TagUIC

Talking about a pedestrian street for Peoria Street on Vocalo

Click on the rendering to enlarge and learn about the main features. 

Ryan Lakes and I took our Peoria Street pedestrian street proposal to the masses by speaking to Molly Adams and Brian Babylon on Tuesday morning’s Morning AMp show on Vocalo, FM89.5

Listen (or download) to the 15 minute interview on SoundCloud

What is the Peoria Street pedestrian street?

We propose creating a gateway connection between the University of Illinois at Chicago’s east campus and the West Loop neighborhood over the Peoria Street bridge by nearly eliminating car traffic, completely eliminating parking, removing curbs, and adding amenities to make this a place to go to instead of through.

The Peoria Street bridge over I-290/Eisenhower expressway, between Van Buren and Harrison Streets, was closed to car traffic in 1965 when a new entrance for the CTA station opened. This entrance of the UIC-Halsted Blue Line station is by far the most used access point to the busy station, as it’s the closest to campus buildings. In fact, according to a CTA letter to IDOT, “weekday passenger volumes at this station entrance exceed 11 of the other 12 total station passenger volumes at the other stops on the Forest Park Blue Line branch”.

The UIC Campus Master Plan of 2010 calls for creating a gateway at this place, and the Illinois Department of Transportation is proposing to rebuild this bridge as part of its Circle Interchange project. The bridge should rebuilt to accommodate a pedestrian street. However, rebuilding isn’t necessary and our proposal can be implemented in situ.

Ryan Lakes with Vocalo producer and cohost Molly Adams at the Vocalo studio in the WBEZ studio. 

Updated March 20 to bring the chronology of events up-to-date. 

The faces of Midwest urban innovation

From the UPPSA-sponsored Urban Innovation Symposium at University of Illinois at Chicago on Friday, February 4, 2011. See all 22 photos.

Informatics in health care

Dr. Annette L. Valenta
Professor
Biomedical and Health Information Sciences, UIC

Deconstruction and reusing building materials to reduce waste

Elise Zelechowski
Deputy Executive Director
Delta Institute

Let nature handle our waste water systems instead of circumventing it

James Patchett
President and Founder
Conservation Design Forum

Community-driven planning – sometimes you can excuse the City’s input

Marcia Canton Campbell
Director of Center for Resilient Cities in Milwaukee

Break out of the organization chart, let innovation rise from anywhere

Aaron Renn
Urban issues blogger

Aaron Renn: Ideas about innovation

Note: I originally posted this entry immediately after writing the notes from Aaron’s keynote at the UIC Urban Innovation Symposium, put on by the graduate students in the Urban Planning and Policy Student Assocation or UPPSA. Aaron Renn writes The Urbanophile and works for a management consulting firm.

Aaron is probably best known for his 50 ideas to increase the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) ridership in an ideas challenge from the Chicago Chamber of Commerce and InnoCentive. (Boo to the Chicago Tribune who removes web pages after awhile.)

“How many ideas were implemented? Donut.”

The ideas in and of itself don’t make things happens.There are enormous structural barriers to innovate in the world. Most of you inspire not just to have innovative ideas, but to actually change for the better the places you live and work.

Consulting for businesses

Aaron’s career: Doing consulting for clients. “I used to think that people hired consultants because ppl think we’re smart guys. I thought I could use some of my ideas in the company. Nothing happened.”

Why do people and companies really hire consultants?

First off, there’s the tyranny of the organization chart. Everyone is in a box. Everything you do is seen in the box you occupy. What are the odds you will get an audience with the CEO, and then take your idea?

The reason people hire consultants is because they exist outside the organization chart. Innovation occurs in the bottom 95% of the organization chart pyramid. There’s no mechanism to have those ideas bubble up.

If something is untried, unproven, people are afraid to do it cuz they think their career’s on the line. So they bring in the biggest consultant they can find (meaning they have the biggest reputation).

