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My travel in 2019: North America and a quick hop over to Oceania

I visited new-to-me cities in the United States, went to Mexico for the first time ever, and returned to Canada for the first time in over 10 years. I also rode a lot of new transit – including bike share – systems, which are denoted.

Oh, and I [brag] flew in United Polaris business class* [/brag] to New Zealand with my mom, after which we also visited Australia. Sadly, it’s now been over 2.5 years since I’ve traveled in Europe. 

The ferry to Manly is bidirectional

Two ferries in front of Sydney Opera House at Circular Quay in Sydney, Australia.

Aside: Transit advocates already know this: Every city I visited outside the United States had bus lanes. And not just a few here and there, but everywhere. On every route, in every city and suburb.

Here’s where I went in 2019 (in chronological order) (links go to photo albums on my Flickr):

  • Miami, Miami Beach, and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
    • I rode Brightline (now Virgin Trains); to Ft. Lauderdale in economy and from Ft. Lauderdale in first class. That meant use of the lounge, unlimited snacks and alcoholic beverages.
    • Metrorail (elevated/subway)
    • Metrobus – The bus is the best way to get your cute butt over to sunning on South Beach. Miami-Dade Transit also uses an app to sell QR-code based tickets that you show to a bus driver and scan to board Metrorail.
    • Metromover (the free people mover in downtown Miami)
    • I also rode a scooter for the first time, and I rode a bike for a few hours.
  • Toronto, Canada
    • I first visited Toronto over a decade ago with my family.
    • I rode the subway, the UP Express (airport train), bike share, and the trams and buses.
  • Mexico City, Mexico
    • Métro, the ultra cheap and frequent subway, of course! I rode it out of the airport to a station 100 meters from my hotel.
    • Métrobus – my first BRT, and it was stupendous.
    • Bike share – A tourist from the U.K. asked me what the conditions were like cycling around the city. I said that depends on your comfort riding a bike in a busy big city, which is something I’m used to. After you observe and adapt to the different driving conditions and customs, it’s really no different than biking in Chicago or New York City.
    • Jitney bus. I forget what it’s called locally. This particular bus driver was plying a main street in a CDMX-branded purple bus that he apparently owned, looking for fares and once the bus was full (no more standing room), he pushed down on the accelerator to the nearest subway station.
  • Sacramento and Napa, California
    • I didn’t take any transit here, not even the light rail. I didn’t have any time.
    • I pedaled a Jump electric dockless bike for the first time.
  • Oakland and Berkeley (2nd time I’ve been)
    • I took Flixbus for the first time, from Sacramento to West Oakland. This is a German-based company that’s a network operator rather than a vehicle operator. Local companies contract with Flixbus to use Flixbus’s branding and ticketing systems.
    • Bay Wheels bike share (it used to be called Ford GoBike)
  • Charleston, South Carolina (no transit here, but I rented a bike for two days)

Oceania (16 nights)

