flyover-spring-construction-2-001

Rendering of the flyover, looking north from near its highest point.

After more than a decade of planning, the Chicago Department of Transportation finally kicked off work on the Navy Pier Flyover, a $60 million project that will solve the problem of the dangerous bottleneck at the center of the 18.5-mile Lakefront Trail. “We at the city have discussed this, we have debated it, we have deferred it for decades, and now it’s time to build it,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a groundbreaking this afternoon.

The 16-foot-wide flyover will take pedestrians and bicyclists from south of the Chicago River, up to the level of Lake Shore Drive and around Lake Point Tower, then back down to Jane Addams Park. It will provide much more elbow room for trail users, as well as grade separation from the hazardous Illinois and Grand intersections. The most expensive single bike project in Illinois history, it will cost more than twice the pricetag of the $27.5 million, 3,000-vehicle Divvy bike-share system.

Back in 2012, when the flyover was estimated to cost only $45 million, Streetsblog’s Steven Vance proposed a much cheaper alternative solution, which would have involved converting a lane of Lower Lake Shore Drive into a two-way protected bike lane. He estimates the cost at $3-5 million, including metal bollards, street markings, signal improvements and other upgrades.

7696121156_2d3f242782_o

Rendering of Steven’s alternative proposal by Erich Stenzel.

At the groundbreaking, I asked new CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld if she was familiar with Steven’s proposal. She wasn’t, but argued that the $60 million expense, which will largely be paid for via federal dollars, is justified. The first phase of construction, between Addams Park and the Ogden Slip, will cost about $26 million, funded by $18 million in Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement money and other federal funds, plus $8 million from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

“Millions of people use this section of the lakefront and the whole lakefront trail every year,” Scheinfeld told me. “It’s really important to continue to invest in the safety and the quality of the lakefront trail, which is a jewel of Chicago… This is everyman’s park, and this is where everyone should be able to come and recreate safety and enjoy what the lakefront has to offer, whether they’re walking or biking.”

Setting aside the question of whether this was the most cost-effective solution to the central trail’s safety problem, it’s certainly a great thing for Chicago cycling that the issue is being addressed. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said as much at the press event. “I’ve tried to ride my bike down this trail, and when you reach this point it is some combination of bumper cars, whack-a-mole, I can’t even describe it to you, but you take your life into your hands trying to move from this spot to the other side,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the completion, and the safe navigation of my bicycle through this path.”

Read more…

6 Comments

Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council Should Be More Than an Info Session

Rebekah Scheinfeld and Gabe Klein during Q&A

New CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld needs to lead the Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council in a more engaging and meaningful direction. Photo: Ryan Griffin-Stegink

I recently moved to the Windy City from Portland, Oregon, where I had served as a member of the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee at the state level for bike and pedestrian issues. So I came into last Wednesday’s meeting of the Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council excited to hear the breadth and depth of pedestrian advocacy and projects happening in Chicago. Based on my experience in Oregon, I expected a meeting structured around deliberate conversation and debate. Instead, what I saw was an information session.

In Oregon, I was appointed by the governor to my four-year term in the fall of 2009, and my tenure on OBPAC was marked by a significant shift in the way viewpoints of advocates and members of the committee were incorporated into broader policy change. What had at one time been more of a one-way arrangement, in which Oregon DOT staff came to present information in a “show and tell” format, became a real committee where the governor’s top sustainability and transportation advisors frequently dropped by to pick up ideas. Tabletop nameplates served to create a sense of professionalism and respect. The committee’s later decision to increase the number of meetings from four to six per year increased the stakes for committee member participation and staff preparation.

Sitting back and observing the room on Wednesday, it wasn’t clear to me who was on the committee and who wasn’t. With several presenters and members of the public nestled among the committee, the resulting dynamic was one of indecisiveness. What actions were going to come out of the meeting? Which players in the room were going carry out the action? What were the results of these conversations?

What should be an opportunity to press for changes to the status quo instead felt more like a rote list of ongoing projects and initiatives. We were told about Safe Routes to School projects and grants, the Safe Routes Ambassadors program, snow removal efforts, and pedestrian fatalities, but we did not exchange ideas.