On becoming known

I started my blog 4 years ago. I had no credentials. I started having journalists contact me. They would only paraphrase Aaron’s responses because “You are not authoritative enough to be quoted in my article.”

Only after I won the innovation challenge about the CTA would they start quoting me.

Building ideas for our cities

Aaron gave the audience a metaphor from the Bible of the sower [I missed the exact reference if he gave one]: “Our problem is not enough fertile seeds. It’s a problem of not having enough fertile soil.”

“I think building on assets is a trap. It’s the stuff we did yesterday.” Having a lot of assets to focus on may blind you to the ways you need to think about in order to innovate.

I see cities all the time defending the past. Cities are about people, not buildings. We always talk about building and form, but we don’t think about the people.

It’s very clear they’re talking about the buildings in that neighborhood – you can’t love the neighborhood if you hate the neighbors. Think about the actual human beings your project affects.

“If you don’t know where people are, you can’t lead them somewhere else.”

I like to travel. I like to meet the local bloggers and have them take me around. If I didn’t know [which city I was in], nothing about that building would tell me where I was. I don’t get a strong sense of the place. I think we have to think deeper about our cities. Think about the unique chartacter, history, and vlues of the cities we’re in. A lot of our cities seem kind of the same, and they don’t have that quaint Euro charm.

How can we make our plans, our cities, and our buildings more expressive of where they are? This is in this place and it’s right here. I think Chicago is one city that has done that. “It’s not about creating a sense of place, it’s about creating a sense of this place.”

Bikes are social

This entry originally appeared as a guest post on Let’s Go Ride a Bike, last week. I am posting it here now for you and recommending you visit that blog.

Two Mondays ago someone on the sidewalk yelled “Happy birthday” to me while I was riding to Bridgeport through University Village (UIC’s south campus). It was my birthday. I turned around to identify the shouting person. Joe was a classmate and now I most often see him at a local bike shop or playing bike polo. We went inside the store and chatted for awhile.

The bicycle is an extremely social tool. While it helps me get to the places I need to go, it does so in such a way that fosters community and interaction. As I ride, I’m exposed to the whims of the street: the noises, the chatter, the honks, the people, and the people I know. But it also helps me get to know new people.

Ready to zombie?

I met some new people on the Zombie Ride in October that started at West Town Bikes in Humboldt Park and finished at Johnny Sprockets bike shop in Lakeview.

I participated in another bike light distribution with Active Transportation Alliance on November 17, 2010. I photographed a previous distribution in Wicker Park a week earlier. This time around, at the corner of Halsted and Roosevelt at the UIC campus, I took a more direct role by flagging people riding bikes without lights to pull over and stop. I would then attach a brand new headlight to their bicycle, courtesy of customers of Groupon and the law office of Jim Freeman. During the two minutes I had their undivided attention, I told them about the state law requiring a front light and the role of Active Transportation Alliance in the city and suburbs.

This time I wanted to record more information about all the people I helped and talked to. I kept a little note card in my pocket and recorded the revealed reasons why the person didn’t have a headlight, how many men and women I helped (I only recorded two categories), and some select quotes.

I think six people refused my offer for a free headlight – this is because they couldn’t hear me (several wore headphones), didn’t understand our intentions, or both. Also confused, a man driving a car said, “You little bastard with your bikes,” but I won’t let anyone distract me.

Genaro gives a free headlight to someone without it

Genaro installs a headlight to someone riding on Halsted Street in University Village.

Of all the people I stopped, I identified 21 men and 11 women (32 total). Four people said they lost their lights or had them stolen and hadn’t yet replaced the lights. One person forgot their lights. 27 of the 32 people riding bikes didn’t know it was state law to ride a bike with a headlight on at night. Here’s what some riders had to say:

“No one told me that!” I suspect this is an extremely common explanation. This is definitely an opportunity for local bike shops to educate their customers, but there are other places people can get this information, like resident advisers at dorms, churches, and workplaces. The Active Transportation Alliance fights tirelessly to instill basic information into the minds of people riding bikes around town.

