I’d like to point out my story on the Chicago Cityscape blog highlighting the fact that ~1,800 city-owned lots that are being sold to $1 to nearby property owners that haven’t been applied for. The City of Chicago is selling 3,844 vacant lots for $1 in these 34 community areas, but the city has received only 2,031 applications.
The post for day 1, Friday, when I went to Mount Rigi, hasn’t been written yet.
Today was a busy day, which is expected when you travel Steven Vance-style: efficiently (meaning you see a lot of stuff without wasting any time), alone, with a very good sense of what you want to do, where they are, and how you’ll get around.
I’m staying at Hotel Bristol, which came up in an Orbitz search as being a decent place less than $100 per night – that’s hard in Zurich, and even harder if you want a place near the Hauptbahnhof (Hbf). I knew that’s where I would be coming and going a few times to get to Lucerne, the mountains, or to buy cheap (relatively) dinner.
This morning, after eating a continental breakfast in the hotel, I walked a couple of blocks from the hotel to the Hbf – I’m measuring blocks in a Chicago-sense. It was about 4-5 minutes to the nearest station entrance to buy the ZurichCard.
Getting the card was a no-brainer because for 24 CHF (Swiss Francs, about $25) you get a 24-hour public transit card and free entry to dozens of museums. It includes the city zone and the adjacent zones, including the airport. I have to leave for the airport tomorrow by 10 AM and I validated the card at 11 AM so I’m covered there.
After checking out and riding the city’s two funiculars and single rack railway, I visited the tram museum and national museum (Landesmuseum). Add to that the dozens of trams and buses I rode to reach the hill transport and two museums.
Consider that the cost of the train to the airport is 6.40 CHF, the tram museum is 12 CHF, and the Landesmuseum charges 10 CHF, I’d say I got more than my money’s worth.
What’s really great about the ZurichCard is that you can purchase it at any of ticket vending machine, including the ones labeled “SBB CFF FFS”* that also sell national railway and supra-regional tickets. You have to remember to validate the card right before your first use, either at a ZVV (Zurich regional public transport union) ticket vending machine.
My first transit trip this morning was on a fantastic double-articulated bus. That means it has three sections with five doors! These buses are only used on routes 31 and 33 in the city center, and they’re electric and silent, running on overhead trolley wire. The bus has the same priority and comfort as a tram, and multiple screens attached to the ceiling showing the next stop and its connections (transfers).
The tram system in the city center is the perfect complement and support for having so little driving here. Some of the streets restrict driving, and other streets have only a single lane in one direction, or just two lanes, one in each direction. Many of the major intersections within a mile of the Hbf surprisingly have no traffic controls.
Trams and buses load and unload passengers very fast because you can board through any door. “Winter mode” is enabled on many of the vehicles to keep passengers already on board more comfortable by opening doors at the stop only upon request (you push a button on the door).
Streetfilms published a video in 2014 discussing how the city administration has capped the number of parking spaces across the city: if a new parking space is built, a parking space has to be removed in the city center.
Driving in the city center is thus primarily for leaving your parking space for elsewhere in the city or region, or the reverse. Trips are extremely convenient by tram or trolley bus.
Motorists are obliged to stop for people who want to cross the road in zebra crossings, and trams which are turning across the lanes. Then, unless a road sign or marking dictates the priority of a lane, the rule “yield to the motorist on your right” reigns.
I never waited more than 7 minutes for a tram (I know because the countdown signs never exceeded 7 minutes for the route I was going to ride) and the average was probably closer to 4 minutes. It seems that a majority of the time trams run in exclusive right of way and traffic signals are set up to prioritize their movement.
Transit signal priority isn’t a given in all cities with trams; in Amsterdam and Budapest it seemed the tram waited just as long for a “green” light as adjacent, same-direction motorists did.
At the tram museum I talked to a staffer there who was pointing out features in a model created by a city task force which was investigating a potential U-bahn (underground) system for Zurich. He said that a couple of years ago the museum hosted an event to talk about whether the city was better off without the system.
The consensus amongst the attendees was that the city was indeed better off without a subway because the trams have a higher frequency than what the subway would have had. Another point made was that the connections between trams are easier and faster than between other modes.
