Tagroundup

Just in case you’re new here

Welcome to Steven Can Plan. Here’s some stuff I’ve posted recently around the interwebs…

On my other blog, Streetsblog Chicago, I wrote about how we need to do a better job counting bicyclists.

In Copenhagen, a permanently installed device counts cyclists all day, every day. 

And a guy from Brooklyn was visiting his friend in Chicago and was struck by a car whose driver escaped – he spent the night in the hospital for cranial bleeding and went back home on Sunday. The Chicago Police Department is its slow self in getting the lawyer the crash report and witness information.

The scene of the crash. 

I issued two updates to the Chicago Bike Guide app for iOS (formerly called Chicago Bike Map) and talked about its new features here and here. Head over to iTunes to buy and download it.

The Chicago Bike Guide includes my burrito recommendations. 

Lastly, on this blog, I boasted about how cool it is that anyone can improve OpenStreetMap: I showed you how much I drew to make Willow Creek Community Church appear in South Barrington, Illinois. It was previously an empty space! If you want something changed on OpenStreetMap, I’ll do it for you.

A screenshot shows what I added: parking lots, parking aisles, driveways, retention ponds, and the church building. 

That’s the kind of stuff you can expect from me; my tone isn’t always so negative. I also post a lot of articles about GIS, QGIS, and geocoding, but I haven’t in a while.

Is this the sign of things to come for the CTA?

The Mayor of Chicago has considerable influence over the Chicago Transit Authority. Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel let Chicagoans know on Tuesday, April 19, 2011, partially how he intends to wield that influence. This post is a look into the recent announcements regarding transit in Chicago.

1. Forrest Claypool “appointed” as CTA president*

During the press conference, Rahm had some choice words and expended a little of his still-growing political capital:

He shares my belief that (the CTA) is our most critical piece of infrastructure. Forrest has the experience to capitalize on the CTA’s strengths and the creative mind to guide its future.

He didn’t mention our roads, highways, or airports. While Mayor Daley may have shirked finding the best funding solutions for the Chicago Transit Authority, saying it’s the state legislature’s responsibility, Rahm and his choice for president staking a bigger role in leading the CTA. Chicago Tribune, April 19, 2011

2. Gabe Klein at CDOT

The Chicago Department of Transportation supports the CTA in many respects. It owns the downtown subways and subway stations. It can renovate or build stations for the CTA. For example, CDOT is currently renovating the Grand/State Red Line station and building the completely new Morgan/Lake Green/Pink Line station. Gabe is a very transit-friendly DOT commissioner. In Washington, D.C., he helped launch a streetcar project to supplement the city’s bus and subway networks.

Robert Thomson, or “Dr. Gridlock” from the Washington Post, defended Klein from a letter writer with a windshield perspective on traveling within the city:

Klein was trying to restore an old balance that would allow everyone to move around more easily. “People think about having to move X number of cars,” he said. “We’ve tried to think about how we’re moving people. . . . We want to provide people with attractive choices.” Washington Post, December 11, 2010 (just days after Gabe announced his resignation)

3. Ray LaHood and the Red Line Extension

Rahm says he’s gung ho about extending the Red Line from 95th to 130th, a project that will cost over $1.2 billion. The plans are waiting for funding. On his campaign website, Rahm expressed his interest in the project: “Rahm will make it a major priority of his administration” and mentioning how he would leverage every available funding opportunity to get it built.

During his visit on Thursday to Chicago, reporters asked U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood about funding this project. As I expected, he offered no clear answer:

LaHood made no commitment to fulfill Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel’s stated plan to line up federal funding in his first year in office to extend the south branch of the CTA Red Line from its current terminus at 95th Street another 5.5 miles to 130th Street. [LaHood said he] would invite incoming CTA President Forrest Claypool and Gabe Klein, whom Emanuel selected to head the Chicago Department of Transportation, to Washington to lay out their project priorities and present cost estimates for the work. Chicago Tribune, April 21, 2011

Currently, the CTA has not applied for funding for this project so Ray couldn’t provide any different answer.

See all of my 500+ Chicago Transit Authority photos.