One person I was talking to hadn’t heard of the Active Transportation Alliance and after I explained to him what the organization does, he said, “My friends and I want to start our own group.”

Someone on foot asked me, “How long are you going to be here? I want my friend to get one.” This guy came back with his friend and they both got free headlights.

Speaking of the bicycling leading me to meetings with people I know, three friends were walking by and said hello. I had met one of them, Andrew, at the same spot, in front of the UIC Skyspace as we both raced in an October 2006 scavenger hunt.

Blues unite!

Walk under the Skyspace to get a direct and undistracted view of the sky and space.

Chicago Flame reports on the recent UIC mayoral candidate forum

Alyssa Cherwak writes in the Chicago Flame, the University of Illinois at Chicago’s student newspaper. Obviously, someone took better notes than I did. She’s got the real dirt for us, quoting the candidates for mayor throughout the article :

“What are the qualifications to be mayor of the city of Chicago?” asked Ryan Graves. “Be eighteen years old, a registered voter, a city resident, in no debt to the city, and no felony convictions. I meet all of these qualifications.”

After the forum, Danny Davis and Miguel del Valle started talking to reporters.

Don’t vote for this guy

Will the next Chicago mayor be the same kind of urban planner like Richard M. Daley was? Will they build new parks and libraries at the same time they sell off infrastructure at a fraction of its value or abuse Tax Increment Financing funds?

I attended the UIC mayoral candidate forum on Wednesday to find this out. There was some talk about creating an open and transparent government (Patricia Watkins), with budgets that a 5th grader could read and spending denoted for each Ward or Community Area (I really like these ideas).

One candidate, Fredrick White, wants to support the building of a water bottling plant that would bottle water with “CHICAGO” on the label and have it sold in local stores and restaurants in order to create jobs (I don’t like this idea at all).

Fredrick K. White is probably telling the audience to visit his website.

I liked Miguel del Valle’s responses to the question about paying for higher education and ensuring the University of Illinois is funded. He recommended better integrating the community colleges and supporting the 3+1 program, where the final year of a bachelor’s program is completed at a university.

At least two candidates want to create technology parks, one even saying he wants Chicago to become the Silicon Valley of the Midwest. Another said Chicago can become the hotbed for nanotechnology development (William Walls).

Whatever was said, it wasn’t said by Fenton Patterson. I can’t recall anything he said. When responding to questions, he swaggered to the front of the stage, pulled his jacket back, stooped his head down, mumbled something that didn’t answer any question that was asked. His demeanor looked like that of a detective on [insert name of cop TV show here] ready to grill a perpetrator.

This forum was the first step in weeding out bad candidates like Fenton Patterson.

More of my work on the Chicago elections:

UIC hosts Chicago election season’s first forum

I’m following the race for 11th ward alderman as well as for mayor of Chicago – the election is going to get wild. It’s mild right now, though.

On Wednesday, the University of Illinois at Chicago hosted a forum in Student Center East (750 S Halsted) featuring 10 candidates for mayor. Out of the 20 candidates registered with the Board of Elections, 10 didn’t come. Noticeably absent were Rahm Emanuel, Carol Mosely-Braun, and Gerry Chico.

We’ve got some weirdos running for mayor of Chicago.

I’ll be uploading some video footage I recorded but I also tweeted a few times during the forum. Here they are in reverse chronological order:

  1. Ryan Graves says Rahm Emanuel gets corporate donations for favors, “not because they like the guy.”
  2. Some attendees upset at Ryan Graves use of word illegal aliens. They muttered they prefer undocumented. Same thing or not?
  3. Ryan Graves needs a better answer on higher education. Hu gave an excellent response.
  4. Ryan Graves actually knows what TIFs are for. #UIC mayoral candidate forum.
  5. Chicago’s 77 community areas from the 1950s still going strong today at #UIC mayoral candidate forum.
  6. Frederick K White wants to make a Chicago water bottling plant. #UIC mayoral
  7. #UIC mayoral candidate forum going well. Too many single issue platforms though.