  • Auckland, New Zealand
    • Tip: You’re probably going hiking in New Zealand, and bringing hiking boots. Clean them very well before you go to prevent being delayed at your arrival airport because you’ve triggered a biosecurity check of your shoes.
    • Lots of buses, which came quite frequently.
    • Regional rail from Britomart to Mt. Eden (yeah, a very short ride)
    • An annoying thing about transit in Auckland is that the transit card “deposit” is pricey and non-refundable. Additionally, the stored value (e-purse) on the card can pay for a second rider, but at the full cash rate, not the card rate.
  • Tongariro National Park
    • There’s a thrice-weekly train between Auckland and Wellington that stops here, but I didn’t schedule my trip well to be able to ride it.
    • I took a shuttle bus from my wonderful hotel (The Park Hotel Ruepehu) to the Mangatepopo Carpark, which is the start of the amazing Tongariro Alpine Crossing, and then from the end of the hike at Ketetahi Carpark back to the hotel. It was $20 NZD and it meant that my mom wouldn’t have to drive 60 miles for the same trip.
  • Wellington, New Zealand
    • The only transit we took here was the historic cable car – a cable-pulled funicular – from the high street to Kelburn (which is a suburb, but the way cities and suburbs as governmental jurisdictions and distinct geographies work in New Zealand and Australia is different than the U.S.).
    • At the top of the hill in Kelburn is a free cable car museum with a gorgeous restored vintage cable car, and an entrance to the botanic gardens.
    • We were going to take SkyBus to the airport, but due to a Christmas festival in the CBD, I wasn’t sure where it was going to pick up and we were running late.
  • Sydney, Australia
    • I observed the high quality transit of Sydney (really, Transport NSW, because it’s all operated by the state of New South Wales) when departing the airport via the Airport Link. The T8 line is operated by Transport NSW’s subsidiary Sydney Trains, but the airport and other stations along the line are owned by a private organization that charges a station access fee (which is about $10 USD). Anyway, the first train we boarded was brand new, delivered this year! The train is called “B set” and has everything Metra doesn’t: Level boarding, passenger information displays, two wide doors per carriage, two full levels, and plenty of seating and standing space at the boarding level for people who need step-free access (this includes people with disabilities, people with strollers, luggage, bikes, etc.).
    • In addition to Sydney Trains, we rode NSW TrainLink to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains.
    • We rode the tram line (which they call L1, for light rail) from Chinatown to the Jubilee Park stop to visit Tramsheds, a redevelopment of a, get this, tram shed.
    • To get to Bondi Beach we rode Sydney Trains to Bondi Junction, a station that hooks into a shopping center and pedestrian shopping street. It’s odd…where we boarded bus route #333 for the final hop to the beach, and where we entered on the return from the shopping street, you can’t really see the station. It appears surrounded by offices and shopping. (I didn’t know this until later, but #333 runs from Circular Quay in the CBD to Bondi Beach and further on.)
    • I can’t forget the ferries…A public transport ferry, owned and operated by Transport NSW, carries up to 1,000 people from Circular Quay non-stop to Manly, a suburb at the eastern head of the Sydney Harbour. One of the boats on this route is featured in the photo above. At Manly we took a bus to the North Head reserve to get a look at the Pacific Ocean, the cliffs, Sydney Harbour National Park, and the city skyline.
Train going west from Flinders Railway Station
A Metro train departs Flinders Railway Station in Melbourne.
  • Melbourne, Australia
    • SkyBus to and from the airport. This company runs frequent coaches for about $13 USD every 20 minutes from Tullamarine (MEL) airport to Southern Cross station. Here I bought two transit cards so we could ride a “Metro” (regional rail) train to Flinders Street station and then a tram to our hotel in St. Kilda (which is a suburb of Melbourne, but you could walk from our hotel to the Melbourne CBD in 20 minutes).
    • Melbourne, Victoria, has the world’s largest tram network, and a lot of it is free, so what do you think I did?
    • I rented a bike and rode around for four hours, as well.
    • We also rode the Belgrave Metro line to Belgrave station in order to ride Puffing Billy, a steam engine (which I don’t recommend unless you really like steam engines).
    • To get over to “Welcome to Thornbury”, a food truck and beer garden in the Melbourne “suburb” of Northcote we rode the Mernda Metro line from Central Station and then walked a couple blocks from Croxton Station. To return, we rode the 86 tram (my mom said she prefers the trams to trains because she can see more of the city).

My relaxing flight to Oceania

I have wanted to fly long haul international in business class for quite some time. I thought about saving miles for it. I roughly calculated how long it would take to acquire enough miles: about 3-4 years. And in the meantime, I can’t use the miles for what I think are more valuable trips, like deciding a week before to visit my mom ($600, or 30,000 miles, a “value” of 2 cents per mile).

Anyway, I decided I would pay for business class at some point, when it made sense. I used Google’s ITA Matrix website to find the cheapest days on which to fly one-way in one fare class, and the return in a different fare class. I figured out how to use Google Flights to find those itineraries, which conveniently links to United’s website for final purchase. I couldn’t do it. The prices were too high. And I didn’t want to fly first class from Chicago to San Francisco. (Air New Zealand flies nonstop from Chicago to Auckland, but I wanted to meet my mom in San Francisco so we could be on the same flight to Auckland.)

Fast forward to San Francisco International Airport, and my mom and I walk up to the gate. My mom asked if they hadn’t any better seats in economy available. Keep in mind that boarding starts in 10 minutes, so the answer was no. The gate agent mentioned that there are still seats in business class. I was curious, so I asked how much they were. She quoted me the upgrade fee, clarifying “and that’s per seat”.