Nevertheless, a few underground stations were built, but they aren’t subways. Two tracks, 21 and 22, carry the two routes of the Sihltal Zürich Uetliberg Bahn (SZU), One goes up the Uetliberg mountain in the city and the other serves the Sihl valley suburbs. There are also three underground tram stations away from the city center on line 7.
Traffic on the local transit was lighter than yesterday. Many riders I saw today were headed to a hill to go sledding. It might also be a coincidence that I rode all three hill-climbing funicular and rack railway lines, as well as the train that goes up “Mount Zurich” (870 meters; its real name is Uetliberg).
The last word on Zurich: It’s very expensive to eat here. I paid 11.50 CHF (about the same in USD) for a “döner box” which is something I paid about $5 in Rotterdam. A döner box is fast food. The cheap beer that went along with it was $5, which I could probably get for less than $2 in Rotterdam.
* “SBB CFF FFS” is a set of three acronyms that when expanded mean “Swiss Federal Railways” in German, French, and Italian, respectively. It’s normally abbreviated to SBB – German is the most commonly spoken language in Switzerland. Each of the acronyms plus dot “ch” has its own website that loads the organization’s website in the respective language.
I posted a modified version of this post to Streetsblog Chicago.
A group in Chicago says “current infrastructure” cannot handle ~120 more people moving into Logan Square. Ring the NIMBY warning bell!
Logan Square is more equipped to handle ten times that number of new residents than most neighborhoods.
The Greater Goethe Neighborhood Association’s (boundary map) Zoning and Planning Committee’s submitted their opinion on a proposed building on the corner of Milwaukee Avenue and Campbell Avenue to 1st Ward Alder Proco Joe Moreno.
They wrote, “Current infrastructure cannot sustain the increase in density and ZAPC would like to know how is this is being addressed by the City”.
“Of the 88 units”, DNAinfo Chicago reported, “28 would be studios, 48 would be one-bedroom units and 12 would be two-bedroom units.”
What’s wrong with current infrastructure that it can’t handle 120 new residents? The GGNA doesn’t say.
The context of this demand is a bit unfortunate, as far as good city planning goes. The city is in no way required to respond with how the city is addressing how current infrastructure can or cannot handle 120 new residents. And neither is Alder Moreno. Neither the city nor the developer* are required to do anything to change infrastructure in the area.
Logan Square’s population is much, much less than its peak. These 120 new residents are in some ways making up for the loss in units in the neighborhood due to deconversions. And their supply will help stem any rapid rise in rent increases.
What would be a good outcome, I believe, is that there’s a process or three:
- Measure the impact of new housing on current infrastructure (housing availability and pricing, sewer, transportation, roads, and parks).
- Measure the impact of converted or demolished housing on current infrastructure.
- Measure the potential impacts of not building the proposed building.
This stretch of Milwaukee Avenue had a plan adopted for it in 2008. It would be nice to try and stick to a plan’s recommendations, for once. As far as neighborhood plans go, it is pretty good.
Wanna know what the plan said? Build more housing.
Higher density housing is often attractive for young couples, as well as new families, singles, and empty-nesters looking to downsize their housing units and spend less time on home maintenance and repair. These residents are drawn to urban living because of the goods and services that are available in pedestrian-oriented environments.
Taller buildings would continue the streetwall found along other sections of the Corridor. This would accommodate higher density housing to maximize the number of residents in the area who could conveniently take advantage of the existing transportation and the existing stores, restaurants and services located along the Corridor.
These housing types will help build the immediate population density necessary to create a vibrant and growing Study Area.
I despise this kind of comment from neighborhood organizations: “The density is of major concern for the surrounding residents of the proposed project and is not received favorably.”
How would you feel if someone got to influence the approval process for the place you live now? How would you feel if someone was saying you should live elsewhere? How come people who live in a part of a city get to decide who else can live near them? Why do people say they don’t want to live around a bunch of other people?
* It’s actually a group of developers.
Mapzen* released Mobility Explorer last week. It is the graphical user interface (GUI) to the Transitland datastore of a lot of the world’s transit schedules and maps.
It also has isochrones, which are more commonly known as “mode sheds”, or the area that you can reach by a specific mode in a specific amount of time.