*It should be noted that the Transit Act requires the board to choose the president, not the Mayor of Chicago. From (70 ILCS 3605/27) (from Ch. 111 2/3, par. 327): “The Board may appoint an Executive Director [president] who shall be a person of recognized ability and experience in the operation of transportation systems to hold office during the pleasure of the Board. The Executive Director shall have management of the properties and business of the Authority and the employees thereof, subject to the general control of the Board…”

October Chicago roundup

As much as I try to write about national or international news and events, I can’t keep the Chicago in me suppressed.

Pedestrian safety at Grant Park

Award winning Chicago Tribune writer, Blair Kamin, takes up a cause leading to construction (he won a journalism award from ASCE Wednesday night – not his first engineering award). In 2009, after the Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago opened, along with Renzo Piano’s bridge over Monroe, people started jaywalking more frequently. Blair pointed out how the bridge made the walk across Monroe too distant and inconvenient (agreed) and how the crest of the small hill on Monroe made it so car drivers (naturally driving fast on a four lane street) would not see pedestrians crossing here. CDOT spokesperson Brian Steele said they would investigate it and come up with some options. Eventually some signs and curb cuts were installed, but that wasn’t good enough.

Jaywalkers, they! Photo taken before pedestrian safety measures installed. By Andrew Ciscel.

Now, Blair reports, CDOT has installed a pedestrian refuge island and push button-activated flashing lights. Even still, it’s not the best. Blair is advocating for a clear and simple sign that says, according to new state law, “Stop for pedestrians.”

Here’s to hoping that Blair will take up some new causes, like bicycling perhaps. I wrote to him asking him to help me with the Dominick’s bike parking issue, but a well-worded email and letter to the CEO solved that. But I support Blair’s continued case for this street, including making this block car-free. It carries 13,500 cars per day, while Jackson Boulevard to the south carries 7,900. I think the surrounding streets can absorb the additional traffic while some of it will just disappear.

Chicago skyline on pause

Medill reports that there are now 2,500 vacant condos and apartments (rental condos) downtown. (Does that seem like a lot to you?) The Chicago Spire is the “big deal” building that’s not going to happen.

All that remains is a very large (and deep) hole. Photo by Duane Rapp.

Getting into real estate

I’m loving Curbed Chicago. It’s all about real estate, but it’s not just about transactions or what’s for sale. They post a lot of good links about neighborhood drama and events, and even link back to Steven can plan.

I’m not a “real estate person” but I didn’t know how exciting it can be. And real estate has EVERYTHING to do with transportation. The existing of buildings and the need to go from one to another causes transportation. A UIC professor told the class, “Nowhere does transportation happen for transportation’s sake.” – Professor Joe DiJohn.

And I’ve been dealing with property owners to arrange for the installation of bike parking. The zoning code requires bike parking at new developments but only when car parking is required. I want to change that.

This one house, facing Lawndale Avenue, seems to be one of the only occupied structures in this stalled subdivision in West Elsdon. Photo by Eric Rogers.

Apple adding Genius Bar capacity to Chicago

Speaking of new developments… The “Apple Store Lincoln Park” opens on Saturday, October 23, 2010, at 10 AM. In the most congested shopping district of Chicago I can think of – it truly sucks to bike on North Avenue through here, but people do it. (North Michigan Avenue is only pedestrian congested – car and bus traffic actually does move most of the time.) There’s no Apple Store parking garage, but I imagine they could have secured the always empty spaces in the parking garage connected to the Borders across the street. Even so, I don’t believe the zoning code would then require bike parking.

Looking east at the Apple Store, with a wall around it, showing the Borders. The often empty parking lot is behind Borders. Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz.

I’m hoping that Apple says, “there’s one more thing,” and provides well-designed bike racks (by Jonathan Ive, fingers crossed!) in the new plaza they built between the store and the CTA Red Line station they paid to have renovated.

Tuesday roundup: High-speed rail and Asian carp

A collection of links and news stories I liked yesterday, Monday, June 4, 2010, the first business day of a new year and new decade. I hope you’ve started on this new year’s resolution.