I spent two seconds calculating the upgrade fee and comparing it to the hours of research I had done at home finding the right itinerary that would put me in business class for the cheapest outlay. “I’ll do it”, I replied, to which she asked, “For how many?”, double checking if it was for me, or me and my mom. “Two”, I said.

Not only do I still believe that I got a great deal on United’s Polaris business class, I also satisfied a longtime curiosity, enjoyed the flight, and woke up feeling ready to have a full day exploring Auckland.

Before leaving home I felt anxious that we would arrive in Auckland after having spent 14 hours in a cramped seat and potentially waste the first day feeling exhausted. Being able to sleep on a lie-flat seat meant that we felt pretty good when we arrived in Auckland at 8 AM. We got to the hotel by 10 AM – taking SkyBus to the city center – to drop off luggage, because the room wouldn’t be available until 2 PM.

We were still tired, though – when the hotel finally gave us access to a room, we inadvertently took a three hour nap.

Chicago’s massive parking footprint – as measured on December 25, 2019

No, I didn’t spend my day outside measuring parking lots. I spent it inside measuring existing, available data from OpenStreetMap. The last time I measured the amount of parking area in Chicagoland was on September 16, 2018, using the same data source.

Using the footprints of parking lots and garages drawn into OpenStreetMap as a data source, the area of land in a portion of Chicagoland occupied by parking lots and garages is 254,429,609 square feet. This portion represents the “envelope” of the Chicago city limits.

This map shows the tan-colored “clipping boundary” envelope in which the parking lots were measured. The Chicago city limits are shown in pink.

Last year it was 247,539,968 square feet, so the measured area of this portion of Chicagoland’s parking lots and garages increased by a hair over 2.7 percent. This isn’t necessarily new parking areas, but it’s parking areas that have been documented and mapped.

254,429,609 square feet converts to:

  • 5,841 acres
  • 9.13 mi^2 (square miles)
  • 23.64 km^2 (square kilometers)
  • 4.0% area of Chicago is parking (Chicago is ~589.56 km^2 )

Looking at just the City of Chicago limits, though, the land area of Chicago occupied by already-mapped parking lots and garages is 163,995,621 square feet, or about 2.6 percent of Chicago’s area.

That converts to:

  • 3,764 acres
  • 5.88 mi^2 (square miles)
  • 15.24 km^2 (square kilometers)
  • 2.6% area of Chicago is parking (Chicago is ~589.56 km^2 )

Want to make your own analysis? Here’s the study area I used, formatted as GeoJSON:

{"type": "Polygon", "coordinates": [[[-87.94, 41.639999999999986], [-87.94, 42.02000000000001], [-87.52, 42.02000000000001], [-87.52, 41.639999999999986], [-87.94, 41.639999999999986]]]}

Cities that have transit fare deals (capping) have fairer fares

“Fare capping” is a jargon term for a fare policy that any transit agency can implement to save their riders money, make fares fairer, and potentially increase ridership. Another term is “deal”, as these policies net riders a break in the fares.

Fare capping ensures that riders who pay for rides with a transit card* will never pay more than the cost of one or more daily and multi-day passes that the transit agency includes in its fare capping policy.

Example 1: Consider a tourist or infrequent visitor to the city. The tourist will use transit to get around and when they arrive at a ticket vending machine, they’re given the option to get a smart card and load with “e-purse” (cash to pay as they ride) or get a smart card and load it with a pass for one or more days. In Chicago, there are 1-day, 3-day, 7-day, and 30-day options, for $10, $20, $28, and $105.

Just like anyone else, the tourist doesn’t want to pay more than they have to so they try to estimate the number of trips they’ll take today to see if the number of rides will cost more than $10 (the price of a 1-day pass). That sounds like a complicated thought exercise and one with a high likelihood of being wrong at the end of the day!

In a fare capping system, the tourist won’t have to choose! They obtain the transit smart card, load it with $5 cash, and perhaps connect it to an app or connect it to an auto-load functionality. The tourist rides buses and the ‘L’ and as soon as they ride $10 worth in the service day, their transit smart card automatically starts granting them free rides – their transit card has just been granted a 1-day pass!

By eliminating the need to choose between fare products, the tourist is more comfortable riding transit as much as they need to today because they know that they’ll never be charged more than $10.

