John and I met at Taqueria La Zacatecana in May 2011 to discuss combining forces.
In case you don’t follow my “big” blog, Grid Chicago, you must know that we’ve moved. My blogging partner John Greenfield and I work for OpenPlans and launched Streetsblog Chicago on Tuesday, January 22, 2013.
Here’s the Grid Chicago origin story that I wrote to signal the change:
Back in 2010, I started corresponding with Streetsblog’s Ben Fried about getting a version of the site started in Chicago. Streetsblog was my favorite transportation blog and I viewed it as the gold standard in local, grassroots transportation news writing. I wasn’t alone. Getting a Streetsblog up and running in Chicago had been an elusive goal for many people involved in the local sustainable transportation and planning scene.
On a visit to New York that year, I met Ben at the OpenPlans office in Lower Manhattan. We spoke about how Streetsblog NYC started in 2006 and how they launched each subsequent city. What I took away was that in order to produce a site like Streetsblog, you need the funding to hire people who can devote a lot of time to it. I left New York excited about all theprogressive transportation changes taking place there, but thinking that I probably wouldn’t be starting a Streetsblog in Chicago.
I’d had my personal blog, Steven Can Plan, since 2007, and that’s where I expressed my perspectives on cities and transportation, but I wanted to publish more frequently and reach a wider audience. I needed a partner. Fast forward to spring 2011. I was speaking to my friend Kevin Monahan about my desire to create a more popular blog to discuss transportation issues in Chicago, with a bent on advocating for more and better walking, biking, and transit infrastructure.
Kevin told me to get in touch with John Greenfield, an acquaintance of mine who, like me, had previously worked on bike parking projects at the Chicago Department of Transportation (he left a bit before I started there). At the time John was writing a sustainable transportation blog called Vote With Your Feet, and he was also interested in creating a more ambitious website.
I contacted John in May to propose a partnership. We met at Taqueria La Zacatecana in Avondale and for an hour, munching on burritos, we hashed out our goals for this website we both wanted to build. While we knew we’d be spending a lot of time on the site and would need to earn money from it, that wasn’t as important as launching quickly. What made the timing so crucial was that Mayor Emanuel had released a groundbreaking transition plan with several bold goals to improve bicycling. We had to be there to cover it. We launched Grid Chicago in June 2011, and we quickly gained a loyal readership and a roster of talented guest contributors.
By early 2012, we started considering the possibility: What if Grid Chicago could somehow morph into Streetsblog Chicago? We already had a large readership along with good ad support from local businesses. By launching Grid Chicago we’d proven there was a demand for in-depth transportation news and analysis from two guys who’ve been walking, biking, and taking transit in the Windy City for years.
Last winter Ben started contacting people about funding the new site. In March he came to Chicago and presented at the Metropolitan Planning Council, talking about how Streetsblog makes an impact with its reporting. The momentum started to build in a serious way. Thanks to funding commitments from The Chicago Community Trust and the Rockefeller Foundation, not to mention the hard work of many people – especially Peter Skosey of theMetropolitan Planning Council and Randy Neufeld of the SRAM Cycling Fund – Streetsblog is finally coming to Chicago.
With the launch of Streetsblog Chicago, Grid Chicago will stop publishing new content, but the site will remain online as an archive. We’re looking forward to providing you with more frequent, wide-ranging coverage of the local movement for effective transit and safer streets. And by joining the Streetsblog family, our readers are going to get plugged in to transportation policy stories of national significance, and more people around the country are going to be following Chicago’s progress on walking, biking, and transit issues than ever before.
We’d like to thank Ben, Peter, Randy and all the other folks in Chicago and New York who have made this moment possible. And we want to thank you, our readers, for giving us a reason to schlep around the city attending public meetings and stay up into the wee hours banging out the next day’s posts. We’re jazzed about finally getting Streetsblog Chicago off the ground, and we couldn’t have done it without you.
Steven Can Plan isn’t changing. I’ll still be blogging here on the same irregular schedule.