Taggovernment

Chicago is the First City when it comes to permeable paving

The New York Times wrote on Sunday about the Pilsen pollution fighting bike lanes I’m really gung-ho about. They didn’t provide any new information, failing to even mention their location. But they did publish an excellent 3D graphic showing how it works! (The article’s main focus is how Chicago is predicted to become hotter and wetter, “more like Baton Rouge”, and how city planners, geniuses all, are working on this problem.)

First, here’s a photo of what the bike and parking lanes look like now, both made with a topper created by Italcementi that removes nitrous oxides from the air:

Then take a look at this diagram showing the streetscape design on Blue Island between Wood and Ashland (still under construction).

Hat tip to The Car Whisperer – “Chicago may stop paving streets altogether in ten years”.

Why I’m keeping track of Brooklyn’s bike lane drama

A protected bike lane on Prospect Park West in Brooklyn installed by the New York City Department of Transportation in summer 2010 is under attack. Two groups have sued the city in March 2011 over the lane’s installation. The city published a report that indicated that the new bike lane contributed to fewer drivers speeding, a decrease in injuries, and an increase in compliance of the law banning bicycling on the sidewalk.

I have written several articles about the drama, including New Yorkers really want to keep their bike lanes.

Why am I paying attention?

I believe this fight may come to Chicago when the Chicago Department of Transportation starts planning the cycle track to be installed on Stony Island Avenue between 69th and 77th Streets, which may be installed as soon as 2014.

And when the fight does come, I want to know as much as possible about how to defend Chicago’s first cycle track.

Will we be successful and install a similar facility in Chicago? Photo features New York City’s first cycle track, from 2007, on 9th Avenue.

Draft letter to my Alderman about the TSA

To my readers: I am concerned about transportation security in the United States. I am concerned that it grossly oversteps boundaries erected by my rights as a citizen. I am concerned about the effectiveness of security theater. I want to travel without my naked body being viewed, or my clothed body being touched, by strangers at the airport.* I want my elected politicians to do something. The first is to consider our options.

Below is a draft letter to my most local elected official, the 11th Ward Alderman of Chicago. I’ll send this to him to his office at 3659 S Halsted Street after Thanksgiving week.

Do you have ideas for making it better? My opinion is at the end.

Dear Alderman Balcer,

I understand that airports in the United States can elect to remove the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and provide their passenger screening services.

You have probably heard that is widespread confusion, anger, and disgust at how some people passing through America’s airports are being treated. Many object to having strangers view them naked, and others are reporting feeling groped by strangers – all in the name of preventing terrorism. The federal Government Accountability Office reported that it could not confirm if the current “Advanced Imaging Technology” (AIT) machines (either backscatter x-ray or millimeter wave) would have detected the explosive material someone attempted to use around Christmas 2009.

I haven’t yet decided if I will include this photo of a sleeping TSA officer at Chicago’s Midway (MDW) airport in 2007. Photo by Erin Nekervis.

As the City of Chicago owns O’Hare and Midway Airports, the City Council has power and authority over their operations.

I urge you and your colleagues to investigate the effectiveness of the TSA’s AIT machines, their protection or lack of protection of Chicagoans’ privacy, the level of training each TSA worker receives, and the possibility of using different passenger screening techniques in the Chicago Airport System, without the aid of the TSA.

I have enclosed an article by the Toronto Star from December 30, 2009, that briefly explains how security works at airports in Israel, a country under daily threats of bombing, and real bombing, without the use of expensive and unexplained machinery.

Steven Vance
11th Ward Resident

*I really want some high-speed rail.

Addendum, 11/19/10: After reading how an airline pilot refused to have his body groped or viewed naked, and describing his experience with the TSA on a message board, I wanted to post the pilot’s comments (via Gizmodo):

Roberts’s reply: “If your perspective prevails [that Roberts's actions had no effect in changing TSA policy] – and I’m afraid it may – we may all live to find ourselves wishing we had fought in earlier days, when we still had a fighting chance.”

This reminds me of the “If you’ve got nothing to hide, then why are you against it?” position. At the rate the TSA is removing rights protecting Americans from unreasonable searches (Fourth Amendment), I eventually won’t have anything to hide because I won’t be allowed to have anything – no water bottles, no 7 inches long bike tools, no shaving cream. This government, and many other governments, conducts intensive surveillance and collects godawful amounts of data. The government is not always benign, will share the data, and does a poor job of securing the data. I am not doing anything illegal, but that does not mean I want to share all of my activities with the government or the police.