Example 2: Consider someone who doesn’t earn very much and uses transit to get to work two times a day, five days a week, 20 days a month. At $2.50 per ride, that works out to $100, which is less than the cost of a 30-day pass in Chicago (which is $105, and an oddity, but I won’t address that). This person also sometimes takes additional rides after work and on the weekend to run errands, so their monthly rides will end up costing more than $105, the price of a 30-day pass.

It would make the most financial sense for this worker to get a 30-day pass. But when you don’t earn much, it’s hard to come up with or part with $105 at one time.

In a fare capping system, the person doesn’t have to worry about putting up $105 at this very moment. They would be able to ride transit as much as they want to in a 30-day period knowing that they will pay $2.50 per ride each day, but never more than $105 in a 30-day period. They don’t need to have $105 right now to be able to save money in the long run.

A Miami-Dade Transit Agency poster indicate fare capping (without calling it fare capping, because that’s a wonky phrase).

Cities with fare capping

11 cities, last updated September 12, 2019

  1. London is first in the list because they were first with fare capping – It was pretty cool back in 2014 when my Anglophile friend told me to borrow his Oyster card and just tap away and ride transit all day, because I would never pay more than the cost of a 1-day pass.
    • London also has weekly capping, but this doesn’t include the Underground or Overground (buses and trams only). The week also starts on Monday and ends on Sunday.
  2. Miami is the most recent place to have fare capping, which @erik_griswold spotted on a poster. Daily capping only.
  3. St. Louis now has a transit smart card, and has daily capping.
  4. Sydney’s Opal card offers daily capping, weekly capping, and Sunday deal.
    • On Sundays, people can ride on metro, train, bus, ferry and light rail services all day Sunday for the price of one ride, $2.80 AUD (about $1.89 as of August 22, 2019).
    • Another deal the Opal card offers users: Ride 8 times in a week, and all subsequent rides are 50% off.
  5. Indianapolis’s IndyGo transit agency has daily capping, and weekly capping.
  6. San Jose-based transit agency Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) has daily capping which they call “Day Pass Accumulator”.
  7. Oakland-East Bay’s AC Transit has daily capping, but they don’t use those words. The website says that a day pass is applied to the Clipper transit smart card when a third trip is taken in a day.
  8. Portland, Oregon: TriMet, C-TRAN, and Portland Streetcar seem to have the most flexible payment options for their fare capping policy: Riders with a Hop transit smart card get daily capping and monthly capping. People who pay with Google Pay and Apple Pay can also get daily and weekly capping; people who pay with Samsung Pay or a contactless credit card can get daily capping.
  9. Victoria (Australian state) has daily capping on metropolitan Melbourne routes and regional routes when using the myki card.
  10. Houston, Texas: METRO has daily capping that kicks in after “Q” fare card holder takes three trips.
  11. The Ride in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has daily, weekly, and monthly capping – this is the policy to beat.
St. Louis’s MyGatewayCard has daily capping.

* Notes

A transit card is only necessary for transit systems that store the values and passes on a card. The Chicago Transit Authority and its vendor, Cubic, created Ventra, an account-based system that stores values and passes on an account in the cloud, and is expressed through the Ventra card, compatible smartphones, and compatible smartwatches. Fares to pay for rides Metra, a commuter rail company that participates in Ventra, can be purchased using the Ventra account’s stored value. Metra doesn’t accept taps from a Ventra card.

My idea for the Chicago prize: Build 1,000 ADUs collectively

I probably won’t actually submit my idea to the Chicago Prize, a $10 million grant competition to revitalize neighborhoods, so I’m posting it here for everyone to read.

Basically, I want to use the $10 million as seed money to start a small organization that does design, construction administration, and property management to help homeowners build 1,000 accessory dwelling units in the form of new construction detached rear houses, attached rear houses, and renovated basement and attic units. $10 million won’t build that many, so there will be a small finance team to assemble additional grants as well as collect money through a crowdfunding initiative so anyone with $50 or more (up to $1,000) can invest in the program.

Read my full idea to crowdfund 1,000 ADUs (it’s about 5 pages long).

The Plús Hús, a backyard cottage, designed and made in Los Angeles.

Pick the lowest and highest numbers in an array of numbers in PostgreSQL

I thought solving this problem took longer than it should have. I thought there would have been an integrated function in PostgreSQL to pick the lowest (smallest) and highest (largest) numbers in an ARRAY of numbers.

LEAST and GREATEST didn’t work, since those work on expressions, not arrays.

MIN and MAX don’t work because they are aggregating functions, and I didn’t want that.