While there is certainly value to informing advocates of current efforts, in Oregon the advisory committee also involved truly advising public agencies. At MPAC, there should be an opportunity for larger ideas and discussions. General questions should be posed of committee members, such as the best way to go about a policy change, which partners to include in reform efforts, or general concerns for pedestrians in the built environment. At the very least, a public comment period, which was conspicuously absent from the agenda, would be a good start.

While Oregon may be perceived as an anomaly in the amount of public process at each level of government, it has taken the concerted efforts of government staff and citizens to make it this way. If you believe in public process, creating a dialogue in which all topics are welcomed and encouraged is but a small step in fulfilling the potential of advisory committees. The result of this approach is more robust, vetted, and longer-lasting solutions.

Read more…

15 Comments

Emanuel Appoints CTA’s Chief Planning Officer to Be New CDOT Chief

Rebekah Scheinfeld, CTA

Scheinfeld at an MPC roundtable on BRT. Photo: .Ryan Griffin-Stegink, MPC

It looks like the next Chicago Department of Transportation commissioner will be following in Gabe Klein’s progressive footsteps. This morning the mayor’s office announced that Rahm Emanuel has selected Rebekah Scheinfeld, the CTA’s chief planning officer, to fill the vacancy, pending city council approval.

While some of CDOT’s previous commissioners seemed fairly indifferent to public transportation, walking, and biking, Scheinfeld would be coming to the department with a proven track record of promoting transit. She has led planning efforts for the Red Line’s 95th Street station rehab, the North Red Line reconstruction, and the South Red Line extension, and she has been heavily involved in planning the Ashland and Loop bus rapid transit corridors. That means there will be zero learning curve for her on BRT, which CDOT is partnering with the CTA on.

“In two and a half years, Chicago has become a national leader in expanding transportation options and rebuilding infrastructure,” Emanuel said in a statement. “Rebekah will continue to build on our successful record and ensure that every Chicagoan has access to world-class transportation. Her strong management and planning skills will bring a lot to the agency as it continues the critical work of making sure Chicago has a strong, vibrant, accessible transportation network.”

“Chicago has proven itself as one of the most innovative, dynamic cities in its approach to transportation, and I am committed to cultivating this spirit of innovation to implement even more creative and effective ways to plan, build and maintain the public way,” Scheinfeld said in a statement.

Scheinfeld is a lawyer who previously at Mayer Brown, representing public and private sector clients on infrastructure and transportation projects like transit systems, toll roads and ports. She has also helped develop mixed-income housing in East Saint Louis, and worked for the New York City parks department as director of government relations and operations coordinator.

While it’s likely Scheinfeld’s appointment will be approved by the city council, since most of the 50 aldermen tend to go along with the mayor’s will, it’s possible there will be some resistance from reps who previously grumbled about Klein’s speed camera and protected bike lane initiatives. Scheinfeld will start work in an interim capacity in late January.

11 Comments

It’s Up to Chicago to Set a Bold New Standard for American BRT

Q&A Session

Scheinfeld, Klein, Ribley and Turner. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Planning Council.

“We knew how important it was for federal policy makers to see innovation and new ideas bubbling up from important cities around the country,” said Nick Turner, managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation at a bus rapid transit roundtable last Friday. The foundation has provided roughly $2.8 million in grants to Chicago’s BRT program for research, technical support, land-use planning, project management, community engagement, branding and communications. “That’s why we started to get interested in the work here in Chicago.” The seminar, Bus Rapid Transit on a Roll in Chicago, took place at the Loop offices of the Metropolitan Planning Council, which promotes sustainable development and transportation in the region.

Turner heads the charitable foundation’s Promoting Equitable and Sustainable Transportation initiative. “It is not always federal policy that drives things,” he added. “It’s innovations that happen in cities that makes other mayors pick up the newspaper and they say, ‘Huh, I want that.’ We want Chicago to be able to be that for the rest of the country.”

Rebekah Scheinfeld, chief planning officer with the CTA, kicked off the discussion by talking about features that are common in BRT systems around the world, including dedicated lanes, signal prioritization, and prepaid, level boarding. She then outlined Chicago’s BRT-related projects, starting with the J14 Jeffery Jump express bus, which launched last fall on the South Side with branded buses, upgraded shelters, limited stops and bus-only lanes during rush hours between 67th and 84th.

Read more…