Read more TSA horror stories, in this roundup from the UK-based Daily Mail.

My endorsements for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) is in charge of treating sewage, managing storm water runoff, controlling for floods, and keeping pollution out of our waterways (the District only covers Cook County). It operates seven water treatment plants. It has a board of elected commissioners. Three commissioners are elected every two years for six–year terms. Tuesday, November 2, 2010, is the day on which you can help control the future of the District.

Why should you care about the MWRD and its Board of Commissioners?

  1. If you own property, then you pay taxes to the MWRD. Look at your property tax bill and you will see a line item on there for “Metro Water Reclamation Dist of Gr Chgo” – you’ll pay more to have everyone’s sewage cleaned and storm water collected than you will to pay for the Cook County Forest Preserve District and City of Chicago libraries.
  2. If you rent property, your rents will be somewhat based on the property taxes the property owner pays for your unit.
  3. If your basement has flooded, you have probably been affected by unsustainable and incomplete storm water management. This is MWRD’s responsibility but the organization seems too hellbent on building more voluminous tunnels to store water before it can be cleaned and discharged into Lake Michigan.

Read on for my endorsements if any of the preceding situations or events apply to you, or if you believe there are more sustainable ways of doing the District’s job.

Nadine Bopp

Nadine is my favorite candidate. What are her credentials you ask?

  • Bachelor’s degree in Ecology
  • Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning
  • Teaches environmental science, botany and sustainable architecture
  • Works at the Cook County Forest Preserve District as an environmental planner in writing a conservation management plan
  • Works as a board member in the Chicago chapter of the the U.S. Green Building Council (posts about U.S. GBC)

Her credentials and her answers to the Chicago Tribune questionnaire are directly in line with my values, my experience, and my vision for storm water management in Chicago and Cook County. If you’re not sure how this is, then you haven’t been reading enough on Steven can plan!

Jack Ailey

In Jack’s answer to the Chicago Tribune about specific initiatives he would seek to accomplish in his term, he said he would stress,

“a vigorous campaign to keep storm water out of our sewer system, promoting all the various methods to do this. We need incentives for homeowners to install rain barrels. We need incentives for green roofs. We need incentives for installing permeable paving. Property owners need to get some tangible benefit from doing the things needed to reduce the amount of storm water entering the sewer system.”

Chicago has a combined sewer system, so it also collects storm water. The additional water cannot be cleaned fast enough and there’s not enough Deep Tunnel to store it so much of the dirty water is discharged into Lake Michigan. By reducing the demand on our systems with sustainable management practices, we will also reduce our costs AND the risk and prevalence of flooding.

Also, I’m a bit partial to the topic of using rain barrels as part of water conservation and storm water management: I was ecstatic watching my rain barrel work so well during its first storm.

The organization in charge of managing storm water should better promote the use of rain barrels and other water conservation techniques that reduce the workload on our already over-taxed sewer system.

Michael Alvarez

In Michael’s comments to the Chicago Tribune about a proposed watershed management ordinance, he said,

“New development on or adjacent to the existing flood plain should be required to increase the storage rate, rather than simply meeting the pre-construction run off rate. Additionally, the ordinance should provide incentive for property owners, with existing structures, to implement water conservation techniques. In all instances we should encourage the use of permeable pavers and other technologies that will alleviate the strain on our environment.”

By mandating an increase in water storage rate, this would ensure that properties are built to better handle storm water. What I don’t see, and would like to see from Michael, is more about his ideas on which techniques would be allowed. Dedicating a large portion of a housing development to water retention – a popular technique in low-density areas – is not a productive use of land, nor does it promote sustainable storm water management. But Michael’s comments on water conservation and permeable pavers sell me on his candidacy.


MBAC meeting now online

In a small victory for open government (Gov 2.0), one new City of Chicago meeting has gone “live.”

Well, it was live two Wednesdays ago (if you showed up at City Hall at 3 PM on the 11th floor*), but you can watch the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council on Ustream. Thanks to Jim Limber for setting up the webcam and streaming it. I haven’t watched it yet; you can also read the meeting minutes and see one of the distributed handouts.

MBAC is where people involved in bicycle projects come together to talk about them. It includes riding and racing clubs, police, city agencies, CTA, advocacy groups, messengers, and regular citizens.

An MBAC meeting in June 2009. This was a special meeting and the only relevant photo I had for this blog post.

*I missed this MBAC; first one since working at the Chicago Department of Transportation, where I started in October 2007. I’ll be leaving at the end of this month and I’m looking for new employment. You can hire me.

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