Tagquestion

Do you want this facility? Where?

Take a look at this protected two-way bike lane in Brooklyn, New York City.

Some people are suing to remove (or change it). If you’re someone who doesn’t live there, here’s why this fight could still be important for you. Or maybe you want to know why the bike lane was installed.

If your city’s transportation or public works department proposed a protected bike lane or cycle track for your town, where should the first one go?

I propose 11 locations for Chicago (see link for ideal segments):

  • Blue Island Avenue
  • Chicago Avenue
  • Fullerton Avenue
  • Grand Avenue
  • Halsted Street (in some discrete locations)
  • King Drive (connecting downtown/South Loop to Bronzeville, Hyde Park, Washington Park)
  • Ogden Avenue (the entire street, from the city boundary on the southwest side to its dead end at the Chicago River near Chicago Avenue)
  • Wabash Street (connecting downtown and IIT)
  • Washington Boulevard/Street
  • Wells Street – this may be one of the easiest locations to pull off, politically at least, especially if Alderman Reilly pays for all or part of it with his annual appropriation of $1.32 million (“menu funds”).
  • Western Avenue

    Notice how I didn’t propose Stony Island. Here’s why.

    P.S. This will not be like the case of high-speed rail in America, where if one governor refuses money for an HSR project, other governors can compete for that money. The Prospect Park West bike lane will not be picking up and moving to another state 😉

    Look at all that room for people to go about their business, whether by car, bike, roller skates, wheelchairs, or their own two feet. Photos by Elizabeth Press.

    Readers Ask: Choosing a GPS-enabled camera

    Readers Ask. Once or twice a month, a blog reader asks me a question about GIS, software, or schools. I’ll be relaying my responses and answers in this new column. This is the first entry.

    Question

    On Oct 29, 2010, J wrote:

    I see from your blog that you use the Sony  DSC-HX5V camera to record the locations/photos, and that you also use ESRI software.  I am just about to buy that same camera for my work, and have been looking for information about if it is easy (or not) to upload the info in Arcinfo/ESRI software.  Would you mind letting me know?

    Thanks,

    J

    I used an external GPS logger to create the map of my bicycle trip around New York City.

    Response

    Hi J,

    I have no experience with using the GPS in the camera. I believed that reception would be poor, especially in urban areas, like where I live – Chicago. I use an external GPS logger (in the same list as the camera) and external antenna. When I get back from a trip, I use software to link the GPS tracks with the photos. The software embeds the coordinates into the JPEG metadata.

    I also have no experience using GPS with ArcInfo. I know that ArcExplorer Desktop allows you to import GPX (GPS XML files) but I don’t know what you can do with them in the program. I tried, but failed. I use Windows inside Parallels for Mac, so not everything works 100% of the time.

    I did load a GPX file from my external GPS logger into QGIS using the GpsTools plugin. I can export a shapefile from it to work in ArcGIS just fine.

    I looked at your organization’s website and it seems you work in the open country. I think you’ll have better GPS tracking results out there with the camera than I do in Chicago. Even with the external antenna, the results in Chicago can be weird – it seems the signals bounce off skyscrapers and trick the GPS receiver into thinking it’s in Lake Michigan.

    Lastly, I do recommend the camera for its low-light capabilities, iSweep panorama mode, and 1080i60 HD movie mode.

    Steve – contact me

    Bump out opportunity

    I was reading a plan for a streetscape design (doesn’t matter for where) and I saw a street map with orange dots showing “bumpout opportunities.” The plan was mostly images and didn’t describe this feature.

    Were these opportunities because the community had indicated their desire for slower turns, shorter crosswalks, additional landscaping, or they needed space for bike parking?

    Or did someone think, “A bumpout would fit here, let’s install one.” (In other words, “because we can.”)

    This post is less about questioning the rationale behind constructing bumpouts (also called curb extensions), but about questioning why and how we decide to build stuff.

    Do we build things because there’s a need for that thing, or because someone thinks that thing is needed? This discussion leads us to talking about the role of public participation in planning. Often I see public participation used as a way to measure support for an idea that seems like it will become real regardless of which way the vocal public feels. Organizations should measure, instead, the demand for a solution of a problem, from which they can attempt to discover, understand, and propose fixes or improvements to the problem.

    For a fair division of commuting space

    UPDATE: Transportation writer Jon Hilkevitch (“Hilkie”) published an article today about crosswalk enforcement in Chicago based on a new state law the Active Transportation Alliance helped pass that removes ambiguity about what drivers must do when a person wants to cross the street (they must STOP).

    But I’m updating this post because he also writes about the crazy pedestrian situation I describe below at Adams and Riverside. I’ve quoted the key parts here:

    The situation can be even worse downtown, where a vehicles-versus-pedestrians culture seems to flourish unchecked. Simply walking across Adams Street outside Chicago Union Station at rush hour can feel like you’re taking a big risk, as pedestrians dodge cars, buses and cabs and then must maneuver around the panhandlers and assorted vendors clogging the sidewalks near the curb.