  • Riding The Rails: How $8 Billion in Stimulus Funding for High-Speed rail Could Change the Face of the midwest—or Get Derailed* (Mindful Metropolis – The article presents nothing new, but for novices on the topic, it combines all of the talks, plans, and dollar amounts that have been discussed over the past few years. New to me, though, is feedback from a meeting of train advocates and industry types at the Spertus Institute in October 2009. *Links to Flash version of entire magazine issue. Download accessible PDF, look for page 28.
  • Columnist warns of forced porch-sitting, with possible mandatory neighbor interaction (Sprawled Out) – John Michlig takes Milwaukee Sentinel writer to task about shoddy journalism and defends real, walkable neighborhood designs. Also, a mention of a new neighborhood design called “coving.”
  • ‘Fewer’ people use fast train (China.org.cn) – The world’s fastest high-speed rail opens in China (Wuhan to Guangzhou); two weeks later there’s subtle criticism of low ridership reports. China.org.cn is interesting; known as “China Internet Information Center” and “published under the auspices of the State Council Information Office and the China International Publishing Group in Beijing.” It’s hard to know what information comes from the government and what doesn’t.
  • Fight Against Asian Carp Threatens Fragile Great Lakes Unity (New York Times) – The State of New York has joined the State of Michigan’s lawsuit against the State of Illinois to force Illinois to close the waterway connection between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River. The states fear that Asian carp will soon invade the Great Lakes and destroy the ecology. The State of Illinois operates eight locks and dams along the Illinois Waterway and Illinois River. See map below (made with Google My Maps).


View Lake Michigan to the Mississippi in a larger map

Traffic: It never ends

Automobile congestion on the Kennedy Expressway* (I-90/94), taken from the L tracks above Lake Street in Chicago, Illinois.

Other things that never end (a roundup of sorts):

Tuesday roundup: Getting around

These are the posts about “getting around” I found interesting today. Blogs and the links to the referenced articles are in bold.

“Nowhere does transportation happen for transportation’s sake.” – Professor DiJohn, UIC.

Discovering Urbanism

Have you ever noticed from an elevated train or an airplane the dirt paths and small trails through parks and vacant lots? Like water and electricity, people travel the path of least resistance, with or without a dedicated facility. (Is that why flooding’s so difficult to control?) In the most recent “Google Earth Travelogue,” Discovering Urbanism points out the innumerable walking paths in the quarter mile park or mall between two highways and building corridors in Brasilia, the master planned capital of Brasil. Selected quotes:

I added this comment about how planners can use this “route choice theory” (path of least resistance) to determine where to install paths for bicyclists: “Where should cities build bikeways? Where people want them. And how might we figure where people go, aside from a stated answer survey, we could tag 1,000 random bicyclists with GPS and track where they go. It would probably give us an image like the second one in your post: with yellow lines criss-crossing the city’s street network.”

Jennifer Dill’s study of Portland, Oregon, bicyclists did just that! She asked, “How does the built environment influence bicycling behavior; and what routes did they take?” The project wasn’t used to determine where routes should be built, but how existing routes affect trips. I think the same data the project collected could also be used to answer my question, “Where should cities build bikeways?”

Human Transit

The City of Minneapolis, Minnesota, is in the midst of a major transportation upgrade in downtown. They’re converting one-way streets to two way streets with bike lanes and off-peak parking. What a way to “unlock downtown,” says Human Transit.

And they tripled bus capacity on new transit malls with two regular travel lanes in one direction, and two bus-only lanes in the opposite direction. The malls also mixing in staggered bus stops, or groups of stops targeted at a specific area of the city, making “service more legible.” Selected quotes:

  • “…every bus was as slow as the slowest bus.”
  • “Doubling the width triples the capacity.”

I visited Minneapolis in September to explore the Midtown Greenway and Hiawatha light rail. I also rode my rental bike through downtown to get a feel for how another Midwestern city’s downtown lives.

The Transport Politic

Dubai seems to grab way more headlines than its Persian Gulf neighbor, Qatar. But Qatar, with the fastest growing economy on Earth, has decided rail (both passenger and freight) infrastructure is a “crucial element to economic viability.” Some might say the Dubai Metro heavy rail transit line is too late to battle congestion (Reuters). Can Qatar avoid the same fate?

The plan the Qatari government signed with Germany’s Deutsche Bahn is ambitious: “The project will incorporate 180 miles of local light and metro rail for Doha city center, rapidly expanding public transportation offerings for what is now a car-centric place.” Selected quotes:

  • “Deutsche Bahn is laying its reputation — and its money — on the line for this project, which will be its largest-ever foreign investment.”
  • “If a country is defined by the spending it commits to its future, the U.S. is falling behind rapidly.”

I don’t think the United States will start comparing itself it to any Middle Eastern country anytime soon – many in this country still think Iraq was involved in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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