I wanted to test it quickly to see what these mode sheds say about where I live, a block north of Humboldt Park. From my house, on a bicycle, I can reach the edges of an area that’s 25 square miles in 15 minutes.
You can request these isochrones through this API call for any location and they’ll be returned as GeoJSON.
I’m still learning how isochrones work, and how they can be adjusted (to account for different rider seeds and route costs or penalties). One difference between bicycling and driving is that the driving area is increased by expressways while the bicycling area has a more uniform shape.
The bike shed is 25.7 square miles, and the driving shed is 52.0 square miles.
*I do contract work for Mapzen and maintain parts of the Transitland Feed Registry.
I’ve had a lot of experience with a major “transportation network company” this weekend. TNCs are also known as e-hail car services, and, inaccurately, “ride share”, because a car arrives at your location after pressing a button on an app.
I rode in one four times from Friday to Sunday because my visiting friend had a broken bone and couldn’t ride a bike – that was our original plan. Instead we had a multi-modal weekend and relied on walking, public transportation, another friend’s personal vehicle, and the TNC to go out.
These experiences reminded me that advocates for safe streets and better active transportation service and infrastructure – including myself – must directly battle entrenched norms about the “plight of the driver”.
In our final ride, on our way to the airport to drop off my friend, the TNC driver asked about the timing of our trip, if we were in a rush so the driver could know if they needed to drive a certain way.
I said that we were not, that we had budgeted plenty of time, and that Google Maps showed green lines on the local streets and highway between where we had dinner in Ukrainian Village and O’Hare airport.
As he was driving the car northbound on Western Avenue toward the Fullerton Avenue on-ramp to the Kennedy, my friend asked him about the app he was using that was speaking the turn-by-turn directions, and how it knew what the road conditions were.
The app uses the Waze service, which collects data from transportation departments, other drivers, and databases of upcoming road closures. The driver said he liked that it warned him of the locations of red light and speed cameras, too.
“I’ve gotten four speed camera tickets in the last year”, he said, “and they were all $100 each.”
I have written about Chicago’s speed cameras several times in Streetsblog Chicago, and I thought the cost was different so I asked, “Isn’t it lower for the first time?” Nope, he said.
When I looked it up at home I remembered why I was mistaken: The fine is $100 if you are traveling 11 miles per hour or more over the speed limit. The fine is $35 for traveling six to 10 miles per hour or more over the speed limit, but the cameras aren’t enforcing this range currently.
That was the end of our conversation, but I should have kept on.
The conversation we should have had would have questioned his driving behavior. I should have asked, “Why are you driving so far so often?” and “Why aren’t you slowing down? Don’t you know that speeding is dangerous to you, your passengers, and other people outside the car?”
I was spineless and didn’t challenge how he was contributing to unsafe streets in the city. My silence was tacit agreement that four $100 speeding tickets – for driving 41+ in a 30, or 31+ in a 20 in a school zone if a child was present – was a personal burden and not a necessary enforcement tool to try and reduce the number of injuries and deaths in car crashes in Chicago.
Later, on the Kennedy Expressway, he was traveling a bit over 70 miles per hour, or more than 25 miles per hour greater than the speed limit. Again I said nothing.
Another of the TNC drivers this weekend was likely high on marijuana. I shouldn’t have accepted any of these situations.
Alder Ameya Pawar emailed this story to subscribers of his 47th Ward newsletter. I am posting it here because there was no other way to view this online. I received it on Thursday, November 10, 2016, at 15:19.
I am the son of Indian immigrants and my dad was just five years old during the British partition of India and Pakistan. The trauma associated with splitting one nation into two by religion is still felt by Indians and Pakistanis today. The impacts to his family were very real. It wasn’t until he came to the United States in 1972 that he experienced a life without food rations. My wife, Charna, is Jewish and her family is made up of recent immigrants and refugees and survivors of the Holocaust. Charna often talks about how Jews have spent millennia running from one place to the next in search of a stable home. And she often talks about how our families, and millions of immigrants and refugees come to the United States because our country is the freest place in the world. Her family’s experience led her to a career in human rights where she worked with and taught unaccompanied undocumented minors at the International Children’s Center, led the Heartland Alliance’s Refugee and Immigrant Community Services department resettling refugees from Sudan, Iraq, and beyond, and was one of the leaders in Chicago’s efforts to resettle over 10k Hurricane Katrina evacuees, America’s refugees. She did so out of a sense of service to our country, a country that allowed entry to her family and millions of others; and she did so to help make the world a better place.