Of course I found the solution on StackOverflow, but not after a lot of searching and trying other potential solutions.

Here it is!

Given an array of numbers, pick the lowest and highest ones using two custom functions.

CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION small(anyarray, int)

 RETURNS anyelement AS $$

  SELECT (ARRAY(SELECT unnest($1) ORDER BY 1 asc))[$2]

 $$ LANGUAGE sql;

The second argument in this function is to extract the Nth smallest number. In my case I want the smallest number so I set “1” for the second argument.

Example array in PostgreSQL:

{45.04,124.90,45.04,124.90}

Example query:

SELECT small(‘{45.04,124.90,45.04,124.90}’::numeric[], 1)

Output: 45.04

You can rewrite the query to select the Nth largest number by changing the “ORDER BY 1 asc” to “ORDER BY 1 desc” (reversing the order of the array’s unnesting.)

CREATE OR REPLACE FUNCTION small(anyarray, int)

RETURNS anyelement AS $$

SELECT (ARRAY(SELECT unnest($1) ORDER BY 1 asc))[$2]

$$ LANGUAGE sql;

Example array in PostgreSQL:

{45.04,124.90,45.04,124.90}

Example query:

SELECT large(‘{45.04,124.90,45.04,124.90}’::numeric[], 1)

Output: 124.9

Lock off apartments: Does zoning allow them?

These are also known as Junior Accessory Dwelling Units (JADU) in the California ADU laws.

At the YIMBYtown conference in Boston, Massachusetts, last week, I heard from a panel comprising a developer, an architect, and a manager of special housing projects at the City of Boston. I forget who described this novel (sort of) multi-family housing configuration, but I noted it because it has benefits similar to Chicago’s coach & rear houses.

Here’s how it works.

There would be a residential building full of condos. Each condo would have a few bedrooms. One of the bedrooms would have its own kitchen or kitchenette, bathroom, and direct entry to the building’s corridor. The bedroom would be “locked off” from the rest of the condo. 

The condo owner would rent the bedroom to a tenant, providing them housing that would most likely be less costly than an equivalent (new construction) apartment.

As the condo owner’s household changes – perhaps the family has another child – the tenant can move out and the owner can remove the kitchen to create another bedroom or closet. 

Lock offs are heavily also present in time shares. 

The zoning question is whether this condo is treated as one unit or two.

If you’re trying to increase affordable housing in your municipality, it’s necessary to classify this condo configuration as a single unit. Anything more and it wouldn’t be possible to build any of these, as the building developer would run into minimum lot area per unit and FAR limitations. 

My friend Jacob Peters quickly drew a floor plan for what a lockoff condo would look like.  

According to the speaker, the project didn’t get off the ground because the developer couldn’t get lending because of lenders who don’t understand the model. Said the speaker, “We need spaces that can evolve as our lives change. And we don’t have that flexibility in our housing stock.”

Benefits of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) like coach & rear houses

  1. Increase the supply of affordable housing
  2. Increase income for homeowners
  3. Support aging in place – ADUs give families flexibility to share property and living spaces with extended family members
  4. Increase work for small and local architects and contractors
  5. Boost local business support by restoring a neighborhood’s historical density

Update: I’m happy to see that Lennar, one of the most prolific home builders in the United States, has included the lock-off apartment in their “Next Gen” house design. A sample floor plan is below. 

Sample floor plans of Lennar’s Next Gen suburban single-family house with lock-off apartment.

#Space4Cycling: Chicago needs intuitive bike lanes and other street markings

Two bicyclists take different routes around this driver blocking the bike lane with their car

In this case at Milwaukee and Green, space was made and well-marked for cycling but no space was outlined for driving. The driver of the black car must pull up this far to see beyond the parked silver car. In the Netherlands they’ve come up with a solution that would work here: shift the green bike lane toward the crosswalk so that the motorist crosses the crosswalk and bike lane at the same time and has space to wait to turn left between the bike lane and the travel lane.

What does an intuitive bike lane or other street marking mean?

It means that the street user can reasonably (yeah) guess, and guess right, what they’re supposed to do.

For bicyclists in Chicago, the lack of bike lane markings that continue to the edge of an intersection (often demarcated at the stop bar) creates an unintuitive bike lane design.