I wrote so many times about Ryan Graves because I’m excited that he’s running. He’s 27 years old and I admire his efforts so far. I think that as long as he remains sane during the campaigning, he will be a good person to consider for mayor in the coming decades.

I wish that was me with the Apple iPad, live-tweeting the event.

Do you attend a bike friendly university?

Via TucsonVelo, I read that the League of American Bicyclists launched “Bicycle Friendly University” at Pro Walk Pro Bike, September, 2010.

Campuses are ideal laboratories to encourage and inspire the next generation to continue biking in post‐college life. “The program will demonstrate the many benefits of achieving aspirational levels of bicycle safety and infrastructure, while providing campuses with a roadmap to get there. It’s a win/win for everyone,” said Ariadne Delon Scott, bicycle program coordinator at Stanford University.

I filled out this questionnaire on behalf of the University of Illinois at Chicago, my alma mater, and its staff and students. Textual answers below.

If you think I selected the wrong answer, let me know.

ENGINEERING

  • Does your campus have a comprehensive, connected and well-maintained bicycling network? No
  • Is bike parking readily available throughout the campus? Yes. There are tons of bike racks everywhere. Some places need more and some places have too much, but the University doesn’t seem interested in redistributing them.
  • Is the college or university easily accessible by bike? Yes. There are numerous bike lanes and slow streets. Also several bus routes and one 24-hour L line (for multi-modal traveling).

EDUCATION

  • Does the college or university offer bicycling education classes for students and staff? No
  • Are there classes for campus motorists on how to share the road with cyclists? No

ENCOURAGEMENT

  • Does your college or university have an up-to-date bicycle map? No. The City of Chicago produced a UIC bicycle map in 20o5, and nothing has changed, so I guess it’s up-to-date.
  • Are there incentives offered for students and staff that commute by bike? No
  • Is there an active bicycle advocacy group at the college or university? No
  • Is there an on-campus bike center for rentals and repairs? No

ENFORCEMENT

  • Do campus safety/law enforcement officers receive training on the rights and responsibilities of all road users? Yes. I found this out during an email conversation with Commander Frank J. Cappitelli, PhD.
  • Does your campus have law enforcement or other public safety officers on bikes? Yes. Although I sometimes see them exhibiting illegal bicycling behavior like riding on the sidewalk and crossing against signals.
  • Is there a program on campus to prevent bike theft? No

EVALUATION

  • Is there an institutional plan or program to reduce bicyclist crashes? No
  • Does your college or university have a current comprehensive bicycle plan? No. This one’s debatable. Bicycling is part of the 2009 Master Plan with recommendations to mark new streets with bike lanes or shared lanes. It also proposes bike sharing and separated bike paths.
  • Does your college or university have a bicycle program manager? No

Your score: 4 points.

Score 0-7: Your college/university probably has some improvements to make before being designated as a BFU – but keep up the great work! Call us and we’ll tell you more about the strengths (and weaknesses) your scorecard reveals. Download the BFU application and let us help you start implementing an action plan.

Wal-Mart moves in, in a big way

Every Chicagoan should know by now that Wal-Mart, who currently only has a single store in the city limits, plans to open about thirty new stores (the City Council approved the construction of a Supercenter in the Pullman community area on the far south side*). Wal-Mart announced they want to open “dozens of new stores” in the next five years in various sizes ranging from 8,000 square feet (think Walgreens) to 20,000 square feet (think Apple Store Michigan Avenue) to the typical 200,000 square feet Supercenter.