So when the Presidential campaign devolved into denigrating and casting refugees and immigrants as weak, drains on our government, and people to be feared, we were offended and horrified. Charna often says that refugees and evacuees are the most resilient people on the planet. They walk continents, survive warehousing, flee their homelands to escape violence, or leave their homes after a massive natural disaster in search of safety and the dream of a better life for themselves and their families. And that search for safety, security, and a better life is the definition of the American experience. So as the campaign rhetoric escalated over the last year, Charna and I had a conversation about some of the anti-immigrant, racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic rhetoric coming from the President-elect’s campaign. What would we do if he won? What would we do if he was serious about a religious litmus test? What we do if he began rounding up undocumented immigrants, immigrants, and refugees? What would this mean for our family and our friends and neighbors from diverse backgrounds? Based on our collective experience and from history, we know how ugly rhetoric can spin from just that into policies and actions. So we asked ourselves, where would we go if we unimaginably had to leave? And the irony of the last question? My wife said “Germany”, the country that part of her family fled to escape the Holocaust, the country that today takes in hundreds of thousands of refugees from around the world, is one country that we could consider due to WWII reparations for the descendants of families that were forced to flee. And that was saddest conversation of our life.
I say all of this because we know what if feels like to be seen as ‘the other.’ And I know most of the 48 million people who voted for the President-elect do not believe, subscribe to, or hold values which align with the rhetoric of his campaign. My guess is that for many people who voted for the President-elect, they too felt like ‘the other.’ Economic policies, widening income inequality, and a lack of investment in communities manifested itself in the results on Tuesday night. We must deal with these issues and hear people before suffering forces more people into the arms of a demagogue. That’s really all I have to say on this because there is so much I don’t understand about Tuesday.
All said, I will continue to push back on the idea that wealth equals competence in government. I will continue to push back against leaders who seek to create ‘the others’, whether they are immigrants, refugees, people with disabilities, people of color, women, LGBTQ, or members of unions. My commitment to social justice will never change. I do feel that the level of our discourse has been cheapened by social media and other platforms where people and politicians seek immediate responses and appeal to and act on one another’s most base instincts. So my office is going to take a break from the echo chamber that is social media and find better ways to engage and promote rational public discourse.
In the coming days and months, we should all start a new level of discourse by engaging and helping organizations that do the hard work of protecting American values and serving our neighbors in need. I hope you’ll join us and get involved with organizations like Planned Parenthood, La Casa Norte, the Sierra Club, Heartland Alliance, Apna Ghar, Thresholds, the Center on Halsted, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Consider volunteering your time or making a financial contribution to an organization of your choice. Let’s all do our part.
In closing, I don’t have a prescriptive idea today – writing this letter to you is cathartic for me and an expression of many conversations I’ve had with some of you over the last 48 hours. I’ll simply end this week’s letter by going back to my dad’s story. My dad is 5 foot 2. I am 6 feet tall. And there is a reason for why there is a major height difference between the two of us. In India, my dad battled typhoid as a young boy and lived off food rations; I grew up here with plenty of food to eat and without any health or public health concerns. In just one generation, and because of American immigration policies, my parents were able to see their son elected as the first Asian American alderman in Chicago’s history and watch their daughter graduate with a doctorate from Northwestern University. America is a great country. Americans are a good people. And nowhere else in the world is my family’s story possible. But today, it is the hope and dream realized by my parents and my wife’s family that we cling to for support and hope. We have to chart a course forward and we will.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve.
Rahm Emanuel has opened a lot of cool new parks – Maggie Daley, Northerly Island, 606, and Grant Park Skate Park – since he became mayor. (Making arguments that the parking lot south of Soldier Field can’t be anything but a parking lot pretty lame.)
It’s located at 11599 S. Stony Island Ave. in the South Deering community area in an area already known as Big Marsh. I mapped the park into OpenStreetMap based on a map from the architect, Hitchcock Design Group*.