    It’s a mystery why such mayhem is tolerated by city or Amtrak police. The highest volume of pedestrian traffic downtown is right there at Adams and the Chicago River outside the station, according to a study conducted for the city.

    “The cabdrivers have no concern with pedestrians trying to cross Adams in the crosswalk,” said Richard Sakowski, who commutes downtown daily on Metra from his home in Oswego. “They cut in front of other drivers cursing and yelling, pull from the center lane to the curb and stop in the crosswalk, not caring who they might hit. It is a very dangerous situation that the city does not care about.”

    Chicago officials disagree, yet they have for years studied the problems around the downtown commuter rail stations without taking major action.

    The city has received more than $10 million in grants to develop an off-street terminal on the south side of Jackson Boulevard just south of Union Station to address traffic safety issues and the crush of taxis and buses vying for limited curb space, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation.

    “No timetable yet, but construction could begin in the next few years,” CDOT spokesman Brian Steele said.

    Read the full article.


    Every weekday afternoon in Chicago, over 100,000 people need to get to Union Station and Ogilvie Transportation Center to get on their Metra trains and go home. If you’re watching them walk, it seems like they don’t have enough room. The multitude of private automobiles with a single occupant and the hundreds of taxicabs also traveling towards these train terminals block the tens of buses that are trying to get commuters to the stations or to their neighborhoods.

    Let’s look at Adams Street between Wacker Drive and Riverside Plaza. Riverside Plaza is a pedestrian-only thoroughfare (privately owned) alongside the west bank of the Chicago River and connects both train stations.

    People “wait” to cross to the south sidewalk on Adams Street at Wacker Drive because they want to get to the entrance of Union Station. I use wait lightly – they creep out into the street and jog across whenever there’s the slightest opening (against the crosswalk signal).

    Those who didn’t cross Adams Street at Wacker Drive now have to cross at Riverside Plaza. Thankfully, there’s a timed signal here for the crosswalk that stops traffic on Adams Street. It doesn’t always work because taxi drivers park their cabs on all segments of Adams Street here, sometimes on top of the crosswalk stripes themselves.

    Take a look at the data (from the City of Chicago Traffic Information website):

    • 41,700 pedestrians, walking in both directions, were counted on Adams Street immediately west of Wacker Drive in one 10 hour segment, between 7:45 and 17:45, in 2007.
    • 14,300 vehicles, westbound only, were counted on Adams Street immediately east of Wacker Drive in one 24 hour segment, on September 20, 2006.

    For simplicity, divide the number of pedestrians in half to get the actual number of people walking toward the train station in the afternoon. 20,850 commuters walk on Adams Street to get to Union Station. But trains don’t stop at 17:45. There are several more leaving every 5-10 minutes until 19:00. So add a couple more thousand pedestrians. Imagine that a couple hundred of them will be walking in the street because the sidewalk is crammed (I haven’t photographed this yet).

    Now for vehicles. We don’t know how many are delivery trucks, taxicabs, or buses were counted. Only two bus routes come through here. (On Madison Street, in front of the Ogilvie Transportation Center, there are twelve bus routes and fewer walkers.) Some of the vehicles are turning right or left onto Wacker, so we can probably decrease the quantity that’s actually passing by the same count location as the pedestrian count.

    Spatial mismatch

    So now we know a little bit more about how many people, and by what mode, travel on Adams Street between Wacker Drive and Riverside Plaza. Walking commuters have little room (so little that some choose to walk in the street) on their standard 10-14 feet wide sidewalks and motorized vehicles get lots of room in four travel lanes. Then, the vehicles that achieve the highest efficiency and economic productivity are delayed by the congestion, in part caused by the least efficient vehicles.

    Is the space divided fairly? What should change? What examples of “transportation spatial mismatch” can you give for where you live?

    Is Chicago ready for Tokyo-inspired elevated pedestrian bridges at intersections? Las Vegas has several of these, as well as every Asian city with a few million residents. I first brought this up in the post, World photographic tour. Photo by Yuzi Kanazawa.

    Benefits of bike parking

    I’m working on my master’s project about bike parking distribution and equity in Chicago and while working on a section in the paper, I decided to get some help from readers. Many transportation projects are measured on predicted changes like trip travel time savings or trip cost savings (I give two examples below the photo).

    My question is this: What are a bike parking installation’s measurable benefits to a traveler or a community?

    Photo: Portland has installed 40 on-street bike parking “corrals” since 2004. What does a traveler or community gain from this bike rack installation? Photo by Kyle Gradinger.

    To figure equity (fairness) for these project types, you measure these impacts for different groups (often high, medium, and low income), either in the alternatives analysis, or project selection phases. So, converting a lane on a highway to charge tolls for the lane’s users will have a certain benefit for many trips: a lower trip time. A new bus route may be convenient enough for some travelers to switch from driving to taking the bus, possibly reducing their trip cost.

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