At intersections, an intuitive bike lane design would mean that the bicyclist and the motorist know where and how to position their vehicles in respect to the other, even if there isn’t a car there yet, or there’s not a bike there yet. Many intersections in Chicago that have protected bike lanes do this; especially the ones with separate signal phases. And these intersections work really well for bicyclists: they stand safely away from motorists, and motorists don’t attempt to occupy these spaces.

Inverted sharrow

The “sharrow before and after the intersection because the city dropped the bike lane” is the most common “didn’t make space for cycling” problem. There was plenty of space to make for cycling here, and nearly every other “sharrow…” situation: it’s along the curb and it’s subsidized, curbside parking for drivers.

But currently at dozens, if not hundreds, of Chicago intersections where the bike lane drops before the intersection, you’ll see bicyclists behave and maneuver in several ways, none of which are accommodated by the street’s design.

Some people will bike between two lanes of cars to the front of the line, and when they get there, lacking a bike box or advanced stop line, they’ll stand with their bike in the area between the crosswalk and the stop bar. If the first car is over the stop bar, then people will usually stand with their bike on the crosswalk.

Riding north on Damen towards Fullerton-Elston

The sharrow painted on the pavement, and an accompanying sign saying, “shared lane – yield to bikes” are unintuitive because no one can occupy the same space at the same time, and the symbols don’t communicate who gets first right to a specific part of the road space. In the end, though, in a situation like this, I’ve never seen someone wait back this far on their bike, and many will consider riding on the sidewalk to get to the front. When they get there, though, they won’t find any #space4cycling.

Others will bike between a lane of cars and the curb to get to the front of the line.

New buffered bike lane on Halsted just ends

This is another version of the “sharrow before and after the intersection because the city dropped the bike lane”. Why’d they drop it in this instance? To make space for Halsted Street drivers turning right, and to push more drivers northward through its intersection with Clybourn Avenue.

Others will wait to the side of drivers, and other still will wait behind a line of cars, putting themselves at a major time disadvantage as the people who biked up to the front. Not to mention they’ll choke on more fumes.

Then, when the light turns green, motorists behave differently. Some will follow behind the first bicyclist, while others will try to pass but closely because they’re essentially sharing a lane side-by-side – this exerts a lot of mental stress on the bicyclist.

Where the city has built space that’s absolutely not to be shared (meaning it’s for the exclusive use by people bicycling), then the designs are substandard because they still allow or seem open to driving. Otherwise, though, space for cycling that’s “part time” is only usable space for those holding the most power and not for the people riding bikes who need it.

frankling at washington bike lane (composite image)

In this new design that built a “protected intersection” for bicyclists going north on Franklin and east on Washington Street, the bike space is still a drivable area. (Top photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz; bottom photo by Skip Montanaro)

These deficiencies in Chicago’s bike lane network are often the result of failing to make, or make well, space for cycling from space used for parking or turn lanes.

Bicycling on the Dearborn Street bike lane

Three years after the City of Chicago built the novel and well-used two-way cycle track on one-way Dearborn, this situation north of the track still exists. And somehow they expect drivers on a 4-lane road to travel at 20 MPH.

This is 2015 and we continue to “not make space for cycling” despite every policy that calls for making bicycling in Chicago safe and convenient so that more people will do it. It’s just that in the unwritten policies it says that you can implement that policy if it doesn’t impede driving*.

* The City of Chicago has built many road diets (a reduction in the number of travel lanes) in the last four years, and some before that. A few of these have worked well for bicyclists, like on 55th and Vincennes where they built protected and buffered bike lanes, respectively (and Dearborn through the Loop).

I put road diets in a note after “impede driving” because they’re only done where they also won’t make local traffic more congested on that street or an intersecting streets.

On the face of it, that’s exactly what many people believe they’ll do because a road diet removes or converts lanes and that’s seen as the same as reducing car capacity which will shift that car traffic to other streets. That pretty much doesn’t happen and the city only implements road diets on streets that have MORE capacity than is used.

The City of Chicago should implement filtered permeability immediately at Green Street and Milwaukee Avenue

This is not a bikeable block

The multiple threats to bicyclists, to pedestrians, and to motorists, are pervasive in the depicted scene. There is low visibility for turning motorists which in turn causes them to encroach on the right of way of other street users, including other motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

This single image shows everything that is inefficient and dangerous to bicyclists and motorists about the intersection between north-south Green Street and diagonal Milwaukee Avenue in River West. Motorists should be physically blocked from entering or exiting Green Street at this point because of the danger inherent in the current intersection design. The block of Green Street south of Milwaukee Avenue is so insignificant to the driving network that no other design intervention should be implemented.