The single-track trails, terrain park, and pump track, are free and open to the public every day from dawn until dusk. It resembles the Valmont Bike Park in Boulder Colorado, which I visited in 2014.
Big Marsh was listed in the city’s Habitat Directory in 2005, noting, “Big Marsh is the largest individual wetland in the Calumet Open Space Reserve with approximately 90 acres of open water. Hiking and biking trails and canoe launch are ideas for this area in the future. As of this writing, the site is undeveloped.”
The area is also part of the the State of Illinois’s Millennium Reserve program, a group of projects to restore natural areas, create new economic development opportunities in the area, and build more recreational sites.
There is no bike infrastructure to access the site, and many roads leading to the site are in bad condition, or have high-speed car traffic. There is a large car parking lot at the site.
* If you would like to help me map the bike park into OpenStreetMap, you can load the architect’s map of the site into JOSM using this WMS tile layer.
Two light industrial building were purchased and demolished in order to build more car parking for WMS Gaming in the Avondale community area. Congratulations on the success of WMS Gaming that they are hiring more people, but this kind of development is transit “dis-oriented”.
Nearly an entire block face of California from Melrose to Roscoe will have a surface parking lot. Across the street to the west, and across the street to the south is entirely residential.
The Chicago Department of Planning and Development staff wrote in their report to the Chicago Plan Commission that the project “Promotes economically beneficial development patterns that are compatible with the character of existing neighborhoods (per 17-8-0103) as evidenced by the compatibility of off-street parking within the broader industrial park character of the surrounding area.”
The Plan Commission had to approve the demolition of these buildings and the additional parking lots because they were not allowed in Industrial Planned Development 1151.
The change was neither an economically productive use of the land, nor is it “compatible with the character” of half of the surrounding area.
This might be economically productive for WMS Gaming, so more of its workers can drive. But there are more ways to get around than driving.
WMS Gaming is near the 52-California bus route. It’s also two blocks from the 77-Belmont bus route and 152-Addison bus route. WMS Gaming can operate a shuttle to CTA or Metra stations.
Turning what was – and still could be – productive space has now been turned into entirely productive
— Evan Jenkins (@ejenk) October 26, 2016
Its platform will be something like SFYIMBY’s:
We believe that [Chicago] has always been, and should continue to be, an innovative and forward-looking city of immigrants from around the U.S. and the world. [Chicago] is not full [snipped]. Ours is an inclusive vision of welcoming all new and potential residents. Anyone who wants to should be able to afford housing in [Chicago].
tl;dr: This is the list of all citation types that the Chicago Dept. of Administrative Hearings “administers”.
The Freedom of Information Act is my favorite law because it gives the public – and me – great access to work, information, and data that the public – including me – causes to have created for the purpose of running governments.
FOIA requires public agencies to publish (really, email you) stuff that they make and don’t publish on their own (which is dumb), and reply to you within five days.
All you have to do is ask for it!
BUT: Who do you ask?
AND: What do you ask them for?
This is the hardest thing about submitting a FOIA request.
Lately, my friend and I – more my friend than me – have been trying to obtain data on the number of traffic citations issued to motorists for opening their door into traffic – a.k.a. “dooring”.
It is dangerous everywhere, and in Chicago this is illegal. In Chicago it carries a steep fine. $500 if you don’t hurt a bicyclist, and $1,000 if you do.
My friend FOIA’d the Chicago Police Department. You know, the agency that actually writes the citations. They don’t have bulk records to provide.
Then he FOIA’d the Chicago Department of Transportation, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings, and the Chicago Department of Finance.
Each of these five agencies tells you on their website how to submit a FOIA request. You can also use FOIA Machine to help you find a destination for your request.
None of them have the records either. The “FOIA officer” for the Administrative Hearings department suggested that he contact the Cook County Circuit Court. So that’s what we’re doing.
Oh, and since the Administrative Hearings department doesn’t have this information (even though they have the records of citations for a lot of other traffic violations), I figured I would ask for them for a list of citations that they do have records of.
And here’s the list, all 3,857 citation types. You’ll notice a lot of them don’t have a description, and some of very short and unclear descriptions. Hopefully you can help me fix that!
I can grant you editing access on the Google Doc and we can improve this list with some categorizations, like “building violations” and “vehicle code”.