This is big news for Chicagoans, and residents of New York City (there are no Wal-Marts in NYC). Not only will they be able to buy Coca-Cola for 20 cents a can, they won’t be able to shop at existing stores – because many of them will close. For now, the Chicago Tribune is keeping tabs on the developing story.

People in Chicago protest a new Wal-Mart. Disclaimer: This photo is from 2005, before the first Chicago Wal-Mart opened in 2006. However, in 2010, prior to the City Council vote, there were rallies protesting and showing support for new Wal-Mart stores. Photo by Andrey Smagin.

While they report on the recorded impacts of incoming Wal-Mart stores on new markets, I hope they answer the questions surrounding the confusion over the alleged negotiations between Wal-Mart executives and Chicago labor unions (representing construction and service employees). The unions say they got Wal-Mart to agree to a minimum wage of $8.75 while Wal-Mart says it’s just a matter of internal policy to adjust wages for the market.

Wal-Mart has funded a possibly influential campaign to get Chicagoans to support their new proposed new stores. Part of the campaign included ads on buses and putting signs and t-shirts on youths in the street, saying “Jobs or else.” If you want a Wal-Mart in Chicago, the company urges you to contact your alderman. Photo by Ira of Being Totally Sweet in Chicago.

So what are those impacts?

Wal-Mart can afford to be bold, and its impact is readily seen. Median sales decrease 40 percent at similar high-volume stores when a Wal-Mart enters the market, 17 percent at supermarkets and about 6 percent at drugstores, according to a study published in June 2009 by researchers at multiple universities and led by the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.

Drugstores like Deerfield-based [Illinois] Walgreens are the least impacted, according to the study, and are generally able to stay afloat by increasing their assortment size.

Supermarkets, the study found, can survive by doing their best to differentiate themselves from Wal-Mart, rather than attempting to compete.

Ideas about marketing and additional discussion of impacts is written on page two of the article. This light investigation from the Tribune comes after a recently released study from the University of Illinois at Chicago (my alma mater). Here’s the synopsis from that study about the sole Chicago Wal-Mart in the Austin (west side) neighborhood:

The study found that stores near Wal-Mart were more likely to go out of business, eliminating the equivalent of about 300 full-time jobs — about as many as Wal-Mart initially added to the area.

Read the full press release on the UIC News site or download the study (PDF).

*UPDATE: Where is the Pullman community area? It’s northwest of Lake Calumet and home to the former Pullman Palace Car Company’s factory and company town (see detailed street map of the Pullman community area). There are four commuter rail stations on the Metra Electric line within walking distance of the new shopping center. The development, called Pullman Park, will be located at 111th Street and the Bishop Ford Expressway (I-94). It includes shopping, a school, and housing, among other uses. The CTA #111/111th Street bus will run near Pullman Park.

I’ve graduated

Say hello to Chicago’s newest planner. ME!

Instead of walking at my school’s graduation ceremony on May 7, 2010, I was busy at work making sure bike parking in Chicago is equitably distributed, visiting the Pacific Northwest, and generally having fun.

Me having fun riding a Volae recumbent bicycle at the Rapid Transit Cycleshop grand opening in University Village at UIC’s South Campus.

Did I say something about bike parking equity? Oh, yeah, I’ve only blogged about it here a couple of times before and it comprised my entire master’s project (which thankfully was approved and deemed “satisfactory” by my wonderful adviser, Vonu). You can read the entire project on my website. I wrote my project in a wiki called DokuWiki – it’s a text-based, lightweight application that encourages writing and doesn’t stand in the way of a creative masterpiece (like Microsoft Word does).

It’s a huge project (there are over 35 webpages that come out to 139 printed pages). I realize that most people won’t read it, but in the course of preparing for a short presentation I recently gave to some staff members at Active Transportation Alliance, I created a short summary to aid me.

Read my project, Bike Parking Equity, or the summary.

A photo of my cheaply printed project. I printed to PDF each and every webpage in the project and then combined them all, using the Mac’s built-in functionality and Preview application.

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