The situation depicted in this photograph demonstrates why the City should implement filtered permeability and close this entrance of the Green Street/Milwaukee Avenue intersection to motor vehicle movement. While motorists would be barred from entering or exiting Green Street here bicyclists would still have access to Green Street as part of the low-stress bicycling network of which Green Street is a part, between Milwaukee and Van Buren Street in Greektown.

I first wrote about this problematic intersection in June on Streetsblog Chicago and it remains an issue. One of the two motor vehicles ahead is blocking part of the bike lane while the second threatens to enter it. The bus on the left prevents the bicyclist in the bike lane from maneuvering around either vehicle. The photo below shows the situation from a different angle, that of the motorist wanting to turn left.

The vehicle operator on the left – a bus driver, in this case – has stopped the vehicle because they can occupy the intersection with the vehicle, or leave it open. Essentially, the bus driver has stopped to “let” the motorists on Green Street proceed across Milwaukee and further north into Green Street or turn left onto Milwaukee. Their movements would, again, put the bicyclist in danger, and put themselves and other motorists in danger because they are making nearly-blind turns into faster moving traffic.

The threats to the motorist are as limitless as the ones to the bicyclist (although the bicyclist will experience much greater injury if the threat is realized). As the motorist is paying attention to other motor vehicle traffic the bicyclist is coming down this bike lane – yep, I took the photograph – and is additionally obscured by the line of parked cars on the bicyclist’s right, and is in the shadow of the bus and the buildings. It’s like there’s a perfect storm of blind spots.

The quickest way to implement a system of filtered permeability and raise the significance and safety of the Green Street and intersecting Milwaukee Avenue blocks within the low-stress bicycling network would be to install a series of large planter boxes that prevent motorists from entering or exiting Green Street but allow bicyclists to filter through the planters.

And skip any traffic impact study. Not a single parking space will be lost or be made inaccessible with the implementation. A traffic study is not an experiment, but has practically been a foreboding document that has only ever said “things will be different”. (A good plenty of them have also suggested adding multiple $300,000 traffic signals.)

I read on Streetsblog USA recently about Pittsburgh’s new protected bike lanes:

“Instead of asking people to judge the unknown, the city’s leaders built something new and have proceded to let the public vet the idea once it’s already on the ground.”

Chicago maintains a Silver bike-friendly commenting ranking, yet my initial analysis shows that our metrics are below average among other Silver communities after which I’m led to believe we’re undeserving of the medal. Safety is a citizen’s number one concern when considering to use a bicycle for transportation and it will take an expansion of the low-stress bicycling network – currently not a priority – to deserve the current ranking or achieve anything higher.

Two bicyclists take different routes around this driver blocking the bike lane with their car

This photograph depicts a nearly identical situation but from the perspective of the motorist on Green Street approaching Milwaukee Avenue. Two bicyclists have taken two routes around the motorist blocking the bike lane with their vehicle.

A little street art does the body (and mind) good

“The Chicago Transit Authority [CTA] Series is an exploration of how a small change in a word can recontextualize otherwise expected results. David DuFault re-creates the CTA subway names of the original CTA stops with small modifications to change them into food names. Chicago loves its food after all. He limits himself by regulating the ‘rules’: only a maximum of two letters can be changed or by adding a word.” It should have been in the street art show, but the CTA removed it and doesn’t know what to do with it. If it returns the art, the CTA may appear to condone such trespassing of its property.

The Wellington Brown/Purple line station becomes “Beef Wellington.”

I went to the opening Chicago Street Art Show in Pilsen at the Chicago Urban Arts Society, 2229 S Halsted Street, this past Friday to check out what street artists have been up to. There was a lot of cool art on display via photographs. I believe the originator of the street art and the photographers whose prints were hung are two different people, but the exhibit didn’t make this clear. I couldn’t tell who the photographer was and who posted the street art.

The crowd at the gallery. Photo by Oscar Arriola.

I’ve seen this one. It’s on Milwaukee Avenue just north of Grand Avenue. It says, “I love you so much it hurts.”

I think Rod Blagojevich has been spotted running several times around Chicago (and the